Military Families React To Loved Ones Fighting For Free During Shutdown: ‘It Would Be Absolutely Devastating’

If the White House and congressional leaders don’t get a budget deal done by midnight tonight, much of the federal government will shut down. U.S. troops will continue to work — and fight abroad — without any pay. While servicemembers will eventually receive back pay when the impasse is resolved, Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted yesterday that the interim period “can be a problem” for military families because many live paycheck to paycheck.

Stars and Stripes talked to some troops stationed overseas. “It’s very frustrating for the lower enlisted,” said Spc. Fotuotamatane Toluao, who is based in Germany. “I have a family to take care of, diapers aren’t that cheap,” he said. “There are half a million troops deployed to some ragged country who depend on their paycheck. Taking that away will turn our military upside down,” wrote one service member in Afghanistan on the Stars and Stripes website.

Back here at home, military families are worried, as evidenced by numerous local news reports from all around the country:

ARMY SGT, FORT CAMPBELL, KY: If they stopped both our paychecks that would definitely have a devastating effect.

MILITARY HUSBAND, SPOKANE, WA: It’s really important to me that their families who have a hard time anyway when dad is overseas, mom’s overseas that they have their, something certain, a paycheck.

NAVY WIFE, JACKSONVILLE, FL: I’d like answers. What am I supposed to tell my children when they ask, “Why don’t we have any money?” What am I supposed to – oh because they decided to shut the government down? My kids are 7, 5, 2 and 1 do you think they’re going to understand that?

MILITARY WIFE, DETROIT, MI: House payment’s got to be made. I mean bills got to be paid. … I’m stunned. I mean all the aid that we give to all these other countries and we can’t take care of our own?

MILITARY MOTHER, TOLEDO, OH: It would be absolutely devastating. … At the current time our household counts on Adam’s income because he is the sole provider for our rent and utilities and for the care of his daughter.

Watch the compilation:

While members of Congress said they would scramble to get a bill passed that would fund troops in the event a shutdown occurs, the Navy Federal Credit Union has said that it will otherwise advance servicemembers’ pay. Stars and Stripes reports that according to a statement, “Active-duty servicemembers belonging to the credit union would not see any change in their April 15 paychecks, even if the government fails to pay them.”

Cross-posted on the Wonk Room