On CNN.com today

Here’s a link to my opinion piece on CNN.com today. Check it out.

12:45 Update: So the CNN commentary seems to be turning into something that would make for fascinating fodder for a psychology class. People really do bring their own perceptions to everything they encounter. The vast majority of the comments on the CNN site are from people who were offended by what I wrote because of their own direct connections to the Iraq War. They seemed to take from the commentary that I believe Iraq to be a less noble war than Afghanistan, when not only did I NOT say that in the commentary, I actually said just the OPPOSITE. In fact, in the 3rd paragraph — very near the top of the piece — I say this:

“…my reasoning has nothing to do with the actual fighting that took place there. I am grateful because, to many Americans, Afghanistan is still the “good” war, the one we had to fight. Iraq was the war that many never understood nor supported.”

This is sad on so many levels. Personally, it’s frustrating to be completely misunderstood when I think I stated clearly, early on and repeatedly in the commentary that I don’t see any difference between the fighting that has taken place in the two countries and that I’m grateful my husband served in Afghanistan (and not Iraq) because it means we won’t have to suffer the comments of the fools who want to mouth off on the Iraq war. But the commentary being so misconstrued is sad for me on a larger scale because it means that  there are so many veterans and military family members who expect to see their service disparaged that they instantly jump to that conclusion.

So, if you’ve clicked through from the CNN piece because you’re just mad as hell at me and want to sound off some more, please read the commentary again and consider the actual words it contains before doing so.

10 p.m. Update – At this point I would like to offer my very sincere apologies to those who have served in Iraq or whose loved ones served there — and most especially to the surviving spouses of troops killed there — for any offense this commentary caused. It was never my intent to offend you guys, in fact, my intent was simply to inform people that the “what a waste” type comments are hurtful. To think that I have hurt in you in trying to put out that message is distressing to say the least.

Right now I am attempting to circulate this apology among the Gold Star community and I hope that any of you reading this will cut and paste it and pass it on to friends you may have in that community:
Dear Surviving Spouses & Gold Star Family members – I hope that you will accept this apology and know that I would apologize to each of you individually if I could. I am very sorry if any of you believed that I was implying in the CNN.com piece I wrote that there was something less noble or honorable about serving in Iraq than serving in Afghanistan. That is not my belief and certainly not the message I had hoped to convey. Rather, the point of that commentary was to say that, because of the media coverage and public opinion surrounding the Iraq War, people sometimes now make ignorant comments about Iraq to military family members. As the wife of an Afghanistan veteran, I am grateful that they don’t say those things to me. Apparently I failed as a writer in conveying this point and I am sincerely sorry for any grief I may have caused any of you.

Very Sincerely,
Rebekah Sanderlin


In addition to the apology, I’d also like to say that this has been such an unexpected experience and I’ve spent most of the day talking with friends about how this commentary has been received. The response from readers, from what I’ve received in emails and comments here and elsewhere on the web, has been about 50-50, with 50 percent being totally offended and 50 percent thanking me for writing the piece. I’ve never written anything that received such a mixed response, and certainly not on such extremes, so I’ve been trying to figure out how it is that so many people can read the same words and yet have such different — but still very intense — reactions.

I have also been amazed at how many readers who say they were offended by it also say that they have never had anyone speak to them negatively about the Iraq War. This blows my mind. I hear those “what a waste” type comments about Iraq almost every week, and that’s why I was motivated to write this piece. I actually moved back to my military town from my hometown during a deployment a few years ago largely because those comments became too much for me to bear. (And, for what it’s worth, my home town is in a “Red State”!)

Readers who are themselves civilians (and by that I mean that they have no direct connection to the military — for these purposes I’m going to group military family members in with troops themselves) have written to say that they appreciate the commentary and do not understand why it has caused such a stir. Likewise, I’ve heard from a number of readers who used to be active duty or married to someone on active duty but now live in civilian areas who have said that they really appreciate the sentiments I expressed in the commentary. Almost without exception the critical responses have come from those who are OIF veterans, married to OIF veterans or who lost a loved one in Iraq. While it absolutely breaks my heart to have so offended the very people I consider to be part of my own military family, it also tells me that a lot of people in military communities do not realize what is said about the war in civilian communities. This is scary. Civilians elect Congress and Congress dictates both the military budget and where and when our troops go to war. I’ve written a lot these past years about the military/civilian divide and I suspect that this is one more example of how our military communities are becoming islands.

Please — and I’m speaking now especially to those of you in the military community — know that if I had only intended with this commentary to speak to other military family members, I would have written the commentary here, on my own blog. Actually, I probably wouldn’t have written it all as there’s no need to tell you all that talking bad about the Iraq war is hurtful to those who’ve sacrificed there. You don’t need to be told that — you already know that. Instead, I wrote that piece for CNN because I wanted to reach a wider audience — I wanted to reach the very  people who make those comments. And they do make them, whether we want to accept it or not.

