FORT BLISS, TX — Most soldiers draw up lists of what they want to do when they get back from deployment overseas -- from biting into a Big Mac to kissing their girl back home. For Private First Class Samuel Ramos, it was his dream to buy a new car.
"I've never actually owned a car before. I could never afford it," says Ramos, "but with all the money I saved on this deployment, my dream can now come true."
Ramos recently returned to Fort Bliss from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan with 3rd Brigade, 1/41 Infantry. He's part of a growing trend of what Army officials call "post-deployment rich".
"PDR is a term we've coined," says Major Nate Simpson, "which basically encapsulates the soldier who left on deployment living paycheck to paycheck, but returns with a bunch of cash in the bank that he inevitably must spend immediately. This then brings him back to economic equilibrium, meaning, paycheck to paycheck - again."
Ramos is not alone in his newfound post-deployment wealth. On top of the typical base pay soldiers earn each month, they also receive hazardous duty and combat pay while deployed to Afghanistan -- typically amounting in hundreds of additional dollars. This extra money means more to accrue in his bank account while they are deployed.
Days after his return, Ramos walked across the street from base to A-1 Automotive Sales. The used car lot is a staple in the Fort Bliss community, and is proud to offer "Military Financing for E-1 and Above." He was greeted by Sales Manager Chip Wilson.
"We're proud to serve our soldiers when they come back from overseas," said Wilson, "and especially happy that PFC Ramos came over to see us. He really liked the red Mustang we had on the lot."
The 2007 Ford Mustang caught Ramos' eye immediately. It had all the standard features -- a powerful V-6 Engine, Automatic transmission, Loud exhaust intended for a Honda Civic, and tinted windows. The price at the dealer was marked at $21,500, even though Kelly Blue Book valued the car at around $13,000.
Ramos was an educated consumer and noticed the discrepancy right away.
"Why is the price so high on the Mustang?" he asked.
"Oh well, that's a very special car sir," Wilson responded with a grin of integrity, "not only is that a fine automobile with just under 167,000 original miles; the previous owner was none other than General Ray Odierno."
The Private was shocked, in disbelief that this could be what the Chief of Staff of the Army used to drive.
"Swear to the good lord himself," said Wilson. "I wouldn't lie to you young man. Let's get the paperwork started, shall we?"
This was a real dream for Ramos. He was getting the car he had always wanted -- along with the knowledge that the previous owner was something of an Army celebrity.
"This is really great. I am so excited. Chip was so nice and took me through the whole process," said Ramos, "I wanted to pay it in cash, but Chip said it would be a much better idea to 'keep a little spending money' and finance this one. He said I qualified for a great rate of 18% APR."
Other soldiers in his unit have also provided an economic boost to the local community, to include the Jeep and Ford dealerships, local bars and strip clubs, as well as numerous tattoo parlors.