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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.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dear MOAAPrez: Feel free to cut in if you would like

Dear MOAAPrez,

Well, I figuratively set the music to play #BackWhereIComeFrom, Flagler County, Florida.

I will stand and dance with you and MOAA on the pay raise. That is $250 cash out of my families pockets. And you know as well as I do cash talks and purchasing power walks. OK.... I admit, purchasing power can be a good thing. But the only time I find it to be good is when I am trying to buy something expensive, like a car or house. Other than that, I do just fine spending my own money and knowing how far a dollar can be stretched. But as far as the pay raise thing, ya buddy, I'm right beside you on that. But we do need more help than the 1% target audience you aimed at with your memo. That's why I challenged the community that grew me up to stand for our troops with us. I am really hoping they will look #BeyondTheCountyLines to see that our troops need their support. But more importantly our troops need them to speak for our families. There's just not enough of us to speak for ourselves.

In my last letter to you I told you I don't want to lead. And that is the truth. So I am kind of hoping you (or someone) would consider cutting in to this dance and taking the lead. If you read my last blog post you will have a head start on some community leaders to contact to see if they would help you raise awareness about this issue in our country. I ASSume a good portion of folks don't realize that a large number of our troops are on the verge of having their income levels eclipsed by minimum wage workers. And I think it is safe to ASSume they won't listen to an anus like me when I try to justify this pay raise. God forbid one of them tells me we get huge discounts on food at the commissary, I won't have a leg to stand on. I don't have any credibility to go to those people I mentioned, although for the most part I have been very friendly with all of them. Some could even be counted as friends.

I think it would be good for you to contact my Palm Coast district City Councilman, Jason DeLorenzo. I shot him an email yesterday letting him know I challenged him and told him I could probably put him in touch with you guys at MOAA if he wanted, but why not just have you reach out to him directly?

I did contact each of the folks I mentioned except for one so we shall see what comes of it. I couldn't find an email address for Superintendent of Schools Jacob Oliva so maybe you could also reach out to him. Because of his job I don't know what he could do, but something tells me there is a teachable lesson in here somewhere for the students of Flagler. But let's face it, I'm not the guy who needs to be teaching it.

I'm not sure yet why the event I created hasn't gone viral. I can't figure out if it's me, them or the lack of usefulness by social media activism that is keeping this thing from blowing up. I would dump ice-water on my head but that one's been played out. Maybe a pie in the face would do the trick. I dunno....

Well.... I am off to start my day. A friend let me borrow a car while we get my truck situated so I am all in for Bunco today. I do hope that you will consider contacting some of those folks I mentioned. I would bet any one of them would be honored to hear from you. And you will find they are all great folks too. One of them even used to have a nickname of "POWER PAW". I will bet you a sweet tea and wings that you can't figure out who within 24 hours of me tweeting this blog post to you.

Talk to you soon I hope!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dear Flagler Friends(Old and New): I have a challenge for you

Dear Flagler Friends(Old and New),

Greetings! This is Wayne Perry. I know for many of you we haven't spoken in quite some time but in case you didn't know, my family doesn't live in Flagler anymore, even though we still call it home.

Four and a half years ago my wife, another 20+ year resident, enlisted in the US Army. She, and by extension our family, answered the call to serve our country during a time of war. While I wish I could sit here and tell you it was a purely patriotic and selfless decision for our family, the truth is we were motivated by the economic crisis my family, and Flagler County, was in at the time. I know I don't have to tell y'all how rough things got for us back home. Many of you lost homes, businesses, jobs, marriages and the life as you knew it because of how bad things got for us after the housing market crashed in Palm Coast. Some of you, like my family, scraped and clawed and did what you had to in order to maintain that home you are severely underwater in. Although we aren't living in Flagler we do still have a home there. It's a home that until recently we (OK.... maybe just me) had every intention of coming home to once my wife ended her service. Because of the way the military does things they ask you to list a home of record and Flagler is home for us. 

About four months ago my wife and I decided we wanted to stay where the Army currently has us, The Evergreen State, Washington. I know, talk about cross country and change in climates, right? But it really is wonderful here. We currently live in a city called Graham just beneath Mount Rainier. It's a true site for a flatlander like me. And being the wacked out Wayne you all know who hails from Flagler County, home of Cracker Day, I call myself a Graham Cracker. I really am proud of where I come from. The plan is to transplant those roots we formed in Flagler, a once rural community, to a rural community here. Believe it or not we are going to dabble in agriculture/horticulture work. I don't think we will be planting any cabbage or potatoes, but for me playing in the dirt reminds me of home. Just minus the snakes, spiders, ants, skeeters, gators and a real #FlaglerCountyProblem, Lovebugs. However two nights ago my truck and I found out we have suicidal elk here. And if you didn't know, elk are a bit bigger than the deer we grow in Florida.

The Army and military have been good to my family. I can honestly say in many ways my family has never had it so good. However, it hasn't been easy. In fact, there's been times it has been pretty darn tough and I questioned whether my marriage, my family and even my life would make it through the trials. By the grace of God all are still intact.

