Lance Cpl. Kara Dethlefsen and her husband are both proud Marines. They love their country and their young daughter. They have been deployed overseas and separated from each other in service to our country. They also have something in common with 23,000 other military families; they have to rely on food stamps and church food pantries to feed their young family.

An enlisted member of our armed services with two years of service has a base salary of $2,004.30 per month. If that warrior was living in New Hampshire, he or she would qualify for food stamps. In fact, more than 25 percent of our military families rely on some form of government welfare program or a food pantry to survive.

An Army E-5 (sergeant) with six years of service makes $2,856.60 a month before taxes, or $34,280 a year. Many times the spouse cannot work because of extended deployments, lack of a familial support structure or frequent moves. Could your family live on $34,000 a year before federal income tax?

Forty-five percent of military children attending school qualify and receive free lunch. About 80,000 military families have expressed worry about the groceries lasting until payday. We ask these young men and women to risk their lives for us, but we, as a country, don’t pay them enough to live proudly. That is disgraceful.

The House Armed Services Committee has proposed an amendment to increase the 2018 Defense Authorization Act to increase military base salaries by 0.3 percent, bringing it to the civilian standard of a 2.4 percent growth. This isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s the law.

Section 37 of the U.S. Code calls for a mandatory pay raise of 2.4 percent between 2014 and 2016.

However, military pay rose by only 1 percent annually. The current administration is seeking to address this issue with a proposed 2.1 percent pay raise, but I believe it is critically important our military troops get the full 2.4 percent pay raise to which they are entitled.

The naysayers will argue the military receives money for food and housing. While that is correct, it isn’t sufficient.

A military family of four stationed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard will pay an average of $1,800 rent for a two-bedroom apartment, which is more than the current defense housing assistance, and receive about $23 per person per week in food allowance. Can you feed each member of your family with only $23 per week? Once you factor in that New Hampshire has some of the highest energy costs in the country, things like home heating oil or a car repair become budget busters.

While enlisted in the Air Force, I witnessed firsthand airmen with families who struggled to pay their bills and feed their families every month. This is a practice that has to end.

We have the most technologically advanced, best trained and best equipped military fighting force in history. Our capability for fighting evil and our capacity for bringing peace and hope to the darkest corners of the world are unparalleled.

We owe them the dignity of not having to stand in line at a food pantry or rely on food stamps to feed their children.

I ask that you please call our senators and congressmen (202-225-3121) and ask that they show respect to our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen by giving them a fighting chance to take care of their own families and support a 2.4 percent pay raise. It’s the law.

Matt Mayberry is an Air Force veteran in Dover, New Hampshire. He wrote this for InsideSources.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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