Tag Archives: Memorial Day

The Wages for Facing Death

by Kassandra Lamb

After five years of blogging, I was facing yet another Memorial Day post. I’ve given five reasons why we should honor our troops, made the case for honoring them even if one is a pacifist, contrasted Memorial Day as the launch of summer fun against the sadness of remembering fallen heroes, and one year we copped out and did a group post on favorite summer recipes.

flag at half mast; sailor ssaluting

This year, I wanted to take a different approach. I wracked my brain for ideas, and finally came up with this: we honor fallen members of the military on Memorial Day, but are we honoring them while they are still alive by paying them a decent wage?

I didn’t really know the answer to that, so I did some research. This is what I found:

An E-1 (lowest rank in each branch) entering the military in 2017 receives a base salary of $21,116/year. When housing allowance, healthcare, and other benefits are added in, his/her total compensation is $41,246. This is definitely a living wage for a single person, and some allowances are increased depending on the cost of living in the area deployed and the number of people in the soldier’s family.

To an able-bodied young man or woman with a high school diploma or GED, this may seem like a good alternative to becoming a factory worker, whose average annual income is $27,000.*

(*I’m rounding most figures off somewhat to make this easier to read. Most of these figures came from the US Department of Labor Statistics; some are from the official military pay scale or from other websites.)

It’s also competitive with entry-level firefighter and police officer incomes. The salary range nationwide for firefighters is $24,000–$65,000 (average is $50,500). Police officers’ range is $34,000–$78,000 (including detectives and supervisors) with an average of $53,500.

firfighters with flag

New York, NY, September 25, 2001

Also, all things considered, the risk to life and limb is probably similar. Firefighters and the police take calculated risks every day on the job while the military are usually only at risk when deployed into combat, but then they are at much higher risk of harm.

An average Joe or Jane who enlists in the military has the potential to eventually work their way up to Staff Sergeant (or comparable ranks in other branches). A Staff Sergeant with 6 years experience makes $37,166 base salary—with benefits and allowances, approximately $57,300.

This compares adequately to master plumbers and electricians who must go through an apprenticeship and eventually average $56,000-57,000 per year. And it is more money than the average computer technician with an AA degree will probably make—$52,000.

It even compares fairly well with the first-line supervisors in manufacturing (average $61,500) and the lower end of the range of middle management in the business world ($55,500).

IF you don’t consider the risk factor.

destroyed tank

Burned-out shell of U.S. tank in Iraq (Dept of Defense photo by LCPL Jennifer A. Krusen, public domain)

Noncommissioned officers in the military are actually paid as well as, if not better than, many teachers, who must obtain a bachelor’s degree plus teaching certification, and often need a master’s degree to get permanent credentials.

  • Elementary/Middle School Teachers: average $59,000 (range: $36,500–$71,000)
  • High School Teachers: average $61,400 (range: $38,000–$74,000)

Okay, let’s look at military officers. Candidates must have a college degree to apply for officer training.

An O-1 (Second Lieutenant in the Army or equivalent rank) with 2 years of experience gets $36,400 base pay plus allowances** and benefits, for a total of $59,450.

An O-4 (Army Major or equivalent) with six years of experience gets $73,100 plus allowances**, etc., for a total of $102,550

(**For a single officer; those with families get higher allowances.)

Compare that to these average annual incomes (minimum requirements in parentheses):

  • Nurse (RN; AA to Bachelors): $72,000
  • Middle Manager in Business (Bachelors to MBA): $55,500–$97,000
  • College Professor (PhD): $85,000
  • Member of Congress (Ability to produce unlimited hot air—Sorry, I couldn’t resist): $174,000

And last but hardly least, business CEOs receive an average of $1,654,000 in total compensation. Some, of course, receive far more. The highest ranking Generals/Admirals top out at $190,042 total compensation.

Here are the two conclusions I drew from this information:

One—Teachers, police, and firefighters are definitely underpaid.

Two—Military officers seem to be doing okay but enlisted men and women in our armed services should probably be making more, especially considering these three factors:

  • Risk to life and limb
  • Lack of control over their lives
  • Sacrifices made by their families

And here’s another factor we should keep in mind. Inappropriate compensation, especially for highly stressful occupations, can lead to shortages and a lowering of standards.

The medical field learned this the hard way. In the late 1970s, there was a severe shortage of hospital nurses. Salaries had not kept up with inflation. In 1976, a hospital nurse made $11,820/year, which was barely a living wage for a single person. (I know, because I was single then and making close to that amount myself.)