We knew what the risks were when my wife made the decision to join the Army. We knew we were a country at war and that she would deploy, but I don't think we had any clue what this life, a military life, really looked like. We were oblivious to the sacrifices our service members and their families make beyond being wounded or killed just by simply living this unique lifestyle. We knew there would be long hours and an unpredictable schedule, as well as holidays and special occasions missed, but nothing could have prepared me for what this life really entailed. Unless you have served, or loved someone while they were serving, it really is hard to understand the depths of the challenges our families face on a regular basis. Just to give you some sort of understanding as to what life looks like for a military family, once my family makes our move later this year our oldest son will have lived in 7 different homes and gone to 6 different schools across 4 different states in under 5 years. Let that sink in for a minute.

As for the challenge........

Service members, and their families, sacrifice a lot. Even those who aren't being wounded or killed are still giving in a way that I believe most Americans don't fully understand. But I think the reason most Americans don't understand is simply because they don't know. I sure didn't know. There is this thing called the military-civilian gap. It is a gap that I didn't know existed until I became a military family member. I thought I was doing my part as an American to support the troops by standing to sing at the ballgame, putting a magnet on my car, attend the parades and memorial ceremonies as well as shake hands and thank a service member/veteran when I could. Honestly, you would be surprised what a handshake and thank you can mean to a service member or veteran when they are offered with sincerity. And a "welcome home" to our Vietnam era vets who weren't ever truly welcomed home. But a handshake and those other things only go so far. Although you may see a service member/veteran moved to tears when the National Anthem plays, there is a good chance those tears are not for the patriotism being expressed there in that large crowd. Instead some of those tears are most likely for the patriotism that veteran was shown on the battlefield as he/she is flooded with memories of the war they lived. Or perhaps those tears are for the war they brought home.

As a military family member it means something to me when I see flags hung outside people's homes or people attending ceremonies and parades to honor our troops. It is a great gesture when someone thanks my wife for her service. It shows me that people do care. That America cares for our troops.

I have come to realize there really is a military-civilian gap. If you ask someone in the military community what causes that gap you may be directed to a quote that made its rounds a few years ago: "America is not at war. America is at the mall. The United States military is at war".

I used to share that quote. I used to believe in it fully. As my family was challenged by what the war was doing to our new military family/community, I was one of those pointing my finger and saying "THEY JUST DON'T CARE!!!". However in the last year or so I have come to realize that Americans really do care, but they just don't know. Until you walk in the boots of a service member (or wash the uniform they wear) it is easy to be unsure of what the military life truly looks like. I believe the average American is uninformed as to the extent of the sacrifices our families make, but I also believe the average military family doesn't know what life outside in real world America looks like either.

I count my family fortunate to have lived a rather full life as a civilian family before my wife enlisted. It has given me a perspective that most of my peer-age-group in the military community don't fully know. For those who are close to my age, 35, these men and women went from being a college-aged kid enlisting to a war hardened military family. My peer-age-group for the most part are career military families. For the last 10+ years they only know this life as adults outside of their parents home or college. So just as the average American citizen is responsible for that military-civilian gap for not knowing military families, military families are also a bit out of touch with what the challenges are on Main St America (or for us, Palm Coast Parkway).

Closing the gap is important. It would do the military community good to understand better what life looks like for the average American because of the challenges being exhibited with veterans trying to reintegrate from a life as a service member to your next door neighbor. But to fully close the gap we need more Americans to have a better understanding of the challenges facing our military families beyond the scope of war. We need for more Americans to be informed. And this is where my challenge really comes in.

I am challenging you Flagler friends (old and new) to help close that gap. And I have a very easy way for you to continue that.

Currently the Department of Defense is overhauling their budget. Included in the overhaul of the budget is some proposed changes to the way our service members are compensated. While I don't want to make this blog post or my challenge about overall compensation, something above my pay-grade, I do want to focus on one main change being proposed by President Obama and some other elected leaders. They are suggesting capping military pay raises at 1% this year as opposed to the previously planned 1.8%.

I think we can all agree that for what we ask our service members to do, in comparison, they are underpaid. In fact if fast food workers get their way the average McDonalds worker will out earn more than 50% of our military service members. Let me say that again...... the average McDonalds worker will out earn more than 50% of our military service members.  If that happens, or anything close to it, what draw will there be for people to join the military and face deployment with fear of being sprayed by bullets when they can run the fry baskets with only the fear of grease splatter?

Our service members are compensated fairly well, not great, but it's a working man's (or woman's) wage. However I think they deserve more. That is why capping this years pay raise at 1% is not the right thing to do. And I don't say that because I am part of the military community, because we won't always be. I say that because the simple fact is our service members deserve a raise. In my eyes a raise much larger raise than the proposed .8% that is being disputed, but that's a different conversation.

For my family the difference in that planned 1.8% raise and the proposed 1% is about $250 for a year. Not much, but that is almost enough for a plane ticket home. But the message it sends our troops is they don't deserve that extra $250. That they aren't worth it. However I assure you they are. They are worth far more to our country than we may be able to put a dollar amount on, especially considering the unstable nature of the world today.

