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To Tom Cruise on Veterans Day

Photograph by photofestnyc

Dear Tom Cruise,

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.

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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 location.

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.

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So, Tom Cruise, it isn’t just you. It’s what you represent.


Military families everywhere

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