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I have mixed emotions about cover picture on the Aug. 26 edition (“‘It is a no-fail mission’: Calm in the midst of chaos is lifesaving protocol for medevac crew”).

First, I have much respect for Army aviators, as they flew me (and my people) throughout the Iraq area during Operation Iraqi Freedom III (it was safer reaching our mission by air than by convoy), and I have even more respect for aviators and the medics who save lives. I was given a copy of the recent edition as I arrived to work early and the delivery person often leaves a few extra outside the post office. I was immediately taken aback by the picture on the front cover — a injured or dying soldier with the tattoo “For those I love I will sacrifice” across the side of his chest.

Second, I pray to God that soldier made it but, quite frankly, I’m shocked at the use of this photograph. In the profession I am in, I often see the dead or dying before their family is even aware. I remember being at Dover Air Force Base, Del., looking at the personal effects, laid out on white sheets, of members of a patrol killed the night before. There they lay: dead, covered in dust and blood, still in their desert battle dress uniforms (DBDUs).

As I walked the line, I noticed a Washington state driver’s license and, since that is my home of record, I leaned down toward the sheet and noticed he was from Concrete, Wash. — a town I drove through many times while driving from Seattle across the mountain pass. I refused to look at his name and all I could think of was that his family probably did not even know he was dead yet as he was just flown in and just killed. But there I was, staring at his face.

To this day, I call him Pvt. Concrete.

I had a lot of mixed emotions during those times as I held down the rear and there was a war going on and I felt a strong desire that it was my turn to go, which turn I eventually received. This picture on the front of Stars and Stripes takes me back to some very deep, dark times in my mind. I find it very disturbing. God I hope he made it.

I can only imagine what the family will think when they see this picture. Will they see past the carnage of war and recognize the attempt at glorifying heroism of individual soldiers and medics and aviators, or will they be torn to shreds — as this might be the first picture they have seen of their son; their brother, their cousin, their grandson, nephew or dad. For those he loves, I pray, but I believe this photograph was distasteful and could bother many brothers in arms, not to mention his family.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Peter N. Rogers

Ansbach, Germany

Happy to hear about atheists

The Aug. 25 articles “Atheists in military seek equal treatment” and “Nonbelievers get sponsored at service academies” are the best I have ever read in Stars and Stripes! Thank you for informing me of a group of fellow intelligent and educated individuals who reject the notion of a supernatural being ruling human lives.

I will be joining this group soon and hope that someone with more time than myself starts a chapter in the Heidelberg area.

Please continue to support atheists with articles that support our principles.

Eric J. Skitka

Heidelberg, Germany


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