Finally, and this is a fairly minor, technical, point, but I used quotation marks in the commentary around the word good (in the sentence that describes Afghanistan as a “good” war) because I was quoting those who call it that, not because I think that myself. I do not see either front in the war as being “good” or “bad”.

Again, I am sorry for any hurt that I may have caused you, but I do ask again that you read the commentary and the words in it and judge it, and me, based on what I actually said — and not what you perceived that I meant.

Many thanks to all of you who have taken your time to comment here and elsewhere on the web and to email me. Though a lot of what you said has been quite stinging (and not all of it constructive), I do appreciate that you have shared your time and thoughts with me.



43 thoughts on “On CNN.com today

  1. Although very well written, you seem to contradict yourself. In the beginning you say you’re glad your husband didn’t go to Iraq because we should have never been there & all the comments that would have been made to you and that Afghanistan was the “real” war.

    But, then later you say you and your husband never thought of them as being two separate wars, but always one war with two fronts….The bullets, IEDS, & etc that killed were the same. Well, which is it?

    Lastly, I strongly disagree with your assessment of Iraq. Who cares about WMDs not being found. We already knew they had them because they gassed MILLIONS of their own people. Had Sadam Hussein let in weapons inspectors, Iraq would have never happened. It was UN sanctioned. Please don’t add to the misinformation that is already out there.

    BTW, thank you for the dedicated service of your husband. Please don’t confuse that I immensely support his efforts, but disagree with your writing.

    • Rebeka,

      Congratulations on the massive exposure for your blog by posting on CNN. While you’re entitled to your opinion, my opinion is this…
      You sold out everyone who ever served during OIF — me included.
      Funny how you failed to mention Obama’s failure to secure a SOFA in Iraq, but then again if you had CNN wouldn’t have published you would they?


  2. Your article did exactly what I think you intended not to do (hopefully). It more than hinted one soldier was honorable than the other for which war he fought. That they would forever live with a stigma of being an Iraqi war veteran. I found it incredibly disrespectful.

    Regardless of your comments in your last few paragraphs, you did the opposite of honoring the soldiers who fought in Iraq. As you said, the Army chooses where our soldiers fight.

    The American people are aware of the false claims and bungled information regarding the Iraq war. The morality and legality of the war will be debated for years. However your comments suggest that the soldiers that fought in Iraq were less honorable. Yes, that’s how your comments came across.

    Comments like the “good” war instill images of our soldiers being wrong for being in Iraq. As a wife of a veteran and mother of a soldier, I dare not claim that one day my family will be glad to not have been in this or that war as one is better than the other. How pitiful. War is never good. For you to classify war in such catagories is deplorable.

    I believe your intention was to honor all soldiers. However your article did the opposite. Everyone has their opinion of whether we should have ever been in Iraq. However to mention some soldiers will have to bear the burden of knowing they served there and that it’s somehow going to mare their history as a soldiers is wrong. You should have chose your words carefully. Your article was “wrong”.

  3. Chris & JB — Thanks for taking the time to read the piece and to comment here.
    I do challenge you both to go back and read the piece again, though, and I apologize if the message I intended to convey was not clear.
    For what it’s worth, the point of the commentary is to say that I am happy that my husband did not serve in Iraq *solely* because it means we will not have to suffer the comments of people who would disparage the service of troops who served there.
    I have never had any issue, moral or otherwise, with the Iraq War. I attended high school with a large group of Kurdish refugees and heard their stories of fleeing Saddam and I believe that, particularly after the 9/11 attacks, it would have been irresponsible of our government to not take Saddam’s tauntings seriously.
    My concern now, however, is that because there was so much controversy surrounding the Iraq war and because we are leaving Iraq without making a clear statement of victory, then the troops and military families who sacrificed so much for that conflict will be forced to endure the ignorance of people who did not serve.
    My husband, my children and I are fortunate in that we don’t have to take those comments personally, but I would have never have had an issue with my husband deploying to Iraq instead of Afghanistan and I certainly have nothing but respect for those who did serve in Iraq, a group that includes the majority of my active duty friends.

    • As someone who has served several tours in Iraq and was not granted the opportunity to serve in Afghanastan I feel offended by what you have said. Many of my fellow Soldiers gave there lives for what you consider the bad war. I feel that the lives of the Soldiers lost in Iraq and Afghanstan are equally a tragedy.

      As a service member who has served his country for over 16 years now, I am proud of what the men and women did in both Iraq and Afghanstan. What they did was follow orders and also protect their battel buddies to their left and right. We are not here to agree or disagree with all of the policies that are inplaced. We are here to defend the rights of others and to follow orders. Who am I to question the President of the United States if he is going off of intelligence that was given to him.

