An unorthodox opinion from a Coast Guard wife.

I know it’s highly probable that this post will be a little offensive to some and may draw a bit of criticism but this is something that drives me nuts every time it’s brought up. I stupidly got caught up in a discussion on a CG spouse Facebook page and thought I’d vent here rather than continuing on with a moot argument. 

Something I’ve been hearing since the beginning of my time as a Coastie Wife is the yearly spouse’s discussion on how terribly we are treated by the government. The new budget comes out or the annual proposed pay increase is released and it’s “How will we live? Obama hates the military! We’re entitled to a free education!” And my personal favorite and one I’ll never forget – “We’re so broke that we have to shop at Save – a – lot!” But I am so damn sick of hearing this that I’m about to burst!

Let me put it into perspective. Before my husband joined the Coast Guard he had a resume that read a different job every six months and one year of a tech school education. And yet now, a mere six years later he has a bachelors degree that he earned for free, has traveled all over the country for free (half of the time getting paid extra to do so), provides our family with arguably some of the cheapest health care in the country, can retire seven years after his father can and makes more money than my mother who is a teacher still paying off her student loans. On what planet does this equate to bad treatment by an employer? Name me one other field, besides the military, where one can be a 17 year old kid with zero education or work experience yet get a four year contract with a set salary and full benefits. There isn’t one. I’m not trying to say that there aren’t sacrifices because there are and I know this. But we’re taken care of.

We don’t make a lot of money. This is true. But if you follow this blog at all you can probably figure out that we’re not struggling at all either. If we were, we wouldn’t be able to go on the countless day and weekend trips that we do. We wouldn’t be able to pay for our entire family to move across the country when the opportunity arises to get back to the east coast. We wouldn’t be able to drive a newer decent vehicle, to comfortably afford having three children or allow me to stay at home and care for our family. And my husband isn’t even high ranking. 

The thing is – and I can say this because it’s my blog – is that if you are a military family under the same or similar circumstances as my family (as most of the Coast Guard families I know are) and you are broke, it’s probably because you don’t budget well. The first couple of years for us as a CG family were very hard financially but it wasn’t because we didn’t make enough money. It was because we were stupid and made bad choices before we joined the CG. Josh’s career in the Coast Guard has allowed us to get our shit together and live the life that we have now.

Without making it a political thing I want to say that I agree that our government’s budgeting ability is shit. I agree that it is BS that our Congressmen can perform the way they do and continue to have the pay and benefits they do while cutting more important funding. I also believe that the Coast Guard, specifically, gets screwed all the time. When the Navy has a bigger budget for one boat than the Coast Guard has for it’s entire mission something is wrong. Just like local police and firemen are under appreciated and under funded, as is the Coast Guard. But I can’t agree that CG families aren’t taken care of.

Basically I feel like there’s a simple answer for the spouses who are displeased with what the government gives us – Get out. If your family isn’t making it on what we get then find a new job. But you may find it hard to come across an employer who will give you,

  • Free housing (or an extra allowance for the cost of housing)
  • Free utilities
  • Money towards college (whether it’s tuition assistance, book stipends, the GI Bill or just the college credits you earn from the free training you get)
  • Childcare subsidies
  • 30 days of paid vacation a year
  • $0 copay on every doctor visit (as well as 100% coverage on major surgeries, prenatal care, labor and delivery,etc)
  • Higher allowances if you have children (that’s right civilians. My husband gets paid more money than his equal, for things like housing and cost of living allowance JUST because he has kids)
  • Paid emergency evacuations (things such as hurricanes, etc)
  • No taxes (we pay taxes but get 100% + back at income tax time because military is only required to claim base pay, essentially meaning most of us are considered “low income”)
  • Annual and biannual raises regardless of performance.

And with that, I say let’s just stop all the bitching and instead be thankful for what we have. Especially since there are people lined up for the job and money and benefits that your family is fortunate enough to have. 

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6 thoughts on “An unorthodox opinion from a Coast Guard wife.

  1. Amen, sister! You’re doing a great thing by blogging about the everyday things that we all need to focus on. Love, family, fun, and good food (and beer!). I met my husband 3 years ago and we just got married and I just experienced my first PCS from Maine to Key West. The USCG is giving me, a dependent, an experience I would never have had otherwise. I mean, who moves to Key West? I don’t even like Jimmy Buffet.

    For the record, I am really not excited about the hurricane evacuations. It’s a mandatory evacuation to a place 8 HOURS from here. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a quiet season!

    • Thank Christina! I’ve heard about those evacuations – crazy! We have friends who just PCSed to Key West last year and I have to say, though it’s never been a place I thought about moving to, after seeing their pictures and hearing all of the awesome opportunities their kids have there, I wouldn’t be too upset if we got orders there! Good luck with the hurricane season!

  2. I was born in Key West and I am so jealous other people can get stationed there. Sometimes I wish my husbands job allowed for a wider more exciting range of duty states. That is one thing that USCG definitely has over the Navy!

    I agree with a lot of points you made. There is so much complaining about benefits, but I think a lot of people don’t have the benefit of having struggled pre military, or they are really young and don’t know better. Entitlement is definitely a problem with a lot of people though.

    Did you hear they are talking about cutting BAH? One option was to have the service member cover 20% of housing cost. I know there are places in our limited options of duty stations that we would really really struggle to live if they did that. And base housing has a crazy wait list in most places already, which will only get worse. Kind of disheartening.

    • Yes, that’s actually something that was brought up during the Facebook conversation. But here’s what I think. Unfortunately our government often chooses to use the military as pawns for their political BS (remember a few years ago when we supposedly wouldn’t be paid if a certain bill/budget wasn’t passed). I truly believe that this no BAH stuff is just a scare tactic. Most of the military already qualifies for some form of welfare but most (that I know) don’t partake because it’s not necessary. If BAH were cut, especially for CG because we have very limited housing, people would be running for help (welfare). Our wages aren’t livable wages, its the benefits that make it worthwhile and the government knows this. They’ve also been talking about making us pay a huge portion of our TriCare costs for years but nothing has come of that either.

      I know that our experience probably allows us to be more appreciative of what we get from the CG but that’s my point. I think everyone needs to think more about what we have versus what’s available in the civilian world. Thanks for having a civilized discussion about this – it’s never happened before! ha! 🙂

  3. AMEN AMEN AMEN! Kudos to you for laying it out there and seeing the positive. USCG wife here and I completely agree. I have been around the blocks a few times (my husband is getting very close to retirement) and the negativity and complaining drives me crazy! Thanks for a expressing a similar sentiment!

  4. YES! My husband is a NR and we have two kids and are NOT broke. We budget well. There are families with higher salaries that are and I just don’t understand how. We don’t live paycheck to paycheck and are even able to put away money every month into savings. I can’t stand when I hear people complain about our health insurance either. It drives me nuts!

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