If being informed is the key to supporting our service members than taking action is the door that key fits in. Our military families need you to push on that door a bit and speak for them. For the most part they can't/don't/won't speak for themselves and in the political arena the only voice they (we) have is you. So I am asking you Flagler friends, friends that stretch from The Mondex to The Hammock, from Princess Place down to Old Dixie, Bull Creek Fish Camp to Snack Jacks, The White Eagle to The Golden Lion, From Finns to The Bimini...... I know Flagler is full of people that support our military so I am challenging anyone and everyone to get involved. Like The Ice Bucket Challenge I am going to nominate some people specifically who I know have substantial influence in Flagler Country, but people who also know me/my family:

Jason DeLorenzo, My Palm Coast City Councilman District 3, my next door neighbor to our "Home of Record" that keeps us as registered voters to the community we call home.

Steve Nobile, Palm Coast City Council Candidate District 2, a guy who knew me when I was getting suspended from school for "breaking wind" as well as after my life changed and I became a father for the first time.

Andy Dance, Flagler County School Board Member District 1, I don't know him too well, but our families know each other.

Jacob Oliva, Flagler County Schools Superintendent, I was there in his classroom in his first year of teaching and after years of bowling/working together I got to know him fairly well. And I can honestly say y'all are lucky to have him at the helm. Really lucky.

Trent Schacke, Lead Pastor Epic Church, there are few people who know my heart better.

I would also like to nominate AMVETS Post 113 who helped me raise thousands for military mental health, VFW Post 8696 where I held one of my first jobs(and tried my hand at the Fife and Drum Corps), Palm Coast Lanes (formerly Coquina Lanes) where I grew up and a lot of folks know me from.

The challenge is to help close the military-civilian gap. The key to doing it is being informed. The door that key fits in is the action that needs to be taken when you push the doors open. What's behind those doors is our elected leaders on the National level who need to hear your voices.

So how do you specifically take action to help close the gap? You contact Representative Ron DeSantis(FL06) at 202-225-2706 and Senator Marco Rubio at (202) 224-3041 and Senator Bill Nelson at (202) 224-5274. You give them this message prepared by Military Officers Association of America(MOAA):

I am calling you to urge you to reject the President's recent use of executive authority in his August 29 letter to Congressional leadership to cap the 2015 military pay raise at 1 percent, rather than the 1.8 percent authorized under current law and needed to match the average American's.
This recent directive by the President undercuts military pay comparability with the private sector - a fundamental principle of the all-volunteer force. It is the second consecutive year the President exercised his authority to cap pay.
In 2003, Congress changed the law to tie annual military pay raises to private sector pay growth for good reason. That's because past administrations and congresses kept capping military pay raises below that standard until they damaged recruiting and retention.

We need to learn from that experience, not repeat it.
America is still at war in Afghanistan, and other conflicts threaten to intensify. The nation should not be heaping new financial penalties on the 1 percent of citizens who already have borne 100 percent of our national wartime sacrifice.
Please ensure that our military troops and their families get the same 1.8 percent raise in 2015 that the average American has experienced. Support a 1.8 percent pay raise in the final 2015 defense authorization bill.

I understand all of that is a mouthful and not everyone is willing to pick up the phone or email people on subjects like this so MOAA has made it simple. If you click here you will be redirected to a helpful tool that MOAA uses to send that message directly to our elected officials. All you will need to do is fill in some basic information and click send, you can even do it from your smartphone. You will need to input your address and phone number so the automated messaging MOAA uses will ensure it gets to our representatives in DC, but outside of an automated reply from our elected leaders offices confirming they received your input, nobody will be calling you or showing up to your door. I promise.

I trust MOAA on this specific issue regarding military pay raises. Our service members deserve better and they can't get what they deserve and have earned without your voices standing up for them. Not enough people have served or are serving to speak for them. Our troops are relying on you to look out for them. I hope our elected leaders will have to go on record saying Flagler Country residents were there for our troops and their families. It would be great to hear them say out of nowhere the phones and emails at their offices were blowing up with Flagler Country residents who are standing for our troops. Standing for them like our troops stand for us. Flagler County could be a voice for our nation if enough residents back where I come from and call home get involved.

I have also created an event on Facebook for this in hopes of getting word to more people in Flagler County without them having to read through this entire blog post. If you click here you will be redirected to the event called Flagler County Supporters Of A Military Pay Raise; and I will also be posting the instructions again on how to make your voice heard.

Thank you so much for giving me all you gave me while growing up in Flagler! My family wouldn't be who we are today without many of you.

Love, peace and chicken grease y'all!

 PS..... I hope you don't consider what I am asking you to do as political because I think when it comes to our service members compensation, all politics go to the side. We simply do what's right. And I believe this is right and hope you do too.

PSS.... If you aren't from Flagler you can still fill out the form MOAA created by clicking here.

I really am proud of where I come from.......

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dear MOAAPrez: #ImBackInYo

Dear MOAAPrez,

Ya..... so about walking away..... I just can't do it. If I quit "this time", I may as well shave my beard before the time I said I was going to do it. Because yes, there is a dedicated time when it will come off. It isn't something more than my wife simply gave me permission to grow it. It really is as simple as that.

