Military life is built on sacrifice. It isn’t just the service members who make sacrifices, but also their supportive family members. We sacrifice our time to show love and support, helping other families when their loved ones are deployed. We sacrifice our stability, following our spouses across the globe to make homes for them while they work. We sacrifice our own careers, applying for new jobs every other year. Unfortunately, sometimes we even sacrifice our loved ones. Even with all of the sacrificing we are asked to do there has always been a line drawn that protects military families and offers them a basic standard of living. Now, many of us are worried that line will be erased, sending military families into poverty. With budget cuts looming on the horizon and military families unsure of what will actually be cut from our lives in the end, it is time to start reflecting and understanding what we can actually do without, and what we should fight for.
We can do without the constant PCS moves. One of the upcoming potential budget cuts will limit the funding for Permanent Change of Station moves. I am not sure whether they will actually cut back on the number of PCS moves or simply expect military families to cover the costs of these moves themselves, but if it is the former, it might not be such a bad thing. Relocating every few years is a military tradition, keeping service members freshly rotated and making sure every station has its needs met. However, it is something military families could do without. We could learn to live in one place, grow roots, and make friends for life.
We can do without Wednesday shopping at the commissary. Closing down commissaries one day a week to cut expenses is fine. We can schedule around the inconvenience. Closing commissaries altogether, without providing an alternative way for military families to meet our shopping needs, is unacceptable. Many military families are already having to apply for food stamps, and being approved, to meet their nutritional needs. Taking away government subsidies for commissaries, which could potentially increase an individual family’s grocery bill by $3000 each year, will only drive more families to this desperation, which comes out of the federal budget anyway.
We can do without an increase in the BAH. The basic allowance for housing is just that. It is basic. It covers the basic housing needs of a military family and rarely more. Money is tight so an increase is not in sight, but rolling back the BAH and subtracting renters insurance from it will hurt families in a way many might not be able to recover from. Perhaps if PCS moves are limited families will be able to invest in permanent, affordable housing, but as it is right now, the BAH needs to be able to cover the constant replacement of household goods, and higher fees that come with setting up a new home.
We can do without the wars. Sure, the main purpose of the military is to defend our nation. However, that doesn’t mean that we want there to be wars constantly. The violence of wars is a tragic necessity, not something we desire. Keep the men and women serving well-trained in case a war might rise while setting them to peacetime tasks such as foreign aid and domestic relief projects. Allow the military to evolve beyond wars.
We can do without politicians that lie about supporting us. Supporting service members cannot happen only during times of conflict. These men and women changed their lives to join the military, leaving behind many opportunities and allowing themselves to be changed in a way that sometimes makes it hard for them to find employment after service, or even fulfill their familial roles. In exchange all they, and their families, need is what they were promised when they joined: support from the government. We will meet you halfway. We are willing to adapt, but simply cutting benefits and jobs without transitional support makes that difficult.
Military families can go without a lot of things, and we do, on a daily basis. Our futures are less certain than those of the average American family, and usually we manage just fine that way. We can do without riches. We can do without permanent homes, when you ask us to. However, what we cannot live without is the very basic resources we have already been allotted to live our lives, raise our children, and make the most of things when the military makes demands.