"Do you have a military discount?" If I had a nickel for every time I've heard my husband say this -- at the movie theater, pizza place, tire center, hardware store -- I guess we wouldn't need to ask for discounts.
Every little bit helps, right? But military folks aren't the only ones having to budget these days -- the entire country is feeling the pinch. So why should we get special treatment?
Although the phrase "military-civilian divide" has been around since the Vietnam War, it is seeing a lot more press lately. Journalists, scholars, and commentators are analyzing the widening gap of understanding between the public and our shrinking military population. While the negative effects of such a gap are largely agreed-upon, the causes of this divide are the subject of hot debate.
Who is to blame? What roll do military members play in widening the gap? Do we expect benefits such as military discounts? What message does this send to our civilian neighbors? Do they resent us when we claim a discount while they pay full price?
Recently, I launched these questions into the cyberspace via social media, and the viewpoints that came back were mainly in support of offering military discounts. Although, there were hints that the issue is complex:
"As a military family we are very much into making our dollars stretch as far as possible, so it would be silly for us to leave these discounts unused. We have saved hundreds of dollars (if not thousands) over the years." - Nichole, 33, AF spouse.
"I do not feel any guilt enjoying this small benefit at a very limited number of businesses. I pay for my health insurance, I pay my taxes, I have lived in countries that lack the conveniences Americans enjoy on a daily basis, I have moved 12 times in 18 years and paid thousands of dollars out of pocket over the years to re-stock my pantry without being able to shop 'sales' or use coupons." - Katie, 46, Marine Spouse.
"But when does the notion change from appreciation to expectation? That is where I have concerns." - Jackie, 35, civilian.
"I ask. It's a way that business has decided to express it's appreciation, and I appreciate that business right back! I don't feel entitled, I feel appreciated." - Jill, 48, retired AF spouse.
"I don't ask. To me it feels greedy." Marisa, 29, AF spouse.
"I view that discount as an act of patriotism, a quality, I for one, still value. Funny thing is, I have no idea which companies offer these discounts. I guess these companies have all opted for quiet patriotism. Maybe not so surprising these days." - Chris, 50, real estate agent.
"While I don't wear the uniform, the same oath of office I take as a government civilian is exactly the same oath every officer takes. So why is it that we are perceived as not always a part of the team? ... A great deal of civilians are deploying to austere places. Why discriminate?" - Jacqueline, 35, AF government civilian.
"I was shocked to discover some of the civilians in my community where using their similarly looking military ID for store discounts. Such abuse of an unearned discount in that form made me really upset." -- Ann Marie, 35, Army spouse.
"If students, teachers, AAA, AARP... are all encouraged to ask for discounts then there is no difference in a military family asking." -- Amanda, military spouse.
"There is a movie theater chain that gives a military discount for the active duty member and not dependents ... not nice! If you're going to give a discount, give it to the entire family. We serve too!" -- Suzanne, 43, Navy spouse.
"I think we've gotten spoiled by discounts in general. I have noticed that most military discounts are only given to the active duty member now and not the dependents, which makes sense to me." Angie, 47, retired Army spouse.
"With what our military personnel go through, that discount is well deserved. It is embarrassing what our troops make." -- Danny, 49, civilian.
"As a civilian, I feel the 'pinch' too, but I'm happy to be free thanks to the military. A discount is well worth our freedom." -- Joseph, 44, civilian butcher.
If variety is the spice of life, the topic of military benefits is the five-alarm chili of opinions these days. One way to cool this hot debate is for those of us who benefit from generous discounts to douse any feelings of entitlement with an ample dollop of genuine appreciation.