The Luxury of Being Wrong

Filed in Military, National Defense, Veterans by on March 13, 2013 139 Comments

74015-nicholsonDavid Wood enjoys something most members of the US military do not.  He has the luxury of performing poorly in his job and living to tell about it.

Mr. Wood published a Huffington Post article earlier this year originally titled “After a Decade of Lavish Benefits, Military Personnel Fear Cuts.”  This lamentable array of words, a cheap literary hook designed to ensnare fiscally paranoid readers by construing military members as trough-feeding elites defensively crouched over burgeoning piles of cash, was inexplicably changed Tuesday.  But not before Mr. Wood managed to rack up nearly 40,000 votes of approval on Facebook.  And not before he managed to cultivate an ugly and undeserved myth that can only harm the soul of a nation: the myth that America’s fighting men and women are some sort of high-on-the-hog mercenary force.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Mr. Wood, though you’re likely to never read these words, let me address you directly as a veteran. I understand that you’re against war in general.  I understand you were against the invasion of Iraq. It might surprise you just how many veterans agree with you on these matters.  But sir, despite your admirable credentials and even given the benefit of the doubt, you’ve managed to pen an article so careless with the image of the American veteran that it should not have seen the light of day.  I assume without meaning to do so, you’ve insulted the quiet, unassuming ethic of the American veteran by saying things that beg to be challenged, thereby inviting your subjects to defend themselves against your words, which they do at the risk of appearing prideful, something almost universally abhorred in the veteran culture.

So I appeal to you, Mr. Wood.  Before you pick up your pen again, take care in your thoughts and how you express them.  Take care that you don’t express manifestly incorrect notions that your readership, trusting your Pulitzer credentials and your evident sensibility, might wrongly share, forward, and ultimately, legitimize.

To say that military pay and benefits have “soared far above civilian comparison” is either misguided or disingenuous, but in either case, deeply wrong.  To the extent military pay and benefits have been kept competitive, this has been necessary to keep enough qualified warriors in uniform to get the job done.  If anything, the use of pay has been a cynical instrument employed to prevent mass abandonment of an activity bent on grinding people and their families into a fine powder.  The level of sacrifice asked of our military in recent years is historically unprecedented, and America’s warriors are not getting rich enduring it.  In fact, 1.5 million of them need food stamps to supplement their incomes, scores have trouble finding post-service employment, and tens of thousands will live the rest of their lives without ever being made whole again, having left things on the battlefield that defy monetary valuation. Military members make their decisions concerning whether or not to stay in uniform on the basis of many criteria, pay and benefits among these. Each family has its own situation and hence its own calculus. C’est la guerre.  But until machine press operators and gas station attendants start spending 12 months away from their families and living constantly under the threat of getting blown apart by an IED, you and your readers should consider any comparison of military and civilian pay fundamentally invalid.

But just out of curiosity … who exactly do you think is overpaid?  Generalities are fun, but whose “lavish” pay should be slashed?  The 20-year-old Ohioan struggling to understand Pashto while he orchestrates installation of a water filtration system in a village that has resisted improvement since before Alexander the Great?  Maybe the 32-year-old Californian responsible for guiding a 50,000-pound aircraft moving at the speed of sound to a precise point in time and space where she will deliver a Volkswagen-sized munition to a point on the Earth no bigger than a hopscotch court … knowing she will kill her own teammates or allow the enemy to kill them if she gets it wrong?  Or maybe the 40-year-old Floridian whose success is defined by whether his ability to train, motivate, inspire, and focus the 500 people in his charge will be enough to keep them alive in a war where neither the enemy nor the objective are understood and the source of the next attack is never known?  You’re not talking about “personnel” my friend … you’re talking about “people.”  Individuals with talents, capabilities, and courage that scare the living hell out of enemies.  They are a bargain at twice the current rate, fiscal pressures be damned.

But while we’re on the point. People don’t make Master Sergeant in the Army in 10 years and they certainly don’t make Brigadier General in 16 years.  But if they did, why would the pay you decry be so unreasonable?  We’re talking about educated, capable, fit, ingenious men and women capable of taking life one minute, saving it the next, then opening a homeless shelter before sundown.  They work tirelessly and sleep optionally.  I’ve been known to bash a general or two in my time, but the vast majority of them could step into any boardroom in America and, before the first coffee mug hit the table, instantly distill the winners and losers in the room, mentally devise a strategy for the next six months of corporate operations, and spend the next hour memorizing the names of the children and pets of everyone in the room. These people you construe as fat cats are not “ordinary people doing extraordinary things” as the old trope goes.  They are extraordinary people making amazing things look easy.  The real question is whether a country manifestly out of touch with the true costs of the foreign activism it serially endorses is deserving of their selflessness.

What is not in question is that their families deserve Sainthood.  Your assertions that day care and counseling services are overfunded would be laughable if the entire subject matter weren’t already submerged in an ocean of tears that’s been swelling for a dozen years.  Disabuse yourself of the notion that parents enjoy spending a year or more without their counterparts, forced to leave their children with strangers if they dare seek to a trip to the movie theater.  And when these patient and brave spouses who have selflessly given away a normal relationship with their mate in the name of Afghan or Iraqi freedom sense themselves approaching the rocky shoals of sanity, they need only dial an 800 number to receive some of that Cadillac counseling you wrote about.  Many of the things you see as overfunded enhancements are actually viewed as running jokes within the military.  The kind told by sad comics.  In other words, you have your cross-hairs on the wrong target. Aim at the bureaucracies unable to effectively manage the resources generously provided by the American people and you’ll have something closer to a valid critique.  Aim at the politicians who flung us into undeclared and under-resourced wars, and you’ll have the root cause dead to rights.

There’s plenty of room for reform in national defense.  Operations are not immune to waste, and anecdotally, there are unnecessary deployments still taking place in our war effort.  With a price tag of one million dollars per warrior per year deployed, this is the real story for reform-minded journalists looking to cast a light on costly inefficiencies.  You ask or imply valid questions about whether commissaries and exchanges should be reformed, and it’s fair to ask retirees like me to pay a little more for health care. In fact, I agree with the seed of your column, which seems to hold that undue deference to the military is inappropriate, and can actually poison the civil-military discourse we depend upon to ensure the lives of our men and women are not cheaply risked.  A bit more journalistic bravado in challenging military leaders a decade ago, for example, might have disrupted the march to war in Iraq, a debacle directly responsible for nearly all of the consequences your article bemoans.  But all these points aside, your article was far more wrong than right.

When military people are wrong, their teammates die.  Airplanes hit mountains. Artillery shells fall on civilians. Incorrect targets are bombed.  Ships run aground. Military servants are unable to comprehend consequence-free failure, which is why some are mystified that the tone and substance of your article continue uncorrected.  Whatever your intent, you were wrong, Mr. Wood.  In the immortal words of Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, “you have that luxury.”  And I know many who will continue making certain you and I and others have that luxury … by laying their lives on the line.

Posted by Tony Carr on March 13th, 2013.

Tags: , , , , , ,

  • Juditha-Jade Parkinson

    Most times, it’s easy to criticize an organization or an institution when that person is not a part of it or no more a part of it.

    One thing that I’m sure is that this same of group of people will be the first group who will be happy if their nation’s Military can defend them when a foreign Military invades or attacks their own nation.

    A good pay and dependable benefits are good incentives to Military personnel but I don’t think that they are really that well-paid. Or else, all young men and women will be going into the Military with the thought of buying a fully-paid house within a short period of time. That they are paid good, I personally find it normal. They deserve it. They sacrifice themselves and their family life (and their family do the same) for their Nation.

    • Tony Carr

      There could be a time and place for an analysis of the merits of pay and benefits, but not now — while we still have people dying in Afghanistan — and not the way Mr. Wood chose to go about it. I think the American people have become accustomed to voting for wars without having to pay up-front for them … and it can become all too easy to break promises later when the budget gets squeezed. We’re overdue for a national conversation about this. Thanks for your post!

      • Juditha-Jade Parkinson

        You’re welcome, Sir!

        By the way, aside from your excellent answer to Mr Wood’s article, it’s also nice to read some French touch in your writings… “C’est la guerre”… “château” lifestyle… I love it!

  • Tito

    Nicely done, TC. Always motivated when I read what you have to say.

