Local man takes Ben Stein’s lunch offer
Tonganoxie soldier meets Stein in Dallas airport on way home
U.S. Army officer Capt. Jay Harty never expected to be greeted by a celebrity at a Dallas airport.
In September, when Harty was on his way from Iraq, where he is stationed, to Tonganoxie to see his wife, Krista, and their 2-year-old son, Noah, he welcomed a chance to clean up and change uniforms in the Dallas Airport.
When leaving the restroom, he recognized writer/actor Ben Stein approaching him.
"He said, 'Captain Harty,'" Harty recalled.
The two visited for a few moments, and then Stein asked if he could buy lunch for Harty and a couple other soldiers who were nearby. The other soldiers couldn't stay because they had flights to catch, but Harty, who had a two-hour wait, accepted the invitation.
"As we walked down the airport toward the food court, numerous people stopped us and asked for his photograph," Harty recalled in an e-mailed letter to The Mirror. "And what has stuck in my head to this day is this: A man who stopped and asked for a photograph said to Ben, 'You are my hero.'
"And he (Ben Stein) quickly said to the individual, 'I am not the hero -- this soldier is the hero.' At that moment I felt that all we were doing in Iraq was all worthwhile."
During lunch, Stein asked Harty about what he did on a daily basis in Iraq, what his background was, what his family was like.
Stein was curious about the "good news stories" from Iraq that don't make their way into news stories.
"So I added him to our 'unclassified' newsletter that we put out monthly," Harty said.
The visit with Stein was the start of a great trip home, Harty said, adding: "That is because I was with my wife and son for 15 wonderful days and I wasn't in Iraq."
Harty has been in the Army for 10 years -- an officer for four years and an enlisted soldier for six years.
He was deployed to Iraq on Feb. 6, and is stationed north of Tikrit.
"I am back and my battery is recharged and ready to finish this deployment," Harty wrote after returning to Iraq. "And hopefully I'll be home soon after the new year."