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Army Wife Lays Out the Real Costs of a $105,000 Re-enlistment Bonus

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An Army wife and author detailed the cost of accepting a $105,000 re-enlistment bonus in a moving post on her blog, RebeccaYarros.com. While she admits that her husband’s upcoming retirement after 22 years of service is “daunting,” she goes on to elaborate exactly why he is choosing to become a civilian even with such a lucrative offer on the table.

“Dear United States Army,” Rebecca Yarros begins in her blog post. “Thank you for your kind offer of a $105,000 retention bonus. I’m afraid we’ll have to decline.”

“You see, that bonus comes with three more years of service, which we already know from our rotation schedule means another 9 month deployment to a combat zone,” she continues in the blog post. “See that picture? All of those letters I’m surrounded by? We have thousands of them written between us throughout his five deployments, and I’m running out of storage room.”

“Man, we’ve been back and forth over the last six months about this,” Yarros adds. “That money would change a lot about our life. We’d have enough to put a hefty downpayment on a home here in Colorado…seeing as the home we still own near Fort Drum never sold after we PCS’d. We could breathe a little easier with paying our bills, our son’s dyslexia tutor, and so. many. things. We’re not so privileged that we can’t understand how much money that is, or how crazy it is that we’re being offered it.”

“The money is enticing. Not going to lie,” says Yarros. “In fact, if we weren’t lucky that I have a career that can keep us afloat after the army, we’d probably take it.”

“But not because we want to—but because we have six kids and only one of them is through college. (And yes, we know that was our choice.),” she continues. “We’re not taking the bonus because the cost to my family for another three years of service is higher than $105K. My husband is priceless.”

Yarros goes on to discuss a story surrounding a red and blue stained-glass heart with a star at the center, discussing how it was a “cute take on a service flag” and was purchased between her husband’s third and fourth deployments.

The heart is now broken, though she isn’t sure whether it occurred during a PCS, was dropped by a mover, or was damaged by one of her children.

“I stopped asking myself ‘why,’ sometime in the last year,” she wrote, “and accepted the fact that it’s broken. We’re broken. Hell, I am that silly, delicate heart. Forged in the heat of this life, braced with steel, multi-faceted, beautiful and broken. You, United States Army, have done the breaking. It’s a matter of self-preservation that we walk away.”

“When Jason first brought the bonus to my attention, I was leaving the ER with the Hulk, who had just fractured his wrist at soccer practice. Already, Thor was home with fractures in his ankle from a tumble up…yes UP…the stairs. Jason was on his fifth deployment. At first, he acknowledged that it was NOT the time to ask me, but we made a deal years ago: We don’t keep secrets. Information is given as we get it. When he told me the amount, and asked if I wanted him to investigate, my first response came in the heat of overwhelming anger. ‘If you sign that bonus, you’ll be signing divorce papers right along with it.’”

Yarros admitted it was “not my finest moment in my marriage,” particularly when she “threatened” her husband with a divorce, which she did retract.

While the pair did weight the offer, Yarros knew she “could not take another deployment.”

“[The Army] couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you?” she wrote. “You just kept coming and coming, taking where there was nothing left to be taken, and breaking off pieces until I lost that luster, and became…whatever this is.”

Yarros then detailed all of the reasons her husband will not re-enlist, including his already 22 years of service, the ongoing conflicts that resulted in the deployments, the emotional harm to her children, and more.

“Though it may not sound like it,” Yarros added, “I have loved our time as a military family. I’m incredibly proud of Jason and what he’s accomplished. The military has been good to us. Our healthcare is outstanding. My children have seen the world. Jason’s seen a little too much of the world. I’m grateful for the opportunities you’ve given us as a family. For ballgowns and blues. For homecoming kisses. For BDU’s and polished boots, and A2CU’s and flight gear in my entry hall. So please don’t take his retirement as an insult or a rejection. He said he’d give you twenty, and has done so.”

“We’ve simply been cut down like the Giving Tree, and have nothing else to give you without destroying what we’ve worked so hard to build,” she continued. “Be kind to our friends who have taken the bonus. Treat them well. Every family is in a different position, a different stage of life, and we’ve all made the choice that’s best for our families. This is simply what’s best for us.”

“So keep the $105K,” she said in closing. “I’ll keep my husband.”