1stLt Jason D. Grose
"The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they
get for it, but what they become by it."
Statement of Representative Helen Chenoweth May 20, 1999
Regarding a Better Quality of Life for America's Defenders:
Mr. Speaker, in today's military a young enlisted person
serving out his or her first contract can expect to make one
thousand, seventy-five dollars and eighty cents a month. Over
a forty-hour work-week, this averages to six dollars and seventy
cents an hour. But most of our military personnel
don't work forty-hour weeks. We all remember the famous Army
slogan "We do more before 9:00 a.m. than most people do all
day." Mr. Speaker, it's true. These young enlisted personnel
can expect to be at work before first light and not home again
until long after dark. And Mr. Speaker, we don't pay them overtime.
These young people train for weeks at a time away from home.
They keep themselves in a state of top physical readiness. They
live their personal lives according to the high standards of
integrity and honor we mandate for them. These young servicemen
must uproot their families on a moment's notice, moving to a
new duty station aacross the country, or across the globe. They
do it all on [LESS THAN] six dollars and seventy cents an hour.
For members of the military with families, the situation
is worse. Despite a modest living allowance, 12,000 families
currently serving our Armed Services are dependent on food stamps.
Food stamps. We have government employees living off of government
subsidies. Mr. Speaker, why don't we skip the intermediary step
and just pay them properly the first time?
During the holidays at the Mountain Home Air Force base
in Idaho, a network of military spouses work together to collect
donations of money and toys for the enlisted families who cannot
afford to give their young ones Christmas or Thanksgiving. Last
November and December, the Mountain Home Warm Heart organization,
run by the spouses of servicemen, distributed over eighteen
thousand dollars worth of food, toys and cash to needy military
families. Where did this money come from, Mr.
Speaker? From the pockets of servicemen who already had
very little to give.
If this were not bad enough, many military families have
more serious concerns than just Christmas and Thanksgiving.
At the Mountain Home Air Force Base women and children are receiving
regular food assistance. 107 of those are infants. The
Mountain Home Air Force Aid Society made $131,000 in emergency
assistance loans to military families. I am very concerned
about what will happen to these families when the money runs
out and they still have to make monthly payments on the loans.
In the 18th Century, citizen soldiers won our independence
and secured our liberties. We hailed them as heroes and revered
the courage and commitment they demonstrated in defense of our
nation. Today that nation is protected by citizen soldiers
with the same integrity and sense of duty. Only in 20th
Century America, we don't even pay them a living wage. We should
be ashamed of ourselves.
From 1988 to today there have been thirty-two deployments
of our military. In the previous sixty years there were
only ten deployments. Put another way, Mr. Speaker, prior to
this Administration, the military was deployed an average of
once every six years. During the Clinton Administration the
military has been deployed an average of four times every year.
Furthermore, since 1987, we have depleted our ranks by eight
hundred thousand servicemen. In practical terms, that
translates into more frequent deployments and dangerously long
hours. It is illegal in this country for truck drivers to be
on the road longer than eight consecutive hours without rest.
We have pilots patrolling the Mediterranean in fourteen hour
shifts. In short, this Administration is expecting our servicemen
to do one hundred times as much and place their lives at risk
one hundred times as often with eight hundred thousand fewer
people. For as little as [LESS THAN] six dollars and seventy
cents per hour.
Mr. Speaker. I recently paid a plumber $90 an hour to unstop
my garbage disposal. An auto mechanic can expect $50 an hour.
A teenager working as a bagger in a grocery store can earn up
to $12 dollars an hour. None of these jobs require 24-hour
dedication to duty and a constant threat to life.
Mr. Speaker, one young Marine I know of has taken a second
job to supplement his income. Every night, this Lance Corporal
goes home and trades his Marine uniform for a blue and red T-shirt
and matching hat from Dominoes. This young Marine, this hardworking
father of two, delivers pizza because he is too proud to accept
welfare. He is not alone in this endeavor. But it is nearly
impossible to know how many young servicemen are in this position
because most of them hide it from their commanders. A
young Lance Corporal serving in the Marine Corps today can anticipate
being combat-deployed at least once in a four-year enlistment.
I wonder what this Lance Corporal's family will do when he is
away and they have to make do without the supplemental income
from Dominoes. I am humbled by this young Marine, and the many
others like him who work so hard to protect us. I am ashamed
that we don't do right by them.
I urge this body to seriously consider the ethics of our
government's continued over-extension of our military in light
of our complete lack of gratitude for their service. Mr.
Speaker, I have a request to make of the members of this body.
Tonight when you go home to your families, to the security and
comfort of your homes; when you tuck your children in to bed,
say a prayer for the men and women of our armed forces.
As you sleep, approximately one-hundred thousand of them stand
watch, away from their own loved ones, ready to give their very
lives to protect you. For as little as [LESS THAN] six dollars
and seventy cents an hour.