Last updated: May 19. 2014 8:05AM - 602 Views
by Buddy Dugan

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Our heavenly Father, this week we celebrate Mothers Day, a time to give thanks for those who through their pain gave us life, who nurtured us in so many ways, giving us our faith in you, loving us when we were at our worst, believing in us when we failed to believe in ourselves, and sometimes neglecting themselves to provide for us. We give homage to our mothers, for their love for us remains most true, above all others except yours. And we commend our mothers to your continual care, in this life and the next, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


On Wednesday, April 30th, The House Armed Services personnel subcommittee voted unanimously to leave intact the current military health care system, the housing allowance, and much of the Pentagon’s $1.4 billion in direct subsidies to the commissaries. I, for one, applaud this non partisan decision.

In 1961, when I joined the Marine Corps, we were promised free medical and dental care if we retired with twenty years of active duty. That was taken away. As a Marine Corps second lieutenant my base pay was $222 per month, subsistence (food) allowance was $45, and housing allowance was $85. The base commissary was located in a warehouse. Secretary of Defense Hagel said that the commissaries operate rent free and tax free. Does the Pentagon, the White House, the State Department, the Justice Department, or the IRS pay rent and taxes? Commissaries sell their products at cost plus a five percent surtax. The surtax goes for building new commissaries and upgrading existing commissaries. The customers, not the government, pay for the commissary buildings. Why would rent or taxes be levied on buildings that are already paid for by their customers? The baggers at the commissaries work for tips only. If the commissaries are receiving $1.4 billion in subsidies, where is it going? It is probably going for the salaries of cashiers, managers, butchers, and stockers. If we eliminate the subsidy, we eliminate the jobs.

There are two sources of funding in the military, appropriated funds which are funds appropriated by congress and paid for by the tax payers. Then there are non-appropriated funds which are the funds paid by the customers. The money that goes into the collection plates at military chapels, the surtax of the commissaries, and the profits earned by base or post exchanges are examples of non-appropriated funds. The profits from exchanges go back into the military communities and are known as moral welfare funds. A state of the art dock was constructed at the Charleston Naval Base Marina, paid for by morale welfare funds. Shortly thereafter the base was closed by BRAC and the marina was given to the city of Charleston although Charleston Air Force Base had indicated that they would like to have it.

Every time we have an end to armed hostilities, the military is chopped. Following Desert Storm we had the Graham Rudman Act that decreased the size of our military by blocking promotions. With an “up or out” system, one was either promoted or eliminated. A great many knowledgeable mid-level NCOs and officers were lost, along with their expertise.

Many retired military personnel deliberately choose to live near a military facility so that they can have access to health care, exchanges, and commissaries. If retiree benefits are taken away, they may as well choose to live elsewhere. There is a great disparity between the income of one who wears a helmet in defense of his country and one who wears a helmet in the NFL. No one despairs at the incomes of football players. Yes, our nation has monetary problems and yes, we need to live within our means, but taking more money out of the pockets of our military when their pay is nowhere near the sacrifices they make or the risks that they take is not the solution.

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