    Let me add an input to paint a dynamic about the sacrifices families make in my little niche of the military. Our deployers’ geographic deployment and BOG:Dwell ratio maintains a frequency that our “personnel” are close enough to home to be held accountable for all that goes on, yet far enough away from home so as to be useless to family affairs. Talk about deploy, redeploy, reintegrate challenges …

    And that’s not to say or to characterize the ramifications of any mistakes we make …

    Thanks for being a strong voice for our service members and their families. As you know, we’re all getting crushed by the day.

    • Tony Carr

      “Our deployers’ geographic deployment and BOG:Dwell ratio maintains a frequency that our “personnel” are close enough to home to be held accountable for all that goes on, yet far enough away from home so as to be useless to family affairs.”

      Wow. What an amazing way to state this dynamic. Coming home is difficult, and for many, it gets tougher every time because you know what it’s going to entail.

      We’ll have to stay on top of this. The budget vultures are circling and our society hasn’t necessarily internalized what these folks have given.

  • Paul Dalen

    Yesterday I commented on DoctrineMan’s FB that I was certain an army of bloggers would take the author to task with rebuttal pieces

    I was right.

    Yours is the best I’ve read so far. Thank you.

    • Tony Carr

      Cheers Paul. When i saw that article, like you … I knew there would be a response. After taking a 10-hour deep breath to calm down, I was glad to join the chorus. Glad this resonated with you.

  • http://Duckworth Eric

    Well said

    • Tony Carr

      Thanks Eric!

  • Dan Bishop

    Thank you for thoughtful retort Tony. Bravo!

    • Tony Carr

      Appreciate it, Dan. I was thinking of our “soundboard fun” … with the Nicholson prank calls.

  • Michelle

    Thank you for your article! From an appreciative Army wife who has given up a professional career to move with my children and husband every 2 -3 years since I was at his side commissioning into the military almost 20 years ago.

    • Tony Carr

      So glad you enjoyed this, Michelle. I tip my hat to you as one of so many courageous teammates helping to keep our uniformed servicemembers motivated and focused on such a difficult task. My wife has been forced to pick up her lift, her education, and her career 8 times since we were married … and my decision to retire had something to do with allowing her, finally, the chance to settle down. We have two kids and they’ve had to adjust to 7 different schools. So I know the hard work you’ve put in for your country … so that so many others won’t have to. That’s why it mattered to me to knock down some of the baseless information in this article. Take care of yourself and thanks for your service!

    • CJ

      I have also been a military wife for over 20 years. I was so frustrated with Mr. Wood’s article that I decided to calculate my husbands hourly wage last year. If $11.99 an hour is more than what middle to upper management is making in the civilian workforce, then I guess our economy is way worse than I originally thought. Thank you Tony for showing our side in a civilized manner, and thank you for your time in the service.

  • M

    It’s when I read things like this that my hope is restored that there are still people out there who “get it” and makes my job of serving deeper with resolve to do the best I can everyday, in uniform or out of it.

    • Tony Carr

      Your country is lucky to have you — and I appreciate both your service and your participation in this important discussion!

  • Bridget (@twinisms)

    I love this response, thank you for writing it. It never occurred to me that Americans actually thought we were living the lap of luxury as military families, but with 40K likes on that post I guess I was wrong. That makes me sad since I try to tell myself that we do have the nation behind us – maybe not.

    I wrote about how the sequester is affecting military families, prior to reading Mr. Woods article.

    • Tony Carr

      Bridget — glad you enjoyed this piece. I really enjoyed yours too and left you a comment on your page. I was moved by your words. Sequester is a disheartening moment for our country, and especially for those of us concerned about the relationship between those who serve and the society they protect. Thanks for your kind words and keep up your posts — they are important, as is your voice in this discussion!

  • Rachel

    Tony, this piece was amazing. Articulate, strong, cohesive, the work of a true military man. I am a military spouse who stumbled across the offending article today, and it made me so angry that I am awake at 1:15am (Japan Time) still fuming. I began writing a letter to the author earlier, and I plan on sending it to every Congressman, Secretary of Defense, Senator, etc… that I can get addresses for. This is not just a media issue, but a public perception issue. Americans overwhelmingly do not understand military life, and have little respect for it. I am tired of sitting by mute and watching our people get trampled over, while their kids fall behind in school, and spouses spend thousands of dollars on classes that will never become degrees or look for endless jobs that don’t exist. The issues that Americans face are ten-fold in the military, but the public never sees that side of military life, because the Pentagon wants to keep it quiet and the media isn’t interested. Thank you for being an advocate, not just of the former generation, but of the current. You did not blame anyone, scream about politics, or yell about mismanagement, you just stated the facts, and I respect that immensely, because regardless of all of those qualifiers, the military will still be facing problems. If I ever finish my letter, I will try to post a link to it, so that all of you can take a gander.

    • Tony Carr

      Rachel, we’re on the same wavelength. I had to take a 10-hour deep breath before writing this piece, and it still portrays a fair amount of indignation. We’ve got a problem in our culture and our country with the relationship between our military and the society it protects. We’ve got a huge disconnect between the cost of security and the appetite for it. Most of all, we have a military culture that has responded to the debacle of MacArthur’s firing 60 years ago by excessively muzzling itself and accepting conditions that are manifestly unacceptable, which makes it very difficult for the average American to know when s/he is processing a pure BS article like the one in question. What our military has been asked to do over the past 12 years is unprecedented and unconscionable. Yet we have journalists like Mr. Wood and their readership believing it’s time to set our budgetary sights on pay and benefits? It’s inexplicable. So while the larger context is political, I chose not to get into that … because that doesn’t reflect the ethos of the fighting man and woman doing the job and still being shot at in Afghanistan. For them, it’s about meeting the challenge of the moment and seeing it for what it is … and that’s what I attempted to do with Wood’s article. I’m glad it resonated with you, and I look forward to reading your letter. One of the next steps in this process of keeping pressure on the veteran cause … is going to be activism with email and letters written to legislators. Stay in this fight! Your voice is critical!

  • rallypoint6

    This spouse and Combat Veteran could not agree more. Army Strong

    • Tony Carr

      Hoooah. :-)

  • Anonymous

    I’m not comfortable with military folks bashing the public or asking for more support. I don’t like it. It is unbecoming of a professional soldier, in my opinion. Wearing the uniform, you get the job done… regardless of the public support (although it is helpful, of course). TCs article is spot-on in this instance. Nice work, Tony.

    • Tony Carr

      This is why retirees like me have a duty to call it as we see it. Active duty members are constrained both by law and culture to keep quiet … and their training gives them the inclination to sit happily in misery and assume it’s just part of the territory. At this point, a key national discussion is beginning to happen … the budgetary vultures are circling, and without protection, we risk all sorts of broken promises and moral relativity after an unprecedented period of sacrifice. My job is to stay involved in this and call out the Wood articles when I see them. Fly safe, my friend. :-)


      (Ref: 13 Mar 13)
      Just want to get clarification on the previous comment… or question it depending on the intent…. are you trying to say that the THE military “folks” are bashing the public and asking for more support… Why should they have to ask for you to support them? Shouldn’t we all support them for what they are doing for us each and every day? I am not sure of your history or experience with the military… but I have first hand, every single day experience with the military… No, I do not wear the uniform. However, I watch my husband walk out of that door each day with it on (or at least did; now that he is defending this country I don’t have the luxury of seeing walk out the door each day until he returns home.) and not once have I ever heard him “bash the public”. He is an extremely professional soldier with pride in each and every step he takes to to defend this country. Our soldier don’t ask for many things at all… The very least we can do for them is show them the respect they deserve & give them the “support” they have earned.

  • rwdflynavy (@rwdflynavy)

    Well said Sir! Great response to David Wood’s putrid article.

    • Tony Carr


  • Soldier’s Mom

    Sir, I wrote something similar but far from being as poignant and effective as your words. I applaud your maturity in getting your point across. As a Military Veteran, a Military retiree’s spouse of 30 years (all of it in the military) and now a mother of an Active Duty Soldier, I THANK YOU for being that voice that our young men and women are expected to withhold. I have more family members than fingers and toes who have served or are currently serving in the world’s greatest and strongest military. I can vouch for every one of them to say that not one of them did or does it for the money, including my own son. They stood or stand on that wall so someone else’s child, father, sister, etc. ‘has to’. They stand on that wall so we, Americans, can all enjoy the very freedoms they protect. They stand on that wall knowing their day may end but those back at home will enjoy the sunshine, their lives, their dreams. I dare anyone to put a price on that.

