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When people think of a military spouse, they think of a woman married to a service member. But this isn't always the case as nearly 10% of us are men. I was born in November 1978. I am a stay at home dad to two boys, one born in October of 2000 and the other born in June of 2009. I married my wife in June of 2006. In April of 2010 she left to go to basic training for the US Army.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#Called2Serve

For the last couple weeks I have been using #Called2Serve on Twitter and Facebook. But before I explain why, push play and have a listen because this is a double dipper blog entry.




Make ABSOLUTELY no mistake about it, my family chose to answer the call to serve purely based on financial reasons and the benefits/compensation package we were offered.

I was 30 with a body that was failing me and the only thing I was qualified to do was manual labor. And without an able body, there isn't much use for an overweight laborer on a job site.

My wife was 29 with not one, but TWO, bachelor degrees. In our community during that time, #BackWhereIComeFrom , she could have had 2 bachelor degrees and a Master's and still have been hard pressed to find employment.

Together, we were barely getting by. With my body only getting worse as I tried pushing through whatever injury I had/have and her working at a local retail store, we barely made "end's meat". It wasn't until we began living this life we could afford "center cut meat" on occasion. Thankfully we did receive Medicaid and qualified for food stamps back then, so that helped. But living on Welfare is no way to live so we had to find our way out. That's when the idea to serve came up. **Please note as a civilian my wife was overqualified and unhappy with her job**

While our motivation to go to the recruiter's office was based on the compensation offered, it is not the reason we chose to do this life. We chose to serve because we felt it was the best thing we could do for our family and our country for both of our futures. And what better way to thank the government for the public assistance we had been receiving than to truly give back with public service?

We initially had no desire for my wife to make a career out of this life. Not only were we realists who believed that serving in the military is only a career for the select chosen few, but we wouldn't need to serve if our plan worked out the way we had it set up with the recruiter. We had a 7-10 year plan that would have left us in our early 40's with a decent nest-egg. But alas, we learned quickly things aren't always what they appear (or are told) when it comes to the military. We learned right away that things change quickly. We learned to embrace the term "for the needs of the Army".

We didn't cry too desperately when my wife was told she could no longer become an Officer like we planned. In fact, like a good soldier, she said "whatever, we will deal with it". Me? Every once in awhile I have a hissy fit that what I thought was a promise broken was actually in the best interest of people other than us and there was a bigger picture. There was more than just our own window to look out of. So I did what the Army has taught my family, we adapted and overcame. We budget accordingly and as someone once told me to do, we "Live like a Sergeant".

We do still consider the possibility that this will be a career for her, but again we are realists, we realize the Army may not have much use for a 35+ year old Combat Medic even though up until this point she was "fast tracking". We understand there just may not be enough room for her anymore. And honestly, it scares the crap out of me because I know the grass is way greener here on the Army side(pssst..... don't tell anyone, but sometimes we secretly wish we were an Air Force family). There will come a time when we either say "we don't want to do this anymore" or the Army will say "we don't need you anymore". Until one of those times comes up, we are content with where we are. And we will do everything we can to stay here. And I personally will do everything I can to make sure my family can still enjoy the highest quality of life as possible and I will advocate for us on our own behalf, but I will NOT put some perks and extra benefits for my family above the needs of those my family chose to serve. Especially not the needs of those who also served and should sit atop our concern list when it comes to military families who need our support with these trying times.

Right now as I see it there are two sides to this #BudgetBattle. There is one side more or less saying "this is OUR pie. You gave it to us. And we will not give ANY back." On the either side all reports/indications from our elected and appointed leaders seems to imply they are saying "No! You can't have everything. You can't have ANYTHING!". I am impatiently awaiting someone to make a meme based off the "Soup Nazi" episode on Seinfeld. "No! NO BENEFITS FOR YOU!"

Let me make something else clear, I don't necessarily believe our leaders are saying we can have "nothing". I believe they are saying this DoD budget is going down and we better get ready for it. And if that is their message to my family, I wish they would say it explicitly clear so all of those with agenda's will stop using their words and painting this God awful picture of them. Some reports/comments about the Joint Chiefs of Staff are making them out to be horrible men who don't care about their troops. So correct me if I am wrong, did I miss the TMZ report that had the Joint Chiefs hosting a kegger? Is General "O" out there tearing up the streets in a Ferrari with the top down?

It almost makes me wonder if the people making horrible comments about these men haven't heard that The Duffle Blog is satire.

Do not doubt for a minute that I am still keeping the JCS on "the hook". I have a "bone to pick" with them about our failing mental health care and my personal/eyewitness experiences. And I will "pick that bone", but not before the truth about DeCA comes out. Not before our advocates give up on the "we want it all" attitude. And definitely not before my Congressman says "The commissary, it's not always worth the trip, but it means something to us." He IS one of US, so he can say that. **He doesn't really have to say that, but it would be cool if he did.**

Being caught in the middle of this conversation is not a fun place to be by any stretch of the imagination. I sort of feel like the civilian I once talked to who said something to the effect of "You know, not for nothing, but if us regular people complain at all about the DoD budget, we are labeled anti-American and like we don't support the troops."

