Political posturing? An actual intent to cease military paychecks? Empty threats? It doesn’t matter—it feels disrespectful any way it’s painted to me, a 2-time Veteran. I’m writing this as “Breaking News” is on regarding whether or not government officials will decide to basically spit in the face of myself and other Veterans and their Families or extend us the “favor” of giving us our earned paychecks. Today, I literally saw my April 15th paycheck cut in half—just imagine that feeling. I have friends actually in the line of fire overseas that saw the same thing. Talk about unnecessary stress upon our Troops and their Families. This goes much deeper than just the actual paycheck, folks.
My point here will not be a political one. My point in discussing this is that regardless of “deals” being struck up, this affects our Troops and their Families. And they do NOT deserve this extra stress. Therefore, this is of importance to ACA because it impacts the clients some of us may work with and our society as a whole. What is going on, people? How has it gotten to the point that we as an American whole are so complacent that we are not up in arms when an entire group of people are being treated as pawns in political game-playing?
Imagine how this feels to a Soldier on a foot patrol right now in Afghanistan, who is scanning the mountainsides for someone setting up a rocket-propelled grenade in his direction. Or a small group of 3 young men doing the same, but in a vehicle—trying to ignore the fact that at any moment that rock on the side of the road might explode and disfigure them for life. Don’t think they are oblivious about political games just because they are out-of-sight, out-of-mind to most back in the U.S.—that’s not the case. They have cell phones, they have computers…and they got an email today (as I did) telling them their upcoming paycheck is to be half its normal amount unless there’s a different decision made by midnight.
Imagine the mother of three who stays at home because her youngest child is not yet high enough up on the daycare waitlist to afford her the choice of going back to work—imagine her crying with worry not only for her husband in Iraq in the line of fire, but now whether or not they will have a full paycheck in a week. Many Troops and their Families live paycheck-to-paycheck and it is not, as I heard ignorant, heartless people mention today—due to living beyond their means. Hit the hardest are our younger, lower-ranking enlisted Troops and their Families—and this is the bulk of our men and women who are on the frontlines and doing the dangerous jobs. Their income is accessible for all to see online—it’s not much once you take out life insurance, taxes (unless in a combat zone), investment money, rent, child expenses, and regular bills. And heaven forbid a Service Member try to pay for school or take a vacation in addition to that. And God help them if they have a special needs child or a car needing repair. Does one week of pay make a difference? It sure can.
These are not dramatic images I created, these are real thoughts/feelings experienced by people I know personally today. I cannot speak for every Soldier, or every other Service Member. I cannot speak for their families either. But I can speak for myself and I can share some of what my military friends, co-workers, and their Families are thinking and feeling right now. Thoughts such as, “How is such a great nation being led by people so disconnected and so cold-hearted?” and “What will I do if my paycheck isn’t here next week?” Feelings range from anger to fear to feeling disrespected. Of all the possible ways to save money, of all the possible ways to play power struggle with each other…the threat is in the face of Troops and their Families? The people who are hard-working? People working in all capacities—they aren’t just shooting guns, by the way. They are providing medical services to people around the world that no one else will help. They are cleaning up messes and dead bodies that would otherwise sit and rot. They are providing physical security. They are monitoring internet security. They are firefighters serving communities outside their military installations. I could go on and on.
Thank goodness Veterans and their Families are for the most part resilient and have strong morals, values, and work ethic—something much more prevalent than PTSD but rarely as highlighted.
But does this make it a bit easier to understand why your clients who are Troops and or their Families may sometimes seem like they are in a bad mood? Or why they seemed a bit stressed? It’s not just the pay…it’s the underlying tone we are all well aware of. To even be threatened and used as bargaining chips is not a good feeling. And it doesn’t simply go away because it’s 11pm.
Natosha Monroe is a counselor and PhD candidate passionate about increasing Troop access to counseling services. Her blog contents are not representative of the Army or Department of Defense in any way.