Military Appreciation: Reasons for Optimism and Worry

Survey Explores Financial Confidence

NMAMThis article was published by The Hill, a newspaper for Capital Hill on March 12, 2017

More than 15 years ago, the United States Congress designated May as National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM). While it has taken some time to catch on in our busy day-to-day lives, more and more people are beginning to understand the importance of honoring the sacrifices of those who serve our country and their families.

Feeling pride as spontaneous applause breaks out in airports as soldiers return home, or the patriotism that comes during the recognition of soldiers at sporting events and veteran parades is something we experience regularly. This May, however, as we experience the sense of honor and sincere gratitude that comes as we see those with real battle scars, we should think of not only the physical and emotional sacrifices made by men and women in uniform, but their financial obstacles too. 

Financial challenges for service members are indeed a national security matter. These are issues that Congress and the new administration must realize as they continue to celebrate and recognize the contributions made by veterans, active-duty personnel, support staff, and of course, their families. When considering investments in the military, cuts in spending, and the size of force, the impacts it has on those defending us at home and abroad must be a key consideration.

To learn more about these unique matters, and to help recognize the sacrifices of the military during NMAM, Military Spouse Magazine in partnership with Pioneer Services, a Division of MidCountry Bank, has undertaken an annual survey to learn about the financial, family, and unique personal stress faced by military families today.

Considering that less than five years ago reports of military families use of food stamps was on the rise and that two years ago, Department of Defense budget plans called for a reduction of troops, this year’s survey shows more reasons to be optimistic in 2017. 

Some specific findings from the more than 250 military spouses show:

  • One in three sees the current political environment more favorable to their family than they did a year ago. While changes in political leadership could be a factor, optimism for favorable policies like military investment, spending and force projections are clearly driving the trend.
  • Stability is on the rise. 87% of respondents expect their spouse to continue serving in two years. This is up five percent from last year’s result. Marriage stability is on the rise too. 64% of respondents have been married at least five years and 38% more than a decade. With the uncertainty and financial stress associated with deployments, these numbers are encouraging.
  • Spending and savings are trending in positive directions for military families too. 64% are spending the same or less than in the previous year, all while 72% are saving more. Spending less and saving more is a winning combination.

While these trends are moving in the right direction, the chief concerns among military spouses still include long-term savings and financial emergencies (with future deployments coming in at a close third.) These concerns transcend into relationship issues in military families too with 27% citing financial matters are impacting their marriages.

Concerns that can impact marriages can also impact careers and, in this case, our national defense. No one ever claimed that military service is easy. The associated financial stress, unlike the other more predictable challenges of frequent relocations and deployments, doesn’t make things any easier either. 

However, what can make things better are a commitment by the public and private sectors to strive for the financial solutions that can make positive differences in the financial lives of military families. Military Spouse Appreciation Day (May 12) and NMAM should focus on solutions, more than just appreciation. That would include job programs for spouses who are often under-employed, predictability in military spending, childcare assistance, and the very best in financial education, like we provide at Pioneer Services.

Supporting military families is something we should all think about regularly – from politicians in Washington to those applauding the returning soldiers in the terminal or watching the parades down Main Street, USA. The contributions and sacrifices from military families are real – and our appreciation must be real too.

Alan-Usry

About the author: Allen Usry

Air Force Chief Master Sergeant (ret) W. Allen Usry began his military career in the Marine Corps in 1982, and then went on to serve in the Oklahoma Air National Guard and United States Air Force. During his nearly 30 year career he service in a variety of positions including Command Chief Master Sergeant for First Air Force (CONR/AFNORTH) and as Command Senior Enlisted Leader (CSEL) for NORAD and United States Northern Command. Allen retired from active duty on 1 Jan 2012, and currently serves as a consultant for Pioneer Services, sharing his wealth of knowledge to military personnel around the nation.

Contact: Allen Usry

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