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Letters to the Editor for Saturday, October 6, 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)

More troops, less service?

It is of great concern to me and to all the people I have talked to in Vilseck, Germany, that our post exchange has been closed.

Historically, Grafenwöhr and Vilseck each had its own PX. Posts of this size should have their own facility. As far as I am aware, other PXs don’t close one day a week either (the new PX is closed on Monday), or close at 7 p.m. (even the food court).

Now, we in Vilseck are being asked to drive all the way to Grafenwöhr to shop on a road that has been dubbed by some as “the most dangerous road in U.S. Army Europe”! How much more dangerous will it be with all the additional traffic?

And some families of deployed soldiers here don’t have transportation. They go everywhere on foot. The bus service isn’t all that spectacular, either.

Why bring all these thousands of new soldiers and family members into the area and then decrease or eliminate their services? In this part of Germany, the PX is our only place to shop. We don’t have a lot of alternatives.

Until the Army and Air Force Exchange Service wises up, I know a lot of people who plan to do all their shopping online and let AAFES do without our business.

Nikki Rainey
Vilseck, Germany

Photo of smoker not good fit

My family is a loyal subscriber to Stars and Stripes, but after I saw the bottom picture on Page 5 of my Oct. 2 edition (the photo appeared on different pages in the Oct. 1 Europe and Mideast editions), I am thinking twice about it.

The photo (one of two tagged “It’s a dirty job, but …”) shows nothing to me or my kids except a guy smoking. The picture has nothing to do with the narrative.

I am a mother of two, and I don’t want them to look in the paper and see a guy smoking. What kind of message does that send? Smoking is OK? Well, it’s not. That picture is inappropriate.

Teresa Benjamin
Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

Stripes made itself the news

I am a student of journalism and a football player, who has experienced both sides of Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe’s 39-point rule.

I am deeply disappointed by Stars and Stripes’ decisions and failure to publish any high-school results and articles [during the controversy over the reporting by coaches of inaccurate scores].

Although I disagree with the use of the 39-point rule, I believe it is the duty of Stars and Stripes to report the news. Refusing to do so because of a mercy-rule dispute is ridiculous. What type of message are you trying to send?

The 39-point rule is wrong. Football is football. Life goes on. As a football player, I prefer the true score is reported, even if I get the raw end of it. In fact, just recently we were “mercy ruled” by AFNORTH International School, Netherlands. It wasn’t delightful, but it happened. We lost to a better team. Instead of reporting the final score as 51-6, it was not even reported, with or without the mercy rule.

What matters most should be sportsmanship or maybe whether the teams are matched up fairly; not that we got beaten by 45 points versus 39.

As a student of journalism, I believe Stripes failed to do what it is here to do — report the news. Instead of reporting the news, Stripes made itself the news. That is ridiculous. The issue was with DODDS, but Stripes made it about itself. That is wrong.

Tim Sughrue
Brussels American School, Belgium

Cut the drama over contractors

We have these catered wars because we don’t have a self-sustaining military anymore.

Yes, we have many whining contractors, and most are making far more than they are worth.

It gets worse as the conditions get better. It’s against many company policies to remind these whiners that there [are hundreds of] applicants per open position here and they were just lucky enough to get picked. (Yes, most are picked, not selected.)

After many years in support, the number of soldiers who think they are better than any civilian has increased tremendously.

But these are mostly the forward operating base rats, and there are many more of them nowadays. The soldiers who have to serve outside the wire are normally grateful for anything I can provide them, and I make every effort to give them any assistance within my authority. Don’t forget, they are the ones we are here to support.

So, how about everyone getting off their high horse and help keep everything running without all the drama.

Keith A. Stepp
Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan

Incentive pay is taxable

There is no combat-zone exemption for captains receiving incentive pay for their additional three-year commitment.

The following is the response I received from Maj. Maureen Bessingpas, Officer Retention Program manager:

“Q: Is the bonus tax-free if I’m in a combat zone?

