Playing Politics With Military Families


As a government showdown loomed, the military community sat on the edge of their seats waiting to find out if they would be paid, or be able to shop at the commissary or if leave would be affected. As the clock ticked and it looked more likely than not that a shutdown would occur, I began flipping through the cable news channels. Everywhere I looked, I found pundits and politicians teeing up the debate by invoking the military in an effort to bolster their respective arguments. Nothing new there. When we're not being portrayed as victims, we're being used as political pawns.

Why do you suppose the military would be at the center of the debate? Well, the answer is pretty clear.

The military continues its long-standing run as the highest-rated U.S. institution. Small business and the police occupy second and third places, respectively. These three top-tier institutions all earn high confidence from a majority of Americans, something no other institution achieves this year.

The military has been No. 1 in Gallup's annual Confidence in Institutions list continuously since 1998, and has ranked No.1 or No. 2 almost every year since its initial 1975 measure.

In the shutdown showdown, both parties whipped out the military card and waved it wildly about to prove they were the ones who were most concerned with our well-being. Our politicians used an entire institution made up of a diverse group of people, who may or may not agree with their views. in an attempt to get their way. It was unbecoming. As distasteful as politicians playing tug-o-war with the military was, shame on representatives from "non-partisan" organizations who didn't -- and don't -- mind using the military to provide support and cover for the political parties they (not so) discreetly advocate on behalf of. Most of us have a preference for one party over the other (although the preference is probably slight at this point). If we as individuals choose to speak out in favor of one party's platform or cause, it's our prerogative to do so. We have opinions, and we have the right to express them. But when we do so, we do not speak for an entire community. The only good news I found was that most members of the military community who I saw on television either refused to fall into the political trap, or blamed both parties.

There is a call to action to put pressure on our legislators to ensure that military pay will never again be affected by the incompetence and/or inability of the legislative and executive branches to reach an agreement on budgetary matters. While most Americans aren't steeped in the often ugly, convoluted legislative process, one thing they can understand is that withholding military pay sounds like cruel and unusual punishment, especially at a time when we're engaged in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. With the military issue off the table, perhaps both parties would be forced to creatively and competently argue their positions on the merits and not push the hottest-of-hot buttons simply to play on the emotions of the public.

There was no question in my mind that the military community would get through a shutdown. Would it be hard? Yes. But we take care of each other. As has been demonstrated over a decade at war, no matter what is asked, onward we march. Our shoulders are broad and our fortitude runs deep.

Duty. Honor. Country. This is a phrase most closely associated with the military, but one which can -- and should -- apply to our elected officials.

As military spouses, we look forward to the day when we can say we're single-digit-midgets. This means that our spouses will be home in less than ten days. It's a happy place to be. When I studied the confidence index, I couldn't help but think that Congress is well on its way to becoming single-digit-midgets.

Only in this case, it would be anything but a happy occasion.

Click here if you want to tell your elected representatives to vote for the Ensuring Pay for our Military Act.

*We do not dabble in politics here but this is a rare occasion where the political process had the ability to impact the military community in a major way. Milspouses are not monolithic in their political views. If you decide to comment, please refrain from partisan political attacks on one party, person or each other. Let's keep it civil.

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