      Most of the Soldiers who are sent into a war zone are just trying to stay alive, protect the buddies and get home to their loved ones. We do not consider the area we are working in to be good or bad. We consider it our work place.

      I understand that what you meant was not what you said. I truely want to belive that you support all of the Soldiers out there no matter which war they were in. What I recommend for future articles is that you read it over, read it out loud and maybe run it by your husband before you send it to a world wide news organization.

  4. Very disappointing article that will be sure to upset a lot of veterans.
    Having served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I don’t qualify one being “better” than the other.
    There is never any “rightness” about where you serve. When you’re there, wherever “there” is, you fight for each other, and that’s it.
    The uninformed stateside politics and opinions — like this — go out the window, and are totally irrelevant.
    I’m proud of my service. Period. There are no qualifiers to that statement.

  5. It’s truly sad war is war who cares about what people say its about the people that are to the right and left of you. I think its funny that army wifes know everything how about just being the silent few that stand behind their man and take it . War is Shit but I am honored what I done for my country and others did also .

  6. I think the offensive nature of your opinion article is why it is on CNN. I would say if you were trying to be helpful to military servicemembers and their families your article missed the mark.

  7. I have no idea what stigma you think OIF veterans or their families suffer under. Perhaps you should pay less attention to the conservative pundits who are telling you that the American public derides Iraqi service because they disagree with the policy. Never once – NOT ONCE – did anyone disparage my husband’s service. I was proud and pleased to support those deployments as KV, even as I was head-spinningly opposed to the poliocy. My advice, worry less about foolish, unimportant things like this and more about the real issues – the families who continue to struggle under the burdens of deployment, the wounded, and the families who have lost loved ones.

  8. One Marine Wife — I’m very glad that you’ve never had anyone say anything negative to you about your husband’s service. I wish I could say the same …
    I was inspired to write that CNN commentary after spending several months this year working on a project to honor Vietnam veterans and spending most of this year working on a project to curb the veteran and milfam suicide rates.
    The conclusion I drew from talking with veterans from Vietnam and today was that the way the public perceives their service has a tremendous impact on their own psychological well-being. The point of the CNN commentary (the point I had hoped to make, anyway) is that my family is lucky in that we don’t have to worry about that negative public perception — at least not now, not unless public support turns against Afghanistan as it did against Iraq.

  9. while it might not have been your intention to offend anyone, it’s exactly how your piece came across to me. As the wife of an Army soldier that has twice deployed to Iraq and is now currently deployed to Afghanistan, I felt extremely defensive reading this and if I had ever felt the way that you do about the war in Iraq, I certainly wouldn’t have made it public on CNN for fear of embarassing/humiliating my husband. Bottom line, I find it offensive and written in poor taste.

  10. Proud Army Wife — I won’t say that my intention was to *not offend* — every time I write anything I expect that someone will be offended. But the truth is, I expected to offend the *Bush lied, No WMDs* crowd. And, for what it’s worth, they do seem offended, too.

    My husband and I were just talking about this and he said that perhaps the headline (which I didn’t write, btw, that was put up there by the CNN editors) put people on the defensive to the point that they may not have closely read the words that followed.

    As for how I personally feel about the war in Iraq, I think it was justified and that it was right for us to be there. I’ve been a strong advocate of our involvement there since I started writing this blog in 2006. Truth be told, I would have zero issues with the mission there continuing except for the SOFA issues never being resolved. I DO NOT think that having served in Iraq or Afghanistan is more or less noble or justified and I would have had ZERO issues if my husband had had to deploy to Iraq.

    In fact, the point I made repeatedly in the commentary is that troops don’t get to pick where they deploy to and that all troops deserve our gratitude for having served.

