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Tom Philpott has been breaking news for and about military people since 1977. After service in the Coast Guard, and 17 years as a reporter and senior editor with Army Times Publishing Company, Tom launched "Military Update," his syndicated weekly news column, in 1994. "Military Update" features timely news and analysis on issues affecting active duty members, reservists, retirees and their families.

Visit Tom Philpott's Military Update Archive to view his past articles.

Tom also edits a reader reaction column, "Military Forum." The online "home" for both features is

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Tom's freelance articles have appeared in numerous magazines including The New Yorker, Reader's Digest and Washingtonian. His critically-acclaimed book, Glory Denied, on the extraordinary ordeal and heroism of Col. Floyd "Jim" Thompson, the longest-held prisoner of war in American history, is available in hardcover and paperback.

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Stateside Commissary Closure Plan Angers Patrons

Readers of Tom Philpott's Military Update Column Sound Off

I am outraged over the plan drafted to close stateside commissaries even though I'm not able to use these facilities any longer.  I have used them and understand their value.  This is going to cripple our military communities!Don't the defense secretary and military officials realize our members depend on these stores to offset their low pay? The stores also provide much-needed jobs.  If they close, houses will be sold because military retirees no longer will have reason to stay in these areas.

Via email

Regarding news of possible closing of stateside base grocery stores -- please don't!

With all of the talk about appreciating the work of military personnel, giving 'thanks" and acknowledging their contributions and sacrifices, this would be a very serious wound.

Please, do not close our food stores.

Master Chief Petty Officer, USN-Ret.
Via email

We served over 20 years in the Navy and raised four children. I will say this plain and clear: the only way a family can afford to live on military pay and feed their children is with savings through the commissary.

You cannot have true troop readiness if active duty parents think their children could go to bed hungry.

Look elsewhere for your cuts.

Spouse of Navy Retired
Via email

We can't afford to help military families by keeping these stores open but we can keep our troops to Afghanistan for another ten years to help them?  Where is this government's loyalty?

Via email

This is a disgrace.  Why are we military families being so disrespected?

Via email

I read in the Boston Herald that government employees working to implement Obamacare make over $100,000 per year.  Is this fair to cut military benefits while wasting money on failed projects?

Via email 

How about we first go with a 10-percent pay cut for every federal bureaucrat, from POTUS on down, who make a base salary of more than $100,000?  See if then we can quit sticking it to the military.

Via email

Those studying ways to dump this earned benefit should look into who is using the commissary.

A good place to start would be Fort Meade, Md., where it seems a large number of foreign nationals and non-military shoppers use the store.

Via email

Rather than go with head-butting tactics, maybe this approach might help out our looming commissary cost situation: a sliding scale surcharge.

It would keep costs down for the Department of Defense without causing undue harm.  It could stay five percent for lower enlisted, and increase to seven percent for senior enlisted, junior officers and retirees of like rank, 10 percent for more senior officers and retirees, and 15 percent for flag and general officers and retirees.

Chief Radioman, USN-Ret.
Via email

Bean counters always want to screw veterans who have served this country with our lives.  If they want to cut spending, cut welfare for people have done nothing for this country.

If you cut or scale back benefits to veterans, then you are all traitors! 

Via email

 Do not take away one of the few benefits promised to our military for their service to our country.  This is one more disappointment we have to look forward to. 

Via email

Here in Pittsburgh, Pa., we have been using a 6000-square-foot, makeshift commissary since the 1950's when we had NIKE missile sites here to protect the steel mills.  Over the past two years a new commissary has been erected to serve the Tri-State area.  It should be open in March along with a new base exchange.

Most retirees depend on commissaries for less expensive, no-taxed goods.  Are these people proposing commissary closings insane?

Chief Master Sergeant, USAFR
Via email

As a former active duty Marine and a 20-year Army wife, I have been asking why it's taken so long to close commissaries.

With many low-cost grocery and retail options (Wal-Mart, Target, etc.) immediately adjacent to most military bases these days, there is no reason for taxpayers to be spending more than $5.6 million per year ($1.4 billion subsidy divided by 247 stores) per store on this outdated benefit.

Military members and their families are resourceful.  The government needs to stop coddling them.

I say, 'It's about time!"

Via email

Closing commissaries, cutting troop strength, reducing future pay increases, increasing TRICARE fees.  All in the name of budget cuts.  Yet we never hear one thing about reigning in pay and benefits for members of Congress.

At this rate it won't be long before nobody is interested in joining the military.  Then who will politicians use as pawns in their political games?

I'm beginning to regret the 20 years I gave in service to country.  I think any young person desiring a military career these days is seriously misinformed and misguided.

Via email

My husband and I served for the few benefits we still have.  I love the commissary and exchange, and use them all the time.

Maybe commissaries are not as popular in densely populated areas but I constantly hear young spouses rave -- or complain -- about their last one.   Either it was smaller and didn't carry enough selection or they enjoyed that last store better.

I believe everyone should serve four years if they want to be a congressman, senator, ambassador, judge or the president, or just a government employee.  Then they would know how important the benefits are to retirees and families.

Start sequestration for members of Congress. Cut their salaries. They don't really represent those who elected them.

Via email

Letters may be edited for clarity or length.  Write to Military Forum, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA 20120-1111, send e-mail to or visit

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Family and Spouse Defense Budget Tom Philpott Military Forum