The dude was right.

Thankfully I haven't had to many people say much about me as I take my charge across social media. About the worst anyone has said so far is that I am an A-hole. But like I have said, "I don't claim to be an advocate. I am only an advocate if I am right. Otherwise I am an A-hole."

I have said I was right about the DeCA numbers and I believe I am. Dollar for dollar, the purchasing power of a service member is better at Walmart than at the commissary. I would welcome someone to prove me wrong, but something tells me proving me wrong is just a little harder than saying I am right. However I would like to think that silently I am being told that I am in fact right. The numbers associated with the commissary have quickly changed in their use by advocates across the board since the day I started beating my drum. Heck, SM Barret went from saying "Don't mess with our commissary!" to "Our families never had it so good!" in just a few weeks span. I can't help but to wonder, maybe I got to him with what I said about the commissary?

And if all that wasn't good enough, I noticed a change in how DeCA was pushing out their information on their facebook page and twitter. They went from boldly proclaiming what it was worth to shop there to using social media to ask us what we like about the commissary. I dunno, kinda sounds like they may be trying to change their slogan to "Your Commissary, it means as much to you as you do to us" or "Your Commissary, it's like your hometown-America grocery store located all over the world" or my personal favorite "Your Commissary, it's not always worth the trip, but it means something to us. All of us."

This whole DoD budget debacle has reaffirmed to me why my family decided to take this journey. In some ways where I find myself is the culmination of all of the events that led to this point. We know what America looks like from both sides of the installation gate. And while we don't know the life of Gold Star Families or Wounded Warrior families, we are willing to do with less if it means they may be taken care of better or equal to how they live now. We don't know what it is like to be a retiree or a veteran family who is struggling with life after war and the process to get quality and affordable medical, but we are willing to do with a little less if their quality of life improves or stays the same.(With the exception of mental health care for returning vets-we must continue to improve)

A lot of this stuff I have said before. But I will keep saying it and beating my drum until my voice becomes moot(not mute). If the #KeepYourPromise movement has taught me nothing else it is that we all have a voice and we must not be afraid to say what we believe to be true in an effort to advocate for our families. So that's what I am doing, I am advocating that my family believes in a "piecemeal" approach. We do not believe in "This is OUR pie you gave US and we will not give a sliver of it back."

If I wanted to say something to the JCS, this is what I would say to them: "Sirs, I don't mind sharing my pie with you. But I must warn you, I am a fat-kid both on the surface and in my heart, so if you are coming for my pie and you have a whole bunch of pie sitting over there on the shelf, you ain't getting none. But maybe you don't see that pie, let me point it out for you. Then if you still need more after giving out correct portions of your pie, I will give you some of mine that is excess and only being wasted anyway. But until then, BACK OFF MY PIE! I will also give you the store I bought it from if you would like to give that away. Good luck with that though, the place means a lot to a lot of folks."

If I wanted to say something to the Keep Your Promise Alliance, this is what I would say to them: "Yo, for real, the partisan politics needs to stop. Stop stooping to the levels you speak out against. Start with those DeCA numbers. Quit yapping about "purchasing power" and tell our leaders what these things mean to our families. Make this about the people who serve, because most of us really do serve because it is who we are. Use that to our advantage. Just quit with the BS politics. Quit the "my pie, you gave it to me so I am keeping it all" mentality. Or else I may have to make a meme using Diketmbe Mutumbo wagging his finger and saying 'NO NO NO! Not in my house!' I don't want to give up most of the same things you don't want to give up, but we missed our boat by not telling them sooner what they could take from us and only always asking for more. So we are where we are and have to find a way to play nice together. Even if that means compromising. Let us just make sure we do not compromise those who gave more."

My family was #Called2Serve, not to be served. But we also aren't dummies. We will stop serving if we can't enjoy something similar to the quality of life we enjoy now. However I think we can tighten our belts a little and still live comfortable.






Friday, April 18, 2014

The reintegration arguement to end all arguements.......

When my wife returned from her most recent long stretch away from the home which included having to poop in a bag, we had what I like to think most military families have after a long separation. We had a good ol' knockdown-drag out verbal fight. Or in other words, a reintegration conversation. And it went something like this:

Her: Thanks so much for taking care of everything while I was gone. I would like to make dinner for us tonight so you can have a break. What would you like? Spaghetti?

Me: What would I like? I would like you to know how to make spaghetti right! That's what I want.

Her: How about if I let you know when it's time to add the sauce so you can do it? I will also make extra meatballs. Until then you can put your feet up and relax.

Me: You think you can win me over with meatballs this time? No! No you can't.

