Say It Ain't So, Shirley!
Date Added: Feb. 1, 2003
Who would be a better commentator on military wages than the lovable star of a 1970's TV show? Right? Written at the apex of a long-period of peace, this rebuttal to an editorial that the military is paid too much is a terrible case of mistaken identity.
Pride Military Pride - PASS IT ON
Here's one that will make you proud to serve!!
On 12 Jan, Ms Cindy Williams (from Laverne and Shirley TV show) wrote a piece for the Washington Times denouncing the pay raise(s) coming to service members' way this year, citing that the stated 13% wage gap was bogus.
A young airman from Hill AFB responds to her article below. He ought to get a bonus for this!
I just had the pleasure of reading your column of 12 Jan, "Our GIs earn enough" and I am a bit confused. Frankly, I'm wondering where this vaunted over-payment is going, because as far as I can tell, it disappears every month between DFAS (The Defense Finance and Accounting Service) and my bank account. Checking my latest leave and earnings statement (LES), see that I make $1,117.80, before taxes. After taxes, I take home $ 874.20. When I run that through Windows' Calculator, I come up with an annual salary of $13,413 60 before taxes, and $10,490.40 after.
I work in the Air Force Network Control Center (AFNCC), where I am part of the team responsible for the administration of a 25,000-host computer network. I am involved with infrastructure segments, specifically with Cisco Systems equipment. A quick check under jobs for Network technicians in the Washington, D.C. area reveals a position in my career field, requiring three years experience with my job. Amazingly, this job does NOT pay $13,413.60 a year, nor does it pay less than this. No, this job is being offered at $70 000 to $80,000 per annum. I'm sure you can draw the obvious conclusions.
Also, you tout increases to Basic Allowance for Housing and Basic Allowance for Subsistence (housing and food allowances, respectively) as being a further boon to an already overcompensated force. Again, I'm curious as to where this money has gone, as BAH and BAS were both slashed 15% in the Hill AFB area effective in January 00.
Given the tenor of your column, I would assume that you have NEVER had the pleasure of serving your country in her armed forces. Before you take it upon yourself to once more castigate congressional and DOD leadership for attempting to get the families in the military's lowest pay brackets off AFDC, WIC, and food stamps, I suggest that you join a group of deploying soldiers headed for Saudi- I leave the choice of service branch up to you.
Whatever choice you make, though, opt for the SIX month rotation: it will guarantee you the longest possible time away from your family and friends, thus giving you full "deployment experience". As your group prepares to board the plane, make sure to note the spouses and children who are saying good-bye to their loved ones. Also take care to note that several families are still unsure of how they'll be able to make ends meet while the primary breadwinner is gone-obviously they've been squandering the vast piles of cash the DOD has been giving them.
Try to deploy over a major holiday; Christmas and Thanksgiving are perennial favorites. And when you're actually over there, sitting in a DFP (Defensive Fire Position, the modern-day foxhole), shivering against the cold desert night, and the flight sergeant tells you that there aren't enough people on shift to relieve you for chow, remember this: trade whatever MRE you manage to get for the tuna noodle casserole or cheese tortellini, and add Tabasco to everything.
Talk to your loved ones as often as you are permitted; it won't nearly be long enough or often enough, but take what you can get and be thankful for it. You may have picked up on the fact that I disagree with most of the points you present in your op-ed piece. But tomorrow from Sarajevo, I will defend to the death your right to say it.
You see, I am an American fighting man, a guarantor of your First Amendment rights and every other right you cherish. On a daily basis, my brother and sister soldiers worldwide ensure that you and people like you can thumb your collective nose at us, all on a salary that is nothing short of pitiful and under conditions that would make most people cringe. We hemorrhage our best and brightest into the private sector because we can't offer the stability and pay of civilian companies. And you, Ms. Williams, have the gall to say that we make more than we deserve?
A1C Michael Bragg
IF YOU AGREE, PLEASE PASS THIS ALONG TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE AND SHOW YOUR SUPPORT OF THE AMERICAN FIGHTING MEN AND WOMEN.
THIS LETTER SHOULD BE APPLAUDED BY ANYONE WHO'S EVER SERVED OR HAD A FAMILY MEMBER SERVE IN THE ARMED FORCES! THIS YOUNG MAN DESERVES A MEDAL!!!!
Michael Bragg contacted BreakTheChain.org to set the record straight and clear up some mistakes in the popular chain e-mail version of his letter. He wrote the piece in response to an article in the January 12, 2000 Washington Post (not the Washington Times) titled "Our GI's Earn Enough." The author was not Cindy Williams of Laverne and Shirley fame, but rather Dr. Cindy Williams, Ph.D, a senior fellow at MIT. The misidentification of Williams and the misattribution to the Times have been added as the note circulates.
It was never Bragg's intention to become an "armchair activist." He wrote the letter for two readers: Dr. Williams and Bragg's father. Bragg suspects his father liked the response so much that he forwarded it to a few colleagues, who in turn forwarded it to theirs, and thus a chain letter was born.
The numbers Airman Bragg presented were accurate for the low end of military pay in early 2000. As he points out:
"If you note in my signature, my rank at the time was Airman 1st Class (A1C), an E-3, which is a typical rank for someone who is on their first (and for me only) tour of enlistment. Nonetheless, the job position in the civilian sector which I pulled from Monster.com was for an equivalent set of requirements as the job I was doing at Hill Air Force Base. Because the two meshed so closely, I feel that the comparison of salaries is indeed a fair one."
Bragg points out further errors that have cropped up as his letter circulates:
"The first occurs in paragraph 5 of my original letter. Although BAH was cut in the Hill Air Force Base area for FY '00, BAS was not, and I didn't claim that it was. Someone else must have added it along the way.
"The second variation occurs in paragraph 9, in the third and final sentence of that paragraph. Initially, the sentence was, 'But, to borrow from Voltaire, I will defend to the death your right to say it.' I have subsequently learned that I misattributed my paraphrase of the quote to Voltaire, when in fact it was S.E. Tallentyre who first made the statement. Over time the sentence has changed from 'But, tomorrow from Voltaire...' to 'But, tomorrow from Sarajevo...' to its latest incarnation 'But, tomorrow from Kabul....' This is most troubling to me, as I never deployed to Sarajevo, and was no longer in the Air Force when the current conflict began."
Many, after hearing that this is a case of False Attribution Syndrome, aren't particularly concerned that Williams the actress was wrongfully accused. Let's face it, on some base level, we want to believe that actors and actress are so removed from reality and comfortable in their ivory towers that they wouldn't understand the sacrifices our fighting men and women make. Another argument is that somebody made those comments - be it an actress or a researcher - so the letter is still justified and should be forwarded. After all, what can it hurt?
Since being wrongly accused of writing the original article, Williams the actress has been getting hate mail, threatened and otherwise harassed for things she never said. She's especially distraught by these accusations since she is, in reality, a strong supporter of the military. Bragg has contacted her to apologize for the mixup, but the calls and letters continue to roll in.
So, we have a case of mistaken identity, unauthorized forwarding of an author's work, and very negative consequences being delivered on parties who don't deserve them. All this from a "harmless" chain letter. Break this chain!
References: Snopes.com, Washington Post Article, Dr. Williams' Bio