JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- They're struggling to feed their families and pay their bills. Twenty-seven hundred civilian workers at Naval Air Station Jacksonville are going without 20 percent of their pay due to sequestration.
Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited the base to talk with furloughed civilian workers and answer questions.
"I dedicated my whole working life supporting our war fighters and this is the thanks I got?" questioned furloughed civilian worker Phillip Adrigo.
Adrigo is fired up. He's a retired military member serving since he was 18. This Friday, he and his wife will be forced to stay home, furloughed, instead of reporting to work at NAS Jax.
"Just imagine taking 20 percent of your pay. How are you going to pay for your mortgage? How are you going to pay for the food on your table?" he asked.
Adrigo was one of 100 other civilians in the crowd as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addressed their concerns. Adrigo wasn't even invited to attend -- he said he had to force his way in.
In fact, about 2,600 of the furloughed workers weren't given a seat. Action News was told that was the biggest space the base could secure. We asked Hagel how he feels about that.
"I don't know of that was a local decision based on space or what, but I do know civilian employees who have been furloughed, whether they were there or not there, they're going through the same pain. I'd say the same thing to this person if they were standing where you are as I said this morning. I'm sorry," Hagel said.
Adrigo said this issue goes far beyond just the future of these workers and their families. It's impacting the safety of America.
"We might have a soldier out there running out of bullets, running out of food, running out of clothing. This thing's going to hurt our war fighters," he said.
Action News asked who will keep them safe if he and other civilian workers aren't there to do their job.
I don't know," he said.
Hagel said he has noticed a drop in productivity while touring bases like NAS Jax. He said it's inevitable.
The fear now is civilians will start leaving to find jobs elsewhere.