COVER STORYFamilies, DOD spar over dangers of burn pit smokeIn 2004, Staff Sgt. Steven Ochs regularly inhaled toxic fumes from burn pits beside his base in Balad, Iraq. So did a colleague, Staff Sgt. Matt Bumpus. In 2006, Ochs developed a rare, aggressive form of leukemia. So did Bumpus. In 2008, Ochs died from the cancer. So did Bumpus, 22 days later. Defense and Veterans Affairs officials say that’s a coincidence. • Story

Solitary shoes a tactile symbol of amputees' sacrificesBehind Landstuhl Regional Medical Center’s closet door No. 3E 105 are two bins labeled "left" and "right." They are filled with shoes. Smelling of fresh leather, the shoes vary in style and size: a green and black Reebok high top, size 10; a tangerine-colored Converse, size 8; a women’s white New Balance, size 5; a burgundy and black hand-sewn slipper, no size given. The bulk of these shoes have no mate because the other is being used by someone who has lost a limb. • Story

Zabul moves front and center in fight against the TalibanThe discovery of the Taliban religious school was the biggest find during a three-day operation in late October in Zabul province’s Chineh villages, which U.S. troops described as an important Taliban stronghold. No weapons or explosives were found, but graffiti inside the mud-brick compound indicated that the building had served as a Taliban safe house. • Story

Military doctors working to reshape medical diplomacy effortsThe U.S. military set up the modern dental equipment in 2007 in Zabul province with the best of intentions, as part of a Medical Civil Action Program, a popular hearts-and-minds mission first devised during the Vietnam War to deliver American-style medicine to suffering civilians in war zones. But military strategists are beginning to rethink these ostensibly benevolent efforts, because so often they prove unsustainable once the troops pack up their medical equipment and leave. • Story

With only a first name to guide him, Yokosuka man is determined to trace his U.S. rootsMiharu Minami never said much about the American soldier named George. That didn’t stop her grandson from asking about him when he learned, as a teenager growing up in Yokosuka, that George was his grandfather. • Story

More stories:• P-47 remains excite Italian aviation buffs • Despite Marines’ presence, fear of Taliban persists in Afghan town • Allegation of ‘lost accountability of some graves’ prompts Arlington probe • Army tests wallpaperlike material that could keep out blast debris

Spouse CallsA weekly column in Stripes' Scene magazine by Terri Barnes, a military wife and mother of three who lives and writes in Germany. • This week's column • Terri Barnes' blog

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