Do Military Families Need Hand-Outs?

I don’t normally post political topics on my blog, because people always disagree. It’s an inevitable result of a 2 party system. However, I felt strongly enough about this topic that I wanted to write a rebuttal, since what I wanted to say was too long to fit in the comment box of a FB post. Since many of my followers are also military spouses, I am expecting some disagreement. Feel free to commend and disagree, but please keep it polite.

A friend of mine shared this status update from a military related “support page”: OSMW Confessions

“Don’t care who gets upset about this: the fact that companies like WaMart do stuff for military families really bugs me. First off, military personnel are paid better than most Americans of the same job skill/background/training. And housing is free, plus your pay increases with each kid you have, meaning some tard toting around five brats gets more income just for having them. Which is ridiculous in itself, but I digress.

SO ANYWAY. There are HOMELESS children in America, there are FOSTER children in America, there are ABUSED children in America, there are broken homes and there are MILITARY VETS who are homeless and could much less get a Christmas present. Whereas people in the military get free (nice) housing and all their needs met in a paycheck and everyone bends over backwards for them to help them out at Christmas.

I don’t care if your soldier is deployed. That’s part of the whole thing. You still have a stable income and your kids are still fed. Therefore you do not need the charity. Others need it more. How dare these women with coach purses and Victoria’s Secret cards take toys for their own well-taken-care-of, free-health insurance, paid-for-by-the-government kids when some parents can’t afford a pair of shoes for their kids and would be more than thankful for a toy or two.

SORRY NOT SORRY

ps. my ex husband is navy, so I’ve seen it all: the people standing in huge lines for a damn ten pound turkey they could’ve picked up for fifteen bucks…women with dependa bags refusing to work but still taking donations for christmas presents. makes me sick and so am glad I’m out of and away from that base!”

The general response to this post was very negative.

Aside from the fact that she came across pretty bitchy and her facts are a little off (you don’t get paid for having more children and housing is not “free”, there is a separate housing allowance on top of basic pay) I agree 100% with her statement.

There were 514 comments on that status disagreeing with her, making me feel like a very small minority for agreeing with her overall point.

So let me break it down a bit and explain why I agree since apparently my logic is not intuitive to most people.

The military gets paid pretty good; I should know, I’m married to a Marine.

But just in case you don’t believe me, why don’t we look at some examples.

Let’s take a hypothetical military family of 3 in San Diego; and just to make it interesting, lets make him an E-2 with 1 year of service. BAH is $1,986 and basic pay would be $1,699.80, according to the pay charts and BAH calculator for his rank and time in service. That brings our total monthly income for Mr. E-2 to $3685.80, before taxes.

Now, let’s do some comparisons.

That monthly income for our E-2 comes out to an hourly $23 for a 40 hour week. I understand that military members often work more than 40 hours a week, my husband normally puts in 10-12 hour days, and that is when he is not deployed. But I think saying that they work 24/7 is a little extreme (which was the argument that many of the commenters made in explaining why military don’t get paid very well). While the military may be “on call” 24/7, they are not working all of that time. But, for the sake of being more realistic, if our E-2 was working 12 hour days he would still be making $15 an hour, which is more than minimum wage.

Now let’s look at someone working full time at Wal-mart. Minimum wage is $8 an hour in CA, making his monthly income $1,280 before taxes. That is 1/3 of what our E-2 is making!

*I want to add here that our Wal-mart family would not qualify for food stamps in San Diego because of their income and Section 8 has a 10+ year wait list, which means that they would probably be paying at least $1,000 for an apartment and having to pay all of their bills and buy food with $280 a month. Would you want to live like that?*

However, the original poster mentioned that “military personnel are paid better than most Americans of the same job skill/background/training”, which means my Wal-mart comparison might not be accurate since our E-2 is probably better skilled than a Wal-mart employee, depending on his job.

So let’s take my job. I have a Master’s degree and work full-time in my field as a social worker (not the highest paying career, but still requires an advanced degree). I have been at my job for less than a year, same as our E-2. My hourly rate for 37.5 hour a week is $19 an hour. Which means I am making more than our E-2 if we have him working 12 hour days every day, but less than our E-2 if we have him working a normal 40 hour week.

My point in showing all this math is to demonstrate that military pay is GOOD! (People who calculate only the basic pay and divide it by 24/7 work days to show how “little” military is paid are not being realistic, IMO)

Therefore, when I look at the whole picture of all of the people living in the United States, I can honestly say that I do not consider the military to be a “needy” population (in terms of needing financial assistance from charities).

I see homeless families as needy. I see domestic violence victims living in shelters as needy. I see foster children needy. I see individuals disabled by mental health or physical disabilities as needy.

