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Letters to the editor for Wednesday, April 14, 2004

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)

Extension is absurd

My husband has been in the Army for 17 years, and I’ve been proud of that because we’ve done a lot of good things in many ways. We never regretted any place that Army life has taken us because we knew our job and our place in the Army world. My husband has been in many other places, and we’ve always stood side by side. But the extension of the deployment of 1st Armored Division soldiers in Iraq is absurd.

I cried for an entire day after getting the news of the extension of the soldiers in Iraq. Now I have to laugh knowing that everywhere we look, we don’t see any welcome home banners anymore. Now we see crisis and anger management banners. Everything was supposed to be happiness. Now it’s sadness, and still they pretend we are calm, happy families, like what just happened is nothing but part of the soldiers’ jobs. They forget that these same soldiers are fathers, mothers, sons, brothers and sisters, and have done their jobs in Iraq. Now it’s time for them to come home!

There’s not going to be any sweet, beautiful answer that anyone can give my two children to make them understand why. Why is daddy not coming home? My kids are going to think that their daddy is not coming home because they did something bad. That’s what a lot of other children will be thinking while they are crying at night.

For a year my children and many other kids all marked off each day on the calender, hoping that each day that went by would be one day sooner that their fathers would be home. A lot of people’s dreams and plans were shattered once again.

As a proud Army wife, I think there’s no fairness in any of this. I don’t expect miracles to happen. But if a lot of we spouses raise our voices together, maybe we can do something to bring ours husbands, fathers, mothers, sons and brothers back home where they belong after a yearlong deployment. I am a very proud and angry wife and mother.

Lorna I. Soto
Baumholder, Germany

Bring ‘Old Ironsides’ home

I’ve been following, with great interest and for very personal reasons, the recent “possible extension” of 1st Armored Division soldiers in Iraq. My husband is in Company B, 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, and is currently attached to the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment. He has not been home during his entire deployment. He left on May 10, 2003, and I’ve only seen him since then via Webcam or pictures.

I’m sick and tired of the lies and deceptions slathered over everyone who is even remotely connected to this division. In the story “Dempsey: Logical for 1st AD to stay in Iraq” (April 9), Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey said, “Moreover, the division’s soldiers and their families have invested too much, made too many personal sacrifices in support of this mission, to see it risked at such a critical time.” Well excuse me, Maj. Gen. Dempsey, but I’d prefer you not speak for me in the future!

Dempsey got one thing right: my husband and I have invested too much during this deployment. Now I want to cash in that investment and reap the benefits. I want my husband home now. I don’t want to hear about how logical Dempsey or the Army may think it is to keep the 1st AD in Iraq. Logic hasn’t been part of the equation since day one. Let’s not break tradition. For that matter, how “logical” can it be to push soldiers to their absolute limit and then expect them to be at peak performance? And don’t give me that line about these soldiers being trained for this. I’m a veteran myself.

In my opinion, Dempsey has not exercised much logic at all. He prematurely ended the rest and recuperation program, and now he’s trying to insinuate that the 1st AD can contribute more than, say, the 101st Airborne Division, whose troops have been allowed to redeploy back to their families. The 3rd Infantry Division wasn’t even kept in Iraq for more than a year. As a matter of fact, tours in Vietnam weren’t even more than 12 months. Even back then the Army knew it would be detrimental to GIs’ mental stability to be in a combat environment for more than a year.

I don’t care that President Bush has called an end to major combat. Any one of the wives of 1st AD soldiers knows otherwise. Our spouses have almost done their “365 days boots on the ground.” This is not now nor has it ever been a tank war. It’s time to bring “Old Ironsides” home.

Katheryn Chavarria
Bad Nauheim, Germany

Enough is enough

I have a son who joined the Army a year ago and a husband who’s been in for 17 years, and both of them are in Iraq with the 1st Armored Division. I also have a 7-year-old daughter, and she can’t understand why she has to keep waiting for her brother and father to come home.

