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Letters to the editor for Thursday, December 4, 2003

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)

Fallen soldier one of best

I recently opened the latest edition of Stars and Stripes that my unit had received, dated Nov. 26. Normally I don’t read the names of reported casualties, but for some reason I was drawn to them. To my complete dismay, the last name mentioned was that of Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Wilson, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. The shock I felt was strong. When I was a young soldier, I served under Command Sgt. Maj. Wilson’s influence in 2/1 Infantry, Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

He was one of the best, if not the best, noncommissioned officers who I’ve ever served with. This man showed hard love to all of us in the battalion, and he genuinely cared for all of us. Our unit was the best infantry unit the Army probably had, and that’s how he made us feel.

Since coming to Iraq and knowing of his position in the 101st, I’d been hoping to see him sometime out here. This won’t happen because he died in Mosul, doing what I know he loved most, serving his country. From his intimidating demeanor to his long southern draw, I’ll miss Command Sgt. Maj. Wilson, knowing I won’t have the chance to ever serve in one of his fine units again. I pray for his family and for the soldiers of the 502nd. I don’t have to think twice to know that they’ll miss him greatly.

Instead of the constant complaining about serving one year here in Iraq, let’s be thankful that we’re still here. Every night the majority of soldiers in Iraq eat warm meals, sleep well, and will go home. This is a tough year, but only one year. Some soldiers might come back. But if they do, it’s only their dedication to the cause that will bring them back. We can all ETS eventually. If some don’t, why complain? Just like Command Sgt. Maj. Wilson, this is our calling. We fight for our country, our children, and our loved ones. Let’s not forget.

Sgt. Jason Kucera
LSA Anaconda, Iraq

West went too far

I’ve read about the plight of Army Lt. Col. Allen B. West. I’ve also read with much disgust and revulsion the thinking of some individuals who support him.

Everyone shouts, “This is war.” Sorry folks. This is not war. While I support the efforts of those involved in Iraq, readers must remember that no declaration of war exists and never has. Who are we at war with? There is no Iraqi army. Terrorists? Who are they, and where are they?

World War I and World War II were wars. I’m not sure anyone knows what to call Iraq, but it’s not a war. The purpose of invading Iraq was to remove a tyrant from power. Major combat operations ceased some time ago. Yes, Americans are being killed on a daily basis, but not by well-trained troops. There are more U.S. servicemembers being killed on a daily basis in automobile accidents in the U.S. than there are dying in combat operations in Iraq.

When Lt. Col. West interrogated a person allegedly involved in planning an attack, took that person outside the detention facility, placed a gun next to his head and pulled the trigger twice, he crossed the line. Lt. Col. West himself became a terrorist. Lt. Col. West may have had inside information about a possible attack, but he should have left it to the experts to obtain that information and put his troops on higher alert.

Taken as a whole, the actions of Lt. Col. West were along the same lines as the war criminals of Japan, Germany and Italy in World War II. Some were arrested, tried, convicted and even executed for their actions. They were guilty of murder, torture, inhumane treatment of prisoners, and stepping outside the rules of war. Lt. Col. West stepped across the line. He admits it and seems proud of it.

If an interrogator put a gun next to a suspect’s head and asked questions, the suspect would say something, regardless of whether it was true or not, just to save his life. Lt. Col. West obtained some information. But how was he to know if it was truthful or not?

Lt. Col. West needs to face the bar for his actions, and I hope that justice is swift and sure. Lt. Col. West may not need to be imprisoned for his actions, but a total loss of benefits and a dishonorable discharge are in order.

Walter J. Irwin
Ludwigshafen, Germany

Limbaugh came forward

I’m writing in response to the letter “Take Limbaugh off AFN” (Nov. 28). The writer said that Rush Limbaugh’s radio show should be taken off AFN because of Limbaugh’s recent issues with drug addiction. Is the writer so perfect that he can judge others? Yes, Limbaugh did, “step over the line of legal and socially accepted behavior.” But he then did something that many people never do. He admitted he had a problem. He then faced the issue and sought help. He didn’t hide it. He didn’t buy his way out. He didn’t blame someone or something else. He came forward and admitted that he crossed the line. For that act alone, Limbaugh should stand as someone to emulate. His act is a prime example of what one should do when faced with errors in judgment or behavior.