Those are the people who need a food pantry because even though they are getting disability pay they can’t afford to feed their families after they have paid such high rent. Those are the people that needs financial assistance to move out of a shelter into an apartment because a single mother is starting over after being abused by her spouse and can’t afford 1st months rent and a deposit on her new minimum wage job. These are the homeless families who cry tears of joy when a social service agency donate shoes and they can give their children new shoes for the first time in months or years.

Being a military family I see all that we are offered. I see all of the free and discounted things that are given to military families. Just around the holidays alone I could have gotten a free turkey, a free Christmas tree, free holiday meals, free toys for my children and $300+ dollars from SEARS to by gifts for my family. Just to name the programs that I am aware of.

There are organization that will pay for car payments, auto repair, child care, rent, home repairs, etc. I’ve seen cars donated to military programs. I’ve gotten free glasses from Operation Clear Vision just for being a military spouse, regardless of my income.

Looking back at our income comparison, does our E-2 family need those thing? Or does our Wal-mart employee?

Now, before everyone gets on my case by saying that military families deserve all those things because of their service to this country, let me say that I am not saying that military families are not deserving.

However, is a domestic violence victim living in a shelter with her young children in fear of her life less deserving than a military family? Is a homeless mentally ill woman less deserving? Is a homeless foster youth who aged out of the system and has no family support less deserving?

Does someone need to “deserve” help?

I support the military 100%, but I don’t feel that they are the most needy population in the United States.

It’s not my place to categorize who is the most “needy” or who does or doesn’t “deserve” help, but when I look at this country and all the people who need a helping hand from social service agencies, I see too many people.

And if I had to pick who I would help buy Christmas presents for or a Thanksgiving meal, a military family would not be at the top of my list. And I don’t think that makes me a bad person.

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Being Each Others First Time

I saw a discussion on a Military Wives Facebook page asking how you would feel if your daughter lost her virginity at the same age you did.

What I found interesting about the answers, it the a lot of the women said that they had wish they waited until their husband; that they were disappointed and regretted being with other men. The ones who had waited were being congratulated for holding out until they were married or dating their now husband.

Personally, I’ve never really had a lot of feelings around the subject. I didn’t care or expect Jeremy to be a virgin when we met at 19, and it never crossed my mind that he would want me to be a virgin or be disappointed that I wasn’t.

I’ve never felt that it has taken away from our relationship. I am not jealous or bothered by the knowledge that he has been with other women, and from what I can tell, he isn’t bother either.

I guess I am just posting this because it was kind of a revolutionary idea to me, that people would regret or have negative feelings about not waiting till they found their “soul mate”. What if you end up divorced? Do people regret having a sexual relationship with their first husband if they go on to meet their next partner? And for the ones who are glad they waited till they were dating their now spouse, what if they had broken up? Would they then regret that experience?

What do you all think? Do you regret losing your virginity when you did? Are you disappointed that you didn’t wait?

Benefits for Same Sex Couples

Another debateable topic of interest in the military community: same-sex couples to start recieving benefits

According to this article, same-sex couples will begin recieving military benefits, with the exception of housing allowance and health care.

I love the general idea, I’ve always been a supporter of LBGT rights, but I do have a couple concerns.

First off, how are they going to determine if a couple is in fact a “real” domestic partnership? Similar to the “contract marriage” vs. a “real marriage” with heteosexual couples.

The article states that the couple would need to sign a “declaration of domestic partnership” that attests: “We are each other’s sole domestic partner, in a committed relationship, and intend to remain so indefinitely.”

To me, that doesn’t seem like a clear enough definition. What’s to stop any two same-sex individuals from signing one in order to take advantage of the benefits? Although one could say the same about heterosexual couples, seeing as how there are pleny of people who do infact get married just for the benefits (aka Contract Marriage).

If they are going to regulate these “declaration of domestic partnership”, then I think they need to regulate “contract marriages” as well, to be sure that no one, gay OR stright, is faking the relationship simply for the benefits.  

Second off, non-married heterosexual couples get NO benefits at all. So to give non-married homosexual couples SOME benefits seems unfair to me. However, because homosexual couples cannot get married, I see this as a compromise. A way to give them partial benefits until gay marriage becomes leagalized.

Ideally, I think it should all be equal. You get married (to a same-sex or opposite-sex partner) and you get ALL the military benefits.

What do you think? Like the idea of benefits for same-sex couples? Disagree?

Atheist Chaplains?

I stumbled across this recently, an article about possibly adding Atheist “Chaplains” to the military. 

Although I do think that an “Atheist Chaplin” is a little bit of an oxymoron, I think it’s a wonderful idea! Perhaps not to call them an “Atheist Chaplin”, since the whole idea of the Chaplin position is religiously focused, but to have a non-religous position to provide services to atheist service members, similar as those that the Chaplin provides. 