I understand very well my husband’s responsibilities. But enough is enough. This is not about our freedom or terrorism. It’s about politics. I know that there are a lot of spouses who feel the same way I do, but they’re afraid to speak up. But you know what? I’m very proud of my son and my husband, and I’ll do whatever it takes to bring them back home.

Ermelinda Navarro
Baumholder, Germany

We’ll pass the test

My husband, Staff Sgt. Travis P. Spears, is probably having his deployment in Iraq extended. I want to let him know that my family members and I are all thinking of him, and that we love him and are praying for him.

This is hard. It takes a lot of physical and mental strength to handle this possible extension. No matter how the military tests our relationship, we’ll pass the test. No matter how long my husband is gone, I’ll be right here waiting for him. I’ll be thinking of him and hoping that he stays safe, and so will all our friends and family members. We will be here waiting for him to finally come home.

We can do this. After all we’ve been through, we can handle those (few) days longer just as well. It’ll be hard, no doubt, but we’ll be strong. My husband should just be strong with us and focus on coming home safe. My husband is my world and my future. He should never forget that. I’ll be thinking of him day and night.

Stefanie Spears
Büdingen, Germany

Grateful for FRG

I came to Germany from Florida to care for my two grandchildren, ages 6 and 3½, while their parents are deployed to Iraq. I’m being helped by a wonderful au pair. But I became deathly ill, and the Family Readiness Group was at my house immediately. It already had put its plan into action. With two FRG members by my side, I was quickly taken to the clinic on Warner Barracks in Bamberg, Germany, where I was diagnosed with pneumonia. I was treated with compassion, understanding and kindness.

I was personally transported to the German Klinikum. The liaison woman, Kay Booth, was already there waiting. She was amazing. I was quickly taken care of and pampered with compassion, understanding and kindness. The au pair had plans to be away that weekend, and the FRG set up a rotation of child care. But the au pair cancelled her trip.

While at the Klinikum, someone from the FRG was there every day. Others were there almost every day, and others dropped in periodically. I was brought the staples I needed — clothes from home, magazines, newspapers, flowers and candy. I was also given a small, stuffed, lemon-scented bunny to boost my spirits, which I needed desperately.

The FRG folks were there with hugs, hand-holding, compassion, understanding and kindness. I’ve made some wonderful friends. I can’t mention specific names because they all did their part. The FRG from the 1st Infantry Division Band went way beyond the call of duty. I know my son and his wife are grateful. I can’t thank the FRG enough.

Elaine M. Kruczek
Bamberg, Germany

Pacific edition

Thanks, Secretary Rumsfeld

I’d like to extend a hearty thank you to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for the pending 120-day extension of our troops in Iraq. After all, what’s 120 days, really? For our family, it’s four birthdays (again), Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (again), our wedding anniversary (again), and the Fourth of July, which is what service is all about for a lot of military families.

I thank Secretary Rumsfeld for all of his talk about not overburdening families and soldiers. One year of their lives on the line, worrying daily about their safety, couldn’t possibly be enough to “overburden” us.

Thanks from our children, who apparently don’t need a father present, who cry when Mommy’s time is not enough for the four of them, who were counting the days until Daddy could hold them on his lap.

Thanks for betraying our trust by telling us one year “boots on the ground” and changing it at your discretion. Thanks for making the small percentage who agree with this sound like the majority. Thanks for not sending help in the form of more troops last spring when soldiers were dying, but keeping our soldiers there for extra time this spring.

Thanks for the lies you spew about how things are not so bad and we don’t need more troops, all the while keeping 1st Armored Division troops there. You’re obviously saying one thing and doing another. Thanks for using the excuse of these troops’ experience to do so. When they kept control last year, they went in with the same experience as the new units have now. Thanks for not bothering to come to Germany, face the family members, answer our questions and put faces with your numbers.

The next thank you should come from President Bush this November, when John Kerry is elected president because of the lies Secretary Rumsfeld told. The final thanks will be from whoever has to rebuild our Army’s strength when my husband and many others refuse to re-enlist.

I support our troops. I love my husband. We should not have to choose the Army or family. We should be able to trust that we can have Army and family.