Her: What's your problem!?!

Me: I don't have a problem except you don't cook like I do.

Her: I am really sorry. Should I just order out so you can still have a break?

Me: No, what you should do is stop being so hard on me. Do you have any idea how stressed out I am. You have been gone for a month out in the field and you come home trying to run everything. And I can't take it anymore.

Her: What do you want to do?

Me: I want to tell the whole world how much I love you. I want to tell people how great marriage is even when it's not so great. I want to be the guy encouraging people not to give up on their families and tell them it is worth the fight.

I want to "Gibbs slap" fathers(and mothers) who are too busy caught up in their own lives to teach their children the basics of life. Fathers who are so worried about themselves they are forgetting they need to teach their children how to live and how to love. Not how to play Grand Theft Auto V.

I want to tell people all over that our responsibilities aren't all inclusive to the people who live in our homes. We have a responsibility to help people and to take care of one another. Especially our neighbors.

I want to say these things loud and proud.

Her: First, should I start boiling the water? Second, about all that other crap you just spewed, so what's your problem? Why aren't you doing it then?

Me: Pffft..... Why aren't I doing it? Because who the hell am I to say any of those things? Our marriage is far from perfect. I fail as a husband more often than I succeed. I try to love you unconditionally but at some point I always make my love conditional. And then I hold it against you and stop loving you if you aren't loving me the way I want to be loved. I become selfless in our own marriage and then I am going to try to tell others to be sacrificial in theirs?

Her: So!?! What's your point?

Me: My point? I will tell you my point. My point is I really suck at being a dad. I can barely take care of myself and then I have to take care of the kids and the house and the dogs. I suck so bad at being a dad that I worry if I am screwing our kids up and will cause them years of therapy. I fall so short of the dad I want to be that sometimes I actually consider giving up. I think I should just stop being a dad and walk away from everything because it would be better for them.

Her: So what you're telling me is you have similar thoughts to many people? I still don't see what's stopping you.

Me: What's stopping me is I don't know all of our neighbors. There's 20 houses down there and I only know 12 of the families. How can I say we should be good to our neighbors when I haven't hosted a block party yet?

**This is the point where she began her transformation from my beautiful wife cooking in the kitchen to a US Army Sergeant.**

Her: And..... I am still not tracking.

Me: Of course you aren't. You just don't get it. You don't get me.

Her: OH NO!!! I get you alright. Not only are you insane, you are certifiably batshi! crazy. You are also just being a dumb lazy slack-ass too busy crying about how good enough you aren't to even try to do anything. You are making up random bullshi! excuses to stop you from doing what you have always wanted to do. You are creating imaginary scenarios in your rainbow and unicorn laden mind that may or may not be true.

Me: *nearly in tears and with a crackling voice* Why are you yelling at me?

**This is wear she turns into a 68W(Combat Medic)**

Her: I wasn't yelling at you.  NOW I'M YELLING AT YOU!!! What you NEED to do is you NEED to take a knee, take a breath, chug some water and get your ass out there and do what you are supposed to do and stop making up bullshi! excuses. Quit whining about everything you aren't and believe in what you are. Resist the urge to let completely random and stupid thoughts fill that psychotic brain of yours.... telling you that you can't. Especially when the only reason you can't is because you won't. So lace up your bootstraps and get your ass out there and just do it and shut up. GOD! I am so sick of your whiney little girl bi!chin'.

Me: The water is boiling over.


***What did I learn from that conversation? Most importantly I am the better cook was reestablished. But really......Just do it. Just lead them. Don't wait for things to be just right because they never will be.

Oh... I also learned I wasn't fooling my wife, she knew I was a little off in the head and has just been playing along all these years.

And so we are completely clear, I REALLY do love my wife a lot. She is the better half in this marriage. And she was right. Again!!!***





Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dear Congressman DeSantis: I want to tell you to support the commissary subsidy.......

Dear Congressman DeSantis,

I want to tell you to support the commissary subsidy. I want to say those words to you and mean them with all of my heart, but I can't. For me and my family the benefit it is said to offer us just isn't there; as you are aware. Lately I have been wondering what makes my family so different from so many who are saying how much they save by shopping there. We eat fairly well in my home I do believe. After spending 4 years with commissary privileges I have even become a little spoiled to certain brand name foods and have cut back buying similar items at Walmart. So how is it I don't see the savings? And does 4 years of shopping at the commissary explain why I gained 115 pounds since my wife joined the Army 4 years ago? (On my way down in weight thankfully, ironically since I stopped shopping at the commissary. Hmmmmm...... that's a weird coincidence)

While I can't tell you I believe you should "save the commissary" and be one of the members of Congress touting how much it saves our families, I can give you a reason to consider jumping on team Keep the Commissary. A reason worth fighting for.

The reason? Because we D-E-S-E-R-V-E it.

