Stars. And Stripes.

Looking for diversions to distract you from thinking about death and toilet paper? I read this morning book clubs are coming back. I’ve been in one for a couple of years now; last Saturday we held our first remote meeting via Google Hangouts. It was almost as good as a regular meeting, minus the snacks.

Or forget book clubs and just catch up with your own solitary reading. I don’t know about you, but in this house there are always at least three New Yorkers waiting to be read, never mind the ebooks stacking up on the Kindle.

Write letters. Real ones, the kind you put in the mail. A friend and I exchange letters on the regular. He writes his in longhand, using a fountain pen. I type my responses, but always sign with my trusty old Cross. Judging by how good it feels to put an answering letter in the mail, we’re on to something. And just think: some day, as with the Civil War battlefield missives Union and Confederate soldiers sent their families at home, someone will collect them and bind them into a history of the plague years.

I won’t even mention all the things you can watch on streaming TV, because I know we’re all doing that anyway. So much so that it’s starting to slow the internet down, like disinfectant wipes in the sewers.

Or do a GIF search on the year you turned ten, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. Okay, for me that would be 1956.


Well, that didn’t help. Forget that idea.

I’ve been thinking about American military forces overseas. We spent a significant part of our military career stationed overseas, so it’s a subject near and dear to our hearts. A month ago, when South Korea was getting clobbered by COVID-19, I started watching for news of how military leaders were handling the pandemic. Specifically, whether they’d put a hold on troop movements, because as you probably know in normal times troops are always shuttling between home bases and temporary duty locations, not to mention the constant movement of troops and dependent families on permanent change of station orders. Is everyone in Korea and Japan locked in place, hostages to COVID-19? And what about American forces in Europe and elsewhere?

Unless I’m following the wrong news sources (and I don’t think I am), there’s been suspiciously little coverage of how the pandemic is affecting American military forces overseas. Not only that, in early February the Pentagon said it was cutting off funding for the Stars & Stripes newspapers that serve overseas forces. It was starting to look like a conspiracy to me, but it turns out the money hasn’t been cut off yet, and Stars & Stripes is still publishing both its Pacific and European editions. Both are full of COVID-19 news not getting any coverage here at home.

Here’s a front page article from the current Pacific Stars & Stripes. You can read the entire story by clicking on the image:

Screen Shot 2020-03-27 at 10.40.50 AM
Click image to link to story

I see those families, confused and feeling very much on their own (notice how they don’t seem to be accompanied by their military member husbands or wives?), and I see my own family. Things are tough all over, and don’t think the military isn’t just as deep, or deeper, in the same suck as the rest of us (by the way, COVID-19 coverage in the European Stars & Stripes edition is every bit as grim).

Cut off funding for the Stars & Stripes? What the hell are they thinking?

They said it was going to get cooler again later in the week, and they were right: it’s breezy, overcast, still in the 50s as we approach high noon. I had to put the strap of my sun hat under my chin when I walked Mister B. Another day of hunkering down indoors. Donna says we still have 30 rolls.

What’s new with you?

© 2020, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.


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