A thought or two on our soldiers

I was talking with the mom of another boy in my son's swim class a couple weeks ago, and the topic of soldiers came up.  I must admit that it's a topic that I have very mixed feelings about.

I do think that being a soldier can be a very selfless thing to do.  And the discipline imposed there can certainly be very good for some people who would otherwise drift a lot.  And the training can be very good for the badly undereducated.

So I recognize that there are a lot of reasons to join (there are also the people who just want to kill people.  I hope that that is a very tiny minority).

And it isn't an easy lifestyle.  I was ordering some camera equipment once, and we were chatting, and my work for the Army (I'm a contractor) came up, and the (ex-soldier) taking the order wanted to thank me for my service.  I was frankly very embarassed.  I haven't made the sacrifices that the soldiers need to make, so I really don't deserve that.

And talking to the lady at my son's swim class, I was thinking about that.

Soldiers are asked to make large sacrifices.  Sometimes huge and terrible ones.

And I'm not talking just about the lost/damaged body parts.  (Though that does beg the question of why the GOP never talks about doing away with the VA, which is 100% socialized medicine.  Love it or hate it, that's what it is.  (And while the current scandal is a terrible situation that needs to be rectified, I do think they largely do a very good job.))

I'm also talking about the (generally under-treated PTSD).  I'm talking about the continuous movement from base to base, posting to posting.  And I'm talking about the shitty pay (I presume the numbers in the tables are monthly, where not specified).

Soldiers were once paid reasonably well; maybe not great, but it wasn't terrible pay, either.  But GOP intransigence about expenses has made soldiers an easy target for having raises withheld (absurd military budgets and a complete unwillingness to cut big acquisition programs means there aren't many places to cut budget, and soldier pay is a regular target).

All of which is a roundabout way to get to the topic of the military divorce rate, currently 3.5% annually (and gets as high as 9% for female enlisted soldiers).  Long separations make that a likely problem.  And the fact that soldiers don't get paid as much (relative to inflation) as they did twenty, thirty, forty years ago adds to that stress, as it means spouses frequently need to work.  And it's hard to build a career (for the non-soldier spouse) when they're moving every couple years.  Not a good situation for anyone.

So, even though I disagree with pretty much every military engagement the US has been in over the last forty years or so, we really need to do better for the soldiers themselves.  (And number one on the list of how to do better by them is to stop getting in unnecessary wars.)

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