By Alan Pyke
People who spend three decades in the U.S. military before retiring from the Pentagon at the rank of colonel are not supposed to end up living in a van and unable to find even a menial job to provide the kind of basic income that might save them from from homelessness. Yet that’s where retired Air Force Col. Robert Freniere finds himself in now, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Julie Zauzmer.
Freniere enlisted in the Army just after the Vietnam War ended, transferring to the Air Force shortly thereafter. A quarter-century and four combat zones of service later, he’d risen far enough through the ranks to be pulled into the Pentagon. In 2002, he began to serve as an assistant to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was already one of the top officials in the U.S. armed forces and who would go on to be the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan before resigning after making unprofessional remarks about President Obama to reporters.
After a few years working for McChrystal, Freniere retired in 2006. Finding work was hard. Debts amassed during his career — some personal, others relating to his two children in college — meant that his $40,000 annual pension from the Air Force didn’t make ends meet.