Less than a day after the election of a new commander in chief, military families are making their frustrations known to Donald Trump via an open letter from the National Military Family Association.
War has taken a toll on military families, but so has the uncertainty of dwindling benefits, wrote Joyce Raezer, the association's executive director, in a letter published Wednesday morning on the the NMFA website.
"Military families are tired of the uncertainty, and worried about more unfulfilled promises from leaders who have their loved one's life in their hands," the letter states. "Now that the election is over, let's work together to keep the needs of military families front and center as an essential part of military readiness."
The letter cites a Marine Corps spouse who expressed a common frustration about money ("The military should not be the first place you try and get money from. Our spouses' paychecks should not be threatened every October.") and an Army wife who said comparisons to a those on 40-hour-a-week schedules fall flat ("The majority work closer to 80 hours, and their pay should reflect that, especially for junior enlisted service members.").
The letter cites below-average pay raises for service members for the last three years when compared with the private sector.
Cuts to the defense budget have affected families in other ways – in the past, sequestration has closed commissaries, furloughed medical clinics, put health care benefits in jeopardy, and taken money from critical readiness training for service members, Raezer noted.
The letter was written on Tuesday in order to be focused on military families "and not be influenced by any bias about who might win," Raezer said. Trump's name was added Wednesday.
Families are worried about what one more deployment into a war-torn country will do their family as they deal with their third, fourth, fifth such deployment, the letter states. One passage from an Army wife identified as Sylvia asks Trump to "seriously ponder going to war, the effect and cost, not just financial, and the toll it will take on service members and their families."
"When you make a decision to go to war, it affects all of us," she added, saying family members "are a resilient group, but we eventually become weary and tired. It's not just the service member that makes a sacrifice, it's the whole family."
The letter concludes with a direct appeal to the incoming leader.
"President-Elect Trump, our nation's military families ask that you make promises you can keep," it states. "You will make decisions that mean life-or-death for their loved one. Military families ask that you bring them out of the shadow of uncertainty. Please do your best to ease these burdens. End sequestration and reject budget proposals that threaten military families' well-being as a way to save.
"Take time to understand and hear our military families. … Military families have done their part, we urge you to do yours."
Karen Jowers covers military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times. She can be reached at email@example.com .
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.