Letter to the editor

This is in response to Ann Burleson's letter to the editor

["Military comes out ahead in pay," June 1, 2001].

I wonder if you have a real understanding of the problems facing military personnel. I know you don't have anything personnel against the military, but you need a reality check.

The military no longer gets free medical care; we pay a yearly fee and a per-visit fee depending on the facility we have to go to. Not all military hospitals can handle every case, so we must go to an outside physician and pay out of our own pockets.

Food stamps. You think it's a good thing that many in the military get food stamps? It's a shame that a military family has to get food stamps. Not that there is anything wrong with food stamps, but it is a benefit of dubious value when that person can be sent to a foreign land and be killed.

You think gasoline is cheaper at an on-base filling station? Not when I filled up my tank last week. It's not free, like you seem to think it is, neither is it available at a reduced rate.

Eye exams? When you go to a civilian doctor and get glasses — at Lens Express, Hour Eyes, etc. — you usually get a free eye exam thrown in. I have to use a civilian program where I work to get it for my family.

Dental free? For me as a retiree, I get it on an as-available basis on a low priority. My family, I have to pay for, through my civilian employer's medical plan.

Cheep booze? I wish — then I could drown my sorrows. Fact is, in every state where a base is located, the on-base store cannot sell any cheaper than an off-base store due to a federal law that says the military cannot be in competition with local stores, and must sell it at the average price off-base.

Military housing is not a bargain. I would imagine that less than 30 percent of active-duty military live on base.because of a base housing shortage. Most live off-base in substandard housing because their "benefits" don't allow for decent housing. From personal experience, I lived in roach-infested projects overseas because I could not afford off-base housing. That's a real benefit; most people pay extra for the roaches! Oh and by the way, we do have to fix our base houses. If I needed to fix a toilet or sink, a light fixture or appliance, I had to go to a "store" on base and get parts, if they had them. Yeah they were free, such as it is.

Entertainment on base? Hmmm. When I was on a remote tour in Korea — remote meaning without family — I could go to the fabulous base theater and watch movies that didn't make it in the states. Seems like one particular movie, the ghetto classic "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," played in every base theater in Korea at the same time, for a whole year. The base theater in Germany brings back memories of outdoors films like "Call of the Wild," while I looked up through big holes in the ceiling at the stars. Now that's special effects! Most of the time the theater was a sheet hanging in a hangar with folding chairs, and you had to bring your own snacks, the ones you couldn't get in the commissary.

The swimming pools were OK, if you didn't mind swimming with hundreds of other GIs at the same time.

All of these luxuries I must admit were worth the 22 years I gave in service to my country. I remember when Congresswoman Pat Schroeder of Colorado came through on one of those taxpayer money-wasting junkets and complained that I had it too good. She should have had to come to my house, with no A/C, on the fourth floor with no elevator, shorted-out electrical power, leaking water pipes and busted drains. I would have shared my food with her. I don't know about the roaches though; they were selfish.

Sorry you are a peon with the civilian government, but I don't think you know what a real peon is. Would you work 24/7, live in terrible conditions, wait forever to get promoted, do without items like milk, coffee, diapers, sugar or be separated from family and loved ones. Oh yeah, there is that getting killed for the country thing to contend with, and after 22 years still make only $35,000 a year? I think you would quit, and many do after one enlistment, that's why readiness levels are low. For some reason they can't keep people.

This is not personal attack on you, I just think that many people like you do not have a real understanding of the sacrifices that military people routinely make every day so that you can say they have it so good.

Jack Lewis


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