European and Mideast editions
(EDITOR’S NOTE: These are the letters that appeared in each edition of Stripes on this publication date. Click here to jump ahead to the Pacific edition letters)
Child care at church
Nursery and child watch are provided by nearly every chapel, both for Sunday services and regular weekday meetings of chapel groups, such as Protestant Women of the Chapel and Catholic Women of the Chapel (“Rude parents, crying babies,” letter, Dec. 15).
Appropriate rooms are allocated, and care-givers are usually hired to watch infants and toddlers; volunteer parents or teenagers often help on a rotating basis, or when there are extra children. All workers and volunteers fill out basic background-check information, and do not supervise children alone; parents must be participating in chapel activities nearby.
Part of every chapel’s budget is used for age-appropriate teaching materials, usually offering separate programs of Sunday School (generally an hour of teaching and activities before or after the service) and children’s church (often during the service, with children up to a certain age participating with their families, then leaving with their teacher before the homily or message portion, to have their own time of worship and learning). Religious-education coordinators work with chaplains and parish councils to provide these ministries, through funds that come in via the weekly offerings — they welcome input from the community.
Parents should take advantage of these opportunities so that they can enjoy a couple of hours of “grown-up time” per week, their children can play and learn with other children, and the rest of their congregation can enjoy a quiet, more meaningful chapel service.
Are they all liars?
It is impossible to educate willfully ignorant people in the space allotted in a Stripes letter. Such is the case for those who continue to subscribe to the “Bush lied” meme. If President Bush lied, then the New York Times and Washington Post lied; England, France, Russia, Australia, Italy, the United Nations, Joseph Liebermann, Tom Daschle, Richard Gephardt, John Kerry, Al Gore and both Clintons all lied, as well (according to a column by Robert Kagan published in the Oct. 25 Washington Post).
Educated people know Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He used them on his own people. His well-known quest for WMD made him the subject of 18 U.N. resolutions and resulted in a unanimous vote of the U.N. Security Council when they ordered him to disarm prior to the Iraq war. Only those too ignorant to read or too mired in Bush hatred can continue to dispute the fact that Saddam had WMD. The important question today is not, “Did Saddam have WMD?” but rather, “Where did the WMD go?” Was it destroyed or moved to Syria? Also, any officer too craven to resign his commission before lambasting the commander in chief in public should be unceremoniously booted from the military.
Next, the military doesn’t swear to protect the American people but rather the Constitution, a small point first demonstrated by George Washington, an American citizen in western Pennsylvania during the Whiskey Rebellion. Finally, Sun Tzu didn’t say “The first casualty of war is the truth” (“U.S. ‘created an illusion’,” letter, Dec. 19). In fact, nobody did. However, in 1918 U.S. Sen. Hiram Warren Johnson, R-Calif., is purported to have said: “The first casualty when war comes is truth.”
That some of the “Bush lied” crowd can’t get the basic facts about to whom or what the U.S. military pledges allegiance or research a common quote confirms the first sentence in this letter.
The right to drink alcohol
To the writer of “Keep drinking age at 21” (letter, Dec. 12): How do you suppose everyone who’s ever used alcohol learned how to drink responsibly? By drinking!
There are youngsters in other countries who take drinks and have learned their tolerances and have satisfied the curiosity of the “forbidden fruit” much earlier in life than Americans.
Who are we to deny an 18-year-old, whose sacrifices during military service ring true over decades, the right to take responsibility for themselves. These soldiers sign up as adult Americans. They commit to the service and protection of this country and, by God, if they can understand that they may die for their country, they should be able to drink legally [at a minimum, on military installations]. Not to mention the hardship of substandard living conditions while deployed, lengthy times away from family and a pay scale that even some unemployed people wouldn’t even see as lucrative.
I’ve spent four years in the Marine Corps and six years in the Army now and have seen many scenarios involving underage drinking that would never have amounted to anything but a good time among soldiers and friends. But because of the law, the whole event becomes a punitive festival for hypocrites who can still remember their own underage adventures with alcohol.
I believe that through laziness, people will oppose this change in the law, purely for the fact that education and guidance will have to start at an earlier age, thus making us all work harder to help men and women to become safety-conscious and nonabusive of alcohol.
Sgt. Benigno G. Gonzales
Camp Taji, Iraq
Give chaplains a chance
In response to “Chaplains don’t serve everyone” (letter, Dec. 14), it’s painfully apparent that the writer has no clue of the entire spectrum of duties military chaplains perform. Ignoring the writer’s personal choice of worship isn’t on their list.
Chaplains don’t only provide worship services. They accommodate, within reason, the needs of all members of the U.S. military, regardless of religious preference. I know this for a fact, as I’ve seen it firsthand.
I have been an Air Force chaplain’s assistant for 12 years. As the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of a stateside chapel, I have sat in meetings with wing chaplains and Wiccan base personnel, mapping out strategies to assist them in any possible way, just as we’ve assisted members of multiple faith backgrounds in finding the spiritual care they require.
Are military chaplains qualified to lead Wiccan services? That would be akin to asking a military physician to perform dental surgery. Referrals are an important part a chaplain’s duty. The chapel staff will help in any way possible to ensure a military member’s religious needs are met.
Do chaplains perform other duties? Any commander will tell you that chaplains are an integral tool in measuring morale among their troops. Chaplains are out there, day in and day out, performing visitation with their squadrons/units. They act as a direct line to command on problems among the troops. They do provide counseling for military members, spouses, dependents, etc., regardless of any religious affiliation.
