members, their parents, and other family members are complaining
that military personnel who are married are being given
preferential treatment at the expense of those who are single.
Whether it is housing, pay, or support services, unmarried
personnel seem to get left-over scraps.
conducted by the National Military Family Association, reported
two weeks ago in Stars and Stripes magazine, found
that parents of
single service members felt ignored, even though unmarried
military make up nearly half of deployed troops. Unlike spouses,
parents of those troops are not given military ID cards and are
often not able to access information and services available to
Last week I received a letter
from a woman whose brother had served long and honorably in the
Air Force, including the Persian Gulf.
"He told how men of lower rank
who were married, even without kids, got nice housing while he
got stuck in the cattle barn barracks with no amenities and zero
privacy," she explained. "He told me he had to be available
nights, weekends and holidays because the marrieds had families
and he did not."
Her brother "spoke of being paid
less than marrieds for the same or less rank," she added.
The website of the
Deputy Undersecretary of Defense acknowledges major housing
problems experienced by single service members.
service members are required to live in barracks, where they
share a room with at least one other person and with a communal
bathroom and a telephone down the hall," the website states.
"About half a million single service members live in these
quarters, which are often substandard, inadequately maintained,
A survey of single service members
living in barracks found that most of them would prefer to live
outside the barracks, regardless of cost. Their preferences in
order of priority were for larger rooms, more privacy, a private
bath, and more storage for their personal items.
The issue of substandard housing
was the focus of a letter I received from an Army private a few
years back. He complained that
single soldiers are housed in small
165 square feet rooms.
"Along with other problems in our
run down barracks, we also have to deal with asbestos located
throughout the barracks," he said. "It's great that we
have warning signs to tell us that it is going to kill us, but
there is nothing that we can do for our own well being."
G2mil, a quarterly magazine
published by former military officers, tells of the housing
nightmare for single sailors assigned to a ship. An article
entitled "Quartered on Ship" explained their plight.
"Civilians may confuse Navy
deployments with their Caribbean vacation cruises. Navy
ships have no alcohol, live entertainment, legal gambling,
or swimming pools. A small two-person cruise cabin would
typically house nine junior sailors. Everything they own
must be crammed into the room.
recent years, terrorist concerns have severely restricted
port calls around the world making Navy life tougher. When
ships return from deployments, the Navy does not provide
quarters ashore for unmarried sailors below E-6, so they
continue to live crammed aboard ship. Since they are always
on ship, they are often rounded up for special details while
'off-duty', while their married counterparts sleep soundly
the G2mil article, these
inequities cause most unmarried sailors to either marry or leave
the service. This conclusion was echoed by Wil, a former Navy
man, who once wrote to me.
"After living in the barracks for
my entire stint in the military and watching the disparity in
quality of life between myself and married folks, I decided to
leave the service," Wil said. "The military is losing
competent people hand over fist because we're treated
differently," he added.
inequities in pay, the Air Force website bluntly tells would-be
recruits that "your
salary will be based on your time in the Air Force, marital
status, where you live and your rank."
connection between marital status and level of pay? Why
should a single service member get less pay than a married one?
Problems with unfair
pay and second-class housing are not limited to the Air Force or
Navy. A few years ago, a single soldier told me about
inequities in pay as well as housing.
"If you are married you get money
for separate rations about $220.00 a month, but if you are
single you don't," the soldier complained. "You are given
a meal card and if you are single and would rather buy food and
cook for yourself, then it comes out of your pocket."
Married soldiers can either get
on-post housing or if none is available then they can move off
post and are given a housing allowance. He added:
"As a single soldier we live
in the barracks, and these barracks are really crappy. They
have 2 people living in one small room, and we have
community showers. If a single person wants to move out, he
has to get it approved by his chain of command. He cannot
get on post housing so he must live off post, and he does
not qualify for a housing allowance or separate rations
because he is single."
The unfair treatment of singles
in the military is affecting millions of people. According
to Department of Defense statistics for 2002, about 51 percent
of enlisted members in all branches of service are unmarried.
Marital status varies by Service.
Air Force members are most likely to be married (56 percent,
while Marines are least likely to be married (41 percent).
It is common knowledge that young
people are not enlisting in the armed forces in large enough
numbers. Unless we return to the draft, the military will
have to make some major changes to entice more young people to volunteer for
Since 90 percent of recruits are
single, perhaps one of the issues which
the Pentagon should put on the table for discussion, is how the
military can become more "singles friendly" to these
newcomers as well as to long-term singles in the service.
According to Carlton Meyer,
editor of G2mil Magazine, if the military were to become more
fair to single service members, "morale
will soar, desertions will decline, reenlistments will rise, and
combat readiness will increase."
That certainly would be an improvement over what we have now.
Unmarried America 2005
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
firstname.lastname@example.org. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and