As an atheist myself I found the authors take on the issue to be very accurate. 

As of right now, if that young soldier dying in the field hospital, or that family receiving word of their loved one’s combat death, is atheist, there is no chaplain to represent them. Take myself for example; I am atheist, so is my husband. He is a soldier in the Army who has served three tours in Iraq. If something had happened to him over there, and I’m hurting, the last thing I want is some chaplain who would come and try to comfort me by telling me that he’s gone off to a better place that I don’t believe in. I don’t want to hear that God has taken him in his glory. I don’t believe that. So who will be there for those like me? No one.

And if my husband should be in the position of the dying soldier, the last thing he would want to hear a chaplain doing his best to comfort him with ideas that he doesn’t believe in. He would rather not have a chaplain with him at all. But as a service member, dying for his country, wouldn’t he deserve to have a kind heart there to help him deal with tough emotions without the shadow of religion standing between them?

What do you all think? I would be interested to hear a religious perspective on this issue

Who Comes First?

I talked a little last week about wives following their dreams and accomplishing their own goals, while at the same time supporting their husband in this military lifestyle.

I recently saw a related debate on Facebook and I’ve found that people tend to fall on two different sides of this issue.

1) First are the ones who put their careers and goals first, not moving with their husband’s in order to finish school or stay at a job that pays well.

“So many women put their lives on hold for their husbands. I understand that it’s apart of the military lifestyle. “You can always get a job” or “Marriage is a lifetime” comments. Exactly.. Marriage is a lifetime! I LOVE my husband, especially for the fact that he did not want me to sacrifice even more when I’ve already sacrificed so much. I love that it was his idea for me to stay in our hometown and go to school and work towards my degree. I also love being able to work for our money and not depend on him completely. My husband LOVES the fact that I’m not a “dependasarus”. I love being independent and helping towards our income.
It is so important to establish yourself instead of giving up everything, that won’t get you very far.”

2) The ones who put their husband’s career first, but still make the effort to work towards accomplishing their own dreams.

“I’m one of those people who doesn’t get it. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything by living with my husband. I get the whole not wanting to give up on your dreams but it’s not hard to do both at all. If you think you can only have one or the other that’s completely wrong. I feel like when you’re married you should be living together not in two states. Marriage is a lifetime, and school and a job will always be available.”

I firmly believe in #2. I have lived with my husband since we got married, and I have still accomplished my dreams by graduating with my bachelors and masters degrees. Even if I get an amazing job after I graduate, I would still quit to move with my husband in January when we PCS. Because he is my husband, my life partner. There will always be another job and another school, but there is only one man that I want to spend the rest of my life with, and I’m not willing to spend any more time apart from him than I have to because you can’t get that time back.

Which do you agree with?

Porn

I’ve been writing this post for a few days, trying to get it just right. I’ve found the topic brings out intense emotions and opinions in most women and I wanted to be sure not to offend anyone.

Porn

I recently read a huge debate about porn on Facebook. It started off with the majority of the women stating that most men do look at porn (and it is especially common with deployments) and they accept that.

But then it got ugly with one comment:

“I find it incredibly incredibly sad and disgusting that some of you allow and are even proud of your husband looking at pornography/committing adultery.”

I personally have no problem with porn in my marriage; whether that be my husband watching it, me watching it, or us watching it together. I’m not going to defend my choice or try to rationalize it to someone who disagrees, because guess what, it’s MY marriage.

And that is my point of this post –

Why do people care so much what another couple does or does not do in their marriage? I don’t understand how people can be so judgmental of others.

Why does it matter to someone else if my husband watches porn? Or if I only allow it when he is deployed? Or if we dress up like characters from Star Track and dance around a campfire on the full moon followed by a joint porn viewing session?

The answer is: it doesn’t.

So why do people feel it’s their place to judge someone else for their choices that have absolutely nothing to do with them?

Women in Combat – Part II

Since my last post about women in combat sparked such a great discussion, I thought I would share this article that I saw online recently.

It’s a counter argument to my point of view that women should be allowed in combat roles in the military.

I think it’s a very well written article with a lot of great points, even if I don’t agree with the overall opinion of the author.

One might wonder why I am posting an article whose opinion I don’t agree with, but as I said before I enjoy a good debate. For most issues I think that both side of the argument have very good points, and I can understand both sides of the issue. If the both sides didn’t have a valid case for their opinion then there probably wouldn’t be much of a debate to begin with! We would just have a clear winner.

I’m a female veteran. I deployed to Anbar Province, Iraq. When I was active duty, I was 5’6, 130 pounds, and scored nearly perfect on my PFTs. I naturally have a lot more upper body strength than the average woman: not only can I do pull-ups, I can meet the male standard. I would love to have been in the infantry. And I still think it will be an unmitigated disaster to incorporate women into combat roles. I am not interested in risking men’s lives so I can live my selfish dream.

 

We’re not just talking about watering down the standards to include the politically correct number of women into the unit. This isn’t an issue of “if a woman can meet the male standard, she should be able to go into combat.” The number of women that can meet the male standard will be miniscule–I’d have a decent shot according to my PFTs, but dragging a 190-pound man in full gear for 100 yards would DESTROY me–and that miniscule number that can physically make the grade AND has the desire to go into combat will be facing an impossible situation that will ruin the combat effectiveness of the unit. First, the close quarters of combat units make for a complete lack of privacy and EVERYTHING is exposed, to include intimate details of bodily functions. Second, until we succeed in completely reprogramming every man in the military to treat women just like men, those men are going to protect a woman at the expense of the mission. Third, women have physical limitations that no amount of training or conditioning can overcome. Fourth, until the media in this country is ready to treat a captured/raped/tortured/mutilated female soldier just like a man, women will be targeted by the enemy without fail and without mercy.

 

I saw the male combat units when I was in Iraq. They go outside the wire for days at a time. They eat, sleep, urinate and defecate in front of each other and often while on the move. There’s no potty break on the side of the road outside the wire. They urinate into bottles and defecate into MRE bags. I would like to hear a suggestion as to how a woman is going to urinate successfully into a bottle while cramped into a humvee wearing full body armor. And she gets to accomplish this feat with the male members of her combat unit twenty inches away. Volunteers to do that job? Do the men really want to see it? Should they be forced to?

 

Everyone wants to point to the IDF as a model for gender integration in the military. No, the IDF does not put women on the front lines. They ran into the same wall the US is about to smack into: very few women can meet the standards required to serve there. The few integrated units in the IDF suffered three times the casualties of the all-male units because the Israeli men, just like almost every other group of men on the planet, try to protect the women even at the expense of the mission. Political correctness doesn’t trump thousands of years of evolution and societal norms. Do we really WANT to deprogram that instinct from men?

 

Regarding physical limitations, not only will a tiny fraction of women be able to meet the male standard, the simple fact is that women tend to be shorter than men. I ran into situations when I was deployed where I simply could not reach something. I wasn’t tall enough. I had to ask a man to get it for me. I can’t train myself to be taller. Yes, there are small men…but not so nearly so many as small women. More, a military PFT doesn’t measure the ability to jump. Men, with more muscular legs and bones that carry more muscle mass than any woman can condition herself to carry, can jump higher and farther than women. That’s why we have a men’s standing jump and long jump event in the Olympics separate from women. When you’re going over a wall in Baghdad that’s ten feet high, you have to be able to be able to reach the top of it in full gear and haul yourself over. That’s not strength per se, that’s just height and the muscular explosive power to jump and reach the top. Having to get a boost from one of the men so you can get up and over could get that man killed.

 

Without pharmaceutical help, women just do not carry the muscle mass men do. That muscle mass is also a shock absorber. Whether it’s the concussion of a grenade going off, an IED, or just a punch in the face, a woman is more likely to go down because she can’t absorb the concussion as well as a man can. And I don’t care how the PC forces try to slice it, in hand-to-hand combat the average man is going to destroy the average woman because the average woman is smaller, period. Muscle equals force in any kind of strike you care to perform. That’s why we don’t let female boxers face male boxers.

 

Lastly, this country and our military are NOT prepared to see what the enemy will do to female POWs. The Taliban, AQ, insurgents, jihadis, whatever you want to call them, they don’t abide by the Geneva Conventions and treat women worse than livestock. Google Thomas Tucker and Kristian Menchaca if you want to see what they do to our men (and don’t google it unless you have a strong stomach) and then imagine a woman in their hands. How is our 24/7 news cycle going to cover a captured, raped, mutilated woman? After the first one, how are the men in the military going to treat their female comrades? ONE Thomasina Tucker is going to mean the men in the military will move heaven and earth to protect women, never mind what it does to the mission. I present you with Exhibit A: Jessica Lynch. Male lives will be lost trying to protect their female comrades. And the people of the US are NOT, based on the Jessica Lynch episode, prepared to treat a female POW the same way they do a man.

 

I say again, I would have loved to be in the infantry. I think I could have done it physically, I could’ve met almost all the male standards (jumping aside), and I think I’m mentally tough enough to handle whatever came. But I would never do that to the men. I would never sacrifice the mission for my own desires. And I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if someone died because of me.

 

– Sentry