Did you know there are Americans who loathe the benefits we receive as military dependents?
I was astonished and somewhat disturbed by more than a few comments I recently received on my Facebook page and website, TheConservativeParent.com. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that my standing as a military spouse disqualified me from an opinion on public contraception coverage and the supposed war on women because of the free, federally funded health care provided my family.
Numerous readers told me I could take my free birth control, given to me at my free clinic, located on a base with my free housing, and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.
According to the disgruntled commentary, there are more than a few reasons why service members and their families are on equal footing with welfare recipients.
From our “free” Tricare, uniform allowances, COLA and a roof over our head, military families have no reason to complain about the life we live and the hardships we face. Nor should we inject ourselves into the current health care debate because, after all, our medical insurance is run by the federal government and look how good we have it. Forget that we pay taxes just like the rest of hardworking Americans, we are spoiled rotten with our freebies and should be grateful to Uncle Sam for taking such good care of us.
And let’s be honest, some have said; the military will take anyone with a high school education and is full of people that weren’t smart enough to get a real job. They signed up for the deployments and made their choice to be in harm’s way and we agreed to the lifestyle the second we got married. Why are we rewarded with tax free and hazardous duty pay on top of all of our benefits when living the military life is a choice-not a requirement?
In a nutshell, these readers believe we receive accolades and financial compensation beyond our worth because of our spouse’s active duty status.
It’s a hard thing to read when I consider what our family has endured over the past fourteen years. It’s equally difficult to describe how being a military family has blessed us with profound joy yet dropped us into the depths of despair. Yes, my husband entered the military understanding his duty to this country and what that sacrifice would entail. And yes, I married a man who had committed his future and physical well being to a job that could send him anywhere on earth at a moment’s notice.
So, instead of trying to defend myself and my active duty spouse to people that clearly extol the virtues of minimum effort for maximum benefit, let me say this:
First, nothing, and I mean, nothing, in this life is free. The health care, the dental, the housing, the commissaries all come with strings attached. Like many honorable jobs in this country, the compensation does not match the sacrifice. In fact, being in the military and being a military family requires paying a price for a job that puts food on the table. It means signing your name on a dotted line for something bigger than yourself knowing that at the end of the day you may not come home the same person emotionally or physically. You may not come home at all. That the person you married can leave for a year and return spiritually broken or without limbs and suddenly no longer able to do their job.
Remember, the job that puts food on the table?
And no one in the military laces up their boots in the morning because their bank account is still padded from last month’s paycheck. No amount of money or benefits can take the place of a deployed father or mother and hazardous duty pay does not relieve the nightmare of watching a fellow soldier die in your arms on the battlefield. Free medical care and tax free shopping at the base exchange hasn’t been incentive enough to stop dozens upon dozens of service members from putting a loaded gun to their head and pulling the trigger just to escape the pain and horror of war.
To those that mock the service of our men and women in uniform and the benefits we receive on behalf of their sacrifice, I ask that you consider the source of your contempt.
From my perspective you have a problem with exceptionalism. You have a misguided understanding of what it means to do a job that requires more than punching a clock and have obviously never been in service to your community or country for anything more than selfish personal gain.
But that’s OK. Because men like my husband are willing to the do the job you find so unremarkable and I will sleep better at night for it. And I’ll take the medical care -- even when it means sitting in a packed pharmacy for two hours with a sick child or waiting months for specialty care -- because the cost has already been paid with blood, sweat and tears on the backs of patriots.
April Lakata Cao is the author of The Conservative Parent, a website dedicated to exposing difficult cultural issues affecting today’s American families. Her goal is to encourage parents to instill conservative values in our children in the hopes of raising the next Great Generation. April is a military spouse and mom to four beautiful children as well as a freelance writer and contributing author to the book Faith Deployed...Again: More Encouragement for Military Wives.