Veterans and active duty service members at Fort Bragg and the neighboring community of Fayetteville, N.C., say commissaries provide a valuable benefit and would be greatly missed, a possibility raised by the recent news that top Pentagon officials have asked the Defense Commissary Agency to create a plan to close all stateside commissaries.
Mark Erskine, commander of American Legion Post 230 and an Army veteran on 100 percent disability, cannot imagine losing the stores where he buys his food and basic household supplies.
“Around here, lots and lots of veterans stay here,” Erskine told the Fayetteville Observer. “They stay here so they have access to using military benefits. The commissary and PX — those are benefits of being veterans, retired or on 100 percent disability. ”
DOD reports that commissary shoppers realized up to 30 percent savings on their grocery bill compared with prices at nonmilitary grocery stores. However, the savings comes at a cost to taxpayers, who provide $1.4 billion in subsidies to run the 247 worldwide commissaries.
A widow of an Air Force retiree who drives 28 miles to a commissary to purchase her essentials underscored the importance of commissaries to service members.
“The active-duty military depends on the commissaries. … I would hate to see it cut out, especially for the active-duty ones,” she said.
Defense officials requested the plan to close the commissaries as part of their planning for the fiscal 2015 budget request. Any plan to close the military grocery stores must be approved by Congress, where it would face strong resistance from lawmakers and military communities.