    Thank you Sir! *Hand Salute*

    • Tony Carr

      Our country owes you such an enormous debt of gratitude, and I’m glad this piece resonated with you. Stay tuned … because I’m just getting started. Stories like you provide a steady stream of inspiration to keep this fight going … and ensure our nation keeps its promises. I salute you, Ma’am!

  • Williamsburg Military Insider

    Thank you for the well written article! Well Said!

    • Tony Carr

      Thank you! And thanks for what you do for our military men and women! :-)

  • Anonymous

    Thank you.

    • Tony Carr


  • Jill

    Thank you for your piece! I also blogged on this issue but your words moved me far beyond anything else I have read. As a military spouse and mental health counselor I applaud you for pointing out his ridiculous assertions about mental health being over-funded in the military. Bravo!

    • Tony Carr

      Jill — thanks for the work you do for our people. One of the reasons I think it’s important that there be a forceful response to any implication that military people are overfunded is because of the many areas where resources are woefully behind reality. Mental health treatment is one of those. Glad this resonated with you — keep up the good fight.

  • jon w

    Mr. Carr – “1.5 million of them [i.e., warriors] need food stamps” — could you explain this number? That’s more than the total active membership of all branches, and even if you include part-time reservists, still an impossibly huge number.

    • Tony Carr


      I could have been more clear by using the term “veterans” in the preceding sentence. There are 21.5 million veterans living the US, with about 25% of those having served in the “Gulf War Era” that started after the Cold War. Of those 21.5 million, data compiled, ironically by the Huffington Post, estimates that 1.5 million are receiving SNAP benefits. Since these benefits are typically given to families with children, it’s logical to conclude that many if not most of those 1.5 million are relatively young veterans of our contemporary wars.

      • Randy

        Shouldn’t you separate veterans from active duty when debating military pay?

        • Tony Carr

          That depends on the debate. This isn’t a narrow debate about pay alone. Mr. Wood’s article, intentionally or not, raises larger questions whose answers deserve a broader discussion. But many “veterans” are still on active duty, and the issues are linked.

    • Randy

      Somewhere else in the comments the author said that number was in reference to the total number of veterans on food stamps, not active duty.

  • Randy

    Tony, I’m glad you felt passionate enough to write a response, but I’m confused by a few of your facts and was hoping you’d be willing to straighten me out and maybe provide some sources.

    1) “In fact, 1.5 million of them need food stamps to supplement their incomes” — as of 2011 the military only had about 1.45 million troops on active duty. Where did you get that number and how do you put it in context with the total force size?

    2) Most government assistance programs look at taxable income to determine benefits. During my time on active duty my housing allowance was between 1/4 and 1/2 my total income. So even being eligible for a doesn’t necessarily mean my income is as low as everyone else on the program.

    3) You make a number of references to “who should get a pay cut” and I think that it misses the point of the source article. The government has conducted a number of studies that found military pay has been increasing faster than civilian private sector pay. Can you name a job outside the military that has a built in cost of living annual raise that’s pegged above the inflation rate? Where can you work that you are offered a housing allowance that is adjusted annually based on the prices of the area?

    I applaud you for writing this, but I think your piece would be better if it included more sources.

    • Tony Carr

      Randy, I appreciate your input and will respond to your questions point-by-point when I get the opportunity. I had a choice between writing a procedural, data-driven piece or an opinion piece. It’s clear which choice I made. But this won’t be my last word on this article or its subject matter. Thanks for reading and responding!

      • Randy

        I think the gray area regarding some of the data hurt your more articulate opinion piece. I think you might be better off acknowledging the HuffPo author was right on the data points, but wrong on the context.,

        • Tony Carr

          I don’t think he was right about the data either. I just haven’t gotten there yet. :-)

      • Randy

        I think your reference to 1.5 million on food stamps appears to be referencing active duty troops (those who receive military pay), but in the comments you said that it’s regarding veterans.

        A number of people in the comments have asked about that number, and the fact that it’s so large would on face value seem to be a great reason to increase pay…but as you said that’s not the group being paid by the military.

        • Tony Carr

          It’ a good input, and I will clear it up. Last thing I want is to mislead, knowingly or unknowingly, on something this important. I can tell you from direct experience that many active duty enlisted members qualify for food stamps. This is not to say “we” should be responsible for everyone’s life choices … but it is a direct refutation of Mr. Wood’s implication of a chateau lifestyle.

      • Michelle

        I, like many others affiliated with our military, have written an accurate & factual entry on my personal blog. I have included my husband’s most current LES as well as links to DoD websites where you can “fact check” all my numbers. If you or any of your other ‘commenters’ would like to read & see just how much we make feel free to follow the included link. My husband is Commo, his civilian equivalent is an IT professional. I think for my next entry I’ll do a side by side comparison of his military wage as compared to his civilian counterpart. Why aren’t those the types of articles being published or written by our media?

      • Amy

        @Randy… Sorry – my name is Amy. Though I’m not the only Annoymous to respond – so I won’t take credit for those other posts! In re-reading my post, I didn’t mean for it to sound sarcastic in nature or as a slam to your question – I apologize if it came off that way. I guess I was still a little miffed at the original article. I just wanted to point out that, while there are very few civilian organizations that, across a broad scale, give housing allowances to all employees – there are also very few organizations that require all employees to continously relocate. Within civilian organizations, positions that do require frequent relocation or relocation to other countries, allowances toward housing/living expenses are often included as part of the salary.

    • Anonymous

      I Don’t mean to jump into a conversation but I did want to point out one issue. Randy, you mention “Where can you work that you are offered a housing allowance that is adjusted annually based on the prices of the area?”

      I just wanted to point out – as a military member, we are required to move to new locations on a regular basis – and we have no control over how long our assignment is. “The need of the Military” always trumps the best of plans. I have personally gone with my husband to an assignment and moved 9 months later. Then moved again – 11 months, next – 3 years, and again – 2 years later. By the time my husband retires from the military, we will have been relocated a total of 8 times – across states and countries. Moves are frequent, painful, far, and very expensive. Purchasing a house, for many soldiers, is not an option. The closing costs would barely be covered by the time you had to turn around and sell – and that’s if you are lucky enough to get a new assignment during a buyer’s market.

      You may think – why not just rent? Well, renting means that we never get to invest in property like our civilian counter parts. We move from place to place paying someone else’s mortgage. And keep in mind, the choice of whether or not we move, is beyond the scope of our control.

      Just one more point – housing allowances are only given if you live off base. Wait-lists for base housing can run from 6 months to over 2 years long. Our current location, I just got the call that base-housing was available (1.5 years later). And despite our impending housing allowance loss, we are still moving (as do a SIGNIFICANT number of military families).. because its cheaper, easier, closer, and safer.. and, my husband deploys – regularly. When not in base housing, I am left with three kids, for extended periods of time, surrounded by neighbors that don’t understand the pressures of being a single mom – that’s not actually single – but instead has to spend her nights wondering if she might be soon.

      • Randy

        I understand completely. I moved a half dozen times in my 8 years of active duty. I think the hardship of having to move so often is significant. It makes it harder for spouses to establish a career and for children to make friends.

        I don’t think that is related to the housing allowance. My point was that if you live in San Fran and the cost of housing rises significantly you will see your BAH allowance increase in January. If you worked in a civilian job in the same area it’s highly unlikely that if housing costs shot up that you’d get a similar raise at work.

        Regarding living on-base or off. I understand you only get BAH for living off-base, but if you live on base you are trading your BAH for a house. Some of the newer houses are pretty nice, but I know they aren’t all great. The first on-base house I lived in (2005) didn’t have a dishwasher or a garage.

      • Anonymous

        If you want one job.. My husband’s dad was a paper mill manager.. but not the static kind. He moved from location to location (every 2-3 years), going to failing mills and getting them profitable again. He got paid very well (as any manager should) – and due to his frequent moves, was given housing pay, or a company house, at every location. Another? A friend of mine is a database administrator, working for a global company. They needed her in Afghanistan working as a liaison with their Afghan contractors. They paid for her housing.. and a driver.. and even paid vacations twice a year. Still another.. me. I’m a network engineer. Several years ago (longer than I care to admit) I was hired by a US company that needed my services in Holland. They paid for my housing, a car, gave me a gas card and two paid plane tickets back to the states a year. Side note –I took an enormous loss in employment/pay potential when I fell in love with a military man. Point is, there are plenty of companies that include this type of pay as incentive pay, especially when requiring their employees to move regularly or beyond borders. It’s simply part of a negotiated salary, not listed as a line item that can be debated by the public at large.

