Joining the army helped my parents build a fortune for generations

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  • My parents hit a financial low point in the 1970s and decided to join the army to make ends meet.
  • Their time in the army eventually helped them get better financial foundations and go to college.
  • They managed to get good government jobs and my mom is now comfortably retired.

My mother wore combat boots – although she preferred heels. She shot from a rifle – although she does not approve of weapons. She had to run a mile in less than seven minutes, in full combat gear—even though she carried me on her stomach.

My mom will tell you that the military was a difficult path, especially for a woman in the seventies, but a path she would undoubtedly take again because of the life it gave her.

“It was awkward at the time,” she told me. “The military made a massive change where I ended up in life – where we all ended up in life.”

My parents joined the army when they ran out of options

My mother, Kristen Knapp, grew up in Detroit and mid-Michigan, where I helped take care of her six younger siblings. Despite the burden, I graduated from high school a semester early. She dreamed of studying in Italy – perhaps fashion or architecture.

“Was it really important?” I marveled. It was Italy.

My mom met my dad, a vet from Vietnam, at a friend’s house on the same day she got her degree. They married after seven months. She never arrived in Italy.

Life stepped forward in the following years: college classes for both. The birth of my sister. My father graduated. The master’s program started through the University of Kansas – but the US economy has slowed their progress.

“That was in the early seventies,” my mom said. “Everything is starting to go downhill fast.”

My father lost the job that supported his studies. She lost her job. They had few options.

“We had to go home. There were no jobs. On top of that, the money was so bad for the government, I lost my scholarships and grants that I had previously used to pay tuition fees. It was gone. There was no way for me to finish college.”

My dad got two jobs at two separate Kroger stores in Michigan, and was earning a few dollars an hour. My mother worked at K-Mart, and earned $1.68 an hour. Their unskilled labor afforded them a cramped upstairs apartment in a low-rent part of Lansing. The weeks went on with no better days in sight.

“These were very desperate times,” my mom told me.

They were desperate – until my mom came up with an idea. A friend just joined the army and moved to Germany for a steady salary and college money.

My mother asked my father, “What if we joined?” “It was it or not to go anywhere in that dreary old apartment.”

Mom dreamed of living in Europe, but not like that.

“Imagine raising the stakes and moving a child halfway across the world.”

They have imagined it. they did it. It has changed their lives.

2 Army incomes made all the difference

Both of my parents were recruited. They didn’t earn much at first. After basic training, they studied Army communications to prepare for a move abroad.

“It wasn’t cool. We had a trailer in Georgia and a babysitter.”

At least they knew they would be together.

“The military had this thing they called the buddy system (the buddy team recruiting option). If we got in, we were kind of locked together and they’d have to put us in the same place.”

The army sent them into a critical region during a pivotal period: Germany in the 1970s. The Nazis are gone, but the Iron Curtain remains and armed militants like the Baader-Meinhof group still terrorize the streets. My parents worked for the Army Security Agency, encrypting top-secret communications between officers – the same level of secret intelligence. Today’s headlines.

“These were TS SCI files – the same files Taken from the Trump home in Florida It could land him in jail. We had this statement. We were not allowed to visit a communist country in 10 years after we left the army. I worked in a basement – literally a basement.”

Despite their critical work, my parents did not earn much money. They needed all of their income to survive.

“I don’t know how families do it nowadays living on one income from the military. You get transferred every three years. The husband can’t keep a job. That’s why you have so many people on food stamps.”

Double income helped, as did a program that paid a little extra for government employees who lived in expensive places.

“When we went to Germany, the army didn’t have enough housing. We got more money, which we needed to buy an apartment. It was for a much nicer way of life, away from the norm.”

My mother gave birth to me in Augsburg, Germany. My father earned a master’s degree in child development through the Boston University program in Munich. A short time later, they returned to Michigan with a little extra pocket money and a brighter outlook on life.

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They returned to Michigan in a better financial position

My parents are now able to buy an apartment that isn’t bleak. They went out with friends. They bought a car. They rotated Bob Seger’s recordings on a high-end Pioneer stereo system. Their time in Germany, though not as enriching, led my father to a more comfortable lower-middle-class lifestyle.

During this time, my father got a job in Michigan while my mother was pursuing a degree in computer programming in Michigan with help from GI Bill.

“You didn’t pay for everything—just tuition and books. I think MSU was a $13 credit at the time. We lived in a Spartan village (student housing), and it’s cheap accommodation. Our biggest expense was the babysitters.”

My mom looks at what she received to help cover college costs but realizes that the military track doesn’t give the same reward today.

“They changed it back in the ’80s to a much lower amount. I think it’s almost useless now. We used it to get into school. Now they encourage you to save money for school. That’s not a big deal. I can do it on my own. If that’s the case in that time, we might not have recruited.”

Enlistment in the army helped my parents build a fortune for generations

After graduating from college, my mom worked in Michigan for 27 years. I wrote and maintained computer programs until I retired in 2011. My father worked in Michigan for 28 years. He died of cancer while still on the job with the Michigan Department of Transportation in 2007. Their military time increased their pension, allowing my mom to enjoy her retirement without worrying about money.

“It made a difference. Instead of getting my pension for 28, I got my pension at 33. For me, it was 30 instead of 27. That makes a difference. I would say it added about 10% to my retirement income.”

My parents never forgot the hard times they went through before they joined the army. During their career, they hit money and Make safe investments They can count on it when they retire. Military money helps cover the bills for my 70-year-old mom, but she believes the guidance and support they received in the military had a much greater impact.

“As far as my life ended up financially, the military was critical. If we hadn’t enlisted in the army, I might not have gotten my degree.”

The benefits were far-reaching. My parents helped my sister and I pay for college, funded home improvement projects, and laid nest eggs for each of their three grandchildren. The path that began with military conscription ended with The wealth of generations.

As for her Italy dreams: My mom got there as a tourist in 2004.

Kristen Knapp in Italy

Kristen Knapp in Italy.

Kristen Knapp



I have traveled all over the world. She lives in a luxury apartment that she has remodeled to her specifications. She drives a luxury car that meets her high standards. She has earned all this, but still realizes the doors that the benefits she received from the military have opened.

“At the time, for us, it was huge. It was the difference between starving in that old apartment and moving on to become productive members of society. It made a huge difference to where my family ended up in life.”

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