Anyway..... rather than rehash my reasons for coming back in my typical babble fashion, I am going try something different. So without further ado here are my 5 reasons for rejoining the conversation:

5- Prove I'm not crazy: OK.... if we ask my wife, she will confirm I am a wee bit off. But I'm not crazy for believing that for a very large portion of our troops, especially the JR Enlisted, do not stand to lose as much as you and DeCA reported. So let's just squash those numbers of yours and move on.

4- Reform the commissary: I hate to say it like this but the commissary benefits Officers(and retirees) the most. It very well may save your family as much as reported, but families like mine rely heavily on generic/store brands. The commissary in its current form has room to do better to guide troops to better financial decisions through the way they shop. #WeCanDoBetter

3- I want to join the Spouses Club: The hardest thing for me to write in my last open letter to you was that I was giving up on "being the change I want to see". I am nearly ashamed for having said that. It isn't what I believe. I want to assure you I am not going to try to be a leader, I have learned I am not one. And I can give you a very long list of people who could confirm that if you would like. But I do get warm and fuzzy inside when I head of another guy stepping out of his comfort zone and himself attempting to be the change that he personally wants to see.

2- Suicide Awareness Month: 11 months ago I brought a suicidal combat Marine veteran and current military spouse to our local MTF's ER. Within 4 hours the person was discharged. By the time I got home I was irate. I wanted to raise my voice at that time, but I was scared to. I let out a few yells for help in advocating that something like this should never happen again, and the consensus amongst the people who tried helping was "There's not much we can do about it." I accepted that and I shouldn't have. So now you have got all my pent up frustration from that incident.

And the NUMBER ONE REASON I am reentering this conversation is BUNCO!!!

You read that right, Bunco.

I have been a military spouse for 4.5 years and I have never played Bunco but I really want to. Our spouses club is having a Bunco luncheon here in the near future and I want to be able to walk in there with my head held high and get my #anus handed to me by a bunch of cut-throat women(or so I have heard some can be when playing-in the best ways possible of course). When I saw the flier for Bunco I thought that sounds fun, but I would have to go against what I previously said to make it happen or just not play. And if I didn't play, I would lose my joy. And I don't want to lose my joy.

Sincerely, (as my parents called me)
Wayne the Pain

PS.... by the time this is over I may just call for you to have to grow a beard. I would let you use the excuse of NoShave November if you wanted.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dear MOAAPrez: My Exit Speech

Dear MOAAPrez,

In case you were unaware social media arguments usually end with someone making an exit speech. And being that my part, and seemingly the majority of this extremely important #BudgetBattle conversation, takes place on social media, well, you get an exit speech, sir.

I spent the better part of the weekend debating whether I should give up on this conversation or not. On Friday evening I was confidant that I was going to walk away, with my head hung low I might add, but by Saturday I had convinced myself there was no way I was going to quit. I had decided I wasn't going to give you my voice. But after a couple more days of careful consideration, I'm out, yo.

The funny thing about my role in this conversation is it is like nearly every other argument I have in life, if I only listened to my wife to begin with things wouldn't have gotten so out of hand.

I entered this conversation like a banshee almost 6 months ago to the day. It wasn't long after my wife said something to the effect of "Why are you getting so worked up? You and I both know the commissary isn't really cheaper than Walmart and if we shopped there even semi exclusively we would go broke. So why are you going to let it get to you if you already know this?"

 I didn't know how to explain it then, but I do now, I think.

When Keep Your Promise got going the intent was to make sure promises were kept to our military families. We were told we were going to start standing up to folks to ensure accountability and transparency. We weren't going to allow Congress to "Balance the budget on the backs of our troops" or to use sneaky partisan tactics to have benefits stripped away from our families. But then we did the same thing we accuse them of. What infuriated me was how can we say we want transparency and honesty from them if they aren't getting it from us? And I kinda got a feeling some other folks got fed up with things too.

 You may not like the way I have carried myself in this conversation, but what other choice did I have? I tried from day one to get our community leaders to not make the mistake of using those skewed numbers. I am sure I didn't use the right words when making my case from the start, but I think people tend to give me too much credit for what they think I can and can't do. But that doesn't excuse folks from not admonishing your findings in regards to the amount of purchasing power our families stood to lose. Your organization testified a very specific number to our government. A number that the government themselves use (and created). While I have come to expect fudging of numbers by our elected and appointed leaders it blew me away that we could even consider doing the same. It is what we were going to fight against. And it made me wonder what other numbers have been presented improperly. Larry Korb was pretty certain your numbers in reference to retirement weren't the whole story.  Where else were you guys feeding me the commissary koolaid?

Now I understand you may actually see a significant savings from the commissary, quite possibly thousands of dollars per year, but I don't believe the bulk of our force shops like you.

My absolute favorite hashtag that I came up with during this conversation was #WeAllPoopTheSame. The reason it is my favorite is because of how true it is. No matter who you are, your crap stinks on occasion. Even the hottest of celebrities can blow up a bathroom. Which if you think about the fact that even the most noble and honorable and proper people got to sit on the pot from time to time to drop a deuce you begin to realize that we were in fact all created equal. However something else this conversation has taught me is that although #WeAllPoopTheSame, what we poop out isn't always the same. I doubt you have any clue what it is like to get the Gwaltney Hot Dog Squirts. Although I would guess in your early days you could relate with some of the stuff you ate at the chow hall or mess tent or whatever y'all Navy folks call it. Galley isn't it?

