Do a quick online search for military discount or military offer and thousands and thousands of webpages come up.
And it’s not just restaurants or retails stores, car rentals, apartment rentals, colleges and car dealerships all offer special pricing and discounts for active duty service members, veterans, National Guard and military spouses.
Add in our medical coverage, housing pay, debt relief, and educational and retirement benefits, and it’s not hard to see why some feel that service members and their families receive too many special privileges and considerations.
But even though we know more than anyone that these benefits and privileges are earned by our service members, it can be disheartening when we find ourselves in the crosshairs of public opinion.
Often when these arguments are raised, we feel like we are standing on the other side of some kind of cultural divide.
Can the average American truly appreciate our way of life?
Can they understand why these special provisions are available for military families?
At the same time, we must consider our own motivations. Are we asking for too much?
The Difference Between Benefits and Privileges
To those who think we are, as a community, overpaid and over-privileged, a quick review of the difference between benefits and privileges is in order.
The housing, educational, retirement and medical benefits are just that – benefits.
Just like any other job, these benefits are part of the total compensation package offered by an employer to an employee upon the acceptance of a position.
Yes, these benefits are funded by federal taxes, a system our community also pays into, but any American who chooses to apply and accept a position in the military is entitled to receive them.
These things are not privileges, they are earned compensation.
That being said, it is important to understand that there is a limit to these benefits. I’ve heard military spouses complain about the military not paying for an airline ticket home for a funeral or about how school loan debt for dependents should be forgiven.
While arguments could be made for additional benefits in both cases, the truth is, the military isn’t a I-want-it-so-give-it-to-me free for all. We cannot simply expect that our every need and want be subsidized by the American taxpayer.
The U.S. military is not a welfare state. We must be careful about considering ourselves to be a community more deserving than others. We are no more American than our civilian neighbors.
Benefits earned should be benefits received. Everything else is on us to manage.
All Those Military Discounts
While most businesses offering a military discount do so as a way to give back and say thank you, let’s not lose sight of the fact that it is still a marketing technique used to attract customers.
The U.S. military community is fairly unique as far as our spending habits are concerned. Job security offers our community of consumers the ability to spend more than their civilian counterparts in many areas. Offering a discount attracts customers from the million plus strong military community.
It’s no different than offering a discount to those who have student ID or are over 55 years old.
And when you consider that a lot of military folks I know tend to spend more when there is a military discount offered or leave bigger tips, any military discount is funneled right back into the economy.
Despite the stereotypes, members of the military community aren’t cheapskates. We’re not sitting at home hoarding all the savings we get from military discounts.
A Community Apart?
We are a community unlike any other in that we exist because our nation demands a strong and professional military. And while our role as citizens is unique, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are part of much larger whole and should continue to serve our country with grace and humility.
We must not close ranks, but instead remain open and engaged in the conversation about the future of this country, including its military.
After all, while long and distinguished, even a career of service in the military must come to an end. And we will need to cross that cultural divide and rely on the strength and acceptance of our civilian communities to help us make that transition.