My Response To William Arkin Of The Washington Post

I have pretty thick skin when it comes to those who protest the war and even those who bad mouth the troops. I spent a year writing a column in Greenville, Michigan, during my husband’s deployment to Iraq. I refused to write under any name but my own, though I was encouraged to do so for my own protection. I don’t like being bullied and I refused to hide or be ashamed of my husband’s service.

This week, even my thick skin was penetrated to the core of my being as I found the same link in my email three different times from friends asking “Have you seen this?”. The answer is yes, I did see it and I also have read his back peddling since getting some angry comments to that blog. Here are my thoughts on some of the more inflammatory comments by Mr. Arkin:

“I’m all for everyone expressing their opinion, even those who wear the uniform of the United States Army. But I also hope that military commanders took the soldiers aside after the story and explained to them why it wasn’t for them to disapprove of the American people.”

Even those who wear the uniform of the United States Army? Excuse me? Unlike Mr. Arkin, I am not limiting the uniform to one branch: The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, National Guard and Coast Guard all wear our uniform and every last one of them are also Americans. What I am getting here from Mr. Arkin is that it’s OK for them to put their lives on the line for his freedom of speech and free press but they should not feel inclined to use it for themselves. These men and women have earned their right to these liberties by putting on that uniform, leaving their families behind and willingly putting their lives on the line to protect our Constitution and way of life. It seems that Mr. Arkin has forgotten one must be an American to serve in the US military.

“These soldiers should be grateful that the American public, which by all polls overwhelmingly disapproves of the Iraq war and the President’s handling of it, do still offer their support to them, and their respect.”

Again, excuse me? Grateful? Let’s see… the troops feel they are doing what needs to be done to ensure the security of our own country and they should be grateful that a large portion of the population, who have never seen combat outside of the evening news, refuse to hear what they are saying? They should be grateful for their disapproval of their service and their mission? I strongly suggest that we take up a collection and pay to send William Arkin into the middle of a Green Zone without military protection and see how he views this disapproval then.

“We don’t see very many “baby killer” epithets being thrown around these days, no one in uniform is being spit upon.”

Really? Have you read the New York Times, much to my surprise I might add, that reported on such an incident happening to a Veteran in a wheelchair during the protest on January 27? Yes, William Arkin, people do still spit on them and I personally found myself terrorized in a parking lot by a few who felt that the sticker on the back of my car warranted calling my husband a “baby killer”. It does happen and unlike you, we keep believing that all Americans have the right to freedom of expression. Even one comment or action of this sort is too many.

“So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society.”

I think they missed my husband when it came to sending obscene amenities. He had the local church, a few family members, his employer and his wife sending him care packages. He limited even the number of soda’s he would drink in a day to ensure that he wasn’t taking money away from the household, his snacks came from those care packages and yes on occasion someone would send him CD’s or DVD’s that he played on the used laptop that I paid a grand total of $179.00 to purchase so we could have communication. I wonder how many soldiers who are simply trying to get the protective gear they need feel we are sending obscene amenities?

I would love to hear from our military families who are enjoying that free housing on this one, please feel free to add your opinions in the comments section. As for me: We are Michigan National Guard. My husband left a good paying civilian job as a Union Carpenter with excellent benefits to put on that uniform and serve his country. I don’t live on post and given that he took a cut in pay when he was mobilized it put my life into a tailspin. I still had a mortgage, I still had insurance and now I have massive co-pays on my medical. I went from a fifteen dollar co-pay that included any kind of care I might possibly need to getting an eighty dollar bill because the doctor decided my shoulder injury was really the need to crack my back. I still had an injured shoulder and I also had an eighty dollar bill for “Chiropractor Services” from the only doctor within fifty miles of my home that was covered under Tricare. While most doctors accept Tricare, unless they are actually in the network they are not Tricare providers and I pay more out of pocket than Tricare does.

Yes, we did get a housing allowance. Too bad it’s based on where you live because while mine wasn’t too bad there are others in the next town who barely received two hundred dollars a month for housing. Bottom of the barrel rent in my area is about six to eight hundred a month. We love that free housing! Not all military posts offer married housing so these troops have to find a place to live off post and are responsible for paying their rent; their allowance does not change regardless of the cost.

Sorry William Arkin, you do not take very good care of us, but we accept these sacrifices because we believe living in a free country is worth the inconvenience. We all pay a price in order to give you the protected freedom of bashing our troops and criticizing their frustration over a people that treat them like dirt and yet, we continue to do so proudly.

For the likes of William Arkin and those who think like him, here are some things to consider:

Every single day thousands of soldiers wake up away from home and put on a pair of combat boots, eat food covered in dust while dodging mortars and bullets; they do this of their own free will and they are proud to protect your rights. Across the world their families wake up and before even opening their eyes they utter a prayer that their soldier is safe and some families will get a knock on the door today because their soldier will never come home again. They do this for you and for all who disagree with them even though they hate what you say. Even while hating what you say, they are willing to die for your right to say it and in my opinion you are abusing that right. If you have any decency at all, which I doubt you really do, the next time a soldier passes you on the street, I suggest you drop to your knees and thank them that you don’t live in a country where you would be put to death for your blasphemy.

I won’t even dignify the term mercenary that was used in the article to refer to our troops other than to say a mercenary does what they do for very high pay and glory. The last time I looked at my husband’s LES (Leave and Earnings Statement), I didn’t see any high pay and as for the glory; he is happy just being another person in the crowd. He has been offered many chances to be the hero for the day and he always refuses. I talked him into participating in one parade and that took some serious work on my end. Our soldiers don’t want glory, they just want to be able to do their job without being treated like dirt by those they serve.

My next blog will explain what you can do to support your troops against this kind of attack and I hope you will join me in showing support for our troops. As military families we often just brush off all that is said, but sometimes we have to take a stand and I believe this is one of those times.

If you so choose, William Arkin also has links in the sidebar of his blog and two of them are sort of retractions, they don’t hold much water with me but unlike William Arkin, I believe in giving all the information.

Projects To Support Your Troops

Ways To Thank The Troops

Silly String: a lifesaving gift for soldiers