Many nurses were changing careers, and admissions to nursing programs were down. The remaining hospital nurses were assigned more patients and were working extra shifts. Training programs started lowering their standards for admission and/or graduation. The current practice of loved ones often spending the night in a hospitalized patient’s room came into being, because so many mistakes were being made.

We still have too few nurses today, but the severe crisis ebbed when hospitals finally raised nursing salaries to sufficiently compensate them for their hard work and long, often inconvenient and frequently stressful hours.

Air Force Airman saluting flag

But getting back to our men and women in the armed services… to some degree I was pleasantly surprised to see the comparisons above. The military is not doing as badly pay-wise as I had feared.

However, the nursing shortage of the 1970s-80s should be a cautionary tale for our country. We need to make proper compensation of our military a priority. If we let the incomes of our service people fall too far behind, we may no longer be able to attract enough qualified men and women who are willing to take the risks and make the sacrifices involved in protecting our safety and freedom.

On this Memorial Day and all those to come, let’s make sure we honor the living military personnel as well as those who have made the ultimate sacrifice!

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY, EVERYONE!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Memorial Day ~ Honoring the Fallen and Launching the Fun

by Kassandra Lamb

As a kid, I loved Memorial Day. I had no clue what it’s real significance was. I just knew it meant the beginning of summer.

kids in poolOur local community pool opened, and we swam no matter how chilly the May breeze in Maryland still happened to be (even if the lifeguards were in their sweats, as they sometimes were).

Summer meant swimming and going “down the ocean, hun.” But it also meant freedom – mostly from school.

at the beach

Me and my brother in Ocean City, MD; I’m about 5 here.

Weeks and weeks of summer vacation spread out before us. It seemed like infinity at the time. The possibilities for fun were endless.

Today I still get excited about the beginning of summer. It still means freedom – from coats and jackets and closed-toe shoes and socks (from shoes completely around the house or at the beach). And from heating bills (although in Florida, the AC bills can be worse).

We can open our windows and air out the winter staleness.

My mood lifts considerably when the weather warms toward summer and the days grow longer. The flowers are blooming and the grass is growing, soft underfoot. Right now, my magnolia tree in the backyard is about to burst into big gorgeous white blossoms.

cemetery

Alton National Cemetery (public domain)

The beginning of summer is when I feel most alive, so it seems particularly poignant when I remember what Memorial Day is really supposed to be about – to honor those who have given their lives for their country, to protect freedoms far greater and more important than being able to go barefoot!

It is a day that, like no other, brings to the forefront both the dark and the bright sides of human existence — the losses and tragedies, some of them quite senseless, and the exciting possibilities.

Being an eternal optimist (some have called me a Pollyana 🙂 ), I tend to focus on the possibilities.

How about you? What does the beginning of summer mean to you?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Happy Memorial Day! (with recipes)

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery

Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Memorial Day in the U.S. is all about honoring the men and women in our armed forces, past and present. And most especially we honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

There are no words sufficient to express our gratitude!

Memorial Day is also the unofficial kickoff of the summer season. Children’s laughter rings out; splashing noises can be heard coming from neighbors’ pools (or your own); the air is redolent with delectable odors from backyard barbecues.

We decided that this year we’d share some of our favorite (and easy) summer recipes. We’re going to take you from cocktails to dessert. But since the desserts need a little time, either in the oven or the fridge, we’ll start with those.

July2012-063-1024x768First up: red, white and blue strawberries! (from Kathy Owen)

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs of strawberries, washed and blotted dry
  • 12oz pkg of white chocolate chips
  • blue decorating sugar, poured into a small bowl

Directions:

Line a baking sheet or jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.  Melt chips in microwave, according to package directions (you may need to stir in between cycles and add more time) until smooth.  Dip strawberries 2/3 of the way into the melted chocolate, then 1/3 of the way into the blue sugar.  Place on foil.  Put the tray in the fridge for about 2 hours, or until chocolate hardens.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

1) It’s really important to dry the strawberries thoroughly before dipping; otherwise, the chocolate won’t stick to them very well.

2) Don’t make ahead; plan to use them that day.  The strawberries will start releasing water, which will get into the sugar’s blue dye and create a drippy mess.  (They still taste good, though!)

