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Letters to the editor for Thursday, November 6, 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)

Highest honor

My fiancé is stationed at Camp Spearhead, Kuwait. It’s no secret that I miss him terribly. I read Stars and Stripes online just about every day to follow the news and make sure he’s OK. But mostly I read the letters. Most are complaints and most of them are valid. One letter got my attention. It was about how families and loved ones have a hard time with deployments. As a loved one, I can tell readers that there’s nothing harder than watching the one I love step directly into harm’s way for such a long period of time. So I decided to write this as a possible morale booster.

When people ask me where my fiancé is and I tell them Kuwait, their reactions are amazing. They always say the same things: “I bet you miss him.” Or, “Wow, he is so brave.” Soldiers feel that they’re overseas because they were deployed and so they have to be there. They feel they’re just serving their time. But people at home believe that they’re the courageous soldiers portrayed in commercials and movies. People at home live in awe of the safety that soldiers provide them daily without even knowing them. They’re very grateful for that.

When these people watch the news and see soldiers, their faces beam with smiles and pride to be part of the same country as these soldiers. They imagine these soldiers facing combat situations and in trenches since all they know is from the media.

These soldiers are the bravest people in the U.S. because they agreed to put on the highly regarded and respected uniform and go to where they are to fight and protect the people at home who love them so much.

When my friends introduce me to people, they say, “This is Fallon. Her fiancé is in the military. He’s overseas.” The compliments then come to my fiancé in waves. To be the wife or husband of someone in the service is an incredibly high civilian honor. But to be in the service is the highest honor.

Feeling confident enough to speak for our entire nation, I thank all servicemembers. They are brave and wonderful men and women doing things that are changing the world for the better and making our country proud. I love my fiancé/soldier, and I’ve never been more proud of him.

Fallon Schneider
Lafayette, La.

Articles caught attention

This is in reference to the Oct. 30 edition of Stars and Stripes. There were several articles that caught my attention. First was “AAFES gas prices going down in November.” It said AAFES is lowering gas prices 10 cents a gallon beginning Nov. 1. Bravo. But I thought AAFES was supposed to adjust its gas prices monthly according to price changes in the States. In September, gas prices in the States on average were lowered twice to the tune of about 14 cents, and our prices didn’t change come Oct. 1. It seems AAFES officials have to read a bunch of negative letters to the editor before they make a move.

Second was the story, “Cost of beef expected to increase.” Since Americans are eating more beef, the Defense Commissary Agency has seen fit to substantially raise beef prices. The way I see it, if we’re buying more, we should get a break on prices. A double pack of rib eye steaks already costs no less than $8. Ten years ago we got the same steaks for $2.50. Inflation hasn’t gone up that much, has it?

Third was the story “ID card scanning project on schedule.” U.S. Army Europe announced that the ID card scanning project is on schedule, but the implementation times will be later than projected. How can they be on schedule if they’re behind schedule?

Is it just me and Andy Rooney who see things as they really are?

Charles C. Jones
Schweinfurt, Germany

Dollar-to-euro rate

This is in response to the letter “Weak dollar” (Oct. 31). The writer began with a plea to disregard the “divisive factors” surrounding our commander in chief. The subject of an article is normally identified in the opening paragraph. This tells me that the writer’s primary purpose was to denigrate President Bush.

The writer then said that he and his wife just completed a trip to Italy in which the conversion from dollars to euros “cost” them $240. If this was a trip for official duty, the U.S. government would have absorbed the cost of the currency conversion. Therefore, I deduce that this was a personal trip, e.g., a vacation. If indeed this was a vacation, then the writer has a far more serious problem than currency valuation.

I submit that with a global war on terror being waged by the U.S. armed forces and their allies, the writer has some nerve complaining about how much his money cost for his vacation. There’s a war going on. People and soldiers are dying every day, and the most pressing problem the writer has to complain about is how much his vacation cost?

The writer needs to get his priorities straight. If his vacation cost too much, then he shouldn’t go back. He receives a cost-of-living adjustment for living overseas. If this isn’t enough money, he can return to the U.S. or get out of the military so he’ll never have to worry about currency rates again.

As powerful as the U.S. president is, he doesn’t set the daily value of the dollar on the global currency exchange. This is accomplished on a macroeconomic scale with an infinite number of inputs by, among other things, investors, national banks, national economic policy, war, natural disasters, gross domestic product, etc. To lay the value of the U.S. dollar at the feet of President Bush shows an acute lack of economic savvy, to say the least.

The “cost” of the euro to the dollar would have been the same if the writer had flown in from the U.S. as a civilian or as a servicemember from a post in Germany. What the writer didn’t have to pay was the cost of flying across the Atlantic Ocean to get to Europe. I’ll bet the cost of his euros was less than the price of two round-trip tickets from wherever the writer calls home in the U.S.

Sgt. 1st Class Preston L. Farley
Heidelberg, Germany

Mail problem

I’m writing about the mail here at Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq. Our unit took over the mail run, and we got mail every day or every other day. But Kellog, Brown & Root has that run now too. Now we get mail maybe one time a month. Mail was sent to me on Oct. 7, but I got it on Oct. 24. I asked about the mail and was told that they only travel here every three days. So when we mail letters home they take more than two weeks.

It’s not right that we had to make the mail run every day and they don’t, because the mailman runs six days a week. I think our unit needs to take over the mail run again. We did a better job than they’re doing now.

Sgt. George S. Jenkins
Tikrit, Iraq

‘Pen Pal’ section

I’m presently serving in Iraq, so I have the chance to read Stars and Stripes again. I was stationed in Germany, where I took advantage of Stripes’ old Pen Pal section. I married a wonderful young woman from Budapest, Hungary, whom I met through the Pen Pal section. In December we will be celebrating 13 years of marriage, and we have two beautiful girls, ages 4 and 11.

