The headline read, “After a decade of lavish benefits, the military fears budget cuts.”
The article, written by David Wood, was originally posted on The Huffington Post website on Jan. 30. The headline was changed earlier this week to “Defense budget faces cuts to personnel after decade of war.”
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines lavish as: expending or bestowing profusely; marked by profusions or excess. The dictionary lists synonyms such as: exorbitant, extravagant, extreme, fancy, insane and excessive.
The military community responded quickly and with passion. Many opposed Wood’s depiction of the military lifestyle as “lavish.”
At the beginning of his article, Wood wrote, “For more than a decade, Congress and the Pentagon have lavished money on the nation’s 1.3 million active-duty troops and their families. Salaries and benefits soared far above civilian compensation, military bases and housing were refurbished, support services like day care, family counseling and on-base college courses were expanded.”
Social media sites exploded with outrage to the characterization of the military lifestyle as “lavish,” and one woman took it upon herself to write a letter to the journalist who wrote the article.
Bianca Strzalkowski is a proud Marine Corps wife of more than 10 years, and was named the 2011 Military Spouse of the Year (MSOY) by Military Spouse Magazine.
Strzalkowski, who has worked as a guest writer for The Huffington Post, sent an e-mail to Wood in hopes of providing him with the true depiction of what he describes as a lavish lifestyle.
“Clearly, you knew when you wrote your Huffington Post piece that you would strike a nerve within the military community and with anyone who has ever cared about someone who serves,” Strzalkowski wrote. The mother of three, whose husband is forward deployed to Afghanistan until the end of the year, invited Wood to come to Jacksonville, N.C. for a few days to witness the reality of military family life.
She described her life as anything but lavish both emotionally and financially. She told of the emotional toll of recently learning from the news that a military helicopter crashed in Afghanistan killing five service members.
“My husband is a crew chief and because the news did not say what type of aircraft, I laid awake throughout the night wondering if someone would be coming to tell me my husband was dead,” she wrote.
Strzalkowski is the founder of the Military Spouse Education Initiative, and has spent her time volunteering with various organizations, such as the U.S. Veteran Corps, National Military Family Association and the Marine Corps’ Family Readiness program.
In her letter, she also explained the financial toll that she and many military families experience.
“Financially life hasn’t seemed lavish either. We have spent the last 13 months paying a mortgage on an empty house at our last duty station” Strzalkowski wrote. “Also, at the rank of E5, we had to get our dinner from a food bank in Arizona, or eat MREs (meals ready to eat) because I could not find employment when we moved.”
A clarification was posted at the bottom of the article on The Huffington Post web site early this week stating, “Language has been added to clarify the calculations of base pay and allowance increases for specific members of the military.”
Another clarification was posted on March 13. It read, “Language has been added to clarify the calculations of base pay and allowance increases for specific members of the military. Original language in the headline and copy referring to ‘Lavish Benefits’ was inaccurate and reflected neither the views of David Wood nor The Huffington Post. We regret the mischaracterization.”