16 April 2008

"Strength at Home" essay by Ben Stein - WSJ, August 21, 2004

[ Note: Corrections have been made to my portion of this post and are listed in the "Comments" section below. I'm leaving the original post 'as-is' for posterity. Please respond with your own personal recollections. I'm not too proud to admit when my memory and research skills are found to be lacking so please let me know the story from your own experiences. Thanks for everything. ~ jewls ]

This is transfered verbatim from the Wall Street Journal's Opinion page.

You remember the Strykers from Ft. Lewis, WA. Their tour in Iraq had already been extended and, while their families were practically gathered on the tarmac, awaiting their return (during the holiday season, no less), they were suddenly extended again for 15+ months.

There was such an uproar across the country that Rumsfeld himself came to the base for a special meeting with the spouses. I posted this "as it happened" on jennyspouse.com/page2.html. I no longer have the original text but I'm sure you can find the reports on Google News.

Meanwhile, Ben Stein reached out to those spouses in this letter, published in the Wall Street Journal on August 21, 2004:

Strength at Home: An appreciation of American soldiers' wives.
by BEN STEIN Saturday, August 21, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

This is a letter I wrote to the newsletter of an Army unit called the Strykers, stationed in Iraq out of Fort Lewis, Wash. The editor asked me what I would say to make the wives feel appreciated while their husbands are in Iraq. This is what I wrote to one soldier's wife.

Dear Karen,

I have a great life. I have a wife I adore, a son who is a lazy teenager but I adore him, too. We live in a house with two dogs and four cats. We live in peace. We can worship as we please. We can say what we want. We can walk the streets in safety. We can vote. We can work wherever we want and buy whatever we want. When we sleep, we sleep in peace. When we wake up, it is to the sounds of birds.

All of this, every bit of it, is thanks to your husband, his brave fellow soldiers, and to the wives who keep the home fires burning while the soldiers are away protecting my family and 140 million other families. They protect Republicans and Democrats, Christians, Jews, Muslims and atheists. They protect white, black, yellow, brown and everyone in between. They protect gays and straights, rich and poor.

And none of it could happen without the Army wives, Marine wives, Navy wives, Air Force wives--or husbands--who go to sleep tired and lonely, wake up tired and lonely, and go through the day with a smile on their faces. They feed the kids, put up with the teenagers' surliness, the bills that never stop piling up, the desperate hours when the plumbing breaks and there is no husband to fix it, and the even more desperate hours after the kids have gone to bed, the dishes have been done, the bills have been paid, and the wives realize that they will be sleeping alone--again, for the 300th night in a row.

The wives keep up the fight even when they have to move every couple of years, even when their checks are late, even when they have to make a whole new set of friends every time they move.

And they keep up the fight to keep the family whole even when they feel a lump of dread every time they turn on the news, every time they switch on the computer, every time the phone rings and every time--worst of all--the doorbell rings. Every one of those events--which might mean a baseball score or a weather forecast or a FedEx man to me and my wife--might mean the news that the man they love, the man they have married for better or worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, is now parted from them forever.

These women will never be on the cover of People. They will never be on the tabloid shows on TV about movie stars. But they are the power and the strength that keep America going.

Without them, we are nothing at all. With them, we can do everything.

They are the glue that holds the nation together, stronger than politicians, stronger than talking heads, stronger than al Qaeda.

They deserve all the honor and love a nation can give. They have my prayers, and my wife's, every morning and every night.

Love, and I do mean Love, Ben.

Mr. Stein, a television personality and writer, is co-author with Phil DeMuth of "Can America Survive," forthcoming from Hay House.

(Note from jewls: I know this is old but it was part of a presentation packet I received during my stint as "Member-at-Large" for Kadena's OSC. I'd never seen it before and simply wanted to reprint it here as a reminder that people out there really do know we exist. You know, I've always liked that Ben Stein guy.) :-)

~ jewls


gen said...

i love ben stein. he is a great troop supporter. thanks for posting this, it made my day!

Anonymous said...

Thats awesome to here some positive feedback. Unless this has happened twice,the Stryker's unit was from Fort Wainwright, Alaska and not Ft. Lewis, WA. Mr. Rumsfield did visit and talk with the Spouses of the 172nd Stryker Brigade regarding their Spouses last second extension here at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. I remember that day when the Spouses of those in the 172nd was hurdled into the post gym and told that their spouses would return back to Iraq. Some Soldiers had gotten as close as Kansas and were returned. Most were waiting in Kuwait for the plane ride home to then find out it's a plan ride back to the front. Fort Wainwright was devastated but we sucked it up and drove on.

Anonymous said...

I left a comment earlier regarding the unit location. I would also like to correct that the unit original return date was in August of that year, no where near the holidays.
When the Strykers did make it home it was during the holidays. I believe ever Stryker was home by Christmas of that year. The Strykers were deployed for a total of 15-16 months depending on the actual date each Soldier arrived and returned.

jennyspouse.com said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for correcting me.

While Ben's letter was addressed to the spouse at Ft. Lewis, WA, the "Stryker" unit I was thinking of must have been yours at Ft. Wainwright. I swore it was near the holidays but that could be the romantic in me. :-)

Apparently, both Stryker units (Lewis and Wainwright) were affected by that particular extension. Mr. Stein's letter was in August, as you said, so I'll bet that's the reason he wrote it...because none of them were coming home as expected, even after their particularly lengthy assignment.

I just remember thinking that this is not the way it's supposed to go. Then again, I'm a spouse and I want to know my husband is safe. He, on the other hand, would rather be in the thick of it.

Thank you for correcting me. My gratitude is yours for standing strong while the nation watched and felt your pain.

Always, Julie Negron

Anonymous said...

Code of the military spouse. "semper gumby!"
Caryl- WPAFB Oh, soon to be florida

UncleSamWife said...

I actually picked up his 'The Real Stars' book.It is a collection of his op eds,letters,and E! Online articles.As you can imagine the cover is of a soldier hanging out with Iraqi kids.

I honestly,couldnt get through the first few pages without crying.

It is so nice to know someone appreciates you when you walk away from the pier or looking forward to months alone in a house.