      • Randy

        @Anonymous (I wish you’d use a name) Thanks for the extended answer. I meant that question as a real question and I’m glad you answered. Almost all of my work experience is as an active duty troop and so I accept that I don’t know as much about civilian workings as I do about the military.

        Thanks for the answer.

      • Tony Carr

        One of the trap doors in this discussion (or any discussion regarding budget priorities) is to start making it a normative discussion about “who should get what.” It’s not particularly useful — first of all because it drags us all into an impossible exercise of arguing over the value that should be placed on military service during war. This is unavoidably an emotional way to frame arguments. It’s more useful to accept that compensation decisions already made were more or less correct, and examine the implications of changing them. If we were to alter the way housing and food allowances are paid to military members, they’d pay more taxes on a higher base salary, and that might provide critics of the current system a morsel of moral satisfaction. In the long run, it would cost taxpayers potentially billions of dollars. When something is part of base pay, it’s also part of retirement, and thus paid for life after retirement is vested. Should the retirement system itself be changed? Perhaps, but “overhauling” it would destroy recruiting and corrode the All Volunteer Force. This is, to borrow from Jill above, the “most lavish benefit of all.” If the nation wants to save money on defense, there are some painfully obvious ways to do so. Targeting pay and benefits that are both morally and practically necessary is a dead end.

  • Anonymous

    There is no civilian counterpart to the military service member.

    • Tony Carr

      Amen. It’s a false premise, especially at this moment in our history.

  • Anonymous

    Tony- Thank you!

    Randy- My mom was a Federal government worker for 30 years. Since her job was in AL she did not receive a housing allowance or an adjustment for the cost of living BUT those people that were based in San Francisco and Washington D.C. did!

    • Randy

      I believe there is a cost of living multiplier that applies to the government service base pay that adjusts the income of a GS employee if they live in a select few high-cost areas. That multiplier gets adjusted from time to time, but it is not the same as the annual increase across the board that troops get.

      • Anonymous

        In the civilan world, as responsibility increases, or new title/position/duty is given- pay re-negotiation OFTEN accompanies this. My civilian brother has gotten 4 raises in 3 years as his role has changed. Military personnel are held static, regardless of increase in responsibility, danger, management duties, etc. until promotion to a new rank. This can take several years. (from Capt to Lt. Col – 6yrs). People jump on the annual increase and forget about the fact that once you are given rank – you stay static at that pay regardless of tasks (save the minimal cost of living increase)

      • Randy

        @Anonymous, agree it’s complex. Most times increase in responsibilities come with new rank, but not always. I agree.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Mr. Carr very well said!!!

  • Kerry- The Simple Year

    When I read the original article, I was first distressed because over 40,000 people had “Liked” the article. It seemed so strange that so many of the American public out there actually agreed with the author’s claims of a “Lavish” lifestyle for the military. Then, when I checked his background and found the author’s Pulitzer prize winning credentials, I was completely befuddled. It seems to me that we should expect more from the “best journalists” out there. The article seemed so inaccurate and blatantly biased with opinions written into it this supposed “news piece”. Now, it seems The Huffington Post has re-written some of the language in the article. I’m not sure if that makes me feel better…or worse.

    • Tony Carr

      David Wood has done a lot of good work portraying military and veteran issues over the years. He’s spent decades writing things that have helped keep Americans attuned to the things done to secure them — which is one of the reasons he has a large following. But all that aside, the original version of this article, by the way it started and framed itself, created such a sorrowful and incorrect impression that I felt it was damaging. I tried to stay away from the standard snark in my response to Mr. Wood, in part out of respect for his previous body of work. But it’s also distressing that his readership was exposed to a piece that I don’t think was careful enough with the image of the American veteran …. especially as we approach budgetary and strategic discussions. This is a great moment to cast a light on the REAL waste in the military establishment, and there is plenty enough of it to cut.

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  • Judy

    After reading this article last night, I emailed a response to Mr. Wood. I now understand how people feel the way they do. Prior to my husband being deployed, we heard people saying “the military get everything”. As you pointed out, we don’t get everything. My husband is a reservist and has been deployed since October. We have gone through all the holidays without him and my daughter will be celebrating her 11th birthday without him. How dare this man sit behind a desk and pen these ignorant facts to the public! If he wants to discuss luxuries, he should look at Congress with free health care. Why is Congress privy to voting a raise for themselves when the rest of the country is making personal and financial sacrifices?? My husband and I are both professionals in the civilian sector and we have made many adjustments due to his deployment. We are not living in luxury with the military pay, I assure you! I appreciate and respect your well-written article!

    • Tony Carr

      There is a damaging perception among some out there that our military is treated to opulent benefits. This perception is fed by having too many general and flag officers, too many DV aircraft, too many airshows and demonstrations, too many conventions, and yes, sometimes giving troops tax breaks who aren’t truly in “combat.” We’ll have to do ourselves some service if we expect to dissolve the negative perceptions out there. But at the same time, it’s not accurate and can’t be allowed to stand. The stakes are too high … not just for individual veterans and families, but for the country; if we start breaking promises, the All Volunteer Force could crumble. If our country wants to go back to compulsory service, that’s a discussion we need to have deliberately …. not as a result of hollowing the force. Glad you enjoyed this piece — thanks for the discussion, and hang in there for the remainder of your deployment.

  • juniorpaleo

    Beautifully well-written, giving voice to this military spouse and stay-at-home-mom with a husband who is gone for six months. THANK YOU for writing a post to become the balm on my aching heart after that horrendous HuffPo article. And Shame on the Huffington Post for publishing such garbage. I will read EVERY response you choose to write to that piece. This is being shared via my fb account, as I found it from two other military spouses. THANK YOU!

    • Tony Carr

      You are welcome, and thank you for supporting and sustaining your husband as he does his duty. We’ll just have to stay on top of this discussion to ensure he continues serving a grateful nation that understands his and your sacrifice and keeps its promises. I don’t know if it was the intent of Mr. Wood or Huffington Post to start such an important discussion, but I’m glad so many are talking about this.

  • mary

    Thank you for your post. When I read the article to which you’re responding, I immediately sat down and wrote a response, which I had to just as immediately delete.

    In March of 2012, a Christian Science Monitor article contained the following information: “Some 107,000 Army soldiers have been deployed to war three or more times since 2001, or some 20 percent of the active-duty force. More than 50,000 of those currently in uniform have completed four or more combat tours, Army figures indicate.”

    How can you POSSIBLY pay someone enough to make that kind of sacrifice? and what risk to their health, the health of their relationships, and the health of their marriages?

    • Tony Carr

      What we have asked of our military services these past years is unprecedented. Personally, I think it’s been immoral. When people take an oath and serve their country, they agree to follow orders and perhaps even give their lives. But they also believe there is an implied promise that they will not be employed irresponsibly, that they will be equipped and led properly, and that commitments made to them and their families will be honored. Now that they’ve done the job (and many continue doing it right now), it’s not OK for anyone to suggest re-negotiating those promises. The lesson for the nation is to be careful who you vote for and think carefully about foreign policy, because you WILL have to pay for it. With the Iraq price tag approaching $6T, you would think that would be a bigger discussion than how much we can squeeze out of what we pay people to go do our fighting for us.

  • Mike Shilkitus

    Keep fighting the good fight so articulately. Your last paragraph brought back all the feelings and memories of too many flag draped caskets carried and missing man formations.

    • Tony Carr

      You have my word, Mike.

  • c

    Tony:thank you. Good job well done! Mr. Wood should not criticize an American soldier until he marches a mile in his “COMBAT” boots.

    • Tony Carr

      I’m not sure if Mr. Wood meant to do that or not, but his article gave too much cover to those who would engage in such criticism (and have in the wake of his post).

  • Ken Jones

    TC, Great response. Congrats on your retirement. Flounder

    • Tony Carr

      Thanks Flounder. Hope all is well in your world.

  • Nicole Chacin

    Wow. Thank you so very much for this. Some of it had me in tears because it is so true. I am an Army wife and have endured 2 deployments in 4 years which is nothing compared to the 5 or 6 deployments some of my friends have endured over the last 8 years. And it is not easy being a military spouse and reading that we are overpaid and we have “lavish” benefits at our disposal is laughable! Without most of those benefits we would not be able to support our spouses while they are overseas. We are thousands of miles away from family and have no one but each other and the benefits the military provides for us.

    I very much appreciate the truth being spoken in an article like this. I shared and I hope it spreads like wildfire over social media and it makes it way around to Mr. Wood.

