Posted by: Angela | September 22, 2006

Is there a better way?

Disclaimer: This is my opinion and can’t be attributed to  my husband, family or friends.

Last night I was watching the new ABC show Six Degrees (after Grey’s Antomy which is vitally important but not in this post) and was interested to see a character whose husband had recently died.  I figured out rather quickly he died in Iraq but it wasn’t revealed until later what his role in Iraq was, so I was hoping that he was a solider.  Why did I hope that?  Because I thought it may be a little helpful to those who have lost spouses or significant others in Iraq or Afghanistan or other conflicts/wars to have their loss deemed important enough to dramatize for television.  But alas, no, the character’s husband was a reporter embedded with the military.  I know that there have been many members of the media killed or injured in Iraq and I will be the first to admit I have no idea what it is like to lose someone in that way.  But more soldiers have killed or injured and members of the media certainly have more say in their assignments than members of the military.

Then it occured to me in the shower this morning, why on the earth did I think that it was possible for this character’s husband to have been in the military?  She lived in New York City with a very nice house and was hiring a nanny (yes, I know it is TV).  Let’s face it, there is no way that a wife of solider would have that house etc, especially if her husband was enlisted.  They just don’t have that much money, especially to live in New York City.  Even her husband was a very high ranking officer, it wouldn’t be likely and as my friend, J. (an army brat), pointed out it isn’t likely a high ranking officer’s family would have a child requiring a nanny.

Why does this really annoy me?  Other than people always saying they support the troops (then why could she not be a solider’s wife), it really is about the money thing.  This subject has been rattling around in my head for awhile. 

You see, my BIL is going to Iraq for the third time, but this time, not as a solider.  Why would he do this?  Because he can be payed very well doing something he was trained to do and enjoys without the solider stuff like patrol and guard duty.  I am okay with him doing it for the money because he did two tours in Kuwait and Iraq.  He fulfilled his obligations and made many sacrifices (including missing the birth of his first child).   But what is so crazy about this is that he is still being payed by the citizens of the United States as a contractor to do the same job as he did as a solider.  Why do we give out these huge contracts to companies who then generously pay their employees for their risks?  The company that hired my BIL got a great deal, first because he is a hard working Nebraska boy, and second they didn’t have to pay for any of his training, his security clearances, his weapons skills.  We did.  But why should he stay at the pay grade of E3 or E4 when he can make more than the rest of the family combined now?  He doing just what the military promised him he could do, get a great job with his training.  For his and my sister’s sake, that’s okay by me.

But why can’t we pay our soliders with that money rather than using contractors?  Then their spouses wouldn’t have to work another job just to make ends meet or use WIC to feed their kids.  Maybe we wouldn’t have recruiting problems because it would be a job that payed well, even with the risks.  The use of contractors is combination of the results of the force reductions of the Clinton era, privatization of military functions through the 80s and 90s, and now because of recruitment problems.  However for many people especially in rural areas, the military is still seen as a way out (and it really can be that).  That’s what it was for my BIL.  There aren’t too many high wage jobs where we grew up, most of the 90s were a economic decline for the area in contrast to the rest of the country.  Unless you want to work for the railroad and deal with unions or work at the Wal-Mart distribution center and well, it’s Wal-Mart, you don’t make that much money.  So you join up and well you still don’t make any money.  So you do what he has done, you gut it out and try to find the promised good job at the end.  But that good job is in Iraq, your wife is still moving back home again, and well…I am not sure how it will end up even with more money.           

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Responses

  1. You make a valid point about pay discrepencies. Why do private companies get paid more to do the same job? I have another issue with the military. I have a friend whose husband just got back from a year in Iraq. He was in the reserves. They are not providing him with any mental health services to help him sort through this (which he needs badly). If they are willing to go over there and risk their lives, they deserve support to re-adjust afterwards. It is the least the military can do…

  2. Private companies pay their employees more because there is no other way to get people to risk the war zone. That’s the way of world: in war zones, there are soliders, there are those there for missions of mercy and there are those who are there for profit. This is how these companies profit. We set this scenario up when we vastly reduced the size of military then asked it to do more. There is work that must be done and private companies stepped in.

    As far as metal health services go, I don’t know how it works for the reserves. My guess is that the services are available but at VA facilities or on bases and they don’t live close enough to those facilities for the services to be practical. Our lack of community mental health services and system of support is the subject of another rant of mine. If we had these services in place for all, soliders returning could be part of the system. But alas, we don’t have it.


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