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Letters to the Editor for Monday, June 18, 2007

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)

Pagans serve everywhere

I wanted to thank you for the helpful and informative article on pagans (“Pagans resist keeping the faith to themselves,” Mideast edition, June 11). Rarely is our faith treated in the press with such objectivity. No doubt Stars and Stripes will take a lot of heat from readers for devoting a full page to pagans. It isn’t even Halloween.

I have been Wiccan since before I joined the Army. In 26 years in the military — both active duty and reserve and all of it “out of the broom closet” as an openly practicing Wiccan — I have seen reactions from fellow soldiers as well as my command and chaplains range from curiosity and acceptance to outright hostility and was never more polarized than when we founded the Mannheim Open Circle at Taylor Barracks Chapel in Mannheim, Germany, several years ago.

Fortunately, in the military, if it is in the regulations somewhere, you have recourse. Wicca has been in the Army chaplains handbook since the mid-1970s. Although I have sometimes had to remind chaplains that we are, in fact, a recognized religion in the military, for the most part, the Army Chaplain Corps has usually been very supportive and a great ally to all faiths.

We have been making headway, however. With the recent approval from the Department of Veterans Affairs for a gravestone marker symbol of our faith, it gives us all hope. I am still afraid, however, that we pagans will never be fully accepted as part of mainstream religious society until we have an openly pagan U.S. congressman. Nevertheless, we are everywhere. We are soldiers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, school teachers and so on. You, no doubt, have met at least one of us at some point, whether you knew it or not.

Staff Sgt. (Rev.) Victor C. Anderson
Logistics Support Area Anaconda, Iraq

Story promotes understanding

Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my little eclectic heart (“Pagans resist keeping the faith to themselves”).

I am a Celtic deist and a practitioner of druidism. It was a breath of fresh air to see such a well-written and thought-out report on a full page. Most important was you showed that the military does recognize certain pagan religions and listed them. This article will hopefully open the eyes of many people who were misinformed, and show them that not only are we good people who are not the dark beings people believe we are, but that to persecute these groups because of their religions could very well be detrimental to their careers.

This will also help those of us who hide what we believe out of fear. Knowing we are protected by the military is important to get out to those of the nature faiths, so they can inform their chain of command or at least their chaplain so that the Chaplain Corps, which has been very supportive of us, will know how many of us there really are.

Again you have proved you are a paper of the people, who will not bow to pressure from those whose intolerant ways would try to stop you. So, to balance out the hate mail I know you will get, here is a letter of love from one of the many “minority” religions who read your paper and serve their country so that you can write what you want, when you want, freely.

Staff Sgt. Gioacchino Guarino
Taji, Iraq

Pagans don’t belong in chapel

I’m very shocked to read that pagans are allowed to use one of the rooms in the Misawa (Japan) Air Base chapel (“Pagans resist keeping the faith to themselves"). If I were attending church in Misawa, I would be outraged.

This is not a matter of discrimination, but a matter of spiritual warfare. Many good things have come from respecting and valuing the differences of our military members. I am proud of the way the military integrates different religions compared to the civilian world. When you go to a military chapel, you might notice many different religious symbols on its door. However, you cannot turn a house of worship of the one true God into a house of worship for many different gods. Just as we have separation of church and state for important reasons, we also need to keep the worship of worldly things separate from the worship of heavenly things.

C.S. Lewis puts it in easy terms, “Aim at heaven and you get thrown in. Aim at the earth and you get neither.”

I can respect pagans’ religious views and outlooks on life. History is full of examples of the created being worshipped instead of the Creator. However, it is one thing to support them by giving them their own place of worship, but a whole different topic when you give pagans access to a place in which God is served.

Your article can spin this any way it likes, but this is not a “woe is me” piece, but an attack on Christianity itself. Frankly, I am fed up with all this politically correct nonsense. Either support the pagans by providing them their own separate place of worship and an ability to advertise or don’t support them at all. Quit sacrificing our foundation of absolute and irrefutable truth for man’s or woman’s futile attempt at wisdom. It is doomed to fail.

Kendra Miranda
Okinawa

Curbing illegal immigration

This is in response to “Bush presses Senate GOP for immigration reform” (article, June 13).

I believe a big part of the immigration crisis could have been solved years ago by not making people born on U.S. soil automatic citizens. I think one of the biggest incentives for the illegal immigrants is that they know giving birth in the U.S. automatically makes their child a citizen. They should have to show proof of U.S. citizenship before their child can be given a Social Security card.

I know that would be an inconvenience for U.S. citizens, but one must consider what is important. Should we just be spending millions to build fences around the U.S., employing more border guards and hoping that curbs the problem? Or do we really want to show illegal immigrants that we mean business?

Denise Lambson
Schweinfurt, Germany

Series not meant to be real

In response to “‘Army Wives’ does a disservice” (letter, June 11), I’m sure that all TV viewers who watch this new series “Army Wives” look at it as just another soap opera. If these shows were of actual events, no one would watch them because they would be boring. Not to say that an Army wife’s life is boring, it’s just to say that what they do is nothing like what is portrayed in these soaps. The producers juice up the scenes so they will appeal to a large audience.

After 30 years of Army service, which included countless moves, I never came across 1) a female lieutenant commander who stayed drunk most of the time (2) a wife who could go to the post exchange and buy a protective mask filter 3) twins being born in a military hospital and then the mother stating they died during birth (no birth certificate) and 4) a colonel’s wife who let her son beat the hell out of her and nothing being done.

I don’t think most people who watch TV series really believe what they see in these types of shows, regardless if they have any connections to the military or not. The show is for entertainment only.

I would suggest that the letter writer just not tune in this show and watch something else. It is funny to me. I have the opportunity to point out the mistakes and laugh about them.

