Ben Stein's Diary

Perspectives on Wealth

New York obscures them, but then a letter arrives from a military family.

By 11.18.10

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Monday
Money, money, money. I am in New York City I had a nightmare at the Essex House last night trying to get a decent room. After all, I have only been staying there 20 years. Why should they give me a decent room? Finally, I got one and went to it and went to sleep.

Today at lunch I walked over to the Links Club, a highly exclusive entity on the east side, where I had lunch with my old pal Peter Flanigan. I had a little trouble with the young woman a the front desk over my tennis shoes, as she called them, and was banished to the library where, as she politely said, I wouldn’t make the club "look bad."

Lunch was fine. I could see behind my pal Peter the former Secretary of the Treasury, Robert M. Rubin. He looked very cheerful and why not? He was chair of Goldman Sachs, did extremely well there, did a spectacular job as SecTreas for Clinton, then emerged virtually unscathed from the meltdown as a high pooh-bah at Citi.

Peter and I talked about the current state of affairs. He must be in his mid-eighties, but he looks great and has all of his marbles, far more marbles than I have.

I walked back to my hotel and met my sister for a nice talk, and marveled, as I always do, at how sharp she is. We share few views on the world and she lives a much cleaner, neater, more sane life than I do, but we are very close anyway.

Then a nap, and then off to speak to the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts at The Waldorf.

I have been a REIT investor forever. I love their dividends, their often low correlation with the S & P 500, and their ability to discount inflation. We all had a nice evening, but I was restless so I headed over to Milos, a restaurant on 55th street, intending to have a solitary late night snack. However, I ran into a group from NAREIT and we visited for a long time.

I had been with a bunch of very rich people all day and I was whining to myself about how poor I was by comparison until received the following letter in my e-mail. That put it all to bed. What the hell nerve do any of us have complaining about our lives when we witness the heroism and sacrifice of men and women like the Kelly family? What can we ever do for them that is enough?

To All:
Please share this with as many people as you can.

This is as real and as personal as it gets when you have a child serving overseas in a combat zone.

From: Kelly, Lt Gen John F.
Date: November 12, 2010 10:23:20 PM EST
Subject: My Boy

Family and Friends,

As I think you all know by now our Robert was killed in action protecting our country, its people, and its values from a terrible and relentless enemy, on 9 Nov, in Sangin, Afghanistan. He was leading his Grunts on a dismounted patrol when he was taken.   They are shaken, but will recover quickly and already back at it. He went quickly and thank God he did not suffer. In combat that is as good as it gets, and we are thankful.

We are a broken hearted -- but proud family. He was a wonderful and precious boy living a meaningful life. He was in exactly the place he wanted to be, doing exactly what he wanted to do, surrounded by the best men on this earth -- his Marines and Navy Doc.

The nation he served has honored us with promoting him posthumously to First Lieutenant of Marines. We will bury our son, now 1st Lt Robert Michael Kelly USMC, in Arlington National Cemetery on 22 Nov. Services will commence at 1245 at Fort Myers. We will likely have a memorial receiving at a yet to be designated funeral home on 21 Nov. The coffin will be closed.

Our son Captain John Kelly USMC, himself a multi-tour combat veteran and the best big brother on this earth, will escort the body from Dover Air Force Base to Arlington.   From the moment he was killed he has never been alone and will remain under the protection of a Marine to his final resting place.

Many have offered prayers for us and we thank you, but his wonderful wife Heather and the rest of the clan ask that you direct the majority of your prayers to his platoon of Marines, still in contact and in "harm's way," and at greater risk without his steady leadership.

Thank you all for the many kindnesses, we could not get through this without you all. Thank you all for being there for us. The pain in unimaginable, and we could not do this without you.

Semper Fidelis

John Kelly

Mailing Address:
Lt Gen John and Mrs. Karen Kelly
Quarters G708, Warrington Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20003

As you can well understand and appreciate, they need all the emotional support possible from their extended military family.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.