We don't deserve the benefit in the sense that we should only be buying brand name, high end, quality food. We deserve it because of what it means to our families.

The commissary may not be the best place for a new 21 year old military spouse to shop on an E3 budget, but when he(or she) goes in there shopping, maybe she will bump into someone she met at an FRG meeting and they will make a plan to get the kids together. *I would have used a he in this scenario but most people don't see the male spouses.* **Or try this one**

The commissary may be teaching our service members that they do deserve the best(brand name foods) because they do, even though when they get out they can no longer afford to eat the way they did on that E2 salary, but it's also teaching them about family. When one of us(you too since you serve) is in the commissary we are in a safe place with people we feel know us. Who get us. It really is like a hometown grocery store spread out not just across the country, but across the globe. And of course the prices are nearly 30% better at the commissary than at yours and mine local grocer, Publix. But let's be real, unless you live in a gated community or are buying a sub, we don't "shop-shop" at Publix. We shop at Walmart and Winn-Dixie. But that "hometown feel" may just be worth every penny in and of itself. I found much relief in seeing my favorite attendant standing at the self checkout lines when my wife would be gone. I am too cheap to tip as you may have figured out so I always go through the self checkout and whenever Robert at the Fort Riley commissary was working, I knew I had a "battle buddy" should my minion get restless.

I find the only savings that would really impact my family if we lost the commissary is on meat. God I love meat. In fact I am going tomorrow specifically for meat. I may even check out the new commissary on the Air Force side to see their bulk area that may just be the reform we actually need...... my bad.... I got sidetracked.

Anyways.... meat...... For many families when you live behind the gates and it's 4:20 in the afternoon and you just picked up your child who forgot to get on the bus which made you miss the air conditioning repairman on the first day of a TDY and realize you forgot to thaw the meat, many families rely on that tiny bit of relief that they won't have to spend 30 minutes going off and on post to pick up hamburger meat that is 38 cents (about 9% not 30%) more expensive at Walmart. It's a real pain in the butt to go off post and then back on at that time of the day. And besides, if not for the incredible privatized housing, that air conditioner guy may not stick around and wait on you. But since the privatized housing companies take such good care of our families, they tell us to take those extra 5 minutes to grab what we need and they will wait or just go inside and turn the air down so it is comfortable when we get home. I am actually surprised they don't just pour a glass of wine and leave it out too.

The commissary may not be worth driving past 3 Walmarts to get to, but when retirees are walking around all cute and grandparent like, it's worth it for me to show my sons that even though we are in a military store we can still stop them and thank them for their service. I try to drive home to my boys(especially my youngest) that the people whose hands daddy is shaking, those people spent a lot of time doing what mommy does and deserve to have that feeling of community. It's a great thing to see those older couples hobbling around the store. I don't care how slow their roll is, anything we can do to keep our veterans close to the military family is a win. In these times when we are losing so many veterans to suicide, it is valuable to keep them as close to our bases as possible so they know they are among people who care and understand.

The commissary, by the Military Officer's Association of America (MOAA) definition, I strongly disagree it is worth the subsidy money. I would tell you what I think about the numbers they are sharing, but I think Lawrence "Larry" Korb talks about things like that better than I do. So maybe I can get ahold of him and have him talk to you. But only if I can convince him that even when we show it is not as beneficial to our families as some say, it is most certainly and undeniably a benefit we could possibly maybe say we deserve based solely on what it means to our military families.

The only reason I can't tell you to jump on the bandwagon completely is because I find these 5 things to be more valuable( in order and why) and fear we would compromise these for saving a dime on Kraft Mac N Cheese:

Readiness- Keep my wife safe and don't ever compromise her safety.

Survivor/DAV/Retiree benefits- These people need to be our priority as much as our active duty service members and their readiness...... and it's as simple as that.

Healthcare- While my family personally doesn't oppose the possibility of a copay, do NOT raise the premiums/copays of the people listed above. In fact, LOWER what is already in place if you can. Those people earned it in ways we can never pay back. Also, we need to get a handle on mental health which I know is a daunting task. But wait til you hear the story I got for you about how bad it REALLY sucks. That's my next stop once I get off this commissary merry-go-round so don't think we will be done after this. And while we are at it, can we do something about the VA? Just because some dude doesn't qualify for tri-care doesn't mean he should get sub-Obamacare healthcare.

BAH- I rented a house in Junction City, KS that was a little over 1000 sq ft and 30 years old for more money than a 1600 sq ft pool home on a canal goes for in the C section in Palm Coast. CASE CLOSED ON THAT!

Pay Raises- While I am a firm believer that the nearly $45k my wife makes is a pretty good penny, how can we EVER justify not giving our troops an adequate cost of living raise? Especially when people are saying minimum wage needs to be increased to the numbers they are saying!?! Flipping burgers and bagging groceries will be a better career path for future recruits and retention will go down. Besides, I would rather have the money go in my pocket instead of going in DeCA's pocket which is essentially going into the pockets of the government and government contractors.