    • Tony Carr

      I know it has been shared with Mr. Wood, and while we have not spoken directly I’m sure he has or will consider some of the perspectives in the piece and the supporting comments being left in response to his post. His previous body of work demonstrates reasonability and respect for the veteran cause. I just really took issue with this particular piece. I struggle to know what the original intent was, but this is not the time to start discussing cuts to pay and benefits for military services … not after we’ve come through a period of unprecedented deployment tempo and two very tough campaigns. I was an AF pilot, and gone quite a bit myself … but never as much as my Army neighbors. We lived next door to a Special Forces family and watched over a 3-yr period as one deployment followed another … schedules accelerated, promises broken, “the surge”, … always another crisis meaning he had to stay out longer. I saw what it did to that family and many others. You can’t put a price tag on that, and if you expect there to be others willing to do it in the future, you’ve got to keep promises and pay competitively. If the nation wants to save on military costs, it should stop supporting endless wars and voting people into office who support wasteful spending. Thanks for what your family has done for the country — I really believe most Americans get it and appreciate it. We just have to stay engaged.

  • Kim

    Tony, thank you for placing truth (that some can’t handle) so publicly. As a 20+ military spouse I am equally appalled over Mr. Wood’s words. I wanted to invite him to discuss this over dinner with my husband and I but it would be difficult to be in two places at once given that once again my dedicated spouse is working lavishly away from our home to provide the luxury of Mr. Wood’s ignorance. And to Randy who seems to have some sense of military life, it is also just enough information to be dangerously opinionated and wrong. This is a life that unless one lives it completely, it can’t really be understood since although so many military families face similar circumstances, there is inevidably something unique to each family that serves. Nothing about it is easy, but then again we understand the value and worth of our families in this great nation. Never have I come across military spouses (or even active duty) that sit around and talk (or write) with such opinionated scrutiny over the very civilians that are granted the luxury to settle lavishly in one place and work 8, 10 or even 12 hours a day for 5 days a week and earn a more than sufficient pay while looking forward to a weekend of reprieve. It is the American dream…and it is protected by those that sacrifice themselves, their marriages, their children, anniversaries, birthdays, and even deaths to ensure that dream is not completely taken away. Our family is in this together and I know I speak for my fellow military families when I say we would not find satisfaction in pointing out the lavish life civilians live and question why they are paid what they are. Nonetheless, I could not be more proud of our own children who have grown up in the military environment of service and dedication. Once more in this trek our family will work through yet another tour separation away from our service member for too long. This separation is OUR choice so our high school senior can graduate in his school (number 11) without having to start over again…because we have that luxury!!! Semper Fi to our military friends and counterparts and thank you again Tony for speaking out for those that provide the freedom for others to continually show their ignorance…right or wrong!

    • Tony Carr

      “Our family is in this together and I know I speak for my fellow military families when I say we would not find satisfaction in pointing out the lavish life civilians live and question why they are paid what they are.”

      This is really the point, isn’t it? The entire framing of comparing military and civilian pay is a dead end. We can’t start a serious discussion this way. Military service is publicly funded. Apart from that, there is ZERO validity in talking about it the same way we do entitlement spending, as some have. Everyone needs to stop thinking of “military spending” monolithically, and actually dig into where the money is going. Our people are a bargain. Our weapon systems, bases, infrastructure, and logistics are bloated with waste.

      Your family is the reason we have a great and secure nation. My thanks to you for the service you’ve given.

  • Tora Whitehead

    Sir, you brought tears to my eyes, words can never express how grateful I am to you and the many other selfless heroes who take the time to express what so very many of us are thinking, but have not been blessed with the talent to do so as you clearly have. My best friend in the whole wide world was horrifically killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. I miss my husband terribly. Now our only son is serving, currently in Afghanistan. Heartbreaking. People like you continuously give me the strength and motivation to press on. I live with half of a heart, the other half is in Heaven. Thank you thank you thank you!

    • Tony Carr

      Tora, I am deeply sorry to hear how much you’ve given, and praise you for the courage you show by putting one foot in front of the other every day in such tough circumstances. Keep pressing on. The rest of us will do our best to live up to your expectations as a grateful nation. Thank you for your kind words, and for your service.

  • Nicole Chacin

    Tora, thank you for your tremendous sacrifice. Losing a spouse is every one of our worst nightmares as military wives and the fact that your son is now overseas is definitely heartbreaking and terrifying. Thank YOU and your family for the ultimate sacrifice. I agree with your words that Mr Carr has a talent to be able to express what every one of us would love to say but don’t have the words to express it as he so eloquently did.

    Again, thank you for your sacrifice. My heart breaks for you and my prayers are with your son!!

  • Michael Richardson

    Wow. Amazingly well written and incredibly on point. A perfect example of how most American citizens don’t even know what they’re taking for granted.

    Disabled veteran, Cpl, USMC

    • Tony Carr

      We have to make sure the promises we made to people like you get kept. So we have to stay involved in this narrative. Thanks for reading, and Semper Fi.

  • JQ Pilot

    Thank you so much for this post, which I just shared with my friends and family. I’m currently serving and this was shared by three of my military friends simultaneously, so I had to read it. Thank you so much. You are spot on, on all counts. I’ll just say ditto and move on. Thanks again!

    • Tony Carr

      Thank you, and fly safe my friend!

  • Li

    Lavish pay and benefits? Well, as a wife of a wounded warrior I can tell this author from the Huff. Post that if would like to trade his normal life for our lavish pay that’s a deal our family would LOVE! Let me break it down….so everyone’s aware what exactly comes with this fantastic and over rated pay and housing. With the “free house” that is apart of our lavish over payments, you also get all the physical disabilities my husband has! Welcome to a life of not being able to enjoy and participate in the hobbies of your old life! fishing? Can’t do it….soccer? Nope, sorry. Camping? forget it…hiking? Haha! Coaching your kids sports teams? Teaching your kids how to ride their bikes? Sorry….that’s not part of the lavish lifestyle package. But it is complimentary with the lets get hurt in Afghanistan and get misdiagnosed for a year while down range package! The fabulous “free medical care” only comes at the cost of multiple spinal surgeries including a fusion! Still think you are being shorted? well serving your country comes with so many other benefits too ! How about your bas package? Well, to go along with that minimal amount of grocery money how about a healthy side of TBI, depression, and Relationship challenges that go with those? Connecting with your wife….gone. Remembering your family’s important dates, keep trying….being 42 years old with the memory problems of a 90 year old Alzheimer’s patient and the cognition of a young elementary patient is a freebie thrown in! Just for fun, with your monthly commissary privalages how about renal failure too? And monthly pay checks….well that is iced off by having emphysema …a terminal disease that developed in large part due to inadequate medical care from the wonderful military care that is part of our lavish lifestyle. This all for free on Top of the missed years from deployment and training!
    Basically the point is, while its super easy to sit in judgement of what you think you know about mr. author, there is so much more that goes with the duty then the benefits you think we get. I would love to have a whole healthy husband and father….if I could sell his illnesses and injuries back to army at the cost of benefits I would. But I can’t. If I could forgo commissary trips and housing and medical care but ensure my husband was an Independant healthy 42 year old man who still had a future of his own choosing ahead of him, I would. But I can’t. Point of the matter is….these “lavish benefits” we allegedly receive are nothing compared to the value of what we put out as a military family and as soldiers.

    • Tony Carr

      This is the problem anytime someone generalizes about this entire subject matter. Sure, some generalizing is unavoidable. But the reality of individual situations like yours, which are sadly more numerous in the past dozen years than we’ve seen since we turned to an All Volunteer Force, raise sensitivity to any implication that military pay and benefits should be considered a valid target for cuts. There’s no calculator with enough keys to pay for what we’ve asked of warriors like yours. So like you, I just reject even talking about it this way. Let’s look for some real targets for savings. Thanks for your service, and for reading this post.

  • polarbearsrme

    Thank GOD there was someone out there that could write what I wanted to say to David Wood with some finesse after that despicable article he wrote in regards to the “Lavish Benefits” of the Military, Thank you Tony Carr for setting the record straight!!!

  • Anonymous

    I wanted to respond to Mr. Wood, but could not do so without sounding like I was angry and prideful. Thank you for taking up the mantle Sir!