    • I will agree that the headline made me instantly defensive and after I read your response, I went back to your article to re-read for the fifth time just to make sure I was reading your words correctly. Most of these people that have posted on your blog in response to this article bring up many valid points and I hope that you can see where you have inserted your foot into your mouth. You did have some constructive thoughts but you are also very contradictory in your opinion and I want you to know what parts of your article are personably offensive to me as an Army wife whose husband HAS fought the war in Iraq.
      “I am grateful because, to many Americans, Afghanistan is still the “good” war, the one we had to fight. Iraq was the war that many never understood nor supported” – War is never “good” and whether or not many didn’t understood or support the war in Iraq didn’t mean that brave men and women who sacrificed weren’t supported. It doesn’t make any difference to me what everyone else thought, I was proud of my husband and I would have defended him to anyone who would have had the nerve to tell me “What a waste.”
      “So I am happy to have never had a “Half My Heart Is in Iraq” sticker on my car because now, nearly nine years after the start of the Iraq War, people don’t shake their heads and look down when I talk of my husband’s deployments. They don’t suck in their breaths and say to me, “What a waste.” My family doesn’t have to suffer the comments and opinions of others for our part in a war that was never ours to choose” – I have yet to meet one person that has ever told me or my husband that his service was ever a waste. Your words are easily misconstrued because they are poorly written. As an Army wife, how could you not think any of your fellow military wives wouldn’t take offense to this? Our husbands didn’t choose that war either, they were merely following orders as part of their job.
      “In fact, my husband and I, like many in military families, never thought of the two conflicts as being separate wars.” – Yet in the opening of your article you state that Afghanistan is the “good” war, the one we had to fight. And this isn’t hypocritical how?!? My interpretation of the way you speak of the war in Iraq is as if it was shameful and dishonorable.
      “I hope that, going forward, Americans will keep in mind that the men and women who served in Iraq did so honorably and nobly and that they and their families sacrificed greatly for our nation. They deserve the gratitude of the nation that sent them — again and again and again — to war.” – This, my friend, is the only honorable thing you said in your whole article and these two sentences couldn’t be truer. I am proud of my husband and I am proud of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces no matter which war they fought.

  11. I’m stunned by the reaction to this thoughtful article. Her message was pretty obvious: It’s unfortunate that soldiers who sacrificed so much in Iraq return to a nation sharply divided about their mission there. How is this offensive? This is reality.

  12. First: I agree that the headline that CNN added immediately frames the article in a divisive way.

    But, even after rereading the article, and reading your update, I think that while your intentions were probably good, your delivery was not.

    Additionally, I don’t see how the paragraph you used to defend your viewpoint in your update does anything to change that.

    In my opinion, the entire article is a confusing and contradictory argument, and
    no matter your rationale or thought process, the article created a division and difference between veterans that supports the headline that CNN added — even if that wasn’t your intention. And even if you were trying to do the opposite.

    I’ve never witnessed this division from anyone else; not in the press, and not from anyone I’ve met or talked to about my service. Neither have any of my friends who are recent veterans.

    And, as an Army wife, you’re speaking for a lot of people when you write for a national publication. So, people will be angry if they feel like you got it wrong.

    And I think you did.

    Personally, despite how this article reads, I’m sure you’re a strong supporter of all veterans. I also think that you made a mistake, and didn’t totally think through the effect your article might have, and how it might be interpreted.

    It’s okay to own up.

  13. I am one that read and reread to make sure I was reading things right. I even took a break and came back to it to see if I could calm down but that didn’t work either. I’m sure that you didn’t mean to come off offensive by the words that you said but you picked the worst time to write an article like this. Thousands of families are going to be celebrating Christmas without their loved ones this year (again) and now they have read an article about how their loved ones are in a “bad war” which is offensive. Your article made yourself and your husband sound better than others just because he never went to Iraq. Be thankful that your husband is alive because many people have lost their spouses, parents, brothers, sisters, etc fighting in the war that you apparently yourself look down upon. Really? Why was your article even necessary? People have their opinions about the war and the troops as it is and now that an Army wife has contributed her negative thoughts to society, they will now think that it is acceptable. Your husband shouldn’t have joined the Army to get some type of self worth and respect from others by doing so. People join the military because they want to and they want to know that they contributed something to this country and they don’t care if others support them or not. Because in their own minds, they have done good for their country and played a part in keeping this country safe. Like others have said, own up to your mistake already!

  14. Let me ask you this, If your husband died in Afghanistan would it still be considered a “good” war? No matter how many times you try to justify your words, in the eyes of many that served in Iraq like I did are going to take offense to your piece. What you say and the apologies that you give out are probably going to fall on deaf ears. No good soldier, sailor, airmen, or marine will ever say that that a war is “good” or bad. Both fronts lost good men and women that fought for your right to be, in my eyes selfish in irresponsible with your words. Sometimes silence is a persons best friend and I think you should have kept your opinions to yourself