If you needed a reason to save the commissary, morale is a darn good one.

Because our families do deserve the best is another.

Those two reasons are pretty doggone good. I just ask you to be sure to consider that one of your constituents values those 5 things mentioned above more than where I buy my ice cream. Three of those things above I am not willing to compromise on if you want my vote and support in the future. The other two, #MyFamilyNeverHadItSoGood and we were #Called2ServeNot2BeServed. So we can offer some flexibility in this #BudgetBattle. I just wish people would raise as much commotion about specific ways to save money and point out waste instead of formulating hypothetical-what if-doomsday numbers that they justify by using the term "purchase power". Life is a lot easier when people are bringing solutions and not just the problems. In fact, one solution is maybe I should teach a budget class to those about real "purchasing power". Equate shampoo rids my dandruff just as well as Head and Shoulders.

Sincerely,

Wayne C. Perry representing the 386 and 32164.

OK.... I am only representing myself. I am not an advocate unless I am right. Otherwise I am just a butthole.

PS..... please remember Larry the Cable Guy is way more awesomer than Larry King.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dear Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Barret: My family has never had it so good!

Dear Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Barret,

Greetings! I would ask you how your day has been, but something tells me I already know. And I doubt it was anything like my day. My day can be summed up with this song. It was the song my son and I were singing at 0830 when we ventured into our backyard. And it was the song we kept singing throughout the day. Have a listen while you read the rest of this. Maybe it will "turn that frown upside down" if you have one.





When I wrote my dissenting take on the commissary I really tried to make it explicitly clear that I was not questioning your integrity or character. What I was questioning were DeCA's numbers and your illustration of those numbers. To me none if it added up and I was appalled that something so clearly obvious was being overlooked. So I may have handled the situation improperly, but I hope you understand that this #BudgetBattle is not my arena so I don't know how to walk the walk or talk the talk.

In addition to my attempt at making it clear I wasn't questioning your integrity I also said I would come to your defense if anyone blamed you for this mess we find ourselves in. Like I had said, while all this was happening and building up over the last decade you were leading our troops in harms way. While DeCA was formulating their numbers to justify the subsidy, you weren't shopping in the commissary and at local grocery stores to know the price of Kraft Mac n Cheese, you were busy training soldiers and fighting a war. Knowing that made it easy for me to believe you were simply given bad intel.

I find it quite ironic that when I wrote that blog article that I was heavily criticized by many of my peers, some specifically charging me with questioning your honor, integrity and character, yet after your remarks yesterday few, if any, came to your defense. Not that I am implying you need anyone to defend you. After all, you are a "GOSH DARN MARINE!".  But still, the only things I kept reading yesterday were how out of touch you are with the Junior Enlisted.

When I wrote what I did, I did question if you knew the Jr ranks. After your comments yesterday, I am pretty sure you do. Well..... you at least know this E5 family of 4.

Before I go on to tell you about my day I want to show you how it started and ended. The top picture is my 4 year old, Q, watering the flowers at 0830 while wearing his Spiderman top and Spiderman shoes. The picture on the bottom is of him just before dinner, and after his bath,(mom came home and let him.... not cool) digging in the backyard while wearing that same Spiderman top. Except he traded his jeans in for Star Wars pajama's and added his cool Spiderman shades.





We ended up spending a good 8 or 9 hours absolutely enjoying life and singing our song. Most of which was spent in that Spiderman outfit. **In full disclosure, there was quite a bit of yelling and several temper tantrums mixed in, but that's life.**

When you said "We've never had it so good" you really reminded me how great I have it. Now don't get me wrong, military life isn't a cake walk. And even though my wife came home normal from her year deployment, I am now a cracked nut because of the time we spent apart. But we are managing. And not only that, but we are legitimately thriving! I am serious when I say my family has never had it so good.

I spent a good bit of today doing what I have been doing for several months now, reflecting on all of the blessings God has graced my family with. I thought quite a bit how since my family spent a number of years collecting welfare it did make us more resilient and how it forced us to be a little more disciplined. Especially when it comes to my grocery shopping. I also spent a good bit of time comparing how good my family has it compared to many I know outside of the military. And sir, compared to many I know, love and care deeply for, my family is pretty damn lucky. We are current/ahead on all of our bills, we have been doing some home improvements and the best of all, we live with confidence that our bills will be paid next month as well. As Charlie Sheen would say, we are "WINNING!"

You were also right in how my family thinks in regards to the budget. In my home our primary concern is will my wife(and her fellow service members) be trained and prepared properly. Our secondary concern is her career/retirement. We are honestly unsure if we will make it another 16 years, but career planning and progress will dictate that. The other main concern of ours is that those who served and sacrificed more/longer than our family are well taken care of. By more/longer I mean those who came home wounded one way or another(and surviving family members) and those who made this life a career. We feel those are the people we are deeply indebted to and need to come first. Well, before our family.

