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Is "Stars Earn Stripes" All That Bad?

When I saw the advertisements for “Stars Earn Stripes”, a new reality show on NBC, I immediately set my DVR to record it to watch with my National Guard husband.

The show is hosted by retired military General Wesley Clark and teams up tough-as-nails celebrities like Picabo Street and Dean Cain with tougher-than-nails former service members such as Chris Kyle, former Navy SEAL and author of the book American Sniper. Each celebrity is partnered with a former military member to train and execute a mission inspired by a military training exercise.

Each celebrity shoots a gun, jumps out of a helicopter, crawls through the mud--you get the idea. The celebrities are competing for prize money to be awarded to the charity of their choosing. NBC says they are committed to hiring recent veterans on their crew and want to inspire other employers in our country to do the same. They say they want “to show audiences just how incredible these heroes' missions really are.”

Yet nine Nobel Peace Prize winners authored a letter stating that the show sanitizes and glorifies war. The prizewinners asked NBC to stop airing a show that “pays homage to no one anywhere, and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence”. NBC fired back, saying, “This show is not a glorification of war, but a glorification of service.”

Several current and former members of the military have voiced their agreement with the prizewinners on blogs and in the comments of various news articles, questioning the "tribute" offered or calling for a boycott of the show.

As someone who actually watched the show that aired on NBC , I can’t help but be a bit perplexed by all the criticism. The contestants practiced military training exercises; shooting at targets, crawling through mud, activities similar (albeit much more high tech) to the ones our men and women in the service execute every day. I didn’t get the impression that the people their thought war was super cool, awesome, rad, or whatever you want to call it. In fact, they seemed humbled by the difficulty of the tasks their were asked to complete and grateful for the people who train so hard and are capable of executing complex military missions when real lives are on the line.

At one point, former NFL player and actor Terry Crews had to be pulled from the water by the rescue crew; he was not able to swim to the boat provided with all of his gear on. I was humbled when I thought about how well I would have done in the same situation. It renewed by appreciation for the physical challenges my husband and other soldier’s complete, in training exercises or otherwise. WWE Diva Champion Eva Torres teared up when she talked to her trainer about her gratitude for the soldiers who serve our country. Say what you will about reality TV, but I could tell that she really meant it.

Overall, I felt like it was a positive program, and I appreciated that it shed some light on the difficult training exercises our soldiers experience, not to mention that missions they complete in a warzone. Although I certainly respect the opinion of those who are offended by this program, I can’t help but wonder why similar protests weren’t staged when “Wipeout” had a show dedicated to (and light-heartedly made fun of) various servicemen and women.  Or why there weren’t protests outside the movie theater of “The Avengers” or any other military themed action movie that came out this summer.

Perhaps the line between honoring service members and glorifying war is different for each person, but I will be tuning into “Stars Earn Stripes” next week. Carissa Abrams is a National Guard Wife living in Rexburg, ID.

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