Tiffany Smiley-Make America Great Again and Start with our Heroes

 

It’s been very difficult to be a military family since September 11th. Scotty was a junior at the military academy when that ominous day came, I still remember the morning very distinctly, it’s a day that changed everything for us and for our country. I was sick with worry and I couldn’t talk to Scotty because all the cell phone towers in New York were shut down or overloaded. It was not until a few days later that we chatted and I could hear the tone in his voice, life was going to be different from here on out. And it was.

Scotty and I had planned to marry after he graduated from the United States Military Academy and I finished from nursing school. We dreamt of a summer BBQ wedding out in the country with dancing at sunset. However, this dream was quickly shattered when we learned he would be deploying for 12 months, leaving that very summer. Okay, we thought, plan b would have to do (soon my life would be one big plan b). We decided to marry in December instead, I was happy to trade my summer sunset for Christmas trees and fairy lights if it meant we could marry before Scotty deployed. We took a nine day honeymoon and then he left for for Ranger School for two months. I did not talk to him at all during this time, except one two-minute phone call.

We lived together for a few short months, and then I found myself in front of a lawyer at age 22 to hash out our wills. Nothing brings you back to reality from your newlywed bliss quite like discussing life insurance and burial plots. But through it all, I believed in America. I believed that the American government and the American people would understand what a huge sacrifice we and so many of our friends were making.

I dreamt of a wonderful homecoming.

As many of you know Scotty’s homecoming was anything but wonderful, he came home blinded, in critical condition and with little prospects of a full recovery. I quit my job to get Scotty back on his feet and watched as many of our friends were also either injured or killed. It was around this time that America was going into presidential elections. As the government changed and the recession hit, military funding was cut and military morale started to change. It was the small things at first, for example one thing I loved to do while living on base was to work out, it helped me keep my sanity. They offered a daycare at the gym where I could drop the boys off for a reasonable price and work out. Well when our politicians cut the military budget, they started with the families, and the daycare was one of the first things to go. Not only that, but my husband began hearing rumors that you can no longer openly read your Bible at your desk or speak of religion in uniform. How could that be so? This was all compounded by the fact that as a military family our cost of daily living was never raised with inflation, this hit us in the gut hardest, you sacrifice your whole life for this country (yes I believe I did as well) and yet your own government refuses to increase your paycheck with inflation?!

On the dawn of a new election, I call on all Americans and all politicians to look at the priorities of this country. Where are we putting our value?!

Scotty is retired from the military, but I have watched as more and more has been taken from our military families, as this has happened, morale has continued to drop. It is so disheartening to see that here in Washington State there are proposals to raise the minimum wage to $13.50 an hour, provide free health care, oh and college too (but just be sure you don’t work too many hours because that might affect your benefits in getting your tuition paid for). Yet a Private in our military, works 24 hour days, 7 days a week, puts his life on the line and faithfully serves his Country, yet his paycheck won’t even be increased with inflation. He also doesn’t get a paycheck if our government can’t decide what they are doing, two times over the last few years our paychecks have been withheld. Yes, when our government can’t agree on our spending, our military men and women don’t get paid, but are still working.

Public Service Announcement: there is a way to get your health care and college paid for, it’s called serving your country.

I write this not to be negative, I write this to ask all American citizens and politicians on local, state, and federal level, to always remember that we must first honor and respect those that serve, if the morale of our military and military families is low, it says something about the state of this country.

As a family that has served our country, I would not change a thing, my husband was blinded and severely injured, and we could very easily lay down, quit, take our collections and watch TV all day, demanding that we “deserve it” but you know what? American is better than that and the men, women and families who fight for these freedoms are better than that.

I do believe in America, and I do believe we can turn it around, once we get our ideas, actions and priorities in check. The military has been far too low on the priority list for far too long, and the truth is, if they were not out there sacrificing every single day, there would be no debate about minimum wage or free college.

“A nations that forgets it’s defenders will itself be forgotten.”  -President Calvin Coolidge

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