When my wife enlisted we answered the call to serve our country. We of course did it for the compensation as well, but let's be real, few ONLY sign up for the compensation. Most of us do feel we have a higher calling to serve our country and that is what really motivates us. And I can speak for my family when I say we are willing to continue to serve even if it meant there were some minor changes to the compensation package. Contrary to what many will say, I do feel as a military spouse I can get a job if I really wanted to. If I needed to. But because of the generous compensation we receive I don't have to work. I can focus all of my energy and attention on my family like the good military spouse(with testicles) that I am. I will proudly continue to make my wife sammiches and be the one who plans the play dates for the kids as long as she says she wants to continue doing what she is doing. Because I know with certainty if my family had to get out, I would definitely have to get a job and we would most likely end up back on welfare. I know this because unlike many of the people speaking, I know better what it looks like for the average American living outside the gates. I was one. And I am working on lowering myself to become one again.

I don't know if this "letter" will reach you, but I will try to get it to you. On a day when you were being drug through the mud, I wanted you to know my son and I were planting vegetables and having the time of our life. And I was thinking of you and praying for you quite a bit. Today must have TOTALLY sucked to be you. I would not have wanted to be you for anything! LOL But I hope it puts a smile on your face knowing you have an ally who you may have thought was a foe.

Anyway..... that's all I have to say.

Love, peace and chicken grease!
Wayne

PS...... This is a picture of my boys. Since it is the month of the military child and I bragged about my youngest, I wanted to be sure I mentioned my older boy(I call him LeRoy, as in Leroy Jethro Gibbs). He really is turning out to be a fine young man. I look up to him. He is the epitome of resilient and maybe one day I will get to tell you more about him.





  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dear Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission,

Dear MCRMC,

DeCA and advocates for military families will tell you the commissary saves, on average for the average military family, 30% by shopping at their stores. I would like you to know that information is FALSE.

I did my own comparison and found the commissary only saves approximately 5% over shopping at Walmart on brand for brand items. And in my home, based on my yearly budget, at best that would save my family $400-$800 per year. Not the $3,000-$4,500 DeCA and advocates for military families say.

Furthermore, if I was to shop at the commissary exclusively or semi exclusively, shopping at the commissary would cost my family more money than shopping at Walmart since my family relies on generic and off brand items for many things. An example of my point can be found in apple juice. My family goes through about 4 gallons of apple juice per week. If we were to buy it at the commissary we would end up paying roughly $432 MORE per year.

I believe there is value in the commissary, just not the monetary value people will testify before you. At least not for the majority of our force since most of our families are E6 and below. I believe those advocating for us and testifying in front of you may be out of touch with how those of us who make significantly less than them shop.

I won't argue that there is some savings in shopping at the commissary, but if savings is the reason for Congress to continue offering the subsidy money, then I must request DeCA no longer receive that money. It is unfair to tell the American taxpayer that they are helping save military families thousands of dollars per year by helping fund the commissary. I believe doing so to be deceitful.

Please remember as you hear testimony before you that what I am saying now comes from the family of an E5 family of 4. The identical dynamic that advocates will use to prove their point.

I would also like to add that my family signed up to serve America, not to be served. We are prepared to adjust our lives if need be should our country need us to tighten our belts. My family spent a significant amount of time outside of the military community, and on welfare. While cuts may impact how long my wife stays in, I think it is safe to say we would not be quick to leave over a possible few hundred dollars per year increase in certain things.

For me personally, the only thing that would make me angry, irate and ready to say "shame on Congress" would be if retirees and physically/mentally altered veterans saw any sort of increase. As well as if life began to cost Gold Star families more. I believe we(America) are deeply indebted to the families whose loved ones have given life, limb, mind, body and soul to our country. Indebted to the point we could never REALLY pay them back.

I thank you for your time and I also pray you will be guided by your moral compass regarding the issues before you. Our military families do deserve the best, but not the best based on inaccurate information. We can not compromise the honor and integrity of our military by using partisan politics to further our cause.

Sincerely,
Wayne C. Perry

PS.... yes, I am a person of Walmart and proud of it. In other words, I am a proud American.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dear Keep Your Promise Alliance.......


**Sometimes when the stars align my blog entries deserve two songs. This is one of those times. This is a "double dipper". So maybe you want to enjoy the music while you read? Just don't forget to check for the song at the end too.**
 
 
Dear Keep Your Promise Alliance(KYP),
Whenever my family is planning any sort of outing I am always planning it around food. It’s so bad that my wife regularly asks me “Why does everything revolve around food for you?” It really is a standing joke in our house. And if I even think of telling her “Everything doesn’t revolve around food” she either stares me up and down, literally sizing me up with her eyes, or she reminds me of the camping trips I used to take.

