This may not be a popular post, but I feel like writing it, so bear with me while I express my opinion.
A while back I saw a petition going around for people to sign trying to get free internet for deployed soldiers. As people sign, they can also leave a comment. I had trouble accepting some of the comments I read, and it just goes along with something I’ve been hearing several people talk about lately.
Please, don’t get me wrong! It’s not the petition I have a problem with. I’m not against giving our soldiers free internet or any other privileges. I would love for them to get free internet in their rooms! They deserve each and every extra they get for the sacrifice they are making. Our soldiers make up less than 1% of the population and they step up to a job that many wouldn’t do.
I get that, I really do.
I’m also thrilled to accept any and all military discounts that stores want to hand out to us as families. Who am I to argue if a store wants to give me 10% off, or if the Post Office wants to give us APO boxes that are cheaper than the regular flat rate boxes. I love free stuff!
However, I have a hard time with people acting like we don’t get anything, that being in the military forces us into a lifetime of poverty or that we can’t afford to buy groceries without food stamps, or that just because we are in the military we are automatically entitled to free handouts of everything.
I hear so many people complain that the military doesn’t pay well. Do I think they should get paid more for what they do? Of course!! But I think the same thing about teachers, the police, firefighters and all service workers.
However, just because you are in the military, does not mean you have to live in poverty. Even based on an E2 pay, assuming they’ve been in for 2 years or less, and assuming no “extra pay” like being Airborne qualified – it is possible to live with a family well above the poverty level. Especially if you live on post and don’t have to pay electric or water each month. I did the numbers and it’s enough money to have money for tithe, groceries, gas, cell phone, cable, a little ‘fun’ money, and a little left to put in savings. Now, that assumes no second income, but it also assumes no credit card bills or other unnecessary debt. If you have a huge car payment, then maybe you can’t have cable or get your nails done, or save as much, but it can be done. For those with multiple kids, they probably qualify for WIC or food stamps, which just provides extra money.
Keep in mind, the military also provides almost-FREE healthcare (we pay a small amount each month for dental), and that includes prescriptions, and free life insurance. Part of our paycheck that goes toward housing (BAH) and food (BAS) is not even taxable. We have guaranteed retirement if the service member serves 20 years. There is also the free education, including not only job training but college as well. We have a PX on post (think of a Walmart type store) and a commissary (grocery) – both of which are tax free. We have access to several free gyms (some even with rooms for the kids to play while you work out), swimming pools, parks and playgrounds on post as well as a multitude of other recreational activities that are free or super cheap.
That’s a lot to be thankful for!
Now, before you say, “but you don’t know my situation” – you are right. I don’t. I don’t claim to. I’m speaking in generalities. But I do know a bit of what I’m talking about. Hubby and I have been through our share of financial struggles – some that were our own doing, and many that weren’t. I also know from experience that making more money does not mean the financial problems go away. People tend to spend more when they make more. We did learn though. We made our mistakes and we learned from them. Hubby and I haven’t used a credit card in 9 years. We are a cash only family. We’ve made a 6 figure income combined, and now we make…..well, not even close to 6 figures. We live by a strict budget and know where every penny goes.
If you want to learn about living on a budget and getting out of debt, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. It will change your life!
Now back to deployment…
First of all, for Hubby’s current deployment, our soldiers over there DO have access to free internet. They only have to pay a monthly fee if they want to have internet access in their rooms. While I would love for all of them to have free internet access in their rooms, and I would love to save the $65 a month that we are paying, it is not mandatory that we pay it. It’s a choice.
I realize not all soldiers that are deployed have the option to have internet in their rooms, or even at all. Getting it for “free” would not necessarily change that. Some of it depends on where they are and the object of their mission. There is no guarantee that Hubby will have it during his entire deployment either. In fact, even us paying for it did nothing to stop it from going down for 2.5 days.
In addition, while they are deployed, our soldiers receive extra pay. There is hostile fire pay, hardship duty pay, family separation pay, a daily per diem, and our entire income while he’s deployed is tax free.
That extra pay more than makes up for the $65/month for internet access in his room. Maybe a lot of families couldn’t afford the extra $65 normally, but with the extra deployment income there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to pay it. You are paying for it with money that you normally don’t have anyway.
While the soldier is deployed there is a wealth of other free things available. Lots of companies provide free items or discounts when a soldier is deployed, including sporting events, the circus, travel, even Disney. There are even free summer camps for kids. The Army itself provides us with $400 toward classes and sports for my daughter just because her Daddy is deployed.
Cell phone companies will let you put the soldier’s cell phone on hold – saving you the monthly cell phone bill for a phone they can’t use. Auto insurance companies will often let you lower your rates for the car that isn’t being driven as well if you are a 2 car family.
Our soldiers can send letters home free of charge. Packages cost money, but they can send letter envelopes for free.
No amount of money can replace having my husband at home, but I just have a hard time coming up with something to complain about in the money department. I’ve talked to Hubby’s grandmother about when she was an Army wife, and realizing how far we’ve come puts it all into perspective for sure. They didn’t get a clothing allowance each year. They didn’t get issued several uniforms and pairs of boots. They didn’t even have the option of the internet. The soldiers then had to wait months and months to *maybe* get a letter from home.
We have nothing to complain about.
If your own financial choices are making it impossible to pay your bills each month, then make different choices, but don’t blame the military. Seek help, learn to live on a budget, do without some extras for a while, shop at thrift stores, embrace frugality, get creative. You can do it!