Wilton column: Farewell to 'Stars & Stripes'

As most of us have done in the last few years, I have forsaken the written daily newspaper for the immediacy of online news. I finally subscribed to the online version of the U.S. military newspaper “Stars and Stripes” (S&S). Anyone who has served overseas, anywhere in the world, will know exactly what I am talking about. The target audience of this respected newspaper is the men and women of our American armed forces. It is “an independent, First Amendment publication that serves the troops … especially deployed troops”.

This venerated newspaper was first published in 1861. I’m willing to bet not many active, reserve and National Guard troops as well as veterans know this fact. It was revitalized during World War I, then started publishing on a regular basis during World War II. Until the advent of radio, this paper was generally the only source of information for the military, either stationed overseas or remote areas of the United States, to get news from home and other events.

Even after the advent of radio there were many places where a radio was not available or convenient to listen to. Or, perhaps, the men and women stationed in countries did not read, speak or understand the language spoken there. In all these cases, our servicemen and women were able to get news from home that would not normally be reported in other areas of the world, via the S&S.

I was stationed in West Germany in 1985-87. As a linguist, I was able to read newspapers and watch the news on television. Yet the only news from America was generally that which concerned international events. (A very sad memory was watching the Space Shuttle Challenger’s last flight on Jan. 28, 1986.)

Yet I could not get news from home unless someone wrote me a letter, or made a phone call (and the expense of that was prohibitive unless it was a birthday or holiday). But thanks to the S&S, I was able to get at least regional news, check the comics I followed (Beetle Bailey was a must read!) and especially the sports section. Although a day or two behind regarding scores, it was always a good day when the Yankees won.

Over the past couple of decades, technology has allowed those serving overseas to get specific news in a timelier way. However, there are still places that even technology cannot reach. Last year, The Military Times reported that the S&S distributed more than 7 million weekly copies, and 4 million special publications. These readers would have otherwise not been able to read or hear about the news for a longer period of time.

I still read the Wilton Bulletin, my American Legion monthly magazine and any book I can borrow from the library cover to cover. So, I am greatly saddened that funding by the government for the S&S paper publication is being cut for 2021. For those of us who remember reading it when nothing else was available, it just brings another little reminder that life moves on.

Tom Moore is adjutant at Post 86. Information: legionpost86@gmail.com.