Strength At Home
By Ben Stein
August 18, 2004; Wall Street Journal, Page A10
(This is a letter I wrote to the newsletter of an Army unit called The Strykers, stationed in Iraq out of Ft. 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.)
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,
Mr. Stein, a television personality and writer, is co-author with Phil DeMuth of "Can America Survive," forthcoming from Hay House.