Somewhere in Seattle, a 17 year old high school student lives at home, goes to school during the day, and has a part time job in the evenings and weekends. He pays for the gas for his car, spending money for the nights out with his friends and, because of the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare), is limited to working less than 30 hours a week and therefore has plenty of time to do his homework.
Just outside of Seattle, at Fort Lewis Washington, an 18 year old Soldier lives in the barracks, eats at the on post dining facility and works during the day as a helicopter mechanic. Since his housing and meals are basically free, he, too, gets to spend his money on gas for his car and nights out with his friends. The greatest distinction, however, is he works a 40+ hour week, much more if he has to pull staff duty or is out of garrison operations…oh, and he gets paid less. About $7,000 less annually. That is, of course, unless he has dependants to care for, where the serviceman can earn additional money, move out of the barracks to on post housing and realize some of the freedoms that are coveted by young men and women. This discrepancy, at least in part, has lead to a distressing and scandalous trend, contract marriage.
Servicemen and women across the country are turning to sites like Craigslist to find a suitable quid pro quo relationship that would allow them more money and benefits in return for good health care benefits and stability. While the military has made great strides in regards to the sanctity of marriage, posting all time low numbers and coming more in line with civilian averages, despite multiple deployments and over a decade fighting two wars, this can all be unraveled because while there has been a focus on the family unit, there has yet to be a focus on fair pay for dangerous and self sacrificing work. While the military was standing up organizations, such as family readiness groups, to lend emotional support during difficult times, they have failed to recognize that more and more families of servicemen and women are receiving government assistance in the forms of food stamps and welfare. Military families have spent over 100 million dollars in food stamps at DOD commissaries alone.
One of the key issues that lawmakers and senior military officials face is that the practice of contract marriage is not only an open secret, but, in the eyes of the serviceman, a victimless crime. It’s easy to see the advantages from the point of view of the two entering into the contract. Each gets a bit of what they desire and the faceless taxpayer is the only one who sees any harm in the practice. While most of us look at those who choose to serve as selfless warriors, key military officials are saying that it is taking advantage of taxpayer trust and a selfish abuse of military funding. Additionally, it’s incredibly difficult to prove that the marriage is contractual in nature. As long as the paperwork is filed properly and both are consenting adults, it’s hard to prove that things are not on the up and up. Most military posts even offer free legal advice to ensure everything goes well.
The military has been long known for special, and oftentimes rushed marriages, but for very different reasons. Previous generations have rushed a wedding to ensure that, when the service member goes to war, the one he or she cares about most will be protected and cared for. They want to demonstrate, in front of God and the rest of the world, that though war may separate them geographically, they are still together. Soldiers entering in to contract marriages betray not only that sentiment but the idea of marriage as an act of devotion and selfless commitment to another person.
Unfortunately, when a person who signs up for commitment and devotion to our country is making less than a part time worker, those two words lose quite a bit of impact.