Pins and Promotions and Pay Raises, oh my.

by jolyn on August 2, 2010

in Income

John just pinned on a promotion, the first one of his Air Force career that’s held a lot of meaning for us that wasn’t just financial. Up until now promotions have been fairly automatic: you’d have to really mess up to not make the cut. This was the first one that was “boarded” and involved at least a margin of competition and wasn’t just a gimme. Sure, you hope to get boarded the first time around, but you just never know…  And quite honestly, if you’re passed over the first time you might as well start packing: once you’re passed over twice they very kindly boot you out of the Air Force altogether.

John was the first one in his family to earn a college degree. In a family history steeped in military service, John was the first to become an officer. He worked very, very hard to get to where he is today. It took ten years, with many starts and stops, many, many moves, while working full-time (mostly in the enlisted ranks) to help support a young family, before he finally completed his bachelor’s. When he successfully applied for OTS, we both thought, “Cool, now you should be able to retire as a Captain.” It never dawned on either one of us that he would gain a higher rank, even if he completed 20 years. He simply wouldn’t have the time. And retiring as a Captain was just fine, we both thought. And now Major? Why, that just feels like icing on the cake.

John’s got over 16 years in now, and my how times have a changed in the military since he was just an enlisted puke some ten years ago. Captains don’t stay Captains as long as they used to: it’s a combination of the conflicts our military is engaged in worldwide as well as a lower retention rate in the officer ranks overall. The Air Force, in particular, has a hard time holding onto their officers in John’s career field of Intelligence. (And believe me you, John thought about leaving himself many, many times.) (But also between me and you, I always knew he was just venting and blowing smoke: He’s a lifer.) There are so many reasons for this I wouldn’t know where to begin. Suffice to say, the military is no longer a place we would encourage our children to dedicate their lives, or even to join for a short time.

Don’t get me wrong. If any of my children chose military service, I would be very proud of them: The day young men and women stop stepping up for a higher calling will be a dark day indeed. And of course, ultimately it will be their decision. But we no longer feel confident in our nation’s military as an organization with a clearly defined purpose and unified goals. There are some amazing individuals in military uniform, but more and more, these amazing individuals are getting out. The ones who remain, like my husband, seem to hold onto an ideal and hope of how things could be despite the reality and obstacles around them.

But back to John’s promotion.

I had visions of a big BBQ bash with lots of friends and food and toasts to John’s success. But John was leaving the next day for a TDY and wanted a low-key affair. Also, Big Bashes just aren’t the way he rolls. Also again, many of our friends (at least the men) were either TDY themselves, on vacation, or otherwise deployed. I joked with John that it might be just a bunch of women-folk come to celebrate with us. He just grunted.

So the kids and I attended the official ceremony at John’s work where Conner and I did the “pinning-on” — which entails taking the old rank off the collar and, well, pinning on the new. If you’re in the Army or Marines (and Navy?) this often comes with a playful punch which may or may not puncture the skin. Since John used to be in the Army, I thought it might be apropos for me to punch his new rank in for him, too.

He threatened to punch me back, so I reconsidered. He’s such a sweetheart.

We followed up the ceremony with lunch at Texas Roadhouse. Because a Celebration requires Meat, don’t you know. And our server was late getting our order so they discounted our ticket, by almost 50%. I was rather surprised, because I hadn’t thought it was that big of a delay — the place was packed. And John was surprised when I gave our waitress a good tip based on the original cost of our order and not the amount after our discount. But I thought she had done an okay job considering the circumstances. Plus I’ve been a waitress so many times in my life — every time swearing it was the last — that my appreciation bar for the work they do is quite high.

  • Cost of lunch for five: $60.60
  • After discount: $35.60
  • After tip: $45.60

What would you have tipped?

Oh! And did I mention that with the promotion comes a raise? But of course it does! Would it be terrible if I said that was the best part? Yes? No? Just so long as I don’t say it out loud? Okay then, let’s just keep that between you and me.

Before taxes, his monthly pay goes up $704. 40. Woo-hoo! Plus another $93 added onto our housing allowance. (Which still does not begin to cover our housing costs, just in case you were curious.) Another woo-hoo! Hey, every little bit helps.

As much as I would like to say that we have Big Plans for this additional income: Alas, we are still in limbo. So long as our house is still on the market, every extra dollar will continue to go into a regular savings account in the event that we need to bring cash to the closing table. For when our house sells. I said, for when our house sells. Because it will.

