A prayer, and a pay hike, for our troops

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Technical Sergeant Cabrera, amiga, it’s me – Lola. By now you’re probably en route to a secret location somewhere near Afghanistan; I just wanted to call and say hasta la vista. I promise to send you care packages, calling cards, and your favorite sweets. Not that this will make your third tour of duty any easier. I’m out of words here … please know that you and the Arizona Air National Guard 161st security forces squadron will be in my thoughts and prayers during Operation Enduring Freedom.

I can’t shake out of my mind our last conversation about how to tell your 6-year-old you would be leaving – again. I hope you had the time to prepare the videos we talked about so your mom can play them for him while you are gone. Sniff, sniff. I get so emotional. I know you live by the National Guard’s motto “Always Ready, Always There,” and you had in place the Family Care Plan, which places your mom as your son’s legal guardian while you are away. But you know me, I’m such a worrywart.

What if your mom gets sick? Ay Dios Mío. The poor thing had to cut her hours at work to be able to care for your son, and now working only part-time she doesn’t qualify for health insurance at work and can’t afford the premium on her own.

Being the nurturing and caring person you are I know you want to help your mom with that expense but, amiguita, I’m afraid it isn’t realistic with your monthly paycheck of  $2,700. AND to make things worse your mamá is not old enough to qualify for Medicare or poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Qué problema.

Do you remember when our comadre Rita asked why you couldn’t register your mom as your “domestic partner” so she could get benefits? Qué loca! I know she was joking, but it makes sense, sort of: in theory your mom IS your domestic partner, in the literal sense of the word, but as used in the HR world… LOL; that would make you an incestuous couple. I know this is no laughing matter, so don’t take me wrong.

I remember going through this already. I don’t know how you do it; it’s hard enough, I assume, to be a single parent, but in your line of work? Close-knit families are a wonderful thing, and you are lucky to have your family’s support. They were there for you during your 8 years of active service in the military and then when you came back to Arizona and started in the Police Academy, and signed up for the Reserves, working all those crazy hours!

Maríaaaaaaaaaaa I’m going to miss you. I still have the wrist band you gave me, with the inscription, “Freedom isn’t free. Support our troops.” I hope you don’t get mad at me but given our conversations, I thought I’d be more supportive and added my own twist to it. I used a “Sharpie” permanent marker and added “give ’em a pay raise,” because my dear, the family separation bonus of $250 a month and a “duty hazardous” bonus of $200 just doesn’t cut it.

I really hope that with the 2010 Defense Spending Bill approved last month by the Senate Appropriations Committee, you and your fellow service men and women get the 3.4 percent pay raise you so rightfully deserve, pronto!

AND when you come back I’m going to sign you up for a financial planning boot camp. Given the inherent dangers of your profession, I’m not going to let you get away with not planning for your future and that of your son; we have to talk IRA, a college savings plan for your hijito, and long term care for your mamacita.

Hurry back, be safe, and may God and The Force be with you.

Te quiero.

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