  15. I am a VERY PROUD ARMY WIDOW, with that said; I have read and re-read your article and then re-read it again, along with all your comments and those who have commented in response. Like many on here I think your intentions were not to offend, however you missed that mark by a mile!! And I could have over looked that until I began to read your responses to those posting, and although you have a right to defend yourself using condescending tones and blatant disregard for other intelligence just cemented my first initial thought of your piece. I am in no way delusion as your thoughts might imply to what was or was not found there and it has no baring on how I feel about what you wrote. The idea that you think any of us base our feelings on this article due to the lack of reading it fully, or only looking at the CNN headline or due to what we have been through is ignorance. That to me seems to be a lame justification on your part for your article. Regardless of what you and your husband think, those of us who are/were involved in the Iraqi war find it fully offensive. I believe if your husband had served in Iraq and had seen what those soldiers did maybe you wouldnt think the way you do. I understand that you think you said all soldiers dont get to choose where they are sent however you said …my husband didnt get to choose…, which implies others who went to Iraq did. Misuse of wording, Im sure.
    With that said, my husband DIED in Iraq, a war well justified and a war that did great things for those people. I will defend his right to fight and his death till the day I die. Those who say its wrong or say it was lead by wrong information, well it shows their ignorance. I dont believe saying that NOT having that ‘stigma” of fighting or dying in Iraq is such a good thing. It implies that your life and family will have it better than those who will have to justify their what was not their choice but what they did proudly. Although I understand what you are saying, it came across badly. Many widows in the widow community are fuming over your words. Simply, no matter your intentions you have with your words; hurt and offended many widows. That alone is something that I would be ashamed of. To add to that many military wives and soldiers are as well….to me that is a sad state to be in!

  16. Two paragraphs from your article stick out to me:

    “So I am happy to have never had a “Half My Heart Is in Iraq” sticker on my car because now, nearly nine years after the start of the Iraq War, people don’t shake their heads and look down when I talk of my husband’s deployments. They don’t suck in their breaths and say to me, “What a waste.” My family doesn’t have to suffer the comments and opinions of others for our part in a war that was never ours to choose — at least not now, though I suppose that could still change.”

    “So, though I’m glad to not have that Iraq baggage in my family, I worry now for all my friends who do. It is a horrible thing to have given tremendously to a cause that others do not respect.”

    What I read in that article is that you allow other people – people who still harbor ignorance over the whole “Bush lied” junk – to color your opinion of your husband’s military service, based on where he has or has not served.

    If anything, we have more solid successes to point to in Iraq than we do in Afghanistan. Two days ago, we celebrated “Happy Drag Saddam Out of A Rathole” day. We DECIDEDLY toppled a wicked regime from power (anyone remember the statue coming down? Anyone? Anyone?), we’ve helped to contribute to the establishment of free elections (purple fingers, anyone? Anyone?), and a government that is (slowly) working on hauling its country out of the 17th century.

    We’ve not seen identifiable, quantifiable results like that in Afghanistan yet and it’s possible that, despite the blood, sweat, and tears of our military, we may never see successes in Afghanistan like we did in Iraq. I’m not sure what criteria you (or the people you’re talking to) use to determine which campaign warrants pride but it is evident to me that you most definitely gets your motivation extrinsicly rather than simply deriving pride from the fact that your husband simply supports the Constitution of the United States of America. That’s unfortunate.

  17. I’m sorry you’ve caught a lot of garbage for one assumption people jumped to. That’s not right. People should read everything before they form an opinion.

    That being said…the part that really bothers me, that makes me cringe, is that I’m the wife of a soldier who has been wrapped up in OIF in nearly his whole career. Your article is so sad because not only are you painting a picture that you live your life in fear of other people’s opinions and that it affects the pride you have in your husband, but worst of all it represents Army wives everywhere. I never want people thinking that I have the same mentality as that.

    • Mrs. GI Joe — I don’t “live my life in fear of other’s people’s opinions” — (I wouldn’t write a blog and news commentaries if I did…) and the opinions of others do not affect the pride I have in my husband (or my family or friends…)
      But there have been times when deployments have been a bitter pill for me to swallow. In 2008 my husband was deployed yet again, my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer & died, and I gave birth to a very sick baby alone — I moved back to my military town during that deployment, and away from my extended family and the help they could provide, largely because the negative comments I heard about the war in that civilian community were too much for me to bear.
      I do not think the negative comments from civilians could, should or would affect the PRIDE that veterans and milfam members feel for the mission, but I KNOW those comments can sting and make life difficult for people who do not deserve to have to endure that sort of ignorance. My intent with this commentary was to educate those who might make those sort of comments as to the hurt such words can cause.

