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MILITARY: Retirees should be happy with what they have

Letter by Lawrence H. Smith, University Place on Dec. 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm with 36 Comments »
December 16, 2011 3:24 pm

Some time ago, I wrote The News Tribune stating my opinion that the military retirement system was quite generous, especially when compared to the average civilian retirement package. That letter brought a comment from one who believed the retired military personnel were owed every nickel of their retirement pay and benefits, stating that low pay was common for decades for the military.

The respondent was right in stating that military pay was very low in the 1950s and ’60s, but something happened with the ’70s and later decades: Military pay and benefits increased rather dramatically. In fact, the military total compensation package is quite attractive to those young folks coming out of high school without the intent or funds to get higher education.

A career in the military with retirement at 20 years is a pretty attractive deal for many, considering the current pay and benefits.

In my first letter on this subject, I stated that my current retirement pay alone had a present value of more than $600,000. What I didn’t mention was that I’ve been retired for 16 years so far. I estimate that the day I retired from the military, my benefits easily had a present value of more than $1 million.

So, my advice for our retired military personnel is to be happy for what you have. Your benefit package is very generous compared to others in the civilian sector. If it weren’t, why did you stay in the service past your initial military commitment?

Leave a comment Comments → 36
  1. SandHills says:

    Obviously you didn’t fully comprehend those comments from your first letter Larry – or you wouldn’t have felt the need to put your lack of knowledge out in the open for all to see once again. Here are a few things you need to get incorporated into your skewed math.

    1. The military never gets overtime for all the 12+ hour days – and this is only for an assignment where they have a family to go home to off- duty. If overtime was calculated for all the time on duty over and above a 40 hour week then a comparison can be made to a civilian job ( even cops and firemen get plus- up pay for overtime).

    2. You get to have some say in your work location – if your boss tells you your position has been shifted to another state you can simply say no, and resign (if you don’t have a union job with a shop steward trying to plead your case). A servicemember can get orders on short notice to report in a few days to an assignment in Thule, Greenlan and he/has no option other than a cell at Fort Leavenworth. This assignment may be to a remote site for 12-18 months without your family.

    3. While firemen and policemen can claim dangerous occupation – even they are not ordered to go half- way around the world to get shot at by automatic weapons, RPGs, mortars, IEDs, because their elected officials say so (and again, if so they too can simply quit and apply their occupations elsewhere).

    4. Finally Larry, you don’t take an oath to lay your life down at the service of your country – the term “all gave some, some gave all” pretty much shows how that oath is met by all who take it. For these terms of service and taking that oath there were certain guarantees provided by our nation – so that those like you Larry can work your 8 hours, have weekends and holidays at home, and decide where you want to live and work – and let others lay down their lives to defend your freedoms to do so. One is a retirement – many taken much earlier in life than you, simply because the main bulk of military service is done by the young – that pyramid in the rank structure means most never get to achieve high rank and must retire after a certain period, usually 20 years. The other is medical care, something that anyone who goes into our prison system also are guaranteed.

    There is one other, summed up by the Jack Nicholson character in “A Few Good Men” …. a simple thank you …. rather than the effort you like to put into bemoaning why our nation should continue honoring those who have honored her the most.

    You are ignorant of military service Larry, just as I would be to write a letter complaining why a neurosurgeon should be so highly paid.

  2. Misunderestimated says:

    What a disgusting letter from an ill-informed fool.
    So he retired 16 years ago and lauds his wealth. Lucky him.
    My father fought in three wars, deployed numerous other times, and spent tens of thousands of hours away from this family.
    Our family barely made ends meet until the 1980s, so I am not sure what planet the author was on in the 70s.
    When my father retired over over twenty years ago, he had his free medical.
    Ten years AFTER he retired, he had that taken away from him and was forced to enroll in Tricare Prime.
    Now he watches as McCain and others with the medical care of elected Lords in the House and Senate debate whether to force Retirees off Tricare Prime.
    What a wonderful nation to take away your benefits after the fact.
    Ever wonder why our president and congress people never talk of cutting their own pay? Their own medical? Their own retirement?
    Letters like this REMF clerk wrote simply make me ill; I guess it was possible for an imbicile to manage a military career if he is not an outrageous liar…

  3. sandblower says:

    Sandhills’ number 3 says it all and Misunderestimated’s first sentence is a gem.
    Mr. Smith might want to pick another topic next time.

  4. Larry makes good points, but you cannot criticize the military today since everyone is a “hero,” even when the vast majority of military are not in compabt zones. We have created a military class which will weigh down the nation with bloated pension and medical beenfits for decades to come. The US has a voluntary military today, so epople who join want work, and they have to accept their employer’s rules. If not, quit, and get a job in the private sector. Plus, there are many civilians who work overtime and do not get paid extra. Plus, civilians do not get preferential hiring treatment from private companies and local governments like ex-GIs. Plus, let’s not forget the priivate war contractors (mercenaries) who hire ex-GIs at $100k-plus salaries to work in combat zones at taxpayer expense. Lastly, it is unclear what the US was doing in Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq. Only time will tell if the $1 billion a week taxpayers paid was worth the cost.