For now, John will just have keep dreaming about that motorcycle he wants, and I’ll have to keep dreaming about my new Nikon DSLR camera (or Canon? I haven’t for sure decided yet) I’ve had my eye on for eons, along with that full electric keyboard for Olivia so she can finally start taking piano lessons…

It’s no different from being in debt, really. Only better, because it is possible that when all is said and done, that money we’re saving up will get to be ours for good. And now we have a promotion to help it add up all that much faster.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Tonya August 12, 2010 at 12:11 am

Congratulations on your husband’s promotion to Major! That is wonderful. My husband felt the same way about this promotion (the desire to celebrate) so we had family a lot of family members come in town for the ceremony. They ended up staying the weekend. It was a lot of fun.

As for the waitress, I think you did the right thing. She wasn’t back there cooking it and it wasn’t like she was letting it sit in the window.


Jean August 4, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I think you were right about the tip. If the restaurant was packed, I’m sure it wasn’t her fault that you had to wait for your meal, so why should she be the one to suffer the consequences?

Congrats to The Major (and you) on the promotion!


Cheryl B. August 4, 2010 at 8:59 am

That is so great. I am so glad I found your blog a while back. I really enjoy it and thanks for all those linkey links I am going to now since I have been up since 4:00 a.m.!


Sharon August 3, 2010 at 8:45 pm

I just found your site and look forward to reading more. Congratulations on the promotion and best of luck on the sale of your house! My father was in the Army 21 years and I joined him during his last tour of duty in Germany as a WAC (that term was eliminated after I joined, so I was part of the last bunch!) I wouldn’t trade either my years growing up in the military or my three years serving. Others have already commented, but the community of military families and solders/airmen/marines/etc. is, well there is just no comparison anywhere. We all shared a common bond no matter who we were, where we came from or where we were going.


Jason @ Redeeming Riches August 3, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Congrats! That’s awesome about the raise. You’ll get that camera in no time! =) My wife has her own photo business and she just bought a new Nikon D300 – she loves it.


jolyn Reply:

Did you mean Nikon3000? That’s what I’m thinking about getting… You know, someday. ;)


Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli August 3, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Great news! And $700 a month, that’s huge.
Excellent positive thinking with the house selling. It will sell. Any day now.


Melissa August 3, 2010 at 10:38 am

I love your thoughts on the promotion and thinking you would only make it to Capt. My husband too is prior enlisted and in 2 mos will pin Lt Col! We always thought getting to Maj would be nice but never thought we would get past that! But God and the AF had other plans for us and at 18 yrs they sent him to school followed by command! And now another promotion! Unforntunately all this comes with sacrifice as a family but we are in it for the long haul…..well at least the 3 yrs ti will take to retire at the rank! Congrats!


jolyn Reply:

CONGRATULATIONS! That is just great! My husband is getting ready to go to a school, and a required follow-on after that will take him just beyond 20. We joke that he will actually make the window to possibly board for Lt.Col! It just cracks us up, really, that it’s even a possibility. And yes, I do feel like we have all earned it, to an extent. :)


Beth August 3, 2010 at 10:10 am

Congratulations to your husband! and to you also as I was a military wife and know first hand how much support it takes for them to be able to do their jobs. My husband retired after 33 years and we are now seeing a retirement check. We were commenting last night about how we did plan on the need for retirement planning, but little did we know in the beginning that it would turn out so generous(it seems to us) at the end. We both miss the community of the service and people now.
The job had a bigger goal, don’t you think? A feeling of a bigger cause especially with us in a war currently. Many jobs do not have that and that is part of what I think the military has over any other jobs in the civilian world.
Yes, it is a big deal and should be recognized!


jolyn Reply:

There is that feeling of a Higher Goal, and a sense of purpose outside of yourself. I know that is why so many serve. I, too, have missed the military community at times we’ve been away from it. 33 years! Oh, my. I bet you miss it! I hope you are finding some way to still be involved. Active duty spouses can learn so much from people like you!


Cathie August 3, 2010 at 9:32 am

Congratulations! That is a big deal!
I would have tipped the same. I have major appreciation for a wait job well done, as this is how I was able to raise my kids without any help from their deadbeat father. When we were recently in Virginia Beach we were blown away by a particular server. After we paid and I tipped her, she came back to the table and said, “You’ve made a mistake: there was 18% added to your check already” (, of course!) I told her no mistake, she did a great job. It’s really nice to be able to make someone’s day the way so many of my former customers made so many of mine.


jolyn Reply:

Seriously, that is awesome. I was not a very good waitress, but I worked hard and I had my good nights, and some customers really helped me out. I wish I’d kept better track of my tip totals, but I know they helped me stay afloat more often than not. I always appreciate a good server, and give a lot of leeway to the mediocre ones.


KLZ August 3, 2010 at 9:22 am

Congratulations, that’s huge!

And it will sell. Sometime, it will sell.


jolyn Reply:

Yes, it will. At just the perfect time. Thanks for the good thoughts. :)


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