Dear Mr. Wood,
I just read your article for the Huffington Post entitled, "After a Decade of Lavish Benefits, Military Personnel Fear Cuts". I have some questions for you. Are you a veteran, Mr. Wood? Did you serve our country in one of the branches of the military? Are you affilliated with the military in any way? Where did you get the information you used for your article?
My husband is a proud member of the U.S. Coast Guard. Currently, he is aboard a ship that is patroling international waters trying to stop foreign countries from smuggling drugs into our country, Mr. Wood. He has left me and our two children behind, Mr. Wood, for four months so that he can serve our country in this way. Our only communication, Mr. Wood, is via email, and sometimes that doesn't work. We live on an Army base in Northern California, Mr. Wood, in a modest 3-bedroom home that we do not own. My furniture, Mr. Wood, has been taken apart and moved five times in the past 10 years. The screws holding my furniture together, Mr. Wood, are stripped and worn, and might not make it through our next move. Our children have lived in five places in the last 10 years, Mr. Wood. Our eldest is 10 years old. I am, at the moment, wearing a pair of jeans that I bought in 2005. They cost me around $25, and are from Target. I am sitting, Mr. Wood, at a desk that my husband bought for $40 for from a warehouse that was going out of business in 2003. My laptop, Mr. Wood, is from 2007. The keyboard is broken, and the internet runs slow, but I plugged a cheap keyboard into it, and will keep using it until it dies. All the commissaries in my area are closed, Mr. Wood, and I shop at WalMart and Target for my groceries. All the exchanges in my area have closed as well, Mr. Wood. I shop at Target and Walmart for my household needs. My children, Mr. Wood, wear clothes from Old Navy and enjoy getting hand-me-downs from my friends with older children. My parents live in Washington State, Mr. Wood. They get to see their precious grandchildren maybe once or twice a year. I drive a 2006 Ford Freestar minivan. We own it outright. Not one payment was ever late or missed. I had to speak with my son's teacher today because she's worried my husband's deployment is affecting his schoolwork. I wrote to my husband about this issue via email earlier. I hope to hear back from him some time in the next day or so. In the meantime, I will deal with it the best I know how.
Mr. Wood, do you own your home? Are you married, Mr. Wood? Where does your wife or significant other shop? Do you have children, Mr. Wood? Where do they go to college? Do you have grandchildren, Mr. Wood? Do you have the privilege to see them frequently and maybe attend their sporting events or school events? What kind of car do you drive, Mr. Wood? Do you have nice furniture, Mr. Wood? Has it been torn apart and moved even one time in the past five years? How many times a week do you dine out, Mr. Wood? At what sort of stores to you purchase your clothing? How much did you pay for your last pair of pants? If your laptop keyboard broke, would you be able to go out and buy a new one tomorrow? Have you ever had to spend more than a week or two away from your family for work, Mr. Wood? If you have, were you able to call them every night to tell them how your day was and tell them you love them and that you hope they have a good night?
If my life seems "lavish" to you, then I guess you and I have two very different ideas of the definition of that word. I think you ought not judge unless you have walked a day in any member of any branch of our military's shoes, or those of their husbands, wives, and children. Trust me, you wouldn't call our lives "lavish" after you did.
Emily A. Garris