  5. Dave98373 says:

    Sands is spot on! Lawrence is another writer speaking out of school and is clueless on what sacrifices military men and women have made in today’s armed services…that is, those who made it home alive. Merry Christmas, Lawrence.

  6. harleyrider1 says:

    Good reply SandHills.

  7. Some of you should read a little more carefully:
    the day I retired from the military,

    You may disagree with the letter’s central point but you can’t dismiss the letter writer as not knowing about the military.

  8. Dave98373 says:

    “You may disagree with the letter’s central point but you can’t dismiss the letter writer as not knowing about the military.”

    Yes. He is still clueless. He assumes that the reason why people enter the service is for some meager retirement that may or may not be there in 20 years. A majority of people, myself included, serve because of country not for money. He needs to spend more time on something else OTHER than writing ANOTHER letter that comes across as whiny and ill-informed.

  9. LarryFine says:

    Dave, don’t expect someone who never served (the post above yours) to understand what it means to serve your country.

  10. WTraveler says:

    Yes, Beerboy. I was wondering about the criticism of one that had been in the military for 20 years. Two things people seem to forget when comparing military and civilian retirement: The emotional strain on the families of service members and their families. It may not be visible, but it takes a toll. The other is the military move around so much that they don’t own their own home after completing a 30 year mortgage. That should add a great deal on the civilian side, monetarily to financial comparisons. I don’t recall how many times I moved in my 20 year career, but I had zero investment in a home when I started my second career.
    But I must say that the pension I received at the age of 43 provided me a certain amount of independent thinking in my second career.

  11. ReadNLearn says:

    Lawrence is like this about everything where others have accomplishment. You ought to hear him rant about police and firemen.

  12. concernedtacoma7 says:

    What is his motivation to write this? SOme comments from his last unwarranted letter?

    And since he retired 16 years ago, after 20 years of service, he served from 1975-1995. Maybe he palyed during Gulf 1, but post Vietnam and pre-911. His Cold War experience does not equal those before and after him.

    And I am curious as to his MOS. 20 years in the Infantry and you have a high probability that your future career options are limited due to bad knees, back, etc.

  13. LarryWarHeroFine needs to tell us about his military career.

    Meanwhile, beerBoy brings up an intelligent issue – the letter writer is a retiree of the military, thus is entitled to his opinion. I don’t understand said opinion but, it is certainly based on 20 years of experience as opposed to LF’s cheesy taunt.

  14. retmsg21 says:

    Well Lawrence be thankful you aren’t speaking German or Russian, as if it wasn’t for us you would be. Your own words clearly show what a ignorant ass that you are !!!!

  15. Larry – so you were a peacetime peacekeepter?

    ps; 81 – 87 = six (6) years.

    (USMC, 64 – 72, Nam November 66 – July 68)

  16. LarryFine says:

    So was the letter writer… do the math. How about you sally ?

  17. LarryFine says:

    sorry… I graduated in ’81, enlisted in ’83. ;)

  18. I estimate that the day I retired from the military, my benefits easily had a present value of more than $1 million.

    I would like to see his figures as to how he arrived at that number.

  19. The current military benefits are provided by Congress. The prospective recruit is under no obligation to join up or stay past his or her enlistment terms. Factually, Congress has raised pay 20% over the rate of inflation. There’s a segment of the recruits you join up for patriotic reasons, family tradition, educational benefits and because they do need a job. There are no guarantees in life.

    Would I join up for twenty plus years? Would I want to be deployed numerous times? Would I want to be shot at and wounded? No.

    It is nice to see Congress has provided benefits to the military that exceed those provided for the post World War II servicemen and servicewomen. The citizens at large have not stepped up for the post 9/11 defense. They have not paid a tax surcharge for the protection of freedom. Life goes on for the 99% who are not at risk.

    I checked the inflation calculator. My last paycheck as an E-4 in 1971 of $234 is now worth $1,300 per month. The educational benefits were essentially non existent as relates to the cost of tuition and personal living expenses. Nam era veterans were cast aside by the government and civilians upon their return. Congress has made sure the country does not repeat their collective mistakes.

    Smith’s letter irked me when he tells the service personnel to be “happy with what you have.” We should be happy that we have men and women willing to endure military life.

    A321196, MOS 11B20, 1969-1971, Purple Heart w/Oak Leaf Cluster
    Pay and benefits in the Nam: $212/month including overseas and combat pay; free housing and food; over night camping adventures; free medical and surgical care. The experience: Priceless

  20. someone is going to tell a 20 vet how it is when they served 4 years to get their college paid for?

  21. A321196 – An infantryman and a combat vet.

    And two Purple Hearts say you were not a REMF.

    Did you forget you highest honor – the Combat Infantryman’s Badge?