  18. I think that your article had good intentions but it was poorly worded. Read what the the comments say… IT IS OFFENDING PEOPLE….and not just a few, the majority of those who read it. You should see what the people are saying about your article on facebook, and you for that matter. I get that you didn’t mean it, but do you think we all read it and just don’t understand it? Really? People don’t get offended for no reason as all. Maybe YOU should reread your article and think about how it comes off. I get your point, I do. But you did offend. If that doesn’t bother you, then it’s sad….you’re offending the people you’re supporting, military and their spouses. I’m just saying…

  19. I understand that you meant well and did not intend to offend those who have served in Iraq. However, I believe what I assume you meant to be a poignant story marking the end of the Iraq War did not quite turn out the way you wanted it to. I also read it twice and to someone who has served multiple Iraq tours and now an upcoming tour to Afghanistan I found it not offensive but ignorant. I have served in the Army for 14 years and have been married 10 of those years to a very smart and Army savvy spouse. She never once worried about what someone would say about the particular theater I was in,which to my understanding and knowledge never happened or was a concern. And has never happened to me personally. Nor would she ever worry or frankly care if anyone did or write anything like you chose to. With my upcoming first deployment to Afghanistan, its just another deployment. The political fiasco’s and what the American populace think are inconsequential, most soldiers I know care less about either. I signed the dotted line of my own volition and reenlisted numerous times, now indefinitely. My wife knew who she was marrying and cares less where I go as long as I come back; not that I was in the better of the two as you make it seem.

  20. I am the father of a military son who did a tour in Iraq. I was never in favor of going there in the first place. My son transferred from the US Army to the Air Force in a non deploy unit.

  21. First off, I find it ptretty juevenile you won’t accpet any of the comments I have posted since I was probab;y the first person to give you engative feedback on Facebook when another military wife posted your garbage. Second off, your “apology” is half hearted. Why don’t you post yur apology on CNN.com? And instead of apologizing to just those who lost a loved one in Iraq and the Gold Star community, how about you apologizzer to all the OIF Vets you offended and their families? You keep putting your foot in your mouth. I think it’s time you just shut up.

    • No Thanks — sorry for the delay in approving comments here. I’m 6 months pregnant and spent the morning waiting to see my OB — where I get no signal on my phone.
      As for posting an apology on CNN, the discussion on that site has dissolved into something that is far-removed from anything resembling civil. My apology is here and I’ve made some substantial efforts to circulate it among the Gold Star community as well. The apology here (see above) is directed to ALL OIF veterans and their family members.

  22. I wish I hadn’t come back to see if you apologized or made any other comments. I’m going to have to make this my last word on the matter and not look at your article or blog again.

    I am glad you at least made an effort to apologize to Gold Star families. But you still don’t get the big picture and apparently neither do the “50%” of people who are in favor of this article. You seem to think that those of who are offended by it have mistaken your purpose. You think each one of us has just been hurt by a poor choice of words. Your attitude resounding through this is what is hurtful and embarrassing to other military families. I understood loud and clear that you were trying to convey that it is very hard on families and troops to deal with the “what a waste” and other negative comments.

    But here is where you went drastically wrong. Despite a couple minor “disclosure” type statement, your whole article demeans Iraq veterans and their families because you cheapen it by insinuating that it isn’t worth the public ridicule. That is a very immature, high school attitude. You just gave fuel to the very people who make those negative comments. You might state a few times that you think these service members did their job honorably but throughout it all you let it be known that for you personally the public stigma matters more and thus you are grateful your husband and you never endured that.

    Let me say you are lucky. And the random responses you have gotten claiming they haven’t heard the negative comments are NOT the only ones wearing rose colored glasses. That would be you as well. I live in a conservative red state and I can assure you NO war is “the good one.” My husband and I take garbage every day for his work in both Iraq and Afghanistan. If no one has ever harrassed you or said what your husband did in Afghanistan was in vain then you are truly lucky and terribly sheltered.

    There is a way to express the emotion that its not fair the way Iraq veterans and their families are viewed. There is a way of doing that easily without doing what you did. Your article reflects on Army wives everywhere and that is sad. I take the crap and hold my head high knowing my husband does what he believes in. No stupid popularity contest will ever affect my pride in his service even on the toughest day.

    And the “baggage” you write about is part of what has shaped my 19 year old new groom into the amazing man he is today. I wouldn’t change him or our life for anything…even if a majority of America isn’t in favor of it.

    • Mrs. GI Joe — you said, “your whole article demeans Iraq veterans and their families because you cheapen it by insinuating that it isn’t worth the public ridicule.”
      I don’t follow … are you saying that you think I said that the Iraq War was not worth debating? I’m confused…

