By Jim W. Martin
For 159 years, since its first edition rolled off the presses in Bloomfield, Mo., in the early days of the Civil War, the Stars and Stripes has been the voice and watchdog for members of the U.S. armed forces. Now the Dept. of Defense is proposing to completely eliminate federal funding for an organization who’s sole purpose is to serve our fighting men and women.
The significance of Stars and Stripes has long been recognized by some of our nation’s most respected military leaders. Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing, a Missouri native who knew the impact the paper had on troop morale during the Civil War revived it as head of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower did the same during World War II, and also defended Stars and Stripes’ editorial independence. Gen. George Patton threatened to discipline cartoonist Bill Mauldin, who won the first of his two Pulitzer Prizes while at Stars and Stripes, for his scruffy and bedraggled caricatures of GIs “Willie and Joe.” Eisenhower intervened. “Stars and Stripes is the soldiers’ paper,” he told Patton. “We won’t interfere.”
This story goes to the heart of what makes Stars and Stripes an important symbol of American exceptionalism. Though supported by the Pentagon, Stars and Stripes has never answered to the brass. DoD is now pretty much saying that the Stars and Stripes is obsolete. Far from it.
1. It publishes content on digital platforms in addition to producing a print edition that remains important at a time when troops on some of the most dangerous deployments are not permitted to carry cell phones or other personal electronic devices.
2. It has never been a government mouthpiece. It serves its readers, covering news and telling stories of concern to the rank and file that no other news organization provides.
For more than a century and a half, wherever they have gone, America’s troops have brought with them the Stars and Stripes, a news organization unafraid to speak truth to power and a tangible sign of our nation’s commitment to our troops and to free speech. It is arguably one of the most potent weapons they’ve carried into battle.
If you care about the Stars and Stripes and our young men and women in harm’s way, you can do something. You can contact your senator and/or representative yourself and you can make absolutely sure your voice is heard by contacting the repository of the history and heritage of the iconic Stars and Stripes, the not for profit National Stars and Stripes Museum and Library at 573-568-2055 or their website at http://www.stars&stripesmuseum/ library and they will add your name to a growing list, to petition Congress and the Department of Defense demanding that Stars and Stripes funding at the very least be restored, if not increased to reflect increasing operational costs in ensuring its printing and distribution at 14 sites worldwide to our troops in the field.
It’s time to step up and support our young men and women who step up every day for us.
EDITOR’S NOTE: - Jim W. Martin is president of the board of directors for the National Stars and Stripes Museum and Library.
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