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Military Families Say Pay Raise Will Help Make Ends Meet

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POPE AIR FORCE BASE — President Bill Clinton has approved a major pay raise for everyone in the military. It means almost 5 percent more for most families.

Young military families say every little bit helps and that a 4.8 percent pay raise will make a big difference in making ends meet.

The Delong family knows what it is like to live on a tight budget. Todd Delong makes $22,000 as a senior airman in theAir Force, and Nikki Delong stays home with their two children.

A 4.8 percent military pay raise translates into $700 more a year.

"When you've got $400 in one credit card and others are maxed out, $700 can pay off a lot of debt," said Delong.

The military pay increase is the largest since 1981. TheDepartment of Defensesays it is a way to recruit and retain military members.

"I don't think it's enough," said Todd Delong.

Delong is an A-10 electronics technician and knows he can make more outside the Air Force. He says the military needs to compete by providing similar pay increases in the future.

"It will definitely sway my decision whether to stay in or get out," said Delong.

Army wife Anita Littlejohn works full time to supplement her husband's $22,000 salary. She says the raise will perk up their quality of life.

"It will help most with morale in soldiers and morale with their families," said Littlejohn.

The raise will go into effect Jan. 1.

The pay raise was included in the $268 billion defense spending bill.

It also includes the restoration of retirement benefits to 50 percent of base pay after 20 years of service.

The bill includes the first installment of a five-year, $112 billion increase in resources.

That is the first sustained, long-term increase in defense funding since the end of the Cold War.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Gil Hollingsworth, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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