I have come to realize my wife, and many others, were so very right... we don't all shop the same. But I have to wonder who is closer to understanding the average service members shopping habits, you and those leading the way who haven't had to pinch pennies or truly budget to feed your family in quite some time(if ever), or me who with every swipe of the debit card wonders if I should put something back or if I really need what I am buying?

Who do you think knows better of what an E5 family of 4 can save, me or you? Me or DeCA? And what income level do the majority of our troops come in at?

Using DeCA's numbers against the government was pretty slick. Honestly, it is something I would have done myself. Because yes I can do some shady stuff. I'm no alter boy by any stretch of the imagination and I know you are a much better man than I (as are the people around you). But I can't help but to think that just this once y'all compromised yourselves. In reality, you stooped to my level. A place I didn't expect y'all to go. I knew assholes like me(there I said it) can't always be counted on, but I didn't expect it from those who were inspiring me to be a better man. I didn't expect it from those leading from the front. Like I said, I had thought this was what we were standing up to. I had thought better of our leaders.

I think the most disappointing part for me has been that as wrong as I have been, not a single person has attempted to dismiss my numbers. In fact, someone from your organization told me from the beginning "well we never really had a reason to question the numbers before now".

Yet here we are today and you still haven't scrutinized your own numbers. Nor has anyone else even though the former DeCA chief said those numbers weren't accurate.

I did what I was supposed to. I contacted my advocates. I contacted my Congressman. I contacted the MCRMC. I contacted DeCA(although I was an extra big #Anus in that email). I contacted just about anyone I could. I even took surveys just so I could say I tried being the change I want to see. But no more.

I want to make it clear that I am not accusing you of taking my voice away from me. You didn't put me on mute and you have even afforded me the chance to air my grievances. But I am done. I give up. I concede. I relent. It's just not worth it.

Two weeks ago I went to a meeting where the VP of Promise Keepers(PK-not KYP) was recruiting people to assist them in letting our community know of an event coming this way next year(ironically the theme is a military theme about battle lines). Promise Keepers has a very special place in my heart and I used to dream about assisting them in their mission to reach men (PK is where my heart for men was born). What they were looking for was more or less advocates to go to the local churches and get the leaders of those churches to buy back into what PK once was. It was quite literally something I longed for, but as I prayed about whether I should do it or not I knew I couldn't. As several folks have pointed out to me I have lost all my credibility. At this point, I am much more crazy than correct and PK doesn't need a guy like me contaminating their fields. And truthfully, neither does anyone else.

I have an awesome story about a cop who pulled me and a friend over many, many years ago while we were smoking a doobie. Of course we tried hiding it but he found it. I won't bore you with the details but I will share with you what he told me that was completely random and out of the blue, but some of the most everlasting and effective words I have ever heard. He told me to "get back to your community".

I have spent countless hours meditating over what "get back to your community" means. When I find myself in a position that is not good for me, I always go back to those words to see what they mean. And usually the phrase means something different depending on the situation.

I don't exactly know yet what "get back to your community" means for me here and now, but I do believe it means I need to for the most part walk away from the military community, specifically the military spouse community. I won't carry on the charade anymore. Because that is what this has been, a charade. Well, an anti-charade since a true charade is supposed to be pleasant and respectful. Two things I have not been in this conversation.

I believe I am right about how wrong your numbers are. And I know as long as I believe that I don't have anything truly positive to offer our community. Nor can I know who to trust in our community since I am the only one who believes your numbers aren't accurate. So from where I am standing, it will do us all better if I just take a hike.

Don't take what I am saying wrong. I will still attend FRG meetings(when they actually happen or I actually get invited-and not an hour before the meeting). I will still meddle in a few things, but for the most part you can stick a fork in me, that's how done I am. I won't be able to change my nature to where I can overlook people I can help, but I am not going to go out of my way any longer to try to be that change I want to see. No more spouses clubs or pushing people towards ACS(unless we are speaking on a personal level) or similar things. And I can guaran-damn-tee I will not be filling out any more survey's. I think y'all have come to rely on those so much you are redefining slacktavism. Surveys are well and good and all, but they should only be used as a snippet/feel into things. A VERY SMALL SNIPPET. They should not be used to dictate what could perhaps be the most important budget in all of the budgets in America. Well, at least not when they are collecting such a limited number of voices. And chances are, the same voices are being captured over and over again.

It's been real. It's been fun. But it hasn't been real fun.

Love, Peace and Chicken Grease!

PS...... Tell Jeremy he owes me a beard.

PSS..... Since you guys at MOAA are big on spouse employment, can you guide me towards an organization that wants to not only helps veterans make a transition to some sort of farming, but their spouses too? We aren't sure exactly when my wife will get out but we don't want to leave the area and we want to open a farm/nursery but she doesn't have the time to be on the phone or connecting via email with folks about how to make the transition smooth. She's busy with work about 16 hours a dad and doesn't have the time available to devote to it. Plus, like military life, farming is a family affair so to teach me, the spouse could equally as valuable.