I’m writing to say thanks. I wonder how many others have been touched by the Pen Pal section of Stars and Stripes.

Staff Sgt. Tony D. McNeil
Kirkuk, Iraq

Pacific edition

Unseen enemies hurt, too

The period following the declaration of an end to major hostilities in Iraq has been marked by harassment from enemies largely unseen and difficult to effectively fight against. Is this the result of an influx of foreign fighters? Perhaps to some extent. But they aren’t the only enemies who have crept in. The enemies that have filtered in and inflicted the most casualties appear to be apathy and discontent.

These enemies are receiving increasing aid and comfort from much of our own news media back home, as well as from some of the growing field of presidential contenders hoping to capitalize on what has not been a quick, painless and inexpensive total victory. We were all forewarned that this would be a long struggle. In fact, it had been a long struggle before this phase began. Would anyone really prefer the pacifism of our responses to the taking of American hostages at the embassy in Tehran, Iran, in 1979, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, or the many hijackings and kidnappings of Americans during the 1980s?

Borrowing from words that some people attribute to George Orwell: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” We have to be willing to be the rough men and women of the American armed forces. Only after we ETS or retire should we expect to lie in the comforts of home, hoping that someone else takes care of it for us.

Staff Sgt. Ken Schatte
Al Asad, Iraq

Military changes unsettling

I’m a 46-year-old female and proud mother of two young adults. I’m proudly serving in Iraq with the 1151st Engineer Detachment out of Fort McClellan, Ala. Most readers may think I’m too old for this stuff. Well, they’re right. But my government called me, and I proudly accepted. I was active Army from 1978 to 1982. I took a 17-year break in service and I’m now going on five years with the National Guard.

Until we were activated, I didn’t realize how much the military has changed. Some of the change has been good, but a lot of it has been for the worse. By no means do I want to offend anyone, but I think it has to do with the kind of young people in charge, such as the young captain who came to us as a filler.

The two most memorable phrases back in the old Army were “lead by example” and “take care of your troops and they will take care of you.” I guess these phrases don’t apply in the new Army. There’s another phrase that’s one of my favorites: “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” I know that with my life experiences and the way I’ve lived, when my children think of fairness and integrity, they think of me. This makes me strive to always be a better person. I don’t know if this is something that can be taught to our young captain.

Fortunately, what goes around comes around. One day we all end up where someone else has been.

Sgt. Stephanie Przedwojewski
Iraq

GIs should show thanks

Morale has been up and down in my company. Having passed the six-month mark of deployment to Kuwait with no end date in sight, I understand how long deployments can get soldiers down. No matter how hard one tries, it can be difficult to raise morale in soldiers who have so many questions to which we just don’t have answers. In such uncertain times and with mission change constantly a possibility, one thing that helps is mail.

So I’d like to thank all the people who support us back home. There are many businesses and support sites — such as “Adopt a Platoon” and “Operation Sandbox” — that unselfishly give to us. All the wonderful people at these places have helped me to help my platoon and company. Morale rises and smiles increase when soldiers receive letters or packages. So I really do appreciate everything that’s been done for us.

Servicemembers who have been lucky enough to be the recipients of strangers’ kindness shouldn’t ignore them. They should write a short thank-you note. A five-minute letter would make the day of a mom, child or grandparent who sees a soldier as a hero. Such letters would also work to strengthen the positive image of soldiers in America. Thanks from soldiers would help these people to continue what they started and make morale a little better.

2nd Lt. Marjalicia Verdecchia
Kuwait

Respect decision on re-upping

This is in regard to the Oct. 21 article “Rethinking re-enlistment” (Day 6 of Stripes’ “Ground Truth” series). I must take exception to the article’s statement that, “To some extent, war separates the warriors from the whiners.” Not all soldiers who decide not to re-enlist are “whiners,” and not all those who re-enlist are “warriors.” So many factors go into such a decision that to make a statement like that is simplistic and misleading.

The fact of the matter is that many fine young Americans enlist or accept commissions with the desire to serve their country and decide that military service is not for them. Certainly there are whiners and complainers, but the majority finish their commitments and exit the military as better people.

The wars of the United States have been won with these people. It happened in the American Revolution, it happened in World War I and World War II, and it’s happening now. To be sure, the core of our Army are professional soldiers who have a passion for both their country and their jobs. These people should be honored for their selfless service to their country. But don’t disparage the citizen-soldiers who serve in the military arena before pursuing other endeavors. They, too, deserve our gratitude and respect.

2nd Lt. Robert Elder
Kuwait

Marlins show big hearts win

Baseball. What a marvelous game! The sport of my youth. America’s pastime. I humbly consider myself a student of the game and its history. Having said that, let me say that the second best thing that could have happened to baseball (the first being a Cubs-Red Sox World Series) was the Florida Marlins winning Game 6 to capture the World Series in New York against the Yankees with the ghosts of Ruth, DiMaggio, Gehrig, Mantle, etc., all in attendance to witness the re-enactment of David v. Goliath.

What a marvelous thing for young people to witness. What a marvelous life lesson. In the final analysis, it’s not the amount of past championship rings that a team has, the size of the market that the franchise reaches worldwide, the fancy uniforms, the huge salaries or the number of ex-players in the Hall of Fame. It always comes down to who has the most heart, the most fire, and the most resiliency and determination that often determines the victor.

The small-market. Las Vegas underdog, no-name, no-frills, keep-it-simple Marlins beat the fabled and exalted Yankees because they knew they could. Not think they could, not believed they could, but knew they could. In Florida, in the Bronx, or “in a phone booth,” to quote Muhammad Ali. OK, George Steinbrenner, let the heads begin to roll.

Art Cataldo
Wiesbaden, Germany


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