Before my wife enlisted I would go away a couple times a year and camp by myself. I would take that time to be alone in the woods to pray, rejuvenate, contemplate, read, fish and EAT! Contrary to the bearded “hick from the stix” I portray, I am no woodsman. I could illustrate what kind of outdoorsman I am by telling you about my irrational fear of raccoons. Or I could tell you the story about the zombie squirrels I encountered on one camping trip. And then there’s the story of the time a rabbit rustling in the bushes had me standing on a picnic table in the dark with a flashlight that was dying. But those stories are for a different day.

So all of that to say..... Is it any wonder I am all over this commissary issue? I take food serious!
 
Nobody wants to hear “I told you so.” And while few like admitting it, some do enjoy saying “I told you so.” I am one of those few because I am not right often. If you don’t believe me, ask my wife.

So…. I told you so.

I told you that there wasn’t a 30% value in shopping at the commissary. I asked to be proven wrong and no one took me up on it. Now that I went out and did my own legwork and price comparisons, I can firmly stand on what I said. I can firmly say the savings over Walmart is roughly 5%. You may be able to get me up to 10%, but it will be a stretch.

I also told you that most likely the commissary would change the way it does business whether we like it or not. And I would follow that statement up by asking “How will you explain the defeat of the commissary to the troops you rallied around the flag that you planted in the dairy section?”
As of this moment, all signs are pointing to a drastic change in the way the commissary does business. And I share the same thought I know many of you have, “if prices go up and less people shop at the commissary, it will be the beginning of the end to the store.”

A month ago there was no way I could justify planting a flag in the commissary. I couldn’t because I knew the monetary value just wasn’t there. Today, I could plant a flag in the commissary because I am watching the reaction from the people. And while I believe most of our military (especially JR enlisted) could do better shopping off-post, it’s what money can’t buy that could take my passion you see now and use it to your advantage.

The commissary in most instances offers much less monetary value than you say, but you are failing to use it for what it truly offers us, a morale value. There are few better feelings than walking into a grocery store and having it feel like your hometown grocer. All the way down to the staff knowing you by name. A great example is at the Ft Riley commissary in the self-checkout line, the attendant, Rob, knew when Q was with me that I may need an extra set of eyes in case Q would stand in the cart or an extra set of hands for when he would throw things out. Rob and I had such a great connection that on the days I went shopping alone he seemed to share in my joy of shopping alone. I could see it all over his face. He had the same look as me.
I am ready to fight for the commissary but I won’t participate in a fight using DeCA’s numbers. (And I will continue to fight to not allow those numbers to be used). I think the use of DeCA’s numbers are a great example of the oversight, accountability and transparency we crave from our government. DeCA is a government agency that is self-reporting (with use of external auditors) to the government to justify their subsidy. Are they not?

In my eyes…. shining a light on how this system functions could be the beginning to the reform and accountability our DoD budget needs. If we really want transparency, then it has to start with us. It has to start with us telling them that maybe DeCA’s numbers don’t add up to $3,000-$4,500 a year in savings. I believe if you remove the monetary value and use nothing but the morale value, we stand a fighting chance to save it. But how do you backtrack now? How does someone go back and say to Congress “all these years, we may have been wrong”? The answer is simple, you just do it. You just say “it may not be the cost saving grocery store we thought it was, but it means something to us”. You tell them until now, you never had a reason to question DeCA’s numbers. You remind them that your families were too busy fighting wars to compare apples to apples. You tell them the truth. At this point, what other choice do we have? A PX/BX-Commissary merger would be just as bad as anything else they can do to us. It would be a beginning to the end.

The way I see it, the KYP Alliance can choose to be led by one type of Colonel or the other…….








**Special thanks to Rough Cut Men for doing with movies what I try to do with music.**

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dear Walmart Executives: Do you want to get back at the DoD/Gov't?


Dear Walmart Executives,
I was in disbelief when I read last week that the Department of Defense(DoD) requested/ordered you to remove the logos of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Air Force from 18 of your semi-trucks! I guess the only time it is OK to slap a decal of one of the military branch’s to the side of something mobile is when it is turning laps on a racetrack and we are paying over $30,000,000 to put the decals there.

Ironically, I would bet the trucks would log a lot more miles than Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will in his National Guard sponsored NASCAR season.

I know my heading says “do you want to get back at the DoD/Gov’t”, but what I am asking is nothing with malicious intent. It’s just that headlines are what make people read something.

When I think of “America’s store”, I think of Walmart. I am not afraid to say I am a person of Walmart. I may even end up in a People of Walmart video one day. Ya…. I am that kinda guy. I just hope I remember to put my tooth in that day.

