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We must preserve the historic, worldwide newspaper of our troops

By: Keith Kappes
Columnist
Carter County Times

By the time you read this, “Stars and Stripes” will either be charging ahead with news for America’s military service members worldwide or heading toward bankruptcy. 

Stars and Stripes first appeared during the Civil War and has been continuously published since World War II. The paper and its website, stripes.com, are read each day by more than two million active duty soldiers, sailors and air force members in the U. S., Europe, Asia, Mideast and wherever. 

The question about its future arose earlier this year when the Trump Administration decided the newspaper’s $15.5 million annual subsidy – about half of its operating budget – could be better spent elsewhere by the Defense Department. 

To put those figures into perspective, that allocation is a drop in the bucket of DoD’s proposed budget of nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars. The U.S. House included the Stars and Stripes funding in its version of the budget but the Senate did not. A conference committee must work out the difference. 

Why is Stars and Stripes so important to our military? 

The news organization produces daily newspapers and the news website, stripes.com, which is updated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Independent of the federal government, it has the same press freedom as other news media. 

What do they do with Uncle Sam’s money? 

The federal subsidy is largely used to print and distribute newspapers to American troops around the globe and to fund reporting in conflict zones such as the Mideast. 

Many American veterans will tell you how much they appreciated “Stars and Stripes” while serving overseas. News from home boosts morale and keeps GI’s better informed, sometimes more than their leaders can do. 

The history of Stars and Stripes is rich with instances of its reporters, military and civilian, risking their lives to bring back stories of American heroism on the front lines. 

Frankly, if the Department of Defense can pay $640 for a plastic toilet seat, we certainly can justify spending a few million dollars to maintain a great newspaper for the gallant men and women of our armed services.

Keith Kappes can be reached at keithkappes@gmail.com

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