  • Jeff Miller

    Hi Mr Carr

    Just curious as the original article now has the title changed and it has the following statement at the end. “Clarification: Language has been added to clarify the calculations of base pay and allowance increases for specific members of the military. Original language in the headline and copy referring to “Lavish Benefits” was inaccurate and reflected neither the views of David Wood nor The Huffington Post. We regret the mischaracterization.”

    Did they ever give you an explanation of how the original title ended up on the article? Was it the author or the editors of the Huff Post? and how can something get up there that WASN’T their views.

    • Tony Carr

      Jeff, no one has spoken to me about that change, and given how many rebuttals have been written to this piece (along with tons of comments being left over at HuffPost), it’s not clear what compelled them to change the language. This is a tough one. I’d like to think they’re being genuine with the word “regret” and I do appreciate removal of the word “lavish” … which let’s face it, got that post off on the wrong foot and perhaps made the message seem worse than it was. At the same time, I reject the concept of opening a discussion on military pay and benefits when the knowledge of profligate waste in the DoD outside of the personnel account is so readily knowable to journalists. Huffington Post has done some great work in the past that has helped cast a light on what our warriors and veterans have done in service to the nation … so let’s hope this was just a misfire and not part of a larger move to encourage scrutiny and henpecking on how we try to take care of our people. I’ve said it before: they are a bargain, and would be at double the current rate.

  • Renee

    Mr. Carr – As the wife of an Active duty officer, the daughter of a retired Army officer and the mother of 2 children who are about to say goodbye to their father for the 3rd time in 8 years, I thank you. Thank you for putting an elegant voice to what we all would have liked to have said to Mr. Wood. Sadly, we all know that his claims are false and the word “lavish” when you are living in 1,300 square foot housing with 4 people is laughable. However, we love this country and getting up every morning and defending boneheads like Mr. Wood are part of the territory. Thankfully, there are people like you to balance the mix. Bless you and your lavish heart ;).

    • Tony Carr

      We’re a great nation because of families like yours. Glad you enjoyed this. And as a retired Air Force officer, I say THANK YOU! :-)

  • John

    I don’t know what planet Mr. Wood is living on. What and arrogant grouping of words. The “Warrior Class” is emerging because people like Mr. Wood don’t serve, but they make uninformed snap judgements. I know guys who are on their 8th deployment. It is impossible to put a dollar value on that, These guys don’t want anything more than the ability to live a normal life. The current problem in our military is that Congress responds to the press and not the military leaders when it comes to shaping change. If the press reports things inaccurately, which in my deployments has been rampant, the Army is likely to structure change around the perception generated by this bad reporting. The Military is supposed to operate under the authority of civilian control, but the day to day operations are handled by military leaders. If the American public doesn’t want to volunteer, they should not expect understanding the military functions to be an easy endeavor.
    We Americans became too concerned with exercising our personal freedom without upholding our individual obligations to our country. People became more concerned with “progress” and became uninterested in our political process. The greedy guys in Washington have centralized all of the decisions and now everyone is wondering what happened. We are responsible for our communities and families; that is the root of our democratic process. Any other discussion of change is treating the symptoms and not the disease. Focusing on military benefits as a method for debt reduction is like taking an aspirin for a brain tumor.

    • Tony Carr

      I’m inclined to agree with you that we’re suffering a little bit from an unacceptable intellectual divide between those who serve in our military and the society they serve. Some of this is traceable to our senior leaders in uniform not believing its their place to engage directly with Americans. So now, many rank-and-file Americans, either because of willful obliviousness or simply not being exposed to the necessary discussion, are left wondering what exactly they’re paying for. They don’t ask questions when they see a war playing out on TV, but at this point, the war is largely a forgotten enterprise for many people. It makes this discussion very important.

  • Matt Wegner

    Extremely well said. As a veteran myself, you effectively said what most, if not all of us were thinking. I am positive there are more than 40,000 responses to Mr. Wood’s poor choice of words, but they are scattered out among tens of thousands of blog posts and Facebook comments. Too bad all those responses aren’t all on one site so he could truly see how offensive his careless actions truly were.

  • Mick Wagoner

    Simply an excellent post, no need to write more. Thx for doing the work on it. S/f

  • anonymous

    Well said, well written. I have a son who is career military – a highly intelligent person with a masters degree. He could probably be making a six figure salary as a civilian but loves the military and is proud of what he does. To hell with Mr. Wood.

    • Tony Carr

      I know MANY in the same situation as your son. They’ve stayed in public service for a variety of reasons … money is usually nowhere near the top of the list. We have to pay them enough for them to justify the opportunity cost of staying in uniform, especially given what we ask of their families. I think we’ve done a good job of keeping things competitive….now is not the time to backpedal. Thanks for reading and engaging with this piece!

  • Anonymous

    Can we simplify the long-term issue here? Two points: (1) You have to incentivize to maintain an all-volunteer force. (2) Why is nobody complaining about the lavish lifestyle of those in the federal penitentiaries? Our benefits parallel theirs to a remarkable degree.

    • Tony Carr

      Point #1 is spot-on. If we want this most lavish of benefits — freedom from compulsory service with security provided by a professional force — we gotta pay for it. And it’s not cheap. Thanks for reading this and responding.

  • Sharon

    Thank you so much for taking on this battle of words. I wish I could express myself as we’ll as you have. I have been a “dependent” my whole life. My father was an army chaplain and we moved every couple of years. Then I met and married an Airman. After 26 years and 16 moves he retired as a command chief. All three of our children are now airmen, one married to an airman who is deployed. My husband an I taught our children that God, family and country were the most important things in life. So many promises have been broken that were made to men and women in exchange for their service to our nation. It saddens me that the very people who give this nation their strength and power are the ones being stripped of their very livelihood. That you for being a voice of truth.

    • Tony Carr

      Appreciate the kind words and for what you did to help keep our country safe and strong. My own adventure led to 10 moves in 20 years for my family, so I can relate to the difficulty it creates … just one of the many uncounted costs serving in turbulent times. Least we can do is preserve promises and keep compensation fair for what we’re asking in return. Thanks for reading and engaging on this subject, and for your service. We’ll keep things on-track by harnessing concern and energy like yours.

  • Denise

    Thank you Mr Carr!!! I look forward to reading more! At almost 23years in the service, I was truly at a loss for words when I read Wood’s article. Thank you being a clear voice of reason!

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  • Kelley

    “. . . grinding people and their families into a fine powder.” 13 years of being a Marine Corps wife and this is the best articulation of what it feels like to be a military family that I have ever heard! Well written, cogent argument. Thanks for standing up for us.

  • Mad Dragonlady

    Thank you. Especially about food stamps. I run one of only two food pantries on a CONUS bases and I truly wish as Mr. Wood stated those in the military have such “lavish” lifestyles that I could close the doors and there would be no need for it. Sadly I doubt that will ever happen. Almost 23 years as a spouse and stealing from a friend the only “lavish” thing from our military days have been the wonderful friendships over the years!

  • Rusty


    You’ve gotten plenty of kudos, but I’ll add one more. This was well done. I think you made a good decision by not turning this into a math lesson. As a 31 year veteran (OIF ’03-’04) I am also glad to hear you express a willingness for TRICARE co-pays to increase. I’ve struggled with this as I’ve contacted my legislators. While I am sensitive to older veterans on fixed incomes, I do think that those of us retiring today can afford to pay more. We can’t be exempted from every fiscal measure intended to get the country back on a sound footing. I say that as a senior officer, so would certainly expect the situation of more junior folks to be considered. My caveat would be to remove the politics. Raise the rates, but peg them to the same economic indicator to which you peg my pay raises. I’ve never griped about the pay and benefits I have and do receive. I have and will on occassion criticize the systems by which I access those benefits. Certainly some service members make more than their civilian counterparts, some far less. A lady earlier mentioned her spouse in communications which was also my field. When I retired, my pay doubled with no deployments, reasonable hours, very little travel and a company that treats me well. There are plenty of similar stories for other career fields.

    You stayed on point, but it would certainly be refreshing to hear some discussion of the linkage of our national security and military strategies to the budget. It is disappointing to hear some really smart people (like Bob Gates) compare the number of ships in our navy to the rest of the world. He certainly knows that the two have nothing to do which each other and are tied to strategy. A national debate about our foreign policy and security strategy would be much more productive than the silliness that is presently occurring. When we decrease the scope of our foreign policy and security strategy, we can have a right-sized, ready, fairly-compensated military without bankrupting the country. The lack of facts and responsibility on the part of our senior civilian leaders is truly disappointing. Thanks again for a well-articulated response. Hooah.


