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Military families scramble to get by

April 25, 2003 | Page 2

WHILE U.S. soldiers occupy Iraq for oil and empire, some of their families are struggling to put food on the table. The combination of low military salaries and the high cost of living in communities near military bases means that families of many low-ranking soldiers live a "hand-to-mouth existence," according to an Agence France Presse report.

"I know several wives of Marines with small children who line up at churches for grocery handouts, which are the only way they can survive the month and feed and clothe the baby," Natalie Castro, the wife of a Marine private from Oceanside, Calif., told a reporter. "Military salaries are so low that they're almost impossible for a family to live on, leaving some women desperate, especially now when we also have the emotional turmoil of worrying if our men are safe in Iraq," she said. Like many of her friends, Castro relies on an American Red Cross program to get baby formula and other important supplies.

Low-ranking privates and corporals, who make up 60 percent of the Marine Corps, take home only $800 a month after taxes are taken out. Even combat pay doesn't take care of the problem. "I've heard of women who are on welfare or use food stamps to go shopping," said the wife of a Marine officer.

Natalie Castro agreed. "After tax and after paying for the car and its insurance and medical bills for the baby--there's nothing left," she said. "My husband and most of his friends all have second jobs or work whenever they can just to survive, which seems really wrong to me."

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