    My second tour would have been as an Infantry Platoon Commander.

    My GI bill paid for college, the Reserves paid for parting, and part time work and work studies paid for the rest.

    “Freedom has a taste the protected will never know!”

  22. LarryFine says:

    Thanks for serving xring… so what’s your beef with me ?

  23. No beef about your service – just a jarhead dumping on a doggie’s leg.

  24. Misunderestimated says:

    God Bless the 11 Bravos who made it to retirement.
    I get so disgusted with the clueless clerks such as the clown who wrote this worthless article.
    They somehow earn the same benefits as the true heroes, then have the gall to disparage their betters.

  25. Clueless.

  26. spotted1 says:


    At least the writer has 20 years experience to back up his comments.

    I do respect the service of those who have and who are currently serving in out military. I chose not to. That being said, I know a number of people who have either served 20 years with full retirement and now have second careers or who served a short time simply for the college money.

    No other job provides that kinds of benefits for its employees.

    As for, “they are sent around the world to get shot at arguement”, it is an all volunteer army and they knew it was a possibility. But how many are truly in combat roles compared to support roles?

  27. The argument that congress raised pay 20% beyond inflation is yet another example of three lies – lies, damn lies, and statistics. When your pay is crap to begin with, getting it raised 20% isn’t all that impressive.

    I joined the military in 1978, when pay/benefits were terrible. Things did get a bit better in the 1980s, but compared to the hardships military people faced (beyond getting shot at occasionally), the pay wasn’t nearly as attractive as the people outside of the military made it out to be. I stuck it out for the 20 years, putting up with the long hours, deployments, missing major holidays and family events, being stuck in wonderful places for months/years at a time, having my constitutional rights taken away, moving every couple years to some other craphole, getting divorced because of it…etc, just to get a stipend every month. My retirement check doesn’t even pay my mortgage payment. Not to mention starting over with a 2nd career.

    But I did volunteer, with the promise and expectation that at the end of the crap, I’d have at least some sort of paltry safety net in place for myself and my family. To have the constant threats to that promise is galling to say the least. Not to mention the asinine comments from the peanut gallery saying “waaahhh, you make too much, quit being so selfish”.

    They have no clue. They never will.

  28. BlaineCGarver says:

    When you enlist, and spend 20 years and retire, you have written a blank check to the United States of America. It is not the fault of the Military Man or Woman that his or her country did not cash it for the most extreme amount. Tell the support troops that hit a IED transporting supplies that they are not in the thick of it, alpha hotel.

  29. Who caresw if you spent 10 years or 20 years since no one was forcing you to stay. You liked it and were paid, and no one invaded us from Viet Nam, Iraq or Afghanistan. Russia was held in check by politics, bu the military budget has bilions in built-in waste. The first US corporation to be bailed ojut by the US Government was Lockheed and that was only after hundreds of millions in cost over-runs and after the secretary of the Air Force gave them a contract they did not even request. So people should not be surprised if people do not fall all over themselves thanking you for your service. If being in the army was a financial and emotional strain on your family, you should have resigned.

  30. dankuykendall says:


    Resign? What you been smoking? You do not resign from the military. You either complete your contract or get some kind of chapter discharge. Officers can resign after their committment.
    You have no idea what it takes to give up the things it takes to do 20 years. The deal was made, the deal was accepted, Now pay the piper.

  31. Gandalf – think it was bad in ’78? Back in the old corps of ’64 my base pay was $98 a month – minus the $18.75 bond deduction.

    Military does not even come close what members of congress get and as the old song go

    “while loaded up with scotch, w had 40’s up the (deleted)”
    “kill the bastards; drive them to their knees they yelled”

    “but there weren’t any congressmen among the list of casualties”

    Anyone and B-C-G
    ‘freedom has a taste the protected will never know’

  32. Larry-Fine,

    the advantage infantry has over chopper crews is when in combat we only fly one way – chopper crews have to make many roundtrips

  33. anyone wrote: “If being in the army was a financial and emotional strain on your family, you should have resigned.”

    You obviously never served a day in uniform. You don’t resign. You ETS = Expired Term of Service, which is what I did after seven years. I came back home after serving my final 2 years at The Pentagon. But, at least I served my country.

    20+ year retirees deserve their retirement and our respect, including yours. This country would not, could not exist with the military. Freedom isn’t Free!

  34. Son, we live in a world that has walls and those walls need to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You?

    — I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and curse the Marines; you have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives and that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.

    You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall.

    We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use them as the backbone of a life trying to defend something. You use them as a punchline.

    I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it.

    I would rather you just said “thank you,” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest that you pick up a weapon and stand a post.

    Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

  35. LarryFine says:

    So Mr. projection (BTDT), are you really standing by you definition of ETS ?

  36. The difference between a veteran and a civilian is that the veteran accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic, of which he is a member, defending it, if need be, with his live.

    Civilians do not.

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