“A: Soldiers serving in a designated combat zone or in a designated HFP (hostile-fire pay) zone who are providing direct support to operations are entitled to combat zone tax exemption (CZTE). For enlisted Soldiers, all eligible pay is exempt.

“For officers, only pay up to the base pay of the Sergeant Major of the Army plus HFP is eligible for CZTE. (The current ceiling is $6,867.60/month) Income earned above this amount in any given month is fully taxable.”

So, are Army officers second-class citizens? Officers don’t receive separate-rations pay for dinner, they don’t receive a clothing allowance, and they don’t receive combat zone tax exemptions for incentive pay.

The question each captain considering the cash incentive has to answer: Is the incentive 25,000 to 35,000 reasons, minus taxes, to stay? Or is the tax another 5,000 to 8,000 reasons to move out?

Capt. Alan Wetzstein
Logistics Support Area Anaconda, Iraq

Son got good care in S. Korea

I enjoyed reading your Sept. 30 package bearing the front-page headline “Off-base hospitals a healthy option.” My son was born two months premature at the Daegu Hospital in Daegu, South Korea. He spent six weeks in newborn intensive care — four of those weeks in an incubator.

I have to say I was impressed with the staff and care my son and wife received. I visited every day and was greeted with smiling faces and professionalism from the staff.

My son is a healthy 15-month-old now with no indications of being premature. The total out-of-pocket cost was far less than I would have paid at a hospital in the States.

We did all of our follow-up appointments at the hospital and always had a good feeling for the care my son received. I speak a limited amount of the Korean language but seemed to always be informed of what was going on with my son. I guess love is an international language and that is what I got from the staff at the hospital, a feeling of genuine love for the care of my son.

Jim Berryman
Fort Lewis, Wash.

Also issues with local doctors

I can’t understand why there is such a lack of specialty doctors in South Korea. I need to be seen by a urologist, but the only ones here are the ones off post. Most servicemembers will say that going off post is better then seeing the doctor on post.

I have no issues with South Korean doctors, but it’s harder to be seen by Korean doctors and to talk with one when everything that is said is passed via a translator. When talking to someone though a translator, a lot of what you are saying could be changed or left out.

The doctors off post are geared toward “cutting” me because the more servicemembers they treat, the more money they get from Tricare. There seems to be a lack of a buffer zone. In other words, if a Korean doctor says it’s time to operate on a servicemember, there is no one on the U.S. military side to say, well, he or she is here for only a year, and it may need long-term follow-up care or to say, “No, that’s not needed.”

Sgt. Eric V. Franklin
Camp Hovey, South Korea

Misinformation is worrisome

I sit in stunned disbelief that Rush Limbaugh, who is not an elected official or the dictator of some bothersome nation, is currently the object of so much attention inside the Beltway. In these dog days of political correctness, I am not surprised he gets so much negative attention. What bothers, worries and, indeed, frightens me, is the culpability of those who are in positions of responsibility.

To paraphrase Yogi Berra, Rush did not say what he is reported to have said (“Democrats chide Limbaugh for remark about ‘phony soldiers,’ ” article, Oct. 1). He did not, even remotely, suggest what he is accused of meaning. I know this, because — out of concern and no little disgust — I checked it out. I read the entire transcript verbatim; I heard unedited audio clips.

Small wonder we can do nothing to address the problems facing Social Security and immigration. Members of Congress are unable to get accurate information. What is even more disturbing, neither our elected officials nor anyone serving on their staffs know how to confirm the information they have or access the information they do not have. In the midst of the age of information, there are people serving in positions of trust and responsibility who can be neither trustworthy nor responsible because they are groping about in absolute ignorance. To speak from such darkness, one will ever appear a moron, junior grade.

If the leaders of this nation cannot even find out who says what on the public airwaves, there is no reason to believe that they can know anything, ever. That is why I feel so much less safe than I did 72 blissful hours ago.

Mark L. Williams
Kadena Air Base, Okinawa


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