LeRoy Collins Commentary 72

Commentary #72
15 July 2007

Ben Stein, Open Letter

My typical week has become a series of visits to various Veterans' groups within Florida, discussions with various Veterans' organizations re benefits and assistance, discussions among my seasoned staff on how we can better manage our six State Veterans' Homes, and how we can make the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs more meaningful and efficient.

We spend approximately $50 million of the taxpayers' money per year doing this, and a major part of our responsibility includes the care and feeding of almost 700 Veterans, about 25% of whom have no other family members who visit them on a predictable basis,...but the Homes' staff treats them as their family! Perhaps 20% of our "residents" are dealing with the ravages of serious dementia, so the demands on the patience of our Homes' staff professionals are extensive.

This past week, we made changes in the top two posts of one Home (the same day!), so I went by to meet the new leadership and speak with their senior and middle level staffers. Since many of these top posts are licensed, I am not qualified to appraise their CLINICAL practices and competences, but the State does that through frequent audits. I do think there is value in letting them know who I am, that I care deeply about their service and ATTITUDE, that I want to hear their suggestions for improvements, and that I think they are serving Veterans to whom our Nation and State owe a lifetime of gratitude for their service.

The attached letter written by Ben Stein helps define why we place such high importance on the service of our Nation's Veterans.

/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr., Executive Director,
Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs


Subject: Ben Stein, Open Letter

Ben Stein, Open 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:

Let me tell you about why you guys own about 90 percent of the backbone in the whole world right now and should be happy with yourselves and proud of whom you are.

It was a dazzlingly hot day here in Rancho Mirage today. I did small errands like going to the bank to pay my mortgage, finding a new bed at a price I can afford, practicing driving with my new 5 wood, paying bills for about two hours. I spoke for a long time to a woman who is going through a nasty child custody fight. I got e-mails from a woman who was fired today from her job for not paying attention. I read about multi-billion-dollar mergers in Europe, Asia , and the Mideast . I noticed how overweight I am, for the millionth time. In other words, I did a lot of nothing.

Like every other American who is not in the armed forces family, I basically just rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic in my trivial, self-important, meaningless way.

Above all, I talked to a friend of more than forty-three years who told me he thought his life had no meaning because all he did was count his money. And, friends in the armed forces, this is the story of all of America today. We are doing nothing but treading water while you guys carry on the life or death struggle against worldwide militant Islamic terrorism. Our lives are about nothing: paying bills, going to humdrum jobs, waiting until we can go to sleep and then do it all again. Our most vivid issues are trivia compared with what you do every day, every minute, every second.

Oprah Winfrey talks a lot about "meaning" in life. For her, "meaning" is dieting and then having her photo on the cover of her magazine every single month (surely a new world record for egomania). This is not "meaning."

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.

Look, soldiers and Marines and sailors and airmen and Coast Guardsmen, there are six billion people in this world. The whole fate of this world turns on what you people, 1.4 million, more or less, do every day. The fate of mankind depends on what about 2/100 of one percent of the people in this world do every day and you are those people. And joining you is every policeman, fireman, and Emergency Medical Technician in the country, also holding back the tide of chaos.

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? Do you know that if you never do another thing in your lives, you will always still be heroes? That we could live without Hollywood or Wall Street or the NFL, but we cannot live for a week without you?

We are on our knees to you and we bless and pray for you every moment.

And Oprah Winfrey, if she were a size two, would not have one millionth of your importance, and all of the Wall Street billionaires will never mean what the least of you do, and if Barry Bonds hits hundreds of home runs it would not mean as much as you going on one patrol or driving one truck to the Baghdad airport.

You are everything to us, as we go through our little days, and you are in the prayers of the nation and of every decent man and woman on the planet. That's who you are and what you mean. I hope you know that.


Ben Stein


/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr.


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