Sgt. Maj. James R. Ratcliff Sr. (retired)
Lacey, Wash.

Pacific edition

Even allies can hurt U.S.

Memorial Day and the 40th anniversary of the attack on the USS Liberty were occasions to remember our naval heroes — including a winner of the Medal of Honor who saved a grievously wounded ship under repeated armed attack, including strafing and bombing by aircraft and torpedoes launched by surface ships.

The historical record concludes that the Israeli Defense Forces, then engaged in armed conflict with Egypt, were aware of the presence of the USS Liberty in the vicinity of the attacks. Two aircraft had early on the day of June 8, 1967, positively identified the ship as belonging to the U.S. Navy. The subsequent multiple attacks against the ship that afternoon were explained away as fog-of-war mishaps in an investigation, which one contemporary U.S. official described as “a nice whitewash.” The State Department described the attack as “quite literally incomprehensible. As a minimum, the attack must be condemned as an act of military recklessness reflecting wanton disregard for human life.”

Although Israel subsequently paid reparations for the Americans whom the IDF had killed and wounded, the official treatment of the attack has left many who remember it resentful.

The writer of “Liberty letter was hate-filled” (letter, June 11) should reflect that even our strongest allies can take actions that are not in the best interests of the U.S.

If anyone wishes to delve into the historical record on the USS Liberty, the National Security Agency has declassified and posted on the Web all relevant documentation.

Alan Waldram
Sigonella, Sicily

Curbing illegal immigration

This is in response to “Bush presses GOP for immigration reform” (article, June 14).

I believe a big part of the immigration crisis could have been solved years ago by not making people born on U.S. soil automatic citizens. I think one of the biggest incentives for the illegal immigrants is that they know giving birth in the U.S. automatically makes their child a citizen. They should have to show proof of U.S. citizenship before their child can be given a Social Security card.

I know that would be an inconvenience for U.S. citizens, but one must consider what is important. Should we just be spending millions to build fences around the U.S., employing more border guards and hoping that curbs the problem? Or do we really want to show illegal immigrants that we mean business?

Denise Lambson
Schweinfurt, Germany

Information for the enemy

The June 13 Okinawa and Japan editions of Stars and Stripes have emblazoned across the front page “Report: New vehicle can withstand EFPs.”

Can someone explain to me why it was necessary to tip off our enemies that they now might need to change their bomb tactics?

Whose side is the American media on?

Del W. Wilber
Camp Victory, Iraq

Tattoos don’t make the soldier

In response to “Tattooed soldiers look silly,” (letter, June 7), who is [the sergeant major] to judge people and what they do with their bodies? What may look silly or ridiculous to him may be perfectly normal for others.

He’s been in the Army long enough to know that tattoos and the military pretty much go hand in hand.

This isn’t something new. I understand times are changing and have come a long way since his time when it was cool to roll a pack of Marlboros in his white T-shirt sleeve. How has he made it this far in the military when it seems he can’t adapt and overcome?

I am covered in tattoos and I could soldier with the best when I was in. The reason I got out was the “new Army” is way too soft because of people like the letter writer.

So, let soldiers be soldiers and do their jobs. Besides, the uniform and the soldiers make them a professional, not their skin.

Paul Terrock
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

Why we’re in Iraq

I would like to address the growing concern of soldiers serving in Iraq asking why they are here.

Sept. 11, 2001, was a difficult and fearful time. We’re struggling to collect information on the who and why.

We were able to obtain enough evidence that Osama bin Laden was the planner for the attacks. We deployed our military to search for him in Afghanistan. New evidence turned up pointing to Iraq being involved in Sept. 11 and weapons of mass destruction development.

It has been discovered that the evidence we had on Iraq was, unfortunately, incorrect. While a disappointing blow, we are unable to leave [Iraq], as the standing government was no longer effective to support its population. Terrorists and freedom fighters used this opportunity to declare America as occupiers. We could just leave today; however, there would be too high of a chance to produce a hotbed for a future problem for America and western Europe.

Not enough questions and too much action have developed into our current political and military situation. As our government sits down to figure it out, we servicemembers are here. It’s not that they don’t care about us, they want it done right. Many of us in Iraq know the current government is in its infant stage. Our government wants to finish Iraq to benefit both our interests and the interests of Iraq. Iraq is a problem we developed in an unfortunate situation, which we would hope would not be left as something much worse.

Spc. Michael Galde
Camp Liberty, Iraq

Finding missing troops

Is our leadership diminishing? Have we developed tunnel vision when it comes to our day-to-day activities, or do we simply not care?

Call me old-fashioned, set in my ways or whatever you want to. Being a former servicemember (retired Army), and currently serving in Iraq as a Department of Defense contractor, I have never lost sight of my duties and responsibilities. Unless responsibilities of leaders have changed since I retired some 10 years ago, we owe it to our servicemembers and their families to place taking care of their well-being as a top priority.

Accountability of personnel and equipment should be first and foremost in our minds at all times. If it is not, we have our priorities backward.

I am saddened for the countless numbers of servicemembers’ lives that are lost, due to thoughtless decisions made by their chain of command, by not being able to locate them in a timely manner. I am deeply saddened that a time-honored corps has diminished to spineless leaders not demanding and holding higher ranks accountable for providing some type of “LoJack” tracking device to locate servicemembers missing or unaccounted for.

We have Global Positioning System tracking and devices for our equipment, we have the most advanced technology money can buy, and we cannot locate servicemembers for days on end. Our method is to place in harm’s way more servicemembers to attempt to locate them in hope we find them while wasting valuable time.

This does not compute. Can someone make me understand? Is cost an issue to provide such technology? What is the value we place on a human life?

Keith McMurray
Camp Liberty, Iraq


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