There are many public figures who have done things much worse than Limbaugh. Are they pulled off the airways and cast out? No! In our society, they get rich off their socially unacceptable behavior. Robert Downey Jr. has been a habitual, repeat drug offender. Nick Nolte has had repeated issues with drugs and alcohol. Countless sports heroes have committed nearly every crime under the sun. Then there’s the various politicians and leaders in our government who have also stepped over the line. They’re still acting, singing, playing professional sports, or debating the next military budget on the Senate floor. Why should Limbaugh be treated any differently? I suspect that the letter writer disagrees with Limbaugh’s views rather than Limbaugh’s admitted drug addiction.

We all have some form of addiction. It may be to food, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, the Internet, sex or collecting doodads. It’s how we deal with these addictions that define us. Limbaugh faced his issues and took actions to redeem himself to his public and probably to himself. For that alone he should be left on the air. If we followed the letter writer’s logic, there would be very few personalities on the radio, TV or in the movies.

Master Sgt. Charles Kaminski
Aviano Air Base, Italy

Limbaugh bashing

Kick a guy when he’s down. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? But Rush Limbaugh isn’t down. He’s not down on the economy, the military or the United States. He gives a positive, humorous prospective on political events and society. At times we may not agree with what he says, but Limbaugh gives different views than those offered by Juan Williams, Tavis Smiley, Jim Hightower, Dan Rather and many others who AFN radio broadcasts.

Give me all sides of a story and let me use my own mind to research the truth. Some people have a visceral and illogical dislike for conservatism, but it doesn’t warrant a one-sided view of the world. Limbaugh is the most popular radio personality in America, and AFN uses this as a criterion for airing his show. Remember, “There is something for everyone on AFN.” Those who don’t want to listen to Limbaugh’s show can simply turn their radios off or go over to FM.

Lt. Col. Julio Gonzales
Hanau, Germany

Pacific edition

Will be glad to leave Army

I’m assigned to the Chemical Reconnaissance Platoon, 89th Chemical Company, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment based out of Al-Asad Airfield, Iraq. Let me tell our story to all the soldiers having a great time here.

My soldiers and I were initially assigned to 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment when we entered Iraq in April. We moved from troop to troop nine times in four months, never really having a home. My soldiers and I have driven more than 13,000 miles in Iraq from Dogwood, south of Baghdad, to Tikrit in the north.

Every time I turn around I have a new chain of command who I must “get along with.” My soldiers and I are physically and mentally worn out, yet we continue to soldier on as professionals every day. We’ve been shot at, hit with rocket-propelled grenades, run in front of exploding improvised explosive devices, and run over unexploded land mines. Yet we continue to soldier on without complaining or running our mouths. Our living conditions have ranged from good to inhuman. It depends on when and where we are assigned. The summer was the worst, as temperatures hovered in the mid-130s at Ramadi and Fallujah. Yet we continue to soldier on.

We’re currently assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery and further operational control to the 21st Chemical Company for ammunition supply point assessment and reduction. I have no doubt that when the 82nd is finished with us, we’ll be passed on to someone else.

Oh, did I mention that we’ve not done chemical recon since coming here? We’re used as site security, convoy security, a quick reaction force, and escorts for both civilians and military personnel. My soldiers and I would love to take rest and recuperation leave, but alas, I don’t think we’ll be chosen.

When all of my soldiers and I get home safely in April or May, I’ll actually be glad to leave an Army that I once loved. I hope readers can see the smile on my face while I’m typing this and saying that I hope all soldiers here, regardless of branch, make it home safely.

Staff Sgt. Marc S. Jacobson
Al-Asad Airfield, Iraq

Letters hurting morale

I’m appalled by the lack of common sense that prevails in our military communities and Stars and Stripes’ letters to the editor staff. Our soldiers, regardless of branch, are involved in the deadliest military mission our country has faced in the past 35 years. Letters such as “Passing the time” (Oct. 27) are doing more to thrash morale among these brave warriors than the enemy can do with its bullets and bombs.

