Seriously? What I initially thought was a prank—or at
least a comment
distorted—has taken a huge spin around social media this weekend. I really didn't believe it when I heard you compared working as a movie actor to fighting as a soldier in Afghanistan. As we celebrate veterans today and give
thanks for many things this holiday season, these comments hit below the belt
for many military families, parents and soldiers.
While I can imagine that hundreds of successive days on a movie set can make balancing family and personal lives difficult, it is vastly different from the experience of a soldier while deployed. Sure, some soldiers may have access to the occasional burger
or French fries while
deployed, but it certainly doesn’t compare to the unlimited list of restaurants,
coffee shops or craft service whims that actors may have access to on set or on
Troops face life-threatening experiences constantly—whether they
are base-bound or frequently entering combat. They have limited access to normal "American" standards of living such as readily available Internet, and comfortable
furniture, and they experience distance—both physical and emotional—from friends and
family at home.
The issue, I’m willing to bet, is not that he’s crazy or says things without thinking: It’s much bigger than Tom Cruise.
Articles showing the comments go on to say that he runs
more races while filming than an Olympic athlete and he refers to the
challenges of working so far from his family. Whether his comments are true or
not—I suppose that isn’t really the point, is it—does he really think his life and experience as an actor is similar to Joe combat soldier risking his life for $25,000 a
year while experiencing life-altering physical danger? Probably not. Should he apologize
and make a proper statement with a heartfelt apology and thank the
troops and their families for their service and sacrifice? Yes, definitely.
The issue, I’m willing to bet, is not that he’s crazy or says
things without thinking: It’s much bigger than Tom Cruise, and much bigger than
Hollywood hype. Our military doesn’t feel appreciated, supported or backed up
in the public, the government or in their communities. It isn’t about Tom Cruise,
it is about what he represents: the big shiny world out there that sees soldiers
in action movies, soldiers dancing to Call
Me Maybe and emotional Operation
Homecoming videos; not battling physical and emotional injuries, managing
a limited paycheck, missing celebrations due to frequent absences for deployments, intense training and long hours.
Sure, Veterans Day will be over in mere hours, but the troops are still out
there. They don't have someone telling them, "It's a wrap!" and taking them out to celebrate.
There are countless ways to show appreciation for our troops like donating time, money, and simply being aware of the sacrifices they and their families are making. While that doesn’t change
the likelihood that soldiers will still face physical or emotional issues, it does mean that maybe
they will feel a little more appreciated, a little more supported by the public
that they work tirelessly to protect.