Posted on | February 6, 2013 | 17 Comments
I try to avoid political talk here because, you know, people get all crazy when someone brings up politics. I’ll keep this as unpolitical as possible. Let me also start with the fact that I understand that not everyone married to a Soldier appreciates being called an “Military Spouse,” because they are not married to the military but to the Soldier. I get that, though I think it’s splitting hairs. For the sake of not having to type, “person who is married to a Soldier,” in every sentence, I am referring to every spouse of a Soldier as a “Military Spouse” for this article.
Today, Leon Panetta, the Defense Secretary, made a recommendation to cap the Soldier’s raise next year at 1%. For those unaware, the raise this year was 1.7%, one of lowest raises in thirty-eight-years. Combined with the FICA increase, and most families saw a decrease in their pay or only a slight raise if the BAH in their area increased (ours did not). And really, I don’t think anyone is surprised. With a country in financial turmoil and cuts being made to many programs, we could have seen this coming a mile away. I’m not blaming anyone in particular. We have a government in place that cannot seem to get a budget that makes sense and will pull this country out of jeopardy. It is not just a President, a Congress, a Senate, etc. It is years of poor decisions making and inflated spending.
But what DOES surprise me is the reaction Soldiers and spouses get the minute they show any concern for the fact that this pay raise will not keep up with inflation and will actually result in a pay cut for many Soldiers due to taxes and the rising cost of living. I have seen the words “entitlement” and “lazy” thrown around like darts. I have seen spouses be accused of being uneducated, of not working hard enough, of being parasites to the system and not pulling their own weight.
That makes me absolutely livid. My skin crawls as I see people, and mainly other wives, look down on spouses who show concern about decreased pay, however small it may be. I want to scream at people when they suggest that these spouses have nothing better to do than bitch and complain. I want to shake my fists at the injustice of the fact that when a civilian shows concern about tax raises, about pay cuts and job losses, and about government making decisions that will affect their pay, it’s their civic duty to speak out. But when it comes from a Soldier or his family, we “knew what we were getting into and just take it.” These words come not just from civilians, but particularly from other wives married to Soldiers. And they are doing such a great disservice to themselves and their families by allowing the government to make decisions about their future and their livelihood without every questioning these decisions that are made. Today, I was told that I am worthless. That I must do nothing with my life to be concerned about this, and that if I want something done, I should go get a job, get an education, and get off the internet. Because I disagreed with someone on this issue, they assumed that they had me all figured out. And they could not have been more off-base.
Yes, this is just a proposal, which is exactly why we should speak out now. Yes, there are plenty of places money can be cut first. Yes, there are other options that should be considered before taking out of the Soldiers’ pockets. YES, our opinion is necessary! I understand that my husband has a job that is steady. But if you allow the government to make decisions on cuts and changes without voicing an opinion, the benefits we were promised when we decided to go the military route may not always exist. To talk down to people and tell them their voice doesn’t matter is unbelievably un-American. I’ve had enough of the women-haters. I’ve had enough of being told be be silent. I’ve had enough of being told I should be grateful, should accept whatever decisions are thrown my way, and deal with it. We live in a country where our voices matter. Where millions of men and women have died so that we have a voice, and yet, when our opinions differ from someone else’s, we are told to shut up.
I hope people will understand this concern. I hope they will take into account the sacrifices our Soldiers make. I hope they will recognize that saying things like, “Well then get another job,” Or “Go get an education,” makes them sound arrogant and ignorant. I hope they will realize that a vast majority of our service members come from modest backgrounds and join the military in order to find stability, to find a family, and to get an education some day. I hope they remember that, whether or not they agree with these wars, our men and women are still being sent overseas to serve. They are still leaving family behind, missing milestones, and eating Christmas dinners in the desert. I hope they will remember that looking down at other spouses and Soldiers because they choose to speak up over concerns does a disservice to everyone. And I hope, most of all, people will recognize that we are families, too. Families who are struggling in this economy just like everyone else. Families who want the best for our children. Families who move, who grow roots in a new place every few years, and who move again so that we can be where ever the country needs us. This isn’t about feeling entitled. This isn’t about feeling owed by anyone. This is about wanting a voice and a fairness and a promise delivered.
*If you’re concerned about this proposal, please be sure to inform your representatives. Thanks.