A letter from an Army wife


This is from a post by James Fallows of The Atlantic about a letter he received from an Army wife.  I’ve already linked to it, but I think it deserves a separate post.  The letter describes the sacrifices that military families have made and how they’ve been treated in return.

1)  We have been constantly at war for more than a decade.  My own husband has been deployed seven times and is currently getting ready for his fifth trip to Afghanistan (three of his previous deployments were to Iraq).  He is not alone (and, frankly, he’s one of the lucky ones who tends to have a year or more in between deployments.)

2)  During the buildup / surge, recruitment needs were such that standards dropped to serious lows. Waivers were granted willy-nilly.  As a result, the service ended up with a lot of shiftless thugs who have now served long enough to be in leadership positions (or at least positions where they can be obstructionist and demoralizing).

3)  The military does everything in its power to keep soldiers deployable, including ignoring injuries and mental health problems.  Soldiers basically get two options: quit (and give up your years toward retirement so that you can go in an endless queue and hope that the VA processes your case and gives you treatment) or soldier on in pain.

4)  The military uses semantics to evade its promises. We are told that troops are being withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan. In reality, soldiers are still being deployed and endangered, we just call them “peacekeepers” and “instructors” and “trainers” now.

5)  Service members are being used as a pawn in the budget fiasco. Troops currently being deployed (for the fourth, sixth, ninth, etc. time) are being told that their tours may stretch one indefinitely due to “lack of funds to train replacements”.

6) The Army’s response to budget cutting is to weed out the older/more expensive soldiers before they can retire.  Yes, physical fitness standards are important, but the move toward “tightening up” the standards (basically taking away the lower performance requirements for older soldiers) is a sneaky way to screw someone who has fought for the country for eighteen or nineteen years out of his or her pension (in most cases, you don’t get anything if you are even a day short of 20 years).

7)  Proposed/rumored changes to pensions are extremely worrying.  For soldiers in their late 30s and beyond, it is too late to earn a full civilian pension if the Army fails to follow through on its promises.

8)  Cutting back (or perhaps even eliminating) commissaries, on-post schools and MWR [1] is all on the table (budget-wise), as is lowering the amount of BAH [2] that soldiers get (and don’t forget the proposal to lower the cost of living increase).  Tuition assistance is being abolished or curtailed.  Also, the furloughing of civilian DoD workers, in most cases, just means that the soldiers put in extra hours to make up the difference.  Tricare [3] is being modified to require co-pays.  There is a rumor (I haven’t seen this confirmed anywhere) that spouses and children are going to be kicked off Tricare and forced to purchase their own coverage through the health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

9)  The civilian hiring freeze makes it next to impossible for military spouses to obtain jobs when we are moved to new posts (trust me- I’m a professional.  Moving every three years (sometimes to jurisdictions where my license won’t transfer) has been devastating on my career.  I credit divine intervention for landing my current job when we PCSd from Texas.  It used to be that well-qualified spouses would sign up at the employment liaison office and move smoothly from an office on Fort Wherever to Fort Wherever else- but now we can’t), this puts even more financial pressure on military families.

All of that being said- Yes, it is a volunteer Army. My husband knew what he signed up for and his commitment to the service is unwavering.

via The Atlantic.

neverpushThe military ideal is an ethic of honor and mutual loyalty, which goes down as well as up.  What this letter described is no different from how some failed business corporation would treat its employees.  The paragraph about soldiers being separated from the military just before they become eligible for retirement reminds me of stories I heard about Eastman Kodak Co. during its decline.

American soldiers, Marines and other troops are not responsible for the failed U.S. military policies of the past 10 years and more.  The worst abuses of American power have been by mercenaries, the CIA and others not bound by a military code of conduct.  There is an all-important difference between “the military” and “militarists” (and I apologize if I have ever unthinkingly used the first word when I meant the second).

The way to support the troops is to not ask them to sacrifice life and limb needlessly, and to make sure they and their families get what they need.


[1] MWR is the military morale, welfare (or well-being) and recreation program.

[2] BAH is the military basic allowance for housing.

[3] Tricare is the health care plan for uniformed members of the military, their families and retirees.

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One Response to “A letter from an Army wife”

  1. Atticus Says:

    “There is an all-important difference between “the military” and “militarists” (and I apologize if I have ever unthinkingly used the first word when I meant the second).”

    You made an important distinction that I will keep in mind from now on.


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