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Letters to the Editor for Saturday, April 9, 2005

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)

Many had it tougher

Does anyone remember “Band of Brothers”? How soon we forget what used to be.

Orders said “Duration plus 6 months”; they didn’t have Internet, phones, or Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and awards and badges were not on their list of things to do each morning; living was. Did they complain? Of course they did, they weren’t gods, but their life was damn sure harder than ours.

My girl’s grandfather was a couple of hills from Patton and was just as cold and snowed in, but he didn’t get the same recognition. Did it matter? No.

Mail, if and when it got to them, was the only thing they had to really look forward to. If paintball can be had for MWR, great! If not, well, hope something good can be found then.

We are soldiers, male and female; we fight and die, or we don’t — that is our lot in life. We chose this life so others would not have to. Be proud to wear the uniform. Period. We do what others will not or cannot do.

Thirteen years in the cavalry, seven years in the engineers, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom (twice), and I have yet to kill someone. I will be proud to retire with that accomplishment.

Serving has been the only reward I needed. Yes, goodies are nice, surviving to see family again is better. More intestinal fortitude, less belly-aching is what we need.

Staff Sgt. Ron Tetzel
Kandahar, Afghanistan

No Pilates or pools

I am the supply sergeant for a cavalry troop at Logistics Support Area Anaconda, and I have not had the chance to do Pilates yet. I am here to do a job. That job is to support soldiers who travel outside of the wire every day, and they have not had a chance to go to the swimming pool, either.

These soldiers are seeing the same roadside bombs and everything else that the rest of the theater is seeing. And I take my job very seriously, as I was in their shoes at one time as a scout.

And I wonder, does the writer of “Infantrymen earn CIBs” (letter, April 2) know that quite a few of the folks here at LSA Anaconda had to travel almost 400 miles to get here? It is not a very comforting feeling to drive along the highway and see the vehicles that were less fortunate than mine sitting along the side of the road blown into next week. While manning the .50-caliber machine gun on top of a level III 5-ton, I was not worrying about any badges or ribbons; getting my equipment and seeing the morning light of the next day was enough of an award for me.

And just because we made it did not mean that the shooting stops. All the letter writer has to do is look at the weekly reports for the LSA Anaconda area of operations, and see it is not all peaches and cream.

We are not all badge hunters. We just want to do our jobs and go home.

Staff Sgt. Eric A. Lingenfelter
Logistics Support Area Anaconda, Iraq

Combat GIs need support GIs

Never in my 18½ years (deployed to both combat zones) have I been so disheartened by a fellow (if retired) soldier (letter, “Combat soldiers are special,” March 18).

As a lowly support soldier myself, we are the least-supported and most-misunderstood of the military.

I have the utmost respect for the combat specialties (infantry, armor, field artillery, etc.). They do an outstanding job seeking and destroying the enemy.

But, I feel the letter writer is missing the point of an “Army of One.” Combat specialties are in the field. The support soldiers are supporting him, bringing him supplies, ammunition, aviation support, military police support, food, fuel, water, his promotion orders and pay, to say the least — maybe even a place for the combat soldier to “rack out” when he needs a much-deserved break. Where would that combat soldier be without those support soldiers?

During World War II, the combat soldier was in the front. This was when there was a front line. But with today’s wars, there is no longer a front line. Combat is everywhere — it could very well be the little kid standing next to you wanting candy. All soldiers now see combat, no matter what their specialty of training is. We are soldiers first.

The letter writer was right about one thing: It does take a special soldier to be a combat soldier but, in this Army of One, all soldiers are special. We wouldn’t be the best military in the world without both the combat and support soldiers working together as one team.

I couldn’t care less about this new Close Combat Badge. I don’t need another ribbon on my chest. I know what I have done to protect my soldiers. That’s all I need to hold my head up high. My pride doesn’t need a ribbon.

Also, just because I have a desk job, it doesn’t mean I won’t take out the enemy if that is what it takes to go home to my husband and kids.