  23. I agree, completely, with several posts here. You ARE offending people, military wives and OIF widows/GSF’s. Your job is writing about military life/family/marriage. The fact that you have offended so many of your own, shows the disconnect between your article and what you intended. Then, instead of taking those comments and feedback and recognizing the missteps in your article, you make snide comments here, and suggest people just comment on things they “don’t read” or misread. I read it, several times, hoping and wishing that there was something that would change my mind. There wasn’t. You have several good points but they are marred and hidden by other comments in there. I think many people are disappointed in that you had the chance to write for CNN and all you did was reiterate the bullshit that some people not connected to the military put out there. ALSO, the fact that CNN wrote that headline shows that is EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANTED TO DO. Cause a controversy. As you said yourself there are too many people who look down on the Iraq war and everything involved in it. You added to that with your article. You could have taken this time to honor all vets and highlight the need to get our veterans the help and services they need after coming back from this now closed out chapter in American history. I know several other OIF widows who were widows of men who committed suicide from raging PTSD. THAT is a problem, THAT is an issue. Please unite military families don’t divide them!! The fact that you can sit here and time and again separate your husband from his fellow Army brothers and sisters is appalling. I am a part of a large group of OIF/OEF widows and I could not tell you whose husband served in which war, we are just bonded by the service and the loss. You should bond military families through the service, not separate them. I know you said time and again you don’t agree with those things other people said, but you perpetuate them — Having someone shake their head and say “what a waste” to you about Iraq – If you have such strong feelings FOR the war then VOICE THEM. Don’t say oh that’s such a shame I’m glad me and my husband can avoid that! Yes it gets tiresome, yes the road is a long one. But some veterans don’t have that voice anymore. Some never came back and can’t deal with that “baggage” they would gladly accept if it meant returning to their families. Truly stick up for ALL veterans, and then you might not have pissed so many people off! Of course I can not be completely objective in my view of things since I am a war widow, but I am trying to see your perspective, Rebekah. But, for a military wife to get such an opportunity to write something the whole country could see on the day the war ended, I would have expected a lot more. But, your opinion is your opinion and you are entitled to write however you wish. Just know you have offended and alienated the very people you were trying to help/serve/justify/etc. whether or not you think you did.

  24. I didn’t intend to comment on this at all, but I feel the need to do so after all. No, I’m not a member of the Gold Star family- but only because I was not yet technically married to my fiancé yet when he was KIA in Afghanistan. I’m not so much offended about the comparison, probably because my fiancé’s deployment to Iraq was relatively safe and he came home unscathed. I’m aware that you’ve stressed to many of my military widow friends (family, if you will) that you were not intentionally calling their spouses’ (and essentially the widows’ and their families’, too) sacrifice worth less than someone’s who was killed in the “good” war… which, as you’re now aware of, is ludicrous to even accidentally imply. As a side note, I have never met anyone who shakes their head at or looks down upon mention of one war and not the other- it’s usually an all or nothing response in my experience.

    No, what I’m offended about is how trivial you make the past 9 years in Iraq seem. You’re fueling more ignorance. Regardless of why or how we ended up in Iraq, there are and were great things happening there. You call yourself lucky that your husband ended up in Afghanistan and not Iraq? Call yourself lucky you live in America and are treated as an equal to your husband. Call yourself lucky that you can raise your kids where you are not in constant fear of the men who walk among you and that you have food to feed them and clothes to put them in on a daily basis. I got the pleasure of hearing how many GREAT things my man’s platoon alone accomplished for ordinary Iraqi civilians… families a lot like the (Special Forces military) family I was raised in not far from where you live right now. They made a significant difference in more people’s lives than I could ever hope to reach, and I’m a teacher. Being free is not a right everywhere. It’s the luck of the draw. I’ll keep pictures of my hero with an Iraqi child with downs syndrome in my scrapbook- the locals didn’t realize downs syndrome happened everywhere, they thought the child was a mutant until American troops educated them. I’ll keep the picture of my fiancé giving clothes to kids who had nothing. I’ll keep them and show them to anyone who asks- or who doesn’t ask, actually-and I’ll do it proudly. It’s not always about America or us, no matter what we are raised to believe. It’s about people. Tell the mother who fed her children for months off of food she was given by Marines or the father who was able to oust the insurgents from his home that they’d been occupying (while also raping the man’s daughters as he stood by helpless) with the help of American troops that these 9 years are potentially pointless.

    To make it seem like those 9 years were worthless negates every “small” thing the troops have done there. Much like a “good” war anywhere, a “small” act of kindness doesn’t exist in a place where kindness is scarce. My hero was a hero long before he set foot in Afghanistan, and the reasons he’ll remain one forever is a long list that, yes, includes Iraq. I’ll keep my “half of MY heart is in Heaven” sticker and you keep your freedom of speech along with the privilege to have an opinion that both of our men and countless others have fought for… but just know that I truly, truly believe you are wrong.

  25. R — I’m not sure where you got the idea that I think the 9 years we spent in Iraq were worthless (but obviously there are others who got that impression as well…) Can you tell me what I wrote that makes you think that?
    In the commentary, I wrote: “The good news — the neighborhoods that were made safe, the schools and hospitals that were opened, the proud purple-fingered elections — was often eclipsed by the bad news and the learning curve for Americans was steep, too steep.” — to me, these are not, as you say, “small” things. I consider these to be very big things. The point I made there, however, was that FOR THE AMERICAN PUBLIC these accomplishments were overshadowed by the bad news.
    And I end the commentary by saying, “I hope that, going forward, Americans will keep in mind that the men and women who served in Iraq did so honorably and nobly and that they and their families sacrificed greatly for our nation. They deserve the gratitude of the nation that sent them — again and again and again — to war.”
    So, again, I don’t see where you got the impression that I believe the 9 years we spent in Iraq were a waste — I don’t think that at all.

