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Joan E. Dowlin Headshot

Whitney Houston Was a Hero Too

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I have been encountering a few Facebook posts recently that I find very disturbing. One says "Whitney Who? When Celebs Get More Credit Than Real Heroes" and shows a picture of our troops. Another shows a split screen with Houston on one side with the caption: "Whitney Houston, pop star famous for going into rehab, died in her bath, Worldwide News." The other side shows a soldier and reads: "Lt. Michael Murphy, Navy Seal, Medal of Honor, gave his life for his squad, forgotten."

A third post had a picture of a soldier walking the red carpet with the caption of: "Isn't It About Time We Recognized Our True Celebrities?" While not specifically mentioning Houston, the comments were loaded with Whitney bashing.

Firstly, Whitney Houston is not famous for rehab but for her incredible, transformational soaring voice. Secondly, should not one be commended for doing rehab and trying to get her life back?

I don't get it. Sure, our military servicemen and women are heroes who risk their lives. My dad, who just passed away at 91, was a Marine in Iwo Jima and I couldn't be prouder of him. As a nation we do need to honor our soldiers -- the ones who lost their lives and those that made it back. We need to offer them the GI Bill, better health care, and jobs. We need to repay them for the sacrifices they have made for us.

But what does that have to do with Whitney Houston? Maybe whoever came up with this ridiculous premise does not know Ms. Houston and the contributions she made to this country. She entertained the troops and in 1991 at the Super Bowl sang a stirring rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" that inspired a nation just entering the Persian Gulf War. They recorded the performance and it became a No. 1 record and she donated her share of the proceeds to the American Red Cross Crisis Fund. I agree with Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey that she deserves to have the flags lowered to half staff to honor her passing.

Whitney Houston has been called "The Voice" and the "Queen of Pop" and had seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard hits, a record. Her pure, lilting, soulful, and powerful voice defined her era and inspired a whole new generation of singers.

All I can think of is that whoever is making these baseless comparisons is upset about her traumatic personal life and struggles with addictions. To that, I say the old adage: "You'll never understand a person until you walk a mile in their shoes."

And it seems that superstars that have walked in her shoes have shared the same fate. Yet, I never heard anyone complain about the outpouring of love after the death of Judy Garland or Elvis or Michael Jackson and relate it to neglecting our troops.

Entertainers that receive a lot of attention when they die are usually stars that have earned it. They have touched the souls of many with their talents. This is definitely true of Whitney Houston. Having watched her funeral service today, I feel I began to capture some of the essence of who this woman was, growing up as a gospel singer in the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, NJ.

The moving testimonies of those that knew her and worked with her define her as a very kind, giving person and a loving parent. How can anyone be so heartless as to disrespect Whitney by making these unfair, idiotic comparisons to how we view our military soldiers? If you really want to honor our fallen heroes, treat everyone with respect, especially one who gave so much of herself to the world through her art.