Cannon’s closure would affect budgets of retired military

Robin Montano, left, granddaughter Lauren Reed and John Montano show their support for Cannon Air Force Base on Saturday outside the Montano’s house. Montano spent 32 years in the Army National Guard. (Staff photo: John Eisel)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The Montanos call Clovis home. The couple was drawn here largely because of the amenities provided by Cannon Air Force Base. But if the base is shuttered as recommended by the Pentagon, those amenities will be lost to the retired Army National Guard reservist and his wife of 20 years.

The couple visits the base routinely. Household goods, name-brand clothing, and food — from fresh meat, to baked bread, to vegetables — are all offered at the base at discount prices through the commissary, a food warehouse, and the BX, or base exchange, names familiar to any member of the military. The retired husband and wife, mother and father to six grown children, count themselves among those who will be most affected by a base closure.

“I save quite a bit there. Across the board — about 20 to 30 percent,” said John Montano, who often compares base prices to those in town before settling on a purchase.

Montano is more reluctant when the topic shifts from bargain hunting to issues of health. He is prescribed multiple medications to treat his diabetes, however, he obtains most of them free of charge, as long as they are stocked at the base pharmacy.

His wife, Robin Montano, said a closure could cause problems.

“If the base closed, we probably would not be able to afford the medicines John needs,” Robin Montano said from their home.

“We can get them filled in town,” she quipped, “but if we did that, then we would be charged a co-pay. We will probably end up traveling (100) miles away, to Amarillo, where there is a (veterans) hospital. But with gas at $2 a gallon, which one is cheaper? That’s a toss up.”

As 1st Vice Commander-elect of Post 14, Michael Williams keeps track of many veteran concerns. He said his circle of retired military friends, who often meet at Post 14, are most concerned about the $12 co-pay, mandatory in medical facilities off base under the military health care system.

A Cannon closure would be most acutely felt in the wallets of veterans, Williams said, who would lose access to a conveniently located base hospital and pharmacy.

“The majority of retired veterans chose to retire in Clovis because the base was close by,” Williams said.

For the Montanos, and many other military retirees, a Cannon closure would be the harbinger of a jolting lifestyle change — tightened budgets, increased travel, health risks. But most of all, said Robin Montano, it would signify a sort of broken promise.

“Those benefits were promised to us. When John signed on that dotted line to serve his country, he expected to receive certain rewards — it’s nice to have them here.”