We serve, too.
It has been almost 14 years since Peter became a special agent with the State Department. We have moved as a family 5 times in those 14 years. We have uprooted our kids, our pets, shipped our household goods and car around the world and sacrificed beyond what we expected in order to serve our country.
Now, however, we are being told that our service doesn't matter. We don't count. United has instituted a new pet travel scheme that could cost those of us moving pets thousands of dollars more. This is in addition to any other fees we pay to move our pets, to include quarantine fees (which ran us about $2K when Bailey PCS-ed* to Iceland). Taking our pets with us keeps our families intact, helps our kids adjust and allows us a bit of normalcy. Now, the already exorbitant cost is going to skyrocket.
There seems to be an idea that every time we move, we somehow have no expenses. Quite honestly, that could not be further from the truth. While our goods our shipped for us and we do receive some allowances, nothing covers our costs completely. We understand that and absorb those costs. We do this for the job, just like we take our kids out of schools they like and move them from areas they love. We do it to serve our country.
Now we are being told that's not enough.
When members of the military found out about the new pet scheme, they banded together and petitioned United (rightfully) to exempt them from this new, far more expensive plan. United back down and made an exemption for the military. Foreign Affairs community members then started their own campaign, thinking perhaps that United just didn't realize that we serve, too.
- We staff embassies and consulates world-wide, without question.
- We send our loved ones overseas for unaccompanied tours to some of the most dangerous places in the world.
- We hear stories from those unaccompanied tours that make us cringe (at best) and cry (at worst) at what has been seen.
- We, as family members, are not necessarily safe from harm's way whether we are doing the single-parenting gig in the States or managing a household overseas.
- We are not immune from family tragedies at home, yet often have to deal with them from thousands of miles away. The financial implications can be staggering.
- We uproot, willingly, at a moment's notice, if need be.
- We evacuate without question, make do with what we have, and make it work in the end, often with limited resources.
- Our salaries drop when we move overseas and have been frozen for the past two years.
- Our motto is "it depends" and we are okay with that.
What is not okay? The fact that United refuses to recognize that we, too, serve.
Do you believe we serve?
If you do, then I ask that you help us serve. Please contact United Airlines and let them know that the U.S. Foreign SERVICE does indeed serve its country. As of right now, they do not appear to believe that our sacrifices are worthy of allowing us to be exempt from this exorbitant new cost. We, too, deserve the respect that is being allotted the military.
A letter has been written and is being circulated around the Foreign Affairs community. There is a massive email campaign that can always use more help. Please take five minutes (or fewer) to send the following note (you can click through directly to the letter) to United Airlines, preferably by 5 p.m. today. You may also send a note to any or all of the emails listed below the sample letter. Additionally, if you can cc: firstname.lastname@example.org, so that AFSA may take an accurate count of those writing in.
If you believe we serve, help us tell United. Let's make a change for the better; our FS families and their pets are counting on it.
*Permanent Change of Station