To me Walmart is as American as baseball, NASCAR and BBQ’s. So I was not surprised to find out you were doing something to honor our service members, specifically the fallen. And I am appalled at the fact that such an amazingly selfless act to make people think of the sacrifices our military families make was snubbed by the DoD. I mean really, what message did they have a problem with? But these days, little surprises me coming out of our Nation’s capital.
I am writing you because I find myself in a sticky situation with the DoD and our government. I am mixed up in some #BudgetBattle over benefits for our military community. The point of the argument I am engaged in is a government agency, DeCA(Defense Commissary Agency), is trying to say if I shop at their stores(the commissary) I will save 30% on my grocery bill as opposed to shopping at your store.

I never had a reason to question DeCA’s numbers until now(or should I say be vocal about what I think of those numbers). And only now because in the midst of this #BudgetBattle we are justifying $1,000,000,000 in taxpayer money for a service our families deserve. **Key word is deserve**
When this conversation I am in got going I called BS immediately. I have ALWAYS questioned whether shopping at our commissary was “Worth the Trip”. Ever since I became a military spouse four years ago I have split my shopping between your store and my local commissary. I had never seen much of a difference in most things I buy between your store and theirs so I was OK shopping at either at any given time. Plus your stores offer the generic versions of products my “E5 family of 4” relies on to maintain our own budget.

As the conversation progressed I became more and more belligerent towards those who said I would save 30% by shopping at the commissary. (Or depending on what the numbers of the day are- $3,000 or $3,600 or $4,500 annually) I was demanding those people who were touting those numbers to prove me wrong. To show me that I could save anywhere close to the amount they said I could save. Yes, I will admit it….. I was one big fat jerk at times. And maybe that is why no one took me up on that. Or maybe it was because they knew I might be right.
Since no one wanted to prove me wrong, I had to prove myself right. Not because I wanted to say “I told you so” (even though I will say that and do), but because I wanted to know if I was as crazy as everyone was making me out to be. I wanted to know if I could somehow, someway, find enough money to take my family on a family vacation that doesn’t include a 90 minute time-share sales pitch mixed in. So I set out and did my own price comparison between the commissary and three other stores, including yours. And I definitely did NOT find your store to be 30% more expensive than the commissary on exact brand-for-brand items. I only found a 5% difference.

I think since I only had a pen and paper that we can assume I made a minor error somewhere in my calculations. And since I only bought $300 worth of merchandise there needs to be some flexibility in my 5% finding. How about 7.5%? Although I wouldn’t argue if some guy in a suit who used a giant supercomputer told me it was 10%.  
So what do you say your company begins offering a 10% military discount and call it even?

I understand you run a business and need to make a profit so I come to you with not only my problem, but a possible solution. When you “Rollback” your pricing, instead of rolling it back to “$??.98”, roll it back up to “??.99”. I know that’s only a penny, but pennies add up. Trust me I know. I have utilized those Coinstar machines in your stores for a long time. Well, up until my wife joined the Army that is. I told you I was a person of Walmart, didn’t I?
I personally would like to see that 10% discount on all merchandise, but I would understand if you kept it solely to grocery items. Because that is what this all about anyway. The basic need to eat and at an affordable price.

I also would say the 10% number is negotiable since I only found a 5% difference(keep in mind I only have a 6th grade math education though), but 10% is the market norm these days and I would imagine if you guys did this, your competitors would soon follow. But if I were comparing Walmart apples at 10% off to your competitors 10% off apples, I would choose your apples 9 out of 10 times because they are typically less expensive.

I think the most important thing about this proposal is how many people it will effect. Not all military ID card holders live near a commissary and make the drive to the base to shop there. Opening this up to ALL MILITARY ID HOLDERS would lead to hundreds of thousands more veterans/families to the savings we enjoy by shopping at our commissaries.

I could go on and on about this but I will stop here and let you all mull it over a bit. But I hope you act fast so I can have this issue of mine resolved so then I can get back to fighting for the billion dollar subsidy to fund our commissaries. **I bet that leaves you scratching your head**

Sincerely,

Wayne C. Perry

PS…… While I have your attention, I would be remised to not ask on behalf of all military families, all American families and all foreign families who shop at your stores to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE find a way to open more cash registers.

PSS….. Maybe the answer to that could be found with veteran/military spouse employment.

PSSS….. What ya say we paint those semi’s with your new military discount and line us up a good ole convoy?

**This song is dedicated to truck drivers everywhere. Especially those truck drivers in my family. If I had to say what my family legacy was for employment prior to my generation, it would be truck driving. Cousins. Uncles. And my father. Even though military service runs in my blood too. 

So this song is specifically for my father. A man who received his G.E.D.(General Education Diploma) for the sole purpose of enlisting in the US Navy and then when he got off the ship, he jumped behind the wheel of a rig and spent the best part of his life there providing for our family. Until the day, and with a “Good Enough Diploma”, he landed his sore butt in an office in Manhattan, NY as a union man. Representing the little guy.
I guess the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.**

"Rugrat II out."