April 10, 2006
Making a differenceBen Stein's latest letter to our men and women in uniform is wonderful - I'm printing it and sending it to my son. Stein is one of those rarities among Hollywood celebrities. He appreciates his freedoms, bought and paid for with the blood of our military, and has expressed that appreciation over and over again. Here are excerpts, but do read the entire letter.
Dear Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, National Guard, Reservists, in Iraq, in the Middle East theater, in Afghanistan, in the area near Afghanistan, in any base anywhere in the world, and your families:
Stein goes on to describe the details of our daily existance, living in a country where we have freedoms that can only be dreamed of in so many countries around this world. Your woes might include a family squabble or problems on the job. Others might be in the middle of a messy divorce or washing dishes by hand until the dishwasher is fixed. Me, I'm hoping to lose a few extra pounds before a trip at the end of the month. My car won't start and so I'm driving my son's truck right now (if you're reading this, Shane, I'm taking very good care of it). It's raining here in Oregon and I'm staying home today instead of taking my dog to the park. I've misplaced my cell phone and lost all my numbers. I'm out of chocolate. Little things.
In other parts of the world, people are starving and dying because of oppressive regimes. They would love to be burdened with nothing more than jeans that are a bit too snug and a rainy Sunday afternoon that disrupts leisure plans. Their worries include being blown up by suicide bombers as they worship or having their house commandeered by insurgents intent on using it as a staging ground.
But in Iraq and Afghanistan, as they have done in various parts of the world for more than 230 years, our Marines and soldiers, sailors, and airmen (and women) are making a difference. A real difference. And in so doing, they are defeating evil and bringing hope to a nation.
Stein goes on about the meaning of the work performed by our troops:
Meaning is doing for others. Meaning is risking your life for others. Meaning is putting your bodies and families' peace of mind on the line to defeat some of the most evil, sick killers the world has ever known. Meaning is leaving the comfort of home to fight to make sure that there still will be a home for your family and for your nation and for free men and women everywhere.
So why do they do it? It isn't for the money. Compare the base salary of a Lance Corporal (about $18,000/yr) with $327,000. That's the lowest salary paid in 2006 for major league ballplayers - a sport where the median income is around $1 million. In contrast, top salary for an enlisted Marine with 20 years of service is about $60,000.
Take a 24 year old Marine and compare him to a 24 year old ball player. At the end of their lives, they'll both have some great stories. But our troops make a difference in a way that actors, rock stars, sports figures, and other folks who are regularly featured in headlines and TV specials will never accomplish. And sometimes, they give their lives in the effort.
Sgt Michael "Shrek" Carlson wrote in a high school essay; "When I am on my deathbed, what am I going to look back on? Will it be thirty years of fighting crime and protecting the country of all enemies, foreign and domestic? I want my life to account for something... I only have so much time. I want to be good at life; I want to be known as the best of the best at my job. I want people to need me, to count on me... I want to fight for something, be part of something that is greater than myself. I want to be a soldier..."
Sgt. Carlson was killed in while serving in Iraq. His life was short but counted for everything. He put his life on the line for our freedoms as have so many others of our best and brightest young men and women. He made a difference. And our troops continue to make a difference every single day.
Recently, my son led a search on a house - something he does every day of the week. After the search was concluded, he sat and drank tea with the the head of the household - a father of nine who has been unemployed for over a year. He could have hired himself out to the insurgency but he chose not to go that route. Like others in this border city, he wants nothing more than to be done with terror - to live and work without fear. My son's squad pooled the money they were carrying (about $20 USD) and that will help this family temporarily - $20 goes a lot further in Iraq than here. But, there is follow-up and follow-through. The civil affairs unit in the city will find work for the father. He'll be able to provide for his family. It's nationbuilding, one family, one house, one city at a time. It brings meaning to the lives of our troops who joined to make a difference and to the lives they touch. It's a legacy that will last.
Do you know how important you are? Do you know how indispensable you are? Do you know how humbly grateful any of us who has a head on his shoulders is to you?
Our troops have never asked for thanks. Or gratitude. Or anything, other than our support as they carry out a complex and dangerous mission. The outcome is a safer and freer world for the rest of us. Ben Stein understands that.
Posted by Deb at April 10, 2006 03:09 AM
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