Department of Defense cuts are getting plenty of attention right now. It’s a topic affecting military families, more than anyone, so it’s time we considered what we can do without. Here are my proposals:
1. Live without commissaries: As a lifelong commissary shopper, I love the commissary. I’ve imagined myself in retirement, a little old lady making small talk with young military moms in the commissary produce section, smiling at their cute babies.
The commissary has saved my family a lot of money, but there are other ways we can save. Commissary privileges are a perk, not a promise.
If giving up stateside commissaries focuses budget attention on the long-term strength of our military and military families – and by extension our national security – then I’ll be glad to smile at cute babies at the Piggly Wiggly.
2. Live without social media stupidity. Dear DOD, when you cut personnel, please start with those who not only do stupid things in uniform, but also feel compelled to share their foolishness via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
As the war comes to an end, public recognition of military members as indispensible to our security will shift. It’s time to be mindful of military images in the media, and service members who never have an unTweeted thought are a liability.
Everyone wearing the uniform may not be a hero, but so many are. Keep the heroes.
3. Live without a wartime mindset. Our nation has been at war for twelve years. Some military members and families have never served in peacetime. As the long war in Afghanistan winds down, we all need to shift to a peacetime mindset.
Public concern for the military is already declining along with support for military spending. We fervently hope no other large-scale conflict arises, but our military must remain ready. Our lives may still demand the same sacrifices -- deployments, separations, transitions, even in peacetime when our lives and jobs are not making the news.
Yellow ribbons, bumper stickers and military discounts at the local burger joint may disappear. Oprah may not throw any more parties on her network.
It’s not that Americans will think less of the military. They just might not think of us much at all.
This doesn’t change the duties of our active duty spouses or our role of family support. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again, whether anyone is watching or not.
4. Live without a Congress that breaks promises: It’s one thing for public attention to waver. They have their own families and jobs to think about.
The attention of our nation’s leaders to our military is another matter. They have promises to keep. Our elected leaders know they can call the Marines, the Air Force, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reserves at a moment’s notice.
Our troops should know they can count on their leaders as well. Active duty members have answered the call through two wars, too many good-byes, injuries and deaths. Promises were made, and our elected leaders must keep them and care for their warriors or be voted out of office.
The Keep Your Promise Alliance of military support organizations showed the strength of our community to speak with one voice and hold our leaders accountable. We’ll need to do more of the same in the future and use our votes to choose leaders who listen.
5. Live without the military/civilian disconnect. Now more than ever, we need to stop thinking of ourselves as one-percenters and connect more with the civilian population through community involvement, awareness and participation as voters and leaders.
Fewer veterans serve in our national government now than at any other time in history. Veterans and military spouses who are willing to serve at every level of government, from the school board to congress, can bring a military viewpoint to the public square.
6. Live without a sense of entitlement: Military life is a call to duty, not entitlement. We know what it costs to live this life. Much of it cannot be compensated.
As members of the military community, we should know what to expect from our leaders and how to make sure it is properly administered to our warriors. We need a laser focus on the essentials of military readiness and good health.
We need to be willing to jettison peripheral programs and privileges, even ones we really like, in favor of what really matters.
We are not entitled; we are empowered. That is a message of military life that we can’t do without.
Terri Barnes is the author of Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life (Elva Resa Publishing, 2014) and writes a weekly column for Stars and Stripes. Terri has been a military spouse for 28 years. She and her husband, Mark, have three children.