I’ve deployed to Iraq and worked in a joint environment with the Multi-National Corps-Iraq command chaplain’s office, so any argument that Air Force clergy work differently than other branches won’t fly. I’ve convoyed beside them on dangerous routes in Iraq. I’ve walked the halls of intensive care units in Baghdad with military chaplains, and I never once saw any chaplain check dog tags for religious preference before visiting the wounded. Do me a favor: Before jumping on the “chaplains won’t support me” bandwagon, try sitting down and talking with one. I am willing to bet you’d be very surprised with the result.
Tech. Sgt. Scott Flack
Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
The joy behind the season
I sure feel sorry for those who are against Christmas. The main reason there is so much joy is because of the birth of Jesus Christ, regardless of the date. The main reason the churches do so much work around Christmas is so others can come to know Jesus Christ. What if all that stuff about Jesus Christ being the only way to heaven is true? For any of us who turn against him, that could be a hell of a mistake.
I would be curious to hear what has our dear Lord Jesus Christ done to turn anybody away? Have you given him a chance in your life? If anyone has a major problem with this, just say so, we’ll listen. Feel free to stop in at your local church or chapel to see what all the joy is about as they sing “Joy to the World,” and to see what the real reason for the season is. Just think how dismal and dreary winter would be if all we had to celebrate was a winter solstice.
Have a blessed and a Merry Christ-mas!
Pagan roots a fallacy
In response to “Real reason for the season” (letter, Dec. 21), the fallacy that Christmas started as a pagan celebration is common.
According to an article by Gene Veith in the Dec. 10 World Magazine, Christmas is celebrated on Dec. 25 because of an “ancient belief that God appointed for the great prophets an ‘integral age,’ meaning that they died on the same day as either their birth or their conception.” By following that belief, and knowing that Christ died at the time of the Passover, either his birth or conception occurred in March. In the early second century, consensus arose to celebrate Christ’s conception on March 25 as the Feast of the Annunciation, which placed the celebration of his birth on Dec. 25, nine months later.
On the other hand, Roman religions in the early second century had no winter solstice festival. This festival was started by Emperor Aurelian on Dec. 25, 274, to mark the time of year when the length of daylight began to increase. He started this festival in an attempt to breathe new life into declining paganism that, according to Veith, “was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians.”
Thus, the pagan winter solstice celebration was in imitation of the already-established Christian celebration of Christmas. So, the writer of “Real reason for the season” is welcome to celebrate a very happy winter solstice, while I will happily celebrate (and wish for everyone else) a very Merry Christmas and celebration of Christ’s birth, the true “real reason for the season.”
Col. John Ekstrand
Holiday belongs to everyone
The writer of “Real reason for the season” (letter, Dec. 21) seems angry.
I noted he mentioned that Christian churches insist that the holiday belongs to them. No, it belongs to everyone, just like Thanksgiving Day; it, too, was started by Christians, but no one protests the slaughter of turkeys.
By the way, did anyone notice that our Constitution was written by Christians? The fat man in a red suit, flying reindeer, office parties and what have you, is what we, as somewhat-blind faithful, dreamed up.
The real reason for this season is that a child named Jesus was born and we celebrate his birth this time of year. We have forgotten this fact, or some discount it altogether. Sales and profits have blinded so many of us to the true meaning of Christmas. So what’s next, Easter, Thanksgiving and the Constitution? All were started with Christian views.
By the way, the words Christian and Christmas start with the word Christ, the real reason for this season.
Petty Officer 1st Class Roosevelt Hayes (retired)
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
Holiday P.C. has run amok
Christmas. Bah, humbug!
I am one of the few who does not celebrate Christmas or any other religious holiday and proudly proclaim to be agnostic. People like me constitute just a small portion of today’s society.
Having said that, I think it’s sad that society is starting to bend over backward to accommodate such a small percentage who do not hold Judeo-Christian beliefs, out of fear of offending people like me by changing everything from the word “Christmas” to “holiday.” Why? Are you afraid I am going to spontaneously combust or break out in seizures if you wish to spread some season’s greeting? Will wishing me a “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy Hanukkah” cause me to break out in hives and go into shock? I better carry a CHART (Christmas Holiday Anti-cheer Remedy Treatment) kit handy in case the paramedics don’t arrive in time to save my life!
This whole politically correct thing is going way too far and it makes me sick when people have to walk on eggshells because of it. To the people who take offense to the word "Christmas," let’s put the shoe on the other foot and expect you to show the same tolerance you accuse these people of not being sensitive to.
I take no offense to this time of year and, despite having odds with religion in general, encourage the majority of people with such beliefs to continue to share them openly. Don’t feel that because of a few crybabies and whiners that you have to clam up or water down anything. To do so is ridiculous. Because nobody has ever asked me directly, “What does a non-Christian think of substituting the phrase ‘holiday’?,” I will say it here and hope to help put an end to all this P.C. madness — it’s absurd.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Gregory J. Clements
Ramstein Air Base, Germany
Good to read captain’s take
A sincere thank you for publishing the Nov. 30 letter “War based on a lie.” I am impressed by this honest, firsthand assessment of the situation in Iraq and by the captain’s courage to speak truth to power.
While dissent is core to American values and freedoms, it is strongly discouraged and stifled in the military — but he is far from alone in his disillusionment for the reasons we are there.
His thought-provoking letter summarizes what so many of us are thinking. We now know that there were no weapons of mass destruction, there were no chemical or biological weapons, there was no uranium coming from Niger, there was no nuclear program in Iraq. Though evil, neither Saddam Hussein nor Iraq was involved in al-Qaida’s attacks on Sept. 11. It was all lies, fabrication, false, cherry-picked intelligence and fear-mongering to convince the American people that an illegal war of choice was our last resort when, in truth, it was this administration’s preferred first choice.
Since the role of the U.S. military is to protect America, not to do “nation-building,” this sure is a hell of a price to pay to control their oil and establish bases in the Middle East.