Our other dessert: Grandma Weiss’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie (from Kirsten Weiss, of course)

strawberry rhubarb pieIngredients:

Crust:
1 ½ cups flour
1 TBSP Sugar
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup ice water
1 tsp grated lemon peel
½ cup unsalted butter

Filling:
1 ½ pints sliced strawberries
2 cups diced rhubarb
1 cup sugar
2 TBSP kirsch
1 TBSP tapioca

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
For pie crust: Mix flour, sugar, salt, ice water and grated lemon. Cut in butter (or use fingers), until dough is mealy. Roll out 2/3 of the dough to line the pie pan. Refrigerate remaining dough, which will be used for lattice.
Mix strawberries, diced rhubarb, sugar, kirsch, and tapioca. Let stand for 15 minutes.
Roll out remaining dough and cut into strips for lattice. Fill pie with strawberry-rhubarb mix and top with lattice. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until crust is golden.

And now that the desserts are setting up or baking, it’s time for cocktails!!

a margarita, with lime

(photo by Akke Monasso, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimdia Commons)

Vinnie Hansen offers up her main character’s favorite drink recipe: Carol Sabala’s Margaritas

Put lots of ice cubes in a container for mixing. Coat the rims of margarita glasses with fresh lime juice and dip in salt (ground sea salt preferred.) Fill the glasses with ice cubes.
In the mixing container add to the ice cubes:

● 3 oz. of Hornitos Tequila Sauza (or higher shelf)
● 3 oz. of Controy (This is the secret ingredient, a Mexican orange liquor that I’ve never found in the U.S. A good Triple Sec is a fair substitute.)
● 1 oz. fresh lime juice

Shake or stir and pour over the ice in the glasses.

Guacamole_y_nachos pub domain wiki

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

These are potent, so enjoy with plenty of chips and guacamole!

The best guacamole is simply smashed avocados, a dollop of your favorite salsa, and a squirt of lime. Some folks might need to add salt and pepper. That’s it. NO MAYO!

Okay, before you have that second margarita, you’d better stir up this side dish, which needs to chill for a while.

Shannon Esposito’s Summer Orzo Salad recipe:

orzo salad

(photo by Vegan Feast Catering, CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Common)

Ingredients:

-1 cup of orzo
-1 cup of baby peas or edamame
-1 diced red pepper
-1 diced green pepper
-handful cherry tomatoes halved
-2 TBSP lemon juice
-2 tsp olive oil
-sea salt/pepper to taste
-fresh cilantro (I use cilantro but you could use dill, basil or rosemary instead)

Directions:
-Cook orzo for 5-6 minutes in boiling water
-Add all other ingredients and mix well

Like revenge, this is a dish best served cold. 😉

Okay, is your stomach growling about now? Mine is!

Our main dish comes from my husband, since I, like my main character Kate Huntington, am not the world’s best cook. Tom makes the best hamburgers (and steaks) I’ve ever tasted, even in restaurants!

His secret is the seasonings, and it’s really quite simple (although they don’t taste nearly as good when I make them; I hope you have better luck duplicating his touch).

Tom’s Best Hamburgers Ever

Ingredients:

● 1 lb. Lean ground beef
● McCormick’s Grill Mates Hamburger seasoning (sub their Steak seasoning for steaks)
● Morton’s Season All
● McCormick’s Grill Mates Barbecue seasoning
● McCormick’s Grill Mates Mesquite seasoning

hamburger

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Directions:

Form ground beef into 4 patties. Place them on a preheated grill. Sprinkle a moderate amount of Hamburger seasoning and Season All on the top of each patty. Sprinkle Mesquite and Barbecue seasoning on each with a lighter touch. Immediately flip burgers over and sprinkle the seasonings on the other side. Cook to desired level of doneness, turning frequently.

Grab a bun and your favorite condiments and dig in!

What’s your favorite summer recipe?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the entire group. We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Even if You Hate War, Honor the Warrior

by Kassandra Lamb

1000px-United_States_flag_waving_icon pub domain.svgWe had a different post planned for today but Memorial Day snuck up on us. It’s really early this year.

(Note: the following are the opinions of this author and do not necessarily reflect those of the other misterio press authors.)

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a pacifist by nature. I abhor violence. But unfortunately in the real world there are some evil people, and even more people who are willing to do evil things in order to achieve their goals. So violence is part of the human condition and probably will be for the foreseeable future.

One of the many things I learned from being a psychotherapist is that evil survives and thrives on fear and passivity. So I do believe that it has to be stopped. And the only force evil understands is just that, force.

