When their country needed them, they stepped up. They fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, the two wars no one wants to claim – not even the politicians, like President Obama who called Afghanistan “the right war” and Hillary Clinton who did, in fact, vote in favor of a war in Iraq.

The national guard soldiers who served active duty tours on those two miserable fronts gave years of their lives and as Winston Churchill might have said, their blood, their sweat and their tears.

Some received the Purple Heart for their sacrifice.

Now, as many as 10,000 California National Guard troops are being shown the gratitude of their country for their sacrifice by being told to repay their enlistment bonuses received as long as a dozen years ago.

While the State of California says it is powerless in the face of the federal government, it is demanding that the soldiers pay up or face wage garnishment, retention of tax refunds or further legal action.

California could forgive the loans, but that would mean giving up its claim to approximately $100 million.

And that money is desperately needed in California so it can continue to pay tuition for illegal immigrants. And car insurance subsidies. And health care.

The Deputy Commander of the California National Guard, Maj. Gen. Mathew Beevers, objects, but also feels helpless.

“At the end of the day, the soldiers ended up paying the largest price. We’d be more than happy to absolve these people of their debts. We just can’t do it. We’d be breaking the law.”

Veterans have been forced to refinance homes, take out personal loans, work extra jobs and commit as much as 25 percent of their income to repaying what they had been told was bonus from a grateful nation.

The bonus payments were offered to entice national guardsmen and women to re-enlist at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with California, as the state with the second-highest number of national guard, contributed nearly17,000 troops to the war effort.

Some of the guard have filed a class action suit claiming that the bonus payments were, in fact, a bona fide contract, and arguing that, even if they weren’t, the statute of limitations has long since passed.

One of the soldiers vowed she will pay back every penny if she has to, but asked, “Where do I go to get those six years back?”

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