    • Tony Carr

      Rusty: really appreciate having your voice in this discussion, because I can read from your comments and tone a great deal of experience both personally and as a leader. I do think we’re going to have to come off the fixed position currently held by many advocacy groups on the subject of health benefits. This is an area where we could see huge savings by doing a couple of modest and smart things. I was a mid-level officer when I retired, but I still feel good enough about my situation that I wouldn’t object to a means-tested adjustment. Sure, it would be nice to be able to plan for that, so maybe it’s not something we shock-treat into current retirees … but even if we draw the line a decade from now, it solves a lot of problems. Some of us are lucky enough to have thriving careers after serving … others struggle to overcome the burdens they’ve borne in service and need a little more help. I think it’s doable and eminently discussable by reasonable people.

      But that leads to your second salient point: politics. I’m a fan of Bob Gates, but a comment like the one you gave as an example is part of this cynical theater process by which funding and priorities are established. That’s all fine and good until we start catching troops in the crossfire of too many disingenuous arguments on all sides in order to establish predicates for huge waste. With sequester, there’s a unique opportunity to enact reform (some of that retrenchment you spoke about) without giving up what matters or breaking promises. There’s also an opportunity for a circular firing squad if we’re not careful.

      Glad you got something out of this, and I certainly got plenty out of your response. Hooah to you sir, and thanks for your time in uniform.

  • Mark

    As a 26 year and still going Sailor, I must say that is one of the most well written pieces I have had the luxury to read. I am right there with you! If more people could take the blinders off long enough to see that the military, although a huge part of our national budget, is not overpaid but is over utilized and wearing thin, they would see that it is the politicians that need corrected.
    Take away their pay and benefits and they will fix the issues…keep paying them and they will slowing erode the nation.
    Keep up the great task!

  • http://yahoo yellowbird

    I really liked your suggestion to take away the pay and benefits of politicians. They should serve no more than two terms and then have to go back to their own lives and pay for their own benefits.

  • not_a_hero

    Not to interrupt the echo- chamber effect here, with everybody so busy agreeing with each other. And nothing personal to mary. But I can’t take any more of the hyperbole. Of course there is a limit to what you should pay people. There is a labor market and intelligent men and women out there make a choice as to where they can work that is most suitable to each. Since I joined in 1992 the military has paid me a comfortable salary, with extra allowances, amazing benefits, the chance to travel the world and best of all a pension while I’m still young enough to start a second career. Every time I’ve deployed, military organizations at home have gone above and beyond to ensure I didn’t need to worry about my family’s welfare. If the military lifestyle were really SO bad and the benefits SO poor, you would need a draft to get recruits in, and they would be begging to get out after first deployment. That’s just not the case. In fact, the benefits are so good in comparison to the outside world that recruiters routinely turn away disappointed candidates. People who are in service and not getting promoted quickly enough have to be separated against their will. And while it’s nice to be appreciated, no I don’t fool myself that I’m “serving” somebody or being patriotic (I believe in homeland defense, not Afghanistan defense). I go where Uncle Sam tells me first of all because it is the best way to support my family; second because I love the job. Now I know there are plenty of folks who feel the same way, please speak up and put some perspective in this discussion.

    • Tony Carr

      I appreciate your perspective, and trust me, I don’t mind your disagreement. When you say “there is a labor market and intelligent men and women out there make a choice as to where they can work that is most suitable to each”, I completely agree. To the extent the mission is likely to become less demanding, it’s not unreasonable for pay and benefits to become less generous. But we’re not at that moment yet. Folks are still being shot at, deployed, extended, and in some cases, killed or wounded. To reduce anything right now, to say nothing of being manifestly immoral, fails the business test. We need the most talented, capable, and devoted people we can find to guide this professional force through a coming season of chaos and perhaps unprecedented change. Reducing pay and benefits now would raise the opportunity costs to those types of people and result in services unable to navigate what lies ahead. I also worry about the second-order effects. If it’s OK to cut military pay and benefits with an active shooting war going on, how much easier will it become to break promises made to people when the guns fall silent? I’m not normally a “slippery slope” guy … but the budgetary vultures are circling. This is not a time to indulge inaccurately painted perceptions of an opulent mercenary force. Despite my disagreement with you, I genuinely value that you made an input here and welcome you to continue engaging.

  • Nate

    Mr. Carr,
    Thank you for the rebuttal to Mr. Wood’s article. I could not have defined the human captial expended by service members as eloquently as you have. Appreciated, Army Gun Pilot.

  • Household 9

    As one of Jessup’s boys (recently retired), eloquence with words is not one of my finer skillsets. Well played, sir – you have the gratitude of this OIF vet and several others, as well as their loved ones, behind your response.

  • Vins

    Part of the problem with the American public is they haven’t had to sacrifice anything since we’ve been at war. Okay, maybe a little inconvenience at the airports. They go thru their daily grind with everything they’ve always had. WWII was the last time things were rationed in this country and communities performed scrap drives. People cared about the country and were willing to make those sacrifices to aid the war effort. We have become a nation where the individual’s needs come first and when they are inconvenienced in any way, their world crumbles and everyone else needs to fix it for them. What happened to patriotism? Everyone was ready to kill on 9-11. America’s ADD kicked in and we have moved on. The Khardashians are much more important.

  • navywife

    not_a_hero: the benefits we get are well-deserved, but far from LAVISH as what Mr. Wood stated! That was the biggest issue….

  • basicbear2

    Great article…except for the part about being OK with them making us pay for medical benefits after retirement. When my husband went into the military one of the ‘benefits’ to doing 20 years was never having to pay for medical benefits. It was in fact one of the reason at the 8 yr mark we decided to do 20 and make it a career for him. It has now been 29 and he will retire in a couple years and that promised ‘benefit’ of free medical care is gone! What they have done is essentially cut our retirement pay (without having to say that’s what they are doing) by making us pay for medical care. I personally feel very ripped off.

    If this country wants to change the benefits to our military they should do it for people coming into the service not to those who made career choices based on the promises of our government. They especially should not change benefits for those who are already retired living on those benefits. My father retired in 1980 and to expect them to accept a cut in pay is just ridiculous

    JMHO…Theresa Navy Wife/ Navy Brat

    • Tony Carr

      This would have to be carefully and gradually done, and I believe should be tied to a means test if done at all. Probably not something we would want to implement for veterans currently serving or already retired, but we will have to accept some level of reform in this part of the system or it’ll eventually break and damage other interests we hold dear. That said, I totally understand what you’re saying and appreciate you offering a comment here. Thanks for your family’s service!

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  • HonestVet

    Excuse me? I have seen MANY soldiers who did their jobs VERY poorly and lived to tell about it even though they wouldn’t admit to it because they are pinheads. The writer of this article is obviously stroking his ego. The first sign that this pinhead has a single sighted POV is all the peacock feather stroking he’s doing to himself and other soldiers. Be HONEST with yourself and get off this train of “every soldier is a noble person!” BULL!

    Now, for those low level ground-pounders that get food stamps, Yeah, they make a decent wage for someone if they only had a family of 3, but these horn-dogs sometimes have a litter of brats larger than rats can produce. If food stamps are needed, it’s because they couldn’t keep it in their pants and instead of buying food, they spend $1000s on spinning rims for their souped up vehicles or waste their money on something else because they are irresponsible people. And what irks me the most is that these irresponsible types will turn around and whine about the government doing exactly what they are doing, wasting money.

    You sound like a damn cop who says NOTHING but good things about his fellow cops even though some of them get arrested for committing felonies. It’s a fake perspective based on half truths. When you only list the pros, and you HIDE all the cons, you come off as disingenuous. So don’t condemn Mr Wood if you are going to do the same thing as him and stereotype the military as a bunch of do-gooders who never do anything wrong. Some are good people, but so many others are not.

    Get real and be honest before you go attacking someone for daring to have a not so favorable view of the military. I’ve seen enough good people, and pinheads in the military to know that BOTH exist and BOTH can influence the views of others. Mr Wood was not too far off from some members of the military.

    Now can the military budget be cut? YES! Is it done right? NO! Just like any other top to bottom system, the top makes the choices and they always choose to cut the low level stuff first so they don’t suffer at the top. This means that the BRASS, not the President, chooses to keep the crappy stuff that the lowbies are forced to work with while the generals continue to order their large leather sofas for their offices so their visitors are comfortable while they shoot the breeze and scoff at the grunts marching across the lawn.

