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Shirley, You Jest!

Claim:   Actress Cindy Williams penned an editorial denouncing a proposed pay raise for the military.

INCORRECTLY ATTRIBUTED

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, June 2001]

This is how we treat our public servants. One story among many!

Salute to our Service Men & Women

On 12 Jan, Ms Cindy Williams (from Laverne and Shirley TV show) wrote a piece for the Washington Times denouncing the pay raise(s) coming service members' way this year-citing that the stated 13% wage gap was bogus.

A young airman from Hill AFB responds to her article below. He ought to get a bonus for this!
 

Ms. Williams:

I just had the pleasure of reading your column of 12 Jan 00, "Our GIs earn enough," and I am a bit confused. Frankly, I'm wondering where this vaunted overpayment is going, because as far as I can tell, it disappears every month between DFAS (The Defense Finance and Accounting Service) and my bank account. Checking my latest leave and earnings statement (LES), see that I make $1,117.80, before taxes. After taxes, I take home $ 874.20. When I run that through Windows' Calculator, I come up with an annual salary of $13,413.60 before taxes, and $10,490.40 after.

I work in the Air Force Network Control Center (AFNCC), where I am part of the team responsible for the administration of a 25,000-host computer network. I am involved with infrastructure segments, specifically with Cisco Systems equipment.

A quick check under jobs for Network Technicians in the Washington, D.C. area reveals a position in my career field, requiring three years experience with my job. Amazingly, this job does NOT pay $13,413.60 a year, nor does it pay less than this. No, this job is being offered at $70,000 to $80,000 per annum. I'm sure you can draw the obvious conclusions.

Also, you tout increases to Basic Allowance for Housing and Basic Allowance for Subsistence (housing and food allowances, respectively) as being a further boon to an already overcompensated force. Again, I'm curious as to where this money has gone, as BAH and BAS were both slashed 15% in the Hill AFB area effective in January 00.

Given the tenor of your column, I would assume that you have NEVER had the pleasure of serving your country in her armed forces. Before you take it upon yourself to once more castigate congressional and DOD leadership for attempting to get the families in the military's lowest pay brackets off AFDC, WIC, and food stamps, I suggest that you join a group of deploying soldiers headed for Saudi — I leave the choice of service branch up to you. Whatever choice you make, though, opt for the SIX month rotation: it will guarantee you the longest possible time away from your family and friends, thus giving you full "deployment experience."

As your group prepares to board the plane, make sure to note the spouses and children who are saying good-bye to their loved ones. Also take care to note that several families are still unsure of how they'll be able to make ends meet while the primary breadwinner is gone — obviously they've been squandering the vast piles of cash the DOD has been giving them. Try to deploy over a major holiday; Christmas and Thanksgiving are perennial favorites. And when you're actually over there, sitting in a DFP (Defensive Fire Position, the modern-day foxhole), shivering against the cold desert night, and the flight sergeant tells you that there aren't enough people on shift to relieve you for chow, remember this: trade whatever MRE you manage to get for the tuna noodle casserole or cheese tortellini, and add Tabasco to everything.

Talk to your loved ones as often as you are permitted; it won't nearly be long enough or often enough, but take what you can get and be thankful for it. You may have picked up on the fact that I disagree with most of the points you present in your op-ed piece. But, tomorrow from Sarajevo, I will defend to the death your right to say it.

You see, I am an American fighting man, a guarantor of your First Amendment rights and every other right you cherish. On a daily basis, my brother and sister soldiers worldwide ensure that you and people like you can thumb your collective nose at us, all on a salary that is nothing short of pitiful and under conditions that would make most people cringe. We hemorrhage our best and brightest into the private sector because we can't offer the stability and pay of civilian companies. And you, Ms. Williams, have the gall to say that we make more than we deserve?

Rubbish!

A1C Michael Bragg
Hill AFB AFNCC
 

IF YOU AGREE, PLEASE PASS THIS ALONG TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE AND SHOW OUR SUPPORT OF THE AMERICAN FIGHTING MEN & WOMEN. THANK YOU.

THIS LETTER SHOULD BE APPLAUDED BY ANYONE WHO'S EVER SERVED OR HAD A FAMILY MEMBER SERVE IN THE ARMED FORCES! THIS YOUNG MAN DESERVES A MEDAL !!!
 

Variations:   An August 2009 version changed the responding airman from one posted to Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah, to one posted to Afghanistan, replying from Kabul.

Origins:   The editorial critical of military pay raises alluded to above and the irate response to it penned by an airman at Hill Air Force Base are genuine, but the author of the original editorial has been mistaken for her (more famous) namesake.

Actress Cindy Williams, who starred in the hit 1973 film American Graffiti and portrayed sweet, lovable Shirley Feeney on the popular 1970s sitcom Laverne & Shirley hasn't been writing newspaper articles denouncing our "overpaid" servicemen. Back in January 2000, a different Cindy Williams, one who was then working as a senior research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and who had once served as assistant director for national security in the Congressional
Budget Office, contributed an op-ed piece to the Washington Post (not the Washington Times) in which she criticized a proposed 25% pay increase for military personnel (on top of a 4.85% raise that had just been enacted). In her article, Ms. Williams maintained that claims that servicemen in the military suffered a 13 percent "pay gap" relative to the private sector were inaccurate, and that military personnel were already well paid compared to the average American.

The full text of the editorial ("Our GIs Earn Enough") by the non-actress Cindy Williams can be found here. The response to that editorial which is reproduced in the example block above was indeed drafted by the airman named, although it was not itself published in Washington Post.

The misidentification of the original article's author has caused considerable grief for Cindy Williams the actress:
"I've done everything to try to squelch it, but nothing seems to work," says Miss Williams of "Laverne and Shirley" fame. "I have people writing and calling me, even my friends, asking: 'Are you against a pay raise for the military?' And I reply, 'You know me, I'd fight [in the military] if I could, because I am such a patriot.'"

Ironically enough, much of the angry correspondence (even "hate mail") the actress has received has come from the military ranks.

"It's been really worrisome," says the actress. "It's terrible to malign people like that. I don't know where to go to say I didn't do this."
Versions of this article circulated since 2009 have stated that Cindy Williams (the one who actually did write the editorial) is the Obama administration's Assistant Director for National Security in the Congressional Budget Office. This is not correct — Ms. Williams held that position from 1994 to 1997, during the Clinton administration.

Last updated:   5 January 2011

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Sources:

    McCaslin, John.   "Inside the Beltway."
    The Washington Times.   26 February 2002.

    Williams, Cindy.   "Our GIs Earn Enough."
    The Washington Post.   12 January 2000   (p. A19).