The pay scales of the United States military is not what you would call competitive, when compared to the civilian analogues of various MOS/AFSCs and ranks. We all know that. Pay isn't the only reason guys serve, and neither is patriotism. Let's be honest about it. In some of the most 'noble' cases pay isn't a factor at all, it's civic duty or ; in the most ignominious, a sense of duty or patriotism never enter the equation at all. That said, the benefits of service (and other advantages) are pretty damn good. Granted, we're talking about the world's largest entrenched bureaucracy and actually utilizing those benefits can be a pain, but they're still good benefits.
What happens if the pay remains low and the benefits go away?
This op-ed from Business Insider addresses that question.
"With all this in mind the reason that military benefits are treated as Holy Writ...A lot of people who have never served see the surface realities of the benefits, 'free' healthcare, housing...but they never bother to look deeper than that. The fact that some of the Joint Chiefs have actually proposed some of the impending changes shows they're either out of touch or they're protecting their careers. Either case is appalling...The retirement system isn't perfect, it was made for a profession that makes young men into old men (and now women) quickly. If we plan to keep an all volunteer force, if we plan to keep a highly professional, motivated, and skilled military, we are going to need to keep the benefits, as a boon, and even a lure to recruit and keep the quality people...When you think of America's military in the next 20 years do you think it will be a professional force that is able to whether the storms unforeseen on the horizon? We have managed to hold our own with nearly 11 years of constant warfare, something it was simply assumed a modern representative Republic could never do...In this debate one should be sure to tread very lightly, lest the consequences cost more that they purport to save..."
Read the entire article and opine.