  26. I am posting this from my phone so if it comes up different looking that’s why.

    I said nothing about debate. My point (if you bothered to read my whole comment) was perfectly clear. Its the same point others keep trying to make to you but you refuse to see it. Again I will say your apology comes off half hearted because you refuse to see anything other than people taking your words the wrong way. Others were very right…you contributed to the ignorance. you shouldn not be surprised at all by the down hill slide of the cnn comments. You gave people the fuel for that. No one needs to swear at you or be hateful but the ignorant responses were a result of your words. Own up to it. I hope in the future you will think harder before you publish something and consider the big picture.`

  27. I think people believe you see it as pointless because it is all very contradictory. You can’t make it seem like you’re glad you were lucky your husband went to Afghanistan and not Iraq but then act like it’s the American public that looks down on the war as a whole- you’re fueling the fire. Even if that’s not what you intended, that’s how it comes across to a lot of people, clearly. If I’m not the only one who has said this, even if we are all wrong about it, then something in your article has hit several people in a negative way that you have not intended. I have never been looked down on for my role as a family member of a person deployed to Iraq and not Afghanistan, nor has anyone else I know. People look down on deployments as a whole or not at all, generally. If you truly don’t see how people perceived your blog (which I read here, not on CNN with the apparently troublesome headline) in a way that looks down on OIF, then maybe you should reread it again and again like I and most of my military friends and family have already. I’m not knocking your support the troops efforts- I’m just saying this does little to help correct the “American public’s” perception of the war in Iraq.

  28. If you have offended a HUGE portion of OIF vets and their families then perhaps you should just apologise for doing so…not make excuses, clarifications and worst of all blame the reader. You wrote the article, selected the words and thus the tone.

    Please tell me that someone like yourself with a background in professional writing did not carefully craft a piece of writing that was going to be on CNN.com on such a historic day? If you cannot see the tone in which this article overal casts the Iraq War in then perhaps you need to re-read your own article with a different perspective. Just like you have told many of your readers to do.

    If the reader did not clearly understand the point you were trying to make perhaps you did not MAKE YOUR POINT! If it was ONE person taking offense and taking your words out of context then the arguement could be made that THEY as an individual had read it wrong, it happens. In this care it isn’t only one person, it is many, many, many people mainly from the OIF Vet and family community so either YOU wrote a poorly worded article & completely failed to make your point or every person who read your article and is offended (which there are many) failed at reading and comprehension in school.

    • Rachel — please read my apology above. All of that is in there.

      I don’t think it’s that I didn’t make the point (because many, many people did understand the point and have told me as much) and I don’t think it’s that, as you said (sarcastically, I assume) that many, many people failed at reading comprehension. I think there’s a third possibility — that every human being views everything through the lenses of their own experiences, that’s why I think that so many people with direct connections to OIF were offended.
      As I’ve stated many times now, I NEVER intended to offend any veterans or their family members and I am very sorry that my words had that effect.

      • I am aware and understand that you never intended to offend so many people especially people in your own military community.

        Yes everyone views things as apart of their own experiences within their own lives. In this particular case having a direct link to the Iraq War and took offense, I think perhaps if you HAD a direct link to the Iraq War and said similar things then perhaps it may have been taken a little better by those of us who do, but that would just be an assumption.

        Personally, I know you meant no harm nor malice toward anyone or group. I am offended at what you wrote yes BUT I understand you did not intend for that to happen and your article does not have any malice behind it.

  29. Yes, I clicked over to your blog as I could not believe that you would intentionally offend so many military Soldiers being a military dependent yourself. I see from your later posts that the way it came across was not what you intended. Here is the comment I left on your CNN article so you can see where I am coming from – “As a US Soldier that served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I am HIGHLY offended by Rebekah Sanderlin and this article. While the reasoning we went to Iraq may have been blurry, I saw first hand that the results we achieved in Iraq were MUCH higher than we could ever achieve in Afghanistan. I was in Ramadi when we forced out the original invaders (the Taliban) who had declared Ramadi as their new capital. I saw first hand the greatful Iraqis when they were given their freedoms back. Despite all our efforts, I don’t believe that will ever be possible in Afghanistan.”

    I did go back and read the article again and I still feel read it the same way. I will ammend my feelings though based on your later explanations and apologies. Merry Christmas!!!

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