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The headline on the March 18 front-page article “ ‘There were no signs’ ” is dangerous and misleading. By using the quote of one nonmilitary neighbor, you imply to readers this was a surprise, that there were no clues or indicators of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ actions. While how he would act out was horrific, that Bales acted should not be characterized as a surprise; he exhibited numerous risk factors.

In that article alone, I read about a large number [of those risk factors]: four deployments, midgrade noncommissioned officer (sergeant to sergeant first class) wounded twice, missed promotion, wife and young children, possible revocation of an assignment, recent death of teammate, possible head injury. Those alone put him in a very high-risk category, someone who units would give specific attention to. Then add in reports from his lawyer, the Army and the media of domestic assault, financial trouble, withdrawn behavior and possible alcohol abuse. All of these are warning signs, all things the Army is training its leaders and soldiers to look for and address in training before, during and after deployment.

I am not commenting on whether his unit leadership took the appropriate actions to prevent this or if they could have; I don’t have the facts of the case. But there are enough facts to know Bales was a high-risk soldier and that those risks were clear signs of his potential.

Stars and Stripes has a responsibility not to mischaracterize this case as an outlier. Stars and Stripes has routinely reported about the grave risks facing military members, both in combat and as the result of combat. Do not risk your work in mischaracterizing Bales’ experience as “there were no signs.”

Maj. Matt Neumeyer

Stuttgart, Germany

Letters won’t bring converts

Here’s a thought on the ongoing debate [on this page] regarding law and Jesus/Christianity and — if I recall what started it — homosexuality: How about everyone take a deep breath, a step back, and get on with our jobs and our lives? (And if the Rush Limbaugh v. anti-Rush Limbaugh letters are getting tied into it — which they seem to be — how about we let that sleeping dog lie, too?)

It was entertaining at first, but it’s starting to get tedious. It’s enough, in fact, to make me long for the outraged letters from back in the mid-1990s, when the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, perhaps in coordination with Community Bank, decided to get rid of pennies, and start rounding charges. Math apparently is hard for some people.

My point is, there are two sets of people debating back and forth, and, like any argument involving religion or the lack thereof, there’s not going to be any changing of minds here. Those who believe that Christianity should be the basis of the legal system, military or civilian, are going to believe it regardless. Likewise, those who believe that it isn’t and shouldn’t [be] are going to feel that way regardless. So instead of making the Letters page eventually take an ugly turn, let’s just all move on, shall we?

Shaun Stine

Yokota Air Base, Japan

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