So how am I any different from those I accuse of using evil to achieve their own goals? I guess I’m not completely different. My only defense is that I believe in the use of violence only in defense of self and others.

So in the real world, this country needs a strong military. It does act as a deterrent against a good bit of that evil. And the rest of the time, unfortunately, those men and women in uniform have to fight back the evil.

I was a teen and college student during the Vietnam War–probably the least popular war ever fought by this country. I protested against that war. But I was appalled by the treatment of the returning GIs at the hands of some of my fellow pacifists. They often were not welcomed as the heroes they were, especially since many of them had been drafted. They were sometimes spat on and called baby killers.

Humans have short memories and we don’t always learn from the past. But I think our society learned that lesson. By all means, hate war! But honor the troops who have sacrificed so much to protect our peace.

female soldier saluting

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Any particular soldiers, sailors or Marines whom you’re remembering this Memorial Day?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Five Reasons to Honor Our Troops

I was going to post about something completely different today and then I looked at the calendar, and saw ‘Memorial Day’ staring back at me (Note to self: get out of writer’s cave more often).

I’m currently doing a Tour of Fives blog tour to celebrate the release of the 5th book in my mystery series (you can win a free e-book at the end of this post). So the natural post for today is Five Reasons to Honor Our Troops. There are a gazillion reasons really, but I’m gonna pick my top five.

1.   They have a strong sense of duty. Granted they may have other reasons for joining the armed forces as well, but the men and women who sign on that dotted line do so partly, or sometimes mostly, out of a sense of duty. That is an honorable trait.

2.   They make sacrifices the rest of us aren’t willing to make.  Not the least of which is being willing to put their lives on the line. But they also deal with a lot of other things, some of which we don’t think about. Oh, we get that they have to cope with being separated from loved ones and the facing danger part. But dirt, fatigue and boredom are frequent companions.

USMC-120112-M-RE261-003 troops playing cards

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

3.   They protect our ability to live in a free country by giving up a lot of their freedom.  Their lives are not their own. They can be ordered at any time to drop what they’re doing, say goodbye to their families and report to be shipped out to wherever they’re needed. And some of them will be affected mentally and physically for the rest of their lives.

At the San Diego 20th annual Stand Down for Homeless Veterans  )why do we have homeless veterans?)

At the San Diego 20th annual Stand Down for Homeless Veterans (why do we have homeless veterans?)

4.   They ask their loved ones to make sacrifices. If you’ve ever been apart from someone you love for a long time, you know how big a deal this is. They ask their families and friends to go on without them while they serve their country. They are gone for months, sometimes years, at a time. Not only do their mothers/fathers/wives/husbands/children/siblings/grandparents/friends have to miss them and worry about them daily but they will have many family holidays and milestones that their soldiers/sailors/marines/airmen will not be there for. And some of them will never come home.

5.   They protect us from the evil in the world.  As a retired psychotherapist who specialized in trauma recovery, I have seen all too often the aftereffects of that evil. We in the U.S. certainly have our own home-grown evil, but these men and women in uniform keep the evil elements from the rest of the world at bay.

So now I’m feeling quite guilty that I needed a calendar to remind me to honor our troops. We should be honoring them 365 days a year.

A big salute to all the men and women in uniform and those who have served in the past. God bless everyone of you, and God bless America!

female soldier saluting

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Today through Tuesday are the last days to win an ARC (advance review copy) of my new book. Five commenters will be randomly selected to receive one, so tell us your top reason for honoring our troops and veterans!

COLLATERAL CASUALTIES, A Kate Huntington Mystery (#5) will be officially launched on June 6th!

Speaking of the evil in the world…

book cover for COLLATERAL CASUALTIES, A Kate Huntington Mystery

   When a former client reaches out to psychotherapist Kate Huntington and reveals a foreign diplomat’s dark secret, then dies of ‘natural causes’ just days later, Kate isn’t sure what to think. Was the man delusional or is she now privy to dangerous information?
    Soon she discovers her client was totally sane… and he was murdered. Someone is now trying to eliminate her, and anyone and everyone she might have told. Forced into hiding, she and her husband, Skip, along with the operatives of his private investigating agency, struggle to stay one step ahead of a ruthless killer. Skip and his P.I. partner are good investigators, but this time they may be in over their heads… and they all could end up drowning in a sea of international intrigue.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by clicking on the RSS symbol above or by filling in your e-mail address, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses)