Lifestyles of Our Lavish Military

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This is a Reblogged from


By Michelle Zook


Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned — or like a military wife a third of a way into a deployment who reads that she’s totally living the high life, when that’s the farthest thing from the truth. Having dealt the last two weeks with one child who has pneumonia (thankfully, the second set of antibiotics seems to be working) and the other child with his first ear infection, while trying to navigate an American time change other countries don’t participate in and finals, you can imagine my chagrin reading David Wood’s latest HuffPo offering. (I know, I know, why do I even read HuffPo? I do it for all of you, so you don’t have to do it.)

Woods — who has obviously never served a day in the military in his life — alleges that the military has been living high on the hog for the last ten years and will now have to adjust to a new reality. He makes such blanket statements like, “For more than a decade, Congress…lavished money on the nation’s 1.3 million active-duty troops and their families. Salaries and benefits soared far above civilian compensation, military bases and housing were refurbished, support services like day care, family counseling and on-base college courses were expanded,” and “Currently, the Pentagon pays all housing costs for families who live off base.” Quite frankly, I would LOVE to be in Woods’ idea of the military, since I’ve had to let go of my gardener, my mechanic, my chef, my masseuse and my personal trainer — he seems to be deployed (yet again).

Perhaps military salaries soared above civilian compensation because we have so many people serving in war zones. Deployments cost money. There’s combat pay, tax free zones, family separation pay, and per diem. For single officers and enlisted, it’s a good way to put a little bit of money back. For officers and enlisted with family, the money isn’t really worth the time apart, but it helps them put money back to pay bills.

And if so many military are doing so well financially, why do we have so many enlisted that are eligible for WIC and food stamps? Imagine being a 19-year old E-3. You married your high school sweetheart and maybe you two happy lovebirds decide to start a family. Before taxes, you’ll bring home a grand total of $1787.40. Perhaps your spouse can find a job, but many employers — tacitly or not — will not hire a military spouse, because why bother investing the training if they’re just going to move on in a few years? In fact, there is a $12,000 wage gap between college-educated military wives and their civilian counterparts, while a military wife with a postgraduate degree has a 20% chance less of finding a job than a civilian. So if that’s the case for a captain or a major’s spouse, you can only imagine what the odds are of an airman’s spouse finding a job.

Now, Mr. Woods contends that the Pentagon pays “all housing costs”. Oh, that this was so! Military members get what’s called Base Allowance for Housing that’s dependent upon location, rank and dependents. So a married captain will get a higher BAH than a single captain, who will get a bigger allowance than a single staff sergeant. It’s not ALL housing costs, by any means. In fact, in most locations that are hosts to military members, landlords will use BAH to set their rent, and if you live on base, you don’t get BAH. Mr. Woods would have you believe that the government lavishly refurbished military housing just to blow money. There were many bases that had housing 60+ years old, or that had structural deficiencies or black mold infestations. My husband and I live in “new” housing; it’s nice in that there’s a roof over our head and it’s not spartan (there’s a dishwasher!) but, trust me, there aren’t amenities that one would consider to be lavish.

Why do we pay housing allowances for military, and why do we even pay them so much to begin with? Why do did we offer programs like tuition assistance? Because we have an all volunteer force. Because we require our military to deploy six to twelve months at a time, and sometimes they’ll come home just long enough to meet dwell time requirements before redeploying. How many civilian jobs require you to leave your family for six months at a time, and you can’t say no without going to prison? It’s one of the reasons so many people are up in arms over the loss of tuition assistance. They joined the military with the understanding the program would be there to help them obtain degrees/certifications they needed to make promotions, and now that it’s inconvenient for the government to continue funding this, it’s gone.

What if military service members suddenly decided it was inconvenient to deploy? People would say the service member deserved to be court-martialed, but because the government is the one rescinding this, it’s okay? That’s not okay, it’s bullying at its finest.

Military members write a blank check to be there when Uncle Sam calls. In turn, America makes a promise to the men and women who stand on the line for us in order to defend our freedom. They don’t choose where they go. Many of them may disagree with continued action in Afghanistan or Africa. But we certainly have more of an obligation to support them than providing free cell phones to dead people.

About the author: Michelle Zook

A native Texan currently living it up in Utah, Michelle served five years in the Air Force as an Air Battle Manager, attaining the rank of captain. These days, she’s pursuing a MA Public Policy at Liberty University, learning the ropes as a military spouse, chasing two little ones around, staying caught up on the news, and trying not to meddle in her husband’s career. She’s a firm believer in states’ rights, the Second Amendment and individual liberties.

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