Military Families Need Food Banks to Feed Families While Illegals Throw out Food

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Camarynn Miller, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

My husband and I are part of a distinct few in this country who dedicated chunks of their lives to serving our country. Collectively, we served 37 years in the United States Air Force and deployed a dozen times to various war zones.

Serving your country is one of the most selfless things you can do, whether you join because you want to serve or because you lack other options. Wearing the uniform of the United States demands that you put that service ahead of yourself, your family, and your desires — and it should be as it isn’t just a job; it is a promise to protect, defend, and emulate the principles that make our country great.

While most Americans are eager to thank active duty and veterans for their service, most don’t understand how difficult it is to survive daily life as a service member or veteran. It is a shame that in today’s day and age, it might be the hardest it’s ever been to provide for yourself and your family if you wear the American flag on your sleeve.

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Hunger Pains

Currently, 25% of military families in our country suffer from food insecurity. Just chew on that for a moment, 1 in 4 military families in the United States from coast to coast are unsure of how they will provide meals for their children.

In a recent Department of Defense survey, half of the junior enlisted spouses said they regularly experience food insecurity. While this pain is felt in every state in our union, it is predictably more severe in states like New York, where the cost of living is unbearably high.

Many military spouses, particularly in New York, must rely on food pantries to ensure they have milk, eggs, diapers, and meat to feed their families. According to an unnamed spouse who spoke to the New York Post, part of the problem is “the military pays a living allowance that falls short of what the actual cost of living requires.”

Andie Coakley, a Coast Guard veteran who runs the Ford Wadsworth Pantry on Staten Island in New York, said “We have families who move from a place with a low cost of living, and they come to a place like New York where insurance for their car suddenly triples, and they ask themselves: ‘What just happened? We thought we were fine.'”

So let’s look at what the average active duty enlisted receives for compensation to survive from the federal government.

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Pennies

For readers unfamiliar with the military rank structure, allow me to give you a quick cliff notes explanation. In the military, you have two groups of service members; enlisted and officers.

The bulk of your military comprises enlisted members who are the workers of the force, the ones who make the machine work. Your pay grades for enlisted start from the lowest rank E1 to the highest rank E9.

Most enlisted pin on or sew on E3 shortly after boot camp, earning roughly $25,920 annually, which averages to $2,160 monthly. Take a minute to ask yourself if you could support yourself, let alone a spouse and two kids, on $2,160 a month in your state, let alone a state like New York.

Let’s move up the ranks to your E5s, who are considered supervisors responsible for teams of lower-ranking individuals. They make roughly $35,040 a year or $2,920 a month – again, take a minute and ask yourself the same question as before.

And now your E7s, the coveted first rank of the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, your leaders and program managers. They make about $51,624 a year or $4,552 a month, a bit better for sure, but if you compare that to what a 2Lt makes, which is the lowest officer rank averages to over $63,000 annually.

Quite the disparity, don’t you think?

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Yeah, but You Get so Much for Free

I rarely had many ‘civilian’ friends when I served, mainly because they couldn’t understand what it was like to be in the military. Many thought we lived a blessed easy life; after all, we get our uniforms for free, education for free, get to live on base in some instances and get to see the world.

The reality is nothing we ‘got’ in the service was for free. It all came with a price.

Ms. Coakley explains how difficult it can be, “People say that military families don’t know how to manage their money, but you have to remember that these families are moving every two to four years.” Ms. Coakley illustrates what that is like for our spouses, “A military spouse has to give up a job, find a new job wherever they go, and pay a lot in moving expenses.”

Every time I moved, which was every two years, my husband had to leave his job, find a new job, and sometimes couldn’t work because the waiting list to put our kids in daycare was too long, and off-base daycare was too expensive. Kyle Lord, Director of Keystone Military Families, rightly states, “These are people protecting us, protecting our borders and keeping us safe. And yet they have to worry if their child is going to get food before school or if there is going to be enough dinner when they get home.” 

I can’t think of much more damaging to a service member’s dignity than spending 10 – 12 hours a day at work, deploying 6 – 12 months at a time, and knowing that they cannot provide for their family. Does anyone care?

Shameful

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s definition of food security, the below breakout currently are food insecure:

  • 45% of E1s – E4s
  • 30% of E5s & E6s
  • 16% of E7s – E9s

While active duty families rely on a twice-a-month option to utilize a food pantry on Staten Island, the New York City Mayor just opened the 85th luxury hotel to house illegal immigrants who have been reported to throw away their fresh free food and trash the hotels the taxpayers which include those service members and veterans in the state paid for. At the same time military mothers and fathers go without a meal so they can feed their children; their Commander-in-Chief preaches student loan forgiveness and flies off to Ukraine.

When was the last time President Biden and his wife visited a food pantry frequented by military members? I wonder if he spent time thinking about them when signing his latest equity Executive Order.

What is equitable about military families starving in the very country they sacrifice so much for? One military spouse said, “How do we make sure that we put money aside for our children’s education?”

And before I leave you, let me drop a few more numbers:

  • 17% of the homeless population in the U.S. are veterans
  • in 2020 an average of 16 veterans killed themselves daily
  • in 2021 519 active duty service members killed themselves

Does anybody care? I can promise you that I do, and I’ll continue to blast the system that claims to care about those who raised their right hand yet do absolutely nothing for them.

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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