PSSS..... I asked my wife back in February/March if between my role in the budget conversation and the greenhouse I built if I was becoming like Evan Almighty. Any guess what she said?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Dear MOAAPrez: Words are weapons

Dear MOAAPrez,

Do you remember Myspace? I am sure you sort of remember it but in its peak I am guessing you were doing something much more important than viewing the next phase in our evolution of social media. If I had to guess you were, oh I don't know, fighting a war and leading our nations warriors. And if you weren't doing that, I am sure you were serving in some other way. So I am going to assume you didn't spend too much time messing around over there where the DuckFace first became popular, but you know what they say about assuming, right?

I had a Myspace account. Ironically it is how I met my wife. Well, met her again. We grew up together in the same small community but our paths went separate ways some time in middle school.

Myspace was also my first introduction for blogging. I had always enjoyed writing but even I sometimes had a hard time reading what I wrote. So when I bought my 1st computer, in like 2005, I  found out I could pour my heart out into a blog. I have always been one with a lot to say, to a fault even. It is one of my worst attributes. One I have been working on for a long time but no matter how many times someone says "think before you speak", it just doesn't work.

I am reminded of a story in the bible from Romans 7. Paul says "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." That is the only way I can explain what it is like to not be able to withhold my words. But you may be surprised by the amount of restraint I have learned to have over my tongue over these last 4 years as a military spouse despite my recent behavior.

I have known for quite some time that my words are weapons, so much so that my Myspace blog was named Words Are Weapons. I named it that not because I was trying to be someone who used his words to harm, but so I would be reminded that with my words I must be mindful of what I say. I basically came up with it over another passage in the bible; James 3:1-12. I would go ahead and share more about that with you, but 2 things that typically shouldn't be talked too openly about are religion and politics. At least those were the rules where I grew up.

I would say the single biggest reason I never enlisted in the military is because I know I can't keep my trap shut. Anyone who knows me knows I severely lack a filter. That is what makes writing so appealing to me. I can stop and think before I say something. And if I say something I probably should think twice of, I can go back and delete it before I post it. But if I post something that I will regret, I almost always leave it up as it was written anyway. Simply because I do believe in accountability for what one says.

I will be the first one to admit that I have said some things I regret during this budget conversation. But when you are just one person who is asking for true transparency and accountability, you have to have a very loud voice. And you have to say some very harsh things. As I have mentioned previously, the harshest and most bitter truth is still more honorable than the sweetest and kindest lie/falsetruth.

From the very beginning I knew the way this was all going to go. I knew that the longer this got drawn out the louder I would get and the stronger my words would become. I knew my words would also be more pointed and direct. It is why I pleaded with you (and others) to help me exit this conversation as quickly as possible. Someone asked me if I was "hell bent" on making my statement on this issue regarding the commissary. Of course I denied it, but deep down I know there is a sliver of truth to the fact that I am. But saying "hell bent" is what throws me off. I would prefer to say I am set in the truth.

In case I need to remind you of the truth as I see it let me try to be clear:

MOAA says an E5 family of 4 with 10 yrs service will lose something in the neighborhood of $5,000 per year if the current budget went through. Approximately $3,000 of that if the commissary lost its subsidy.

I contend that the DoD and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were correct with their recommendation for the commissary subsidy to be cut because our families don't stand to lose anywhere near $3,000 per year if they were forced to shop at stores like Walmart which are assumedly available outside nearly every major CONUS military installation. While Walmart may have a slightly higher price on some products, that store CLEARLY gives our service members the most purchasing power, dollar for dollar.

I believe that it is a disservice to continue to tell our troops that the commissary is "worth the trip". Many young families come in to the military life with no shopping experience and they are given the commissary "juice"/"koolaid" to drink telling them to shop there. If E1-E6 makes up over half our force, then the average service member is one of these individuals. And I can assure you, as I did Sergeant Major Barret, your "average" E1-E6 is not saving(or adding to their budget) what your organization and DeCA is reporting.

For my E5 family of 4(4 yrs of service) I estimate our yearly savings at the commissary to be zero dollars and zero cents. In fact, if I did the majority of my shopping at the commissary, it would cost me considerably more to feed my family. I still shop there for bulk items and meat(so I don't have to shop sale ads which are often cheaper-it's the convenience factor).

But you know all of those things as I have said them every way possible. Yet you still remain firm in telling our elected leaders that if the commissary loses its funding our military families will suffer considerably in their wallets. Now sir, I understand Walmart may not be the type of place for a guy like you, but it is safe to say most of our Jr Enlisted would be much better served if you would stop serving them the partisan politicking hot sauce.

And if you really break things down I think we can definitely link a challenge to the transition of our veterans into the civilian world being attributed to not knowing how to shop for generics or where to get the best deal. Towing the company line regarding the commissary hurts our military families.