    And instead of cutting back on all the overcharges that contractors use to make more money off the government while giving shoddy tools and in some cases, bad weapons that don’t work properly, the cuts are to personnel to the point that there is a single soldier in charge of fixing everything in the motor pool.

    Just remember that for every boo-hoo story you cook up about someone having to live in fear of IEDs, there are several nutbrains or bananaheads who are chuckling it up and swinging from the rafters like monkeys while their charges are crawling in the muck to get from point A to point B.

    And you can hate on me if you want for being honest, but I don’t care what you think. I’m honest, I’m right, and no amount of retort will change that. Nor will I see the replies because I don’t turn on notifications.

    • Tony Carr

      There’s always a small number of knuckleheads in any group of any appreciable size. You choose to draw your judgments by observing them. I choose to draw mine based on the vast majority who serve honorably and deserve the esteem of a nation secured by their sacrifice. In my own 22 years on active duty, I always knew I was observing a poor leader when s/he made decisions or designed policies based on the few who couldn’t do their jobs or follow the rules. Your suggestion that we export such tortured thinking to our management of the entire military enterprise would lead to the severe corrosion of our ability to defend our way of life, which includes the freedom to say outlandish things or issue ad hominem attacks when you disagree with someone.

      I don’t mind disagreement. Serious disagreement is better than unserious. If you’re reading this, thanks for reading my post and commenting, and come back any time.

  • Michelle

    “And you can hate on me if you want for being honest”, no hate, life is too short! “I don’t care what you think.” spoken like a narrow minded person. “I’m honest” because you are speaking YOUR truth, sure. “I’m right” unfortunately you’re not. If you can provide solid data to back up your sentiments then I will recant & apologize for this comment. “no amount of retort will change that” I think I’ve figured out 1 of the 40,000 “likers” on Mr. Wood’s article. You have securely fastened your blinders so you cannot & will not entertain the possibility that someone else could possibly be right while you are wrong? “Nor will I see the replies because I don’t turn on notifications” spoken like a true coward afraid of an opposing viewpoint. Thank you for providing a solid example of our American public. It is absolutely your right to have your opinions & reject all others. It is also your right to walk around with your head shoved so far up your arse you can’t see straight! I just so happen to be one of those families with a “litter of brats”, 2 were planned, 2 were accidents. Judge all you want but know we A) DO NOT have spinners, B) are not on food stamps, C) do receive WIC, & D) DO NOT have any debt WHAT-SO-EVER!! Oh I also do not own designer anything! The PX, Walmart, & Target are as “fancy” as I get. For every horrifying, train wreck of a family I have ever encountered in the military, there are at least 20 amazing families to counter them so thank you for propagating the stereotype of the lower enlisted military family. Narrow minded, generalized, stereotypical comments like yours keep the non-military affiliated public believing slanderous news pieces like Mr. Wood’s. I tip my hat to you sir or ma’am! (Even though you will never see this)

  • robert

    Well i read what you wrote and your on point. I also commented on Mr Woods post and i was enraged as no mention to the over paid civ work force sponging off the DOD for years. i am a truck driver in the army and my civ counterparts for one way trip when i was in bosnia was 50,000 per trip. I drove him and his truck to Hungry and did not sign his run sheet cause he didnt drive and saved the govt 50 grand. This was also happing in Iraq and Kuwait and the this dude wants to slam our pay and benifits.They just pulled tuition assistance and im sure there is more to follow. Oh by the way we cant fuel our trucks unless its mission related. So here we are with our lavish lifestyles.. One note to Mr. Wood just how many Master Sergants do think are in the Army verses the lower enlisteds…do some thinking these guys are under paid Senior Executives of a company .You wouldnt even work for this im sure and put up with all the meetings and policies you have to make and enforce so private snuffy dont die in a accident….

    • Tony Carr

      One of the huge issues with Wood’s article is that it ignores the demographics. We can decry E-8/O-7 pay all we want … most of the US Army is junior and living pretty much the inverse of “lavish.” Thanks for your perspective — and for reading the article.

  • Lonnie

    I am a 90% disabled vet whose wife just got back from deployment. It was so hard to get stationed here and then have her leave 2 weeks after we get to the states to leave me to get our kids in school and the house furnished… like you said above, who am i supposed to leave the kids with when I want to go get a haircut while shes gone? The closest person I know lives 1000 miles away. It doesn’t help my conditions one bit… people think its great I get my monthly check and don’t have to work. But the constant day after day monotony kills me. I would LOVE coworkers… new stories from friends… the day care on base? $800 a month for 2 kids… I dunno.. thanks for your articles. It really picked me up that people take up for us. It needs to go beyond the “support the troops” bumper stickers and be a well thought out argument on the conditions we face as you did here. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Carr, congratulations on an incredibly well-written response to Mr. Wood. Your command of the English language is impressive, even daunting. Thanks for the effort.

  • Anonymous

    A vibrant private-sector economy is at the heart of being able to properly care for the men and women that have sacrificed so much to serve in the military.

    No doe, no show.

  • Jason Arant

    As a Chaplain having worked with sailors and Marines who have served multiple back to back tours there is just no way to compare our veterans to their civilian counterparts as Woods tried to do. There IS no suitable civilian comparison metric.

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  • retrophoebia

    I disagree.

    Wood’s article was a series of facts and quotes, not of value judgments of soldiers. The only issue Mr. Carr seems to address is the use of the word “Lavish” with respect to the benefits / pay packages. Mr. Carr offers no fundamental argument other than to say there’s no such thing as a civilian comp to a soldier.

    Unfortunately, both are paid in a common currency, which necessitates such comparisons. Someone has to decide what the pay scale will be. Historically, military have actually done fairly well when compared with the larger civilian populace in terms of pay increases and overall benefit packages. But with budget cuts upon us, the usual hue and cry is being raised over the specter of reduced benefits, unintentionally validating Wood’s quote of pay and bennies being the 3rd rail of defense budgeting.

    Mr. Carr does not address what the “right answer” should be, instead preferring to an emotionally satisfying but basically unsound screed against the author. He’ll get a lot of cheering from mil folks, but eventually math is going to force some hard decisions on the folks making the budgets.

    I would be interested in hearing Mr. Carr expand upon a few of the concepts he mentions (manifestations and effects of over-deference to the military, for example), but this entry falls flat on substance.

  • Jason Arant

    Both being paid in a common currency IS the red herring. Pay represents a certain set of factors in a civilian sense and a vastly different set of factors on the military sense. This is why the comparison fails.

    Since 1% of the population serves active duty at any given time the grid for what military pay represents is largely lost upon the general public merely looking at currency comparisons never having served and tasted the military lifestyle and its demands.

    The insurance adjuster who works 40 hrs a week does not leave home for months at a time, work around the clock 7 days per week, and worry about his safety and the safety of others around him. But he may look at a pay comparison and gauge it according to his vastly limited grid based on the common currency. Been there done that. I was that adjuster.

    Lastly, the word lavish was used perjoratively, and set the tenor and tone for all that followed.

    Cuts must be made and I don’t believe anyone sensible disputes it. What IS disputable is creating a false impression of what the pay given to service men and women represents. What it represents is not what it represents at Bank of America, Wal-Mart, or in corporate America.

  • Steve Featherkile

    Read “Tommy” by Rudyard Kipling
    Last stanza…

    You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
    We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
    Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
    The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
    But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
    An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
    An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

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  • John Yocum


    Brother, its been a while…good to see you are as eloquent as ever. I found your blog via a link in the comments after Mr Wood’s article. Glad I did. Great points that draw the reader to a facts-based discussion on military compensation. For the record, no complaints here on my part, given the current fiscal climate. I understand the rightful concern over the size of the defense budget and the desire to look for effeciencies, however to do so without first understanding the facts and putting them into proper persepective does a disservice to the men and women that have sacrificed a great deal over the last 11 years. And kudos to you, your blog is the first to bother mentioning that many in the military earn their pay and benefits, not just because of their sacrifice, but because they are educated and skilled with immense responsibilities placed on their shoulders–rather than the oft-portrayed ‘slack jawed yokel’ who couldn’t get a real job.

    Hope you and the family are doing well post-AF. For those reading this post, TC is a GREAT American, trust me. Take care buddy…’Scrappy’

  • Melissa Gibbons

    Bravo, Tony!! You eloquently stated all of the points I have been talking about with my husband, a 20 year retired Navy pilot and all of the Navy wives I am still friends with on FB. We thought his article was literally laughable. I will be sharing your article on my FB page to show the other, and totaly correct, side of the story!!

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