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Let’s not do the backlash thing again

Submitted by on Monday, 25 July 2011 No Comment

It’s reminiscent of what happened to military personnel during the Vietnam Era, except at least this time the vitriol isn’t violent.

But it’s just as uncalled for and almost as ridiculous. Even worse: It’s the direct result of double-barrel rabble rousing from the mouths of those opposed to defense spending in general and to the current overseas conflicts in specific.

An Air Force wife was checking out recently at WalMart when a woman behind her saw her pull out WIC vouchers. “That’s just ridiculous,” the woman muttered, and not under her breath. “They shouldn’t give those to the military. The military gets everything.”

Perhaps she was confusing the rest of us with Halliburton. If she’d asked me, I could tell her that life isn’t nearly as cushy for the average enlisted person.

The wife she was criticizing, for example, has three children four and younger. WIC – which stands for Women, Infants and Children – helps provide her family with nutritious foods such as milk, eggs, cereal, real juice, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables and beans. Any family of five that makes less than $47,712 a year is eligible.

For the military, that means most people below the pay grade of E-4 – that’s a Marine corporal, an Air Force senior airman, a Navy or Coast Guard petty officer third class or an Army specialist or corpotal.

Now, are many military families with three children above that pay grade – yes, but not all.

Could the non-military spouse get a job? Well, she’s fortunate to live in an area where there are at least some civilian options, but the unemployment rate where they’re stationed is 11.7 percent. The national rate is 8.7. She’s tried to find a job but has had no luck. So she’s taking college courses and trying to earn some money through a home business – while also caring for three kids.

I can understand where the WalMart woman’s ire is coming from. She’s living in the same high unemployment area and probably knows at least a few people who are struggling mightily in this economy. She hears on the news that the country is burning in fiscal hell because the government spends too much on defense, so she lashes out at someone employed by the Defense Department.’

You’re aiming at the wrong target, lady.

Yes, the military is a steady income, and one that still comes with health insurance. Even though insurance doesn’t guarantee you access to care, it’s at least something in an era when private companies are increasing premiums and raising co-pays and the unemployed are struggling to find coverage at all.

But it’s also a career path open to anyone under the age of 35 in this country. If you think the military “gets everything,” perhaps you, too, could sign on. Or maybe get involved in your government on a level a bit deeper than translating political hyperbole to an attack against a military spouse buying healthful food for her children at a discount store.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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