Jessica Moretz
Giessen, Germany

Let them come home

I’m the wife of a soldier in the 1st Armored Division, 1-501 Aviation, stationed in Iraq. We’re based out of Hanau, Germany. My husband was due to come home next week after serving a year in Iraq. He was on his way home when his unit was told to turn around and go back to Iraq.

After a year of nervous waiting and living without my husband, we’ve been looking forward to April 2004 with great anticipation. He left for Iraq on April 29, 2003. We were told he could be gone for 365 days. The welcome-home parties have all been planned, and some of the troops from the unit are already back in Germany. I am four months’ pregnant, a gift my husband left for us when he was on rest and recuperation leave in December. Now I’ve been told at the last minute that the day I’ve been looking forward to for a year was just a tease.

This is the kind of reward the Army is giving its soldiers and family members. They have ripped our hearts out. We have given up a year of our lives and were expecting to be with our loved ones this month. Instead, they slap us in the face and tell us it will be up to another 120 days, which they think sounds better than four more months.

These soldiers have lived in substandard living conditions, put their lives on the line every day and been separated from their families for a year now. It’s time to return them home. They have replacements in Iraq. They’re very tired and worn out, mentally and physically. They need to come home. Morale is at an all- time low.

Imagine being separated from one’s family for a year and living under great stress. Then a week before returning, on the way home, you’re told that you’ll be staying for another four months. That’s a total of 16 months away, working under very high stress levels every day of that 16 months, except for two weeks of rest and recuperation. This is irrational to ask of anyone, let alone the men and women who serve this country.

The children who were expecting their fathers home are now crying and wondering where they are. The wives, husbands, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers were all expecting them home. The soldiers were expecting to come home. Let them come home.

Publicity is the only thing that politicians listen to. We can’t sit and be quiet and take this laying down. The promises have to stop being broken. President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have to start living up to their word. They said our troops would be home in a year. Now they’ve changed that to 16 months. When is this going to end?

Hollie Mitchell
Hanau, Germany

AAFES changes not good

Once again, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service is on a money-saving kick, and the ones who suffer are Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen who have to use the “only store in town.”

Over the last several days, the base exchange at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, has undergone some drastic personnel changes, and they haven’t been good. For months in its weekly sales brochures and store signs, AAFES has been praising employees who’ve volunteered to be deployed. Surely it’s hard to find people to take these jobs and be away from their families, but many have done it, and the staff at this base has been exceptional. Surprisingly and for whatever reasons, many of them volunteered to extend here. But these extensions have been denied, and some personnel have been transferred with only a few hours’ notice.

AAFES is cutting its bottom line by hiring third-country nationals, most of whom barely have a grasp of the English language. The other day a customer in front of me who was buying a flag asked a cashier, “Do you have any more American flags?” Her answer, in her best broken English, was “$16.95.” The customer paid for his flag and left shaking his head, not knowing if the store had any more flags.

And how the lines have grown. Before these new low-cost employees arrived, a customer might wait five minutes to check out. Now it’s much too long a wait. Often it exceeds 30 to 40 minutes.

Prices are interesting, too. A customer better know what an item costs before he gets to the register, because if it doesn’t scan, watch out. If one cashier doesn’t know a price, she asks another, and the other one always seems to know the price. The one that amazed me the other day was the guy who was charged $39.95 for a $9.95 item. He didn’t question it and paid for it. Then one of his friends outside the store told him that he paid too much. Then it was back to the end of the line to get a refund.

The AAFES managers who have decided to start employing these third-country nationals should take a hard look at what they’re doing. The people who deployed did care or they would not have been here, and here at Salem it was like a small-town store. The manager and staff knew what customers were looking for because they lived with the customers. Now the third-country nationals are herded in like cattle in a cattle truck, dropped off, and then picked up.

People get upset at big companies when they go offshore to hire. Now AAFES is doing a similar thing. And for its employees who volunteered to stay longer, well, too bad.

Kirk Faryniasz
Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait


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