It’s easy to sit behind a desk or in a government housing area that’s protected by military police patrols and write letters with no consideration for the military personnel in deployed areas who read them. Writers can complain about the Army and Air Force Exchange Service; Morale, Welfare and Recreation; or their commissaries. But unless they’re standing in the same gutted ruins in Iraq and evading incoming projectiles, they should lay off our comrades in arms.

As for the letters staff, the guidelines for submitting letters states, “We reserve the right to edit letters for length, taste and clarity.” Stripes rejects letters with vulgarity or personal attacks on named individuals. So why not reject letters that are clearly intent on producing poor morale and animosity among the services?

Senior Master Sgt. (Ret.)
Raymond A. Myers
Baumholder, Germany

Deployed GIs not alone

I’m with the 998th Quartermaster Company at Camp Bucca, Iraq. I’ve read about soldiers who complain about not going home or not knowing when they’ll go home, and about their lack of morale. The soldiers stationed all around Iraq need to:

1. Stop and think about going to dinner with a loved one, watching television, or enjoying themselves, and realize what freedom is. They should realize that we probably have a better grasp of what so-called freedom is than any person who hasn’t served.

2. Complain about whatever they want. It helps not to hold stuff in. But they should carry out every task safely and professionally.

3. Take into account the friends that they’ve made, such as a reservist who received an involuntary transfer letter and only had two days to report.

I may never see any members of this unit again when I leave here. But I know I won’t soon forget the time we shared and all that I’ve taught them as a noncommissioned officer, as well as all that they’ve taught me about myself and how to be a better NCO.

I hope that deployed soldiers who read this get a little out of it. If not, fine. But they should carry on with the knowledge that they’re not alone, and that everyone who is deployed has the same concerns and worries.

Staff Sgt. Michael Shapiola
Camp Bucca, Iraq

Year in Iraq worth it

This is in reference to the Nov. 11 letter “When does it end?” I’m in the Army. I’ve been active duty and a reservist. I’ve given 14 years of my life to the U.S. Army. I’m a soldier. Reserve or active duty, we all sacrifice. We all raised our hands. The writer commented that reservists and guardsmen complain and whine. He asked when they will do their jobs.

Well, if the writer hasn’t noticed, we’re all in the same uniform and living under the same conditions. We’re all Americans and all soldiers, good or bad. We, too, have been extended, and we, too, have lost many things because of these extensions. Life isn’t fair. It sucks being away from our homes and families. Freedom is not free. We all sacrifice. We all chose to do that.

The writer said that reservists and guardsmen whine and complain. What was the writer doing in his letter? Feeling sorry for himself? Did he really believe the Army would be easy or fair? Why did he join?

I’ve been in Iraq for more than six months now and won’t leave for six more. A year of my life is worth it. Some soldiers have given the ultimate — their lives. So the writer should suck it up and drive on. God never gives us more than we can handle. We should love life. When does it end? When we give up.

Sgt. 1st Class K.A. Laurienti
Iraq

Spahn obit needed war info

I always admired Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Warren Spahn, and Stars and Stripes is to be commended for running such a lengthy article following his recent death (“Top gun,” Nov. 26). But for a newspaper with a large military audience, the article should have expanded and emphasized his military experiences.

On Nov. 25, The Washington Post’s Bart Barnes wrote: “He spent the next three years in an Army uniform, fighting in World War II in Europe. More than a half century later, Mr. Spahn was asked at a news conference in his native Buffalo if he’d ever felt more pressure than pitching in the World Series.

“‘Well, there was the Battle of the Bulge,’ Mr. Spahn answered, according to the Buffalo News. His Army service included duty with an engineering unit that worked on the bridge at Remagen, the last bridge left standing over the Rhine River, and he was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

“‘After the war, pitching major league baseball seemed easy, he said. ‘After what I went through overseas, I never thought of anything I was told to do in baseball as hard work. You get over feeling like that when you spend days on end sleeping in frozen tank tracks in enemy-threatened territory. The Army taught me something about challenges and about what’s important and what isn’t,’ Mr. Spahn was quoted as saying in Gary Bedingfield’s ‘Baseball in World War II.’”

Spahn was a man’s man. It’s important that Stars and Stripes lets its readers know more about his military experiences.

Fred Matos
Baghdad, Iraq


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