In his Jan. 6 letter, “Pay worthy of the hardships,” retired Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan wrote, “If military pay and benefits are the same as those of civilians, there is little incentive to join an organization with the inherent risks of military life.” Perhaps he forgot that Gen. Douglas MacArthur cited as incentives “duty, honor, country” — not compensation. It’s just a guess, but I bet that in 1959, then-2nd Lt. Gordon R. Sullivan would have said he joined the Army to serve his country.

While well-intentioned, the over-the-top rhetoric of many veterans’ lobbyists does a disservice to the Defense Department and the nation. Somewhere along the line of a military career, we forget that the “promises” were made by us to the country, not the other way around. It also contributes to the best-kept secret in Washington: how well we are paid. As an active-duty Marine captain with six years of service, I will receive slightly more than $101,000 in direct compensation this year, not including any special pay or incentives. The government paid for my undergraduate degree and will pay for my son’s degree through a GI Bill transfer, and I don’t have to pay a dollar for my family’s health care.

After four deployments, I am humbled by both the opportunities and the compensation afforded to me. The men I fought beside did so out of a sense of duty, not entitlement. I assure you that Americans will continue to serve no matter their compensation. If they don’t, we’ve got bigger problems than the budget.

David Kinzler, Springfield