A Message To All Military Folks
Wednesday - May 10, 2006
Ben Stein is a humorist and syndicated columnist. His April 5, 2006 column was so apropos that it inspired Peter Pace, Marine general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to forward it to his leadership team and colleagues. I know the general would be pleased if you would pass this on to the servicemen and women and families that you know.
Stein’s column starts out as a letter:
“Dear Soldiers, Sailors. Airmen, Marines, National Guard, Reservists in Iraq, in the Middle East theater, in Afghanistan, in any base anywhere in the world, and your families.”
He writes to them about the average day he’s having in sunny Rancho Mirage near San Diego: running errands, paying a few bills, an hour or so at the driving range, just “life maintenance” stuff. He checks his e-mails and reads about billion-dollar mergers across the world, about a lawsuit brought by a disgruntled employee, and “I also noticed how overweight I’m getting for the millionth time ... you know, just rearranging the deck chairs in my trivial, self-important, meaningless way.”
Above all, Stein notes, “I heard from a close friend who’s considering suicide because his life has no meaning anymore since all he does is count his money! And my friends in the armed forces, this is what we do here in America, treading water while you guys carry on the struggle against worldwide militant Islamic terrorism. Our most vivid issues are trivial compared to what you guys do every day, every minute, every second.”
He then talks about “meaning” and how for Oprah, “meaning” is dieting then having her picture on the cover of every issue of her magazine. “Meaning” is not some Wall Street billionaire cutting a deal. “Meaning” is not Barry Bonds hitting 90 home runs. None of it means as much as “you going on one patrol or driving one truck to the Baghdad Airport. 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 there will still be a home for your family and for your nation and for free men and women everywhere.”
Then Stein points out there are more than 8 billion people in the world, and that “you Soldiers, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Sailors, Airmen and Marines” are only 1.4 million or so - 2/100 of 1 percent of all those people - but the fate of all mankind depends upon what you do every day. You hold the fate of the world in your hands. And along with every fireman, policeman and EMT, do you know how important you are, how indispensable you are? Do you know how humbly grateful any of us who has a head on his shoulders is to you?”
Stein concludes his letter: “Do you know if you never do another thing in your lives you will always still be heroes? We are on our knees to you and we bless and pray for you every moment. You are everything to us, and as we go through our little days you are in the prayers of the nation, and of every decent man and woman on the planet.”
“That’s who you are; you are what ‘meaning’ is all about. I hope you know that.
“Love, Ben Stein”
During this month of May, “Military Appreciation Month,” we might reflect on Stein’s well-chosen words on the meaning of our own lives, and our worthiness of the sacrifices of our fighting men and women and their families.
To quote Winston Churchill: “Never have so many owed so much to so few.”
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