Sgt. 1st Class LisaLyn H. DeWitt
Bagram, Afghanistan

Pacific edition

Please don’t fault the effort

I recently received a letter from a university student who is writing a paper on the generosity of the American people in responding to the tsunami catastrophe. He got my name from a Pacific Stars and Stripes article describing how the Navy League Council at Sasebo Naval Base in Japan donated pallets of clothing and food to the relief effort (“Disaster relief on the way from Pacific,” Jan. 1-2).

Some of his questions seemed tinged with a bias that Americans somehow relish such opportunities to show the world how wonderful we are.

For anyone out there who perceives grass-roots American concern and generosity to be based in a need to feel superior or garner attention, I submit that there was no desire for self-aggrandizement by Sasebo’s Navy League Council, or the vast majority of individuals and organizations who stepped up to do things for tsunami victims. I’m astonished at any human being in the world who had some means, no matter how small, to do something — and then didn’t.

This was a disaster of biblical proportions, as it would also apply to the Quran, the Talmud or any religion’s book of faith. That it was unleashed upon so many humble human beings makes it even more tragic. It also heightened the awareness of so many that a similar tectonically induced undersea landslide could just as easily wipe out New York, Washington, Tokyo and so many other dense coastal population centers around the globe.

It was a sobering event, and I believe that human beings — who have a capability — will intrinsically respond to sobering events.

What our council did was a pathetically feeble gesture, in terms of material provided to disaster victims. But the thought and intent were genuine, and you can be sure we slept better knowing that we had sweated, exerted some modicum of personal involvement and contributed to the relief efforts.

That’s really all it is: a form of atonement to whatever higher power you might subscribe out of gratitude that it didn’t happen to you, and compassion for those who are suffering.

Americans are some of the most amazing people in the world on the whole, albeit oftentimes terribly naive about how best to inflict our charity on others in need (i.e. sending pallets of Bibles and missionaries to this devoutly Muslim region, as if it were a failure of these people’s faith that brought on the tsunami). But our need to volunteer, our need to donate money and materials, our need to respond to natural disasters, is inbred.

Our detractors will rail against our ignoring genocide and other atrocities wrought by oppressive powers — those things just seem so inconceivable and overwhelming in deed — we are immobilized by their unthinkable nature. Droughts and famine are natural by nature, but they are ever-present and even the most charitable people become inured by their perpetual existence.

But typhoons, tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and such are sudden and totally arbitrary in their timing and magnitude. These things speak to our inner need to reach out to those afflicted by their destruction, perhaps because their unpredictability awakens that primal fear in us of our own vulnerability.

Please don’t judge us harshly for our knee-jerk responses to world disasters.

Gerald C. Havens
Supervisory Programs manager
Fleet and Family Support Center
Sasebo, Japan

Why can’t we fly flag?

What is the reasoning behind the policy of not flying the American flag on our bases in Iraq? And who is the person who started the policy?

American soldiers have been denied the privilege of seeing Old Glory flying over their forward operating bases. Why? Is this another of those bullcrap, politically correct policies to which the military loves to subject its soldiers, many of whom see the American flag as a symbol of freedom and liberty to which we are here to help the Iraq people attain?

We had no problem flying the flag in Vietnam, or a hundred other countries we went to aid in some fashion. I served in Vietnam and always got a rush when we came out of the tree line and saw the American flag flying over the firebase.

Many soldiers have flown flags over forward operating bases to send home to support groups, veterans groups and the many people back home who have shown great support for us in Iraq. Let them do it without fear of reprisal.

Do the Iraqi people really object to us flying our flag? If so, maybe the military should remove the flags from our uniform also. What are other countries who have troops here doing?

I can’t help but find it ironic that soldiers can go home under the flag, but cannot raise and salute the flag on our bases.

Sgt. 1st Class Brian C. Turner
Forward Operating Base Summerall, Iraq


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