I understand you want to win this budget battle. During the MOAA Townhall that kicked this thing off you all were VERY clear that "our military families are under attack"(or something close to that). Every time I see a talking head or a press report these days I hear all about how President Obama is trying to eliminate unicorns by stabbing them with ivory tusks and the Joint Staff is on a constant bender while Congress is..... well..... some of those reports might be right.

The one thing I can't get over is what people have said to me throughout my twitter tirade and blog back talk and facebook frenzy. I kept being told "Wayne, it's not what you are saying that is wrong, it's how you are saying it."

Can I let you in on a secret, sir? I don't have the right words. I am not a leader. I learned that by constantly falling on my face as I tried to be an advocate for male spouses. I learned that I don't possess the qualities it takes to be a real leader. A leader from the front. Real leaders truly empower others for doing great things. A real leader doesn't instigate trouble or act like an anus. Which I am doing as I follow suit of those leading these discussions. While I am not a complete anus, I know I can be one. If I were a complete anus, I would use a more colorful word to describe myself. A word I am sure you want to call me by now that means the same thing as anus.

I understand the trendy thing to do these days is to manipulate and bend words for ones own causes gain, but that's not the way it is supposed to be. Especially not for our families.

No matter what news source you look at someone is always taking a side. As an example just this weekend I read back to back headlines from major news sources that read like this:

Hamas turns down Israel's peace treaty.

Followed by.....

Israel turns down Hamas' peace treaty.

Everyone has an agenda and I understand that. But when it comes to tax payer money paying for our countries most valuable asset, our service members, there is no room for anything partisan. Even though the commissary can be sometimes good for our families, it isn't nearly as valuable as many other things. Especially not when (correct me if I am wrong) only 22% of our force lives on military installations.

The commissary is great, but as far as cash in the pocket, it doesn't add much(if any). So if it isn't considerably cheaper than Walmart, why would you and DeCA advertise it as such? I mean really, when you walk in the commissary doors they list their competitors prices by saying Store A and Store B. You and I both know Store A is over priced and Store B is too. Why not start advertising Walmarts prices? I am guessing because 12 packs of coke are usually cheaper at Walmart and it wouldn't be good for business.

So far in this budget battle the commissary is seemingly getting spared while our service members are losing actual honest to goodness cold hard cash by losing money from BAH and the 1.8% raise that will go down to 1%. That is cash out of our families pockets that can't be made up.  That's not a fair trade in this current economy. And this whole fiasco may be why so many civilians think military folks get free food. You are telling America that if they give our troops $1,000,000,000 that our troops save 30% off their grocery bill. It sounds justifiable, but its wrong.

I wish I could say I was totally exiting this conversation, but I don't think I am. Not yet. I am afraid if I do that I will give up on believing our leaders are by and large great people, yourself as well. But people all the same who sometimes forget......

I can't tell you what your next move should be. Besides encouraging you to use your community leaders to mimic what the MCRMC is doing. I don't see you ever admitting that "the commissary isn't always worth the trip, but it means something to us" because you would lose a lot of face if you had to tell Congress and the American people that our service members are better served shopping elsewhere. But can you continue to maintain towing the company line?

Maybe one day I will tell you what is motivating me on all this. Cuz it really isn't the price of tea in the commissary.

Love, peace and chicken grease!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dear Mr. Cuban: I am sorry.

Dear Mr. Cuban,

I will attempt to keep this short and sweet as well as excluding poor attempts at humor. **sidenote, upon editing I realized this isn't short and sweet. But not too many poor attempts at humor.**

I am sorry for having written that letter to you asking for a loan. The truth is, #MyFamilyNeverHadItSoGood and we are already #LivinTheDream.

I am confidant that we can make a move to change our lifestyle here in the near future without your assistance. We are very fortunate in life because of how frugal we are and after discussion with my wife and a good conversation with a lender, we can go all in. OK, maybe not all in, but at least up to our wastes. You know, right about that spot where the cold water starts hitting your......... sorry, I said no poor attempts at humor.

The truth is because of the tough times financially our lives started out in, we have made good choices along the way. We have somehow managed to keep the two homes we left in Florida afloat as well as purchase another along the way. Although we know selling now would cost us tens of thousands of dollars, at some point we all have to take the plunge.

We are holding out hope that we will figure out a way to finance a 4th home without selling any of the others, but we really don't want to give up the quality of life we enjoy to live in a less than desirable home. Mind you, I am OK living in a trailer. There ain't nuttin wrong with living in a home that gets delivered. So don't think I am being too prissy. We simply don't want to share a bathroom or get too close. All of us like our space.

It wasn't until I thought about the type of home we desire that really made me realize how selfish I was asking for a loan. Of course it was a loan and not a handout, but I know there are tens of thousands of Americans who are a helluva lot more hardworking than I am who are being held back and aren't #LivinTheDream. There are families who can't afford a hotel room for the night let alone have it as well as I do.

My wife's service to our country has been rewarded well. Although it's not as well as those guys you snap towels with, it is a modest living that affords us much more than many Americans. Now you won't see me attending any of your games unless my kid really needs a father/son moment or the tickets are free, but we do OK. Enough to also afford me staying home with the kids. But in a way I can almost view her service, and my families service, as us repaying our debt to America.

