It has always seemed to be part of enlisted military life; to live on a less grand scale then most American families due to military pay being typically lower than the average American household. However, even though military pay is at an all-time high, the numbers of financially strained military families is growing rapidly due to the current recession and unemployment rates for military spouses.
One would think that the men and women who serve our country and protect it would have assurance that their bills get paid and food would be on the table, but this is not necessarily the case. More and more military families are having to line up for turkeys and free groceries this holiday season, and having to depend on charities to help put food on the table and presents under the tree.
According to several nonprofit groups that provide help to military families, the strain of the economy/recession and high unemployment rates for military spouses has created a strong need for help this holiday season among some active-duty and reservist families, especially lower ranking enlisted personnel. According to the Defense Commissary Agency, $88 million in food stamp money was used at commissaries throughout the U.S. this year by military members and their families, including veterans, retirees and reservists. The amount of food stamps used by military families has tripled since the beginning of the recession.
Even though military pay has risen much faster than the private sector pay since Sept. 11, 2001, by at least 42 percent, and the military receives good medical benefits, housing allowances and other benefits through the Department of Defense many are still struggling daily. Military personnel receive a base salary depending upon rank and once you reach a certain rank the pay raises that go along with receiving higher rank are not guaranteed. In private sector jobs, typically if you do a good job you get some sort of a raise every 6 months or year; this however is not the case in the Military. According to DoD reports most of the financial problems felt by military households is also because many of the spouses of our military troops are having difficulty finding work when being relocated or during spousal deployments. The unemployment rate for military spouses is more than twice the national average at 26 percent and many military spouses have to leave their jobs to stay at home with children while their spouses are deployed. Many Reservist Military personnel have returned from deployments to find their positions eliminated at work or the deployment cost them their chances at promotions, especially due to multiple deployments. Most deployable military personnel have not gone on just one but several deployments during the 10 years the U.S. has been at war making stability difficult to maintain.
Many civilians are under the assumption that being in the military means they have it easier because of the benefits, but unfortunately that couldn’t be further from the truth, especially for lower ranking enlisted personnel. Military families struggle just like everybody else, but many soldiers are too ashamed to ask for help or don’t want to be a burden to society as they signed up to be a help to it and they feel they should be able to take care of themselves. It is true that most Americans are struggling and having difficulties during the recession and many feel that military families are no different, but we need to remember that these are the people who are risking their lives and fighting for our freedom and then coming home and having to fight to feed their families.