Please do not take it the wrong way but there is no such thing as free cheeze. My college roommate found out the hard way. He thought he would earn $100,000/yr with 0 years of experience fresh out of college. At current pace he is about 70 years away from making that much. So...
To employer it does not matter how long your history is/was in military service. They use that benchmark to gauge your discipline and not what they would pay you. In other words lets say you spend 20 years in the navy and wanted to be hired into flipping burgers. You will be more likely to get hired over a stoner but you will earn just as much as 16 year old kid still in high school.
When you got hired, your interviewer was correct in saying that we start most employees around base salary. What that means is that if your salary bracket is $20,000-$40,000 and you have 0 experience... you will start at $20,000. If you had some experience you might get $25,000. If you had a lot of experience you would get hired at whatever salary options you have negotiated on. When you signed on a dotted line you agreed to employment terms so from employer's perspective they have not done anything wrong.
P.S. Military experience "may" translate into bigger paycheck but it does not mean that it always will. Military skills, however may translate into establishing one's portfolio. For example many of navy's fighter pilots eventually become pilots for airlines.
In my personal experience speaking purely from observation AND also growing up in a military family... military experience does not often make one a better candidate. If it is within you to perform well AND have military experience. As a prospective employee... found it.. here is Disney's philosophy on hiring military veterans.
- Leverage Their Military Experience to the Company and Job. Veterans need to translate their military skills to their businesses and organizations in a fashion that supports the culture and work practices of their company. First, they should sit down and describe one accomplishment they performed in the military, the problem it solved, and why it was successful. Second, they need to list the skills they used to accomplish the military task successfully. Third, they should list problems within the company that could be solved by using some or all of these skills. For example, maybe a veteran started a regular meeting of tribal elders or shopkeepers in his or her AO in Afghanistan to discuss problems and look for solutions. These meetings produced military skills sets of coordination, negotiation, planning, and leadership. Could the veteran set up a series of meetings with a company’s customers to generate ideas and discussion on what the company could provide in the future?
- Mentor an Individual or Group. Mentoring or coaching is a fantastic skill to help build talent, commitment, and initiative in an organization. In the military, performance counseling sessions was a way to identify the standard of the organization, how a soldier performed to that standard, and what step(s) would be taken to improve the soldier’s performance. This mentoring is invaluable in organizations to help new employees or employees with high potential develop. Ken Hicks, an Army veteran and the CEO of Foot Locker, stated, “So I learned that you’re very dependent on your people to be their best. You train and develop and motivate them.”
- Further Education One Class at a Time. Community colleges offer good overview business classes to improve baseline knowledge of business in such vital areas as Accounting, Finance, Statistics, or Applied Mathematics, and employers should encourage veterans to take courses. If possible, veterans should take them in person because fellow students, professors, and college staff are great resources for networking and are available if they need help. Veterans can benefit immensely by business education classes because this education is an additional tool to help them translate their military experience to a business.