Unlike nearly ALL military families, my family was in fact indebted to the government in my eyes. For the better part of my adult life I used government assistance. Whether it was for my kids births, the one's enormous hospital bills when he was young and sick all the time or the food stamps we received. My country was there for me. So in hindsight I now see our time in this life as repaying our debt.

**While I am speaking of debts to society, I believe it is important to say that I am only speaking for me and mine right now. This country and the people in it, myself included, owe a great deal to a whole lot of people. Most especially to those who gave a little more than the average service member. We must not forget that there were promises made that can't be broken.**

My wife and I had a more or less 7-10 year plan when this journey began. Right from the onset we learned what is to me the most valuable lesson the Army taught us, adapt and overcome. We have adapted to all of the changed plans and overcome many obstacles. Although we aren't on that 7-10 year plan anymore, we still have a dream and the means to achieve it. It would have been nice to be handed like 500k with great terms, but, nothing great is ever easy. *That's my motto for marriage too.*

There are so many other people you could help who need it more than I. And you already do so much more than I give you credit for. Sometimes jealousy blinds me from thinking how much you rich folk do for us when we aren't looking. So while I am at it, I am sorry for that too.

I wish you well in the future and although I may never be a Mavs fan, I will always be cheering you on. I will forever remember you as the owner who lures free agents with a game of wiffle ball in the living room of your mansion. I don't know if that story is even true but it is how I have always thought of you.

Wayne C. Perry

PS..... I just gotta know, when you are hanging out with the superstars of the NBA or your buddies, do you guys still make jokes about bowel movements and talk about farting? Or is my circle of guys really that many classes below? Is the key to being successful to stop telling fart jokes?

**Don't take it personal that I didn't add a song. I simply can't think of one. My brain is fried from a lot of writing tonight but I couldn't put this off anymore. It's been bothering me for a couple days already.**

Saturday, May 31, 2014


HERE'S SOME MONEY TO SAVE THE COMMISSARY..... and do a few other things along the way.

A reenlistment option for the service member(SM) and their family to stay at their current duty station for the term of their new contract and forfeit their final PCS upon their ETS.

As an incentive, offer either a $10k cash bonus or an additional $20+k of "purchasing power" on top of their VA loan or a federally funded loan at a lower interest rate than national norms or........ I will let actual educated people decide.

Now you may be wondering why offer an incentive? The answer is simple, we want our SM's to transition well out of the service. And what better way to do that than allow them to set up some roots in the communities they are sent to?

Now you may be wondering aren't I the guy who wants to cut personnel costs...... and you are right. I do. I think they are out of hand. But if you understand the costs associated with moving a SM and their family you know that a simple PCS can be tens of thousands of dollars. The government once paid my family a couple grand to move like 3 miles. ***And no.... even though I was urged by many to put bags of concrete in the truck to add weight to it, I didn't.*** If I had to pull a number out of my derriere I would say a PCS has to cost the government at least $15k for an E5 family of four. But I am only assuming that number so don't make an ass out of you and me and take it as gospel. I am enough of an anus for everyone.

Not only would it save the DoD money by not having to PCS a service member, they would also save money on the final PCS upon the SM's ETS. **BAZINGA!** An easy $30 grand per service member family that uses this retention option.

Let's say conservatively that 1,000 troops sign up for this. That's $30,000,000. Add in the $53 million from not funding professional sports and simply asking professional sports to help us carry this burden, and BAM! BOOM! POW! POP! We are on our way to funding the commissary.

Maybe the duty station the SM is at isn't the one they want to stay at. So maybe they only get half of the incentive if they waive their ETS PCS. There are a lot of folks who want to retire to a duty station they were once at.

I dunno.... I am just some dude. I don't have a big calculator or nuttin like dat. Maybe it isn't cost effective.

While the monetary gain could be significant the benefit to a transitioning service member and their family could be literally priceless. Not only could the family establish roots for both the SM's career after the military, but it would help spouse employment as well.

Of course there is the benefit of the children knowing they can finally call some place home as well. For many it may be the first time.

In addition to the laying roots idea, any service members who are wounded(mentally or physically) can have a community already in place around them should they need care after service.

Not only would our veterans who could truly use the extra camaraderie get it after their service is over, so could any military family. Down to every last brat. Considering many of these brats would like to follow in their parents footstep, that's a pretty neat bonus.

Finally, for good measure, let's throw into that 'retention incentive package' a lifetime access card to the commissary.

I want to reiterate, I am not preaching the gospel here. I am just throwing stuff out there. Cuz that's what I do. I throw stuff out there. Even if it means slinging some crap. Crap is often times useful in creating good soil. There are a lot of variables to what I suggested but I bet it would pass the sniff test based on how practical it is. The one thing I can't figure out is how to make it fair for people living OCONUS who don't want to live in another country. The one's that want to come home.

Times are changing folks. I believe in change. I think if there is one thing Americans can agree on they can agree on President Obama's change. One portion of them believe in the change he promised and the other portion believes in the change that President Obama will bring in 2016. Me? I am just gonna be a twit and write some blogs and grow some vegetables and flowers.

Love, peace and chicken grease!