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Ask Anthony: Military community weighs in on issues impacting our armed forces, families

Anthony Austin met with several military advocates, spouses, and veterans who are working with our service members to solve any problems they may have.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — This week, First Coast News Anchor Anthony Austin went to Naval Station Mayport for an "Ask Anthony" listening session.  

He met with several military advocates, spouses, and veterans who are working with our service members to solve any problems they may have. 

"Sometimes, we can't always take care of everything, and we need to rely on other people," Kelly Stull said. 

Stull has lived the military life as a spouse, and now she helps our active duty service members and their families with their needs as the Ombudsman and Deployment coordinator.

"The biggest issue right now is food insecurity.  With everything going up and the economy, it doesn't matter if it's the commissary or Publix or Winn-Dixie... it's hard to fill your pantry," Stull added. 

From food to budgeting daily expenses, there are experts on military bases, a lot of them veterans, who are ready to help. 

Retired Navy Chief Jose Sanchez helps young sailors learn how to manage their money and debt. 

"We have strategies that we can help them pay down that debt faster and pay less interest over time," Sanchez said. 

New military members often take out loans, sometimes payday loans, when they find themselves low on money. 

"I've seen upwards of 200% interest on loans that service members have gotten, and then they're paying high interest rates," Melissa Wilson explained. "They're seeking out military members because they know it's a guaranteed paycheck."

Wilson is with the Navy Marine Corp Relief Society. The organization gives interest free loans for basic living expenses, car repairs, military pay issues, or emergency travel. 

"We're available for service members no matter where they are in the world," Wilson responded. "In 2022, Navy Marine Corp Relief Society helped with $45.9 million dollars in assistance. In Mayport alone, we helped with over a million dollars to help service members with those needs."

Also, there is legal help available on military bases. 

"There's a lot of scams that I think that really target elderly populations," Lieutenant Commander Kelsey Richardt said. "We've had a number of retirees come in and people are trying to scam them or take their credit cards or just really got them into a bad financial situation."

Reichardt is a Navy lawyer. She says legal help is available on base for active-duty service members, dependents, and retirees. 

"If you are on a mission or getting ready to deploy, and you have a serious legal issue, it's hard to focus on the mission. Our job is to really make sure we can take care of you and your family, so you can focus on the mission, and we can make sure things are ok here at home," Reichardt explained. 

The Fleet & Family Support Center posts information on its Facebook page about a lot of services mentioned in this article.  

Click here to learn more.


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