This is not to you Madhatter, just clicked the reply button.
I am utterly appalled at some of the responses here. Not only am I a Vet of Desert Storm and was in for 8 years, but my husband has been in for 17 and is currently in Afghanistan. This is his FIFTH deployment and, at NINE MONTHS, is the shortest so far (last one was 16 months with only a 3 week break at 10 months). He lives in a 10 person tent with less space than an inmate gets. They wear no civilian clothing - uniform all the time - sleep uniform is their PTs. The chow is horrendous and he has to buy things off of drugstore.com because the PX they have there doesnt have enough BASIC HYGIENE items for them. To compare this to a cop or a firefighter that gets to go home nearly every night and sleep in their own bed is ludicrous and insulting. Think about your husband or wife or significant other… how well would your partnership survive being away from them for a YEAR.
In terms of salary, expenses, and housing… We have 3 children (and before anyone says that is our choice, yes, I know this). Base housing has nothing large enough to suit our needs. Beyond that, the housing on base is AWFUL… falling apart at the seams, mold, bugs, you name it. It barely borders on sanitary no matter how much you clean it. So yes it is free… but seriously? We just PCS’d here to Texas from Virginia. The Army allowed us, for 5 people, 11000 pounds that they would move. That is about 5 rooms (not bedrooms - rooms) of furniture and appliances. We had to pay out of pocket for a truck to move the rest and we STILL were overweight and had to pay $4500 towards the move.
OK now money… the bottom line, right? My husband is a senior NCO with 17 years in. We make roughly 50k a year. That is including housing, BAS, everything. If we were to live on his salary, forget it, would not happen. If we lived on base, you can deduct $1300 per month (that is the amount of housing we get - doesnt even cover the mortgage with property taxes the way they are). For that 50k we get (now we wont even talk about A-ghan) at home station he goes in at 0630 every morning. He does not get off work until 1730 (530pm) that is 11 hours a day which boils down to 55 hours a week with a 24 hour shift every other week. At 50k per year that boils down to roughly $15 an hour. He is trained and skilled labor and a supervisor and includes the housing benefits. For a soldier living on post and not receiving housing money, they make $34k a year - yes with free housing but 34k a year.
Now lets talk benefits. YES we get free medical care but there ARE copays unless we go on base (which for us is not practical because we live quite a bit from the base - but that is us). Yes, we get some discounts at certain places - sometimes 10% off sometimes 15% off. These are the only benefits that we get… its not like we are rollin in the chedda and buying Prada. If it were not for my business… we would not be afloat.
NOW that being said, I dont want sympathy nor do I ask for extras (unless it is a store I know offers a military discount). I dont play the army/army spouse card and I don’t know a whole lot of soldiers that do either. If you want to honor a service member that is a wonderful thing to do but I guarantee that you will NOT find “a whole lot of other soldiers will come asking for a freebie”. That is just the most absurd thing I have ever heard…
Sorry for the monologue…