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Revision of military pay, benefits and retirement comes to this: Saving money means fewer servicemembers and spending less per servicemember.

The priorities of the electorate and political dictates will determine the size of our armed forces, and that is a debate of its own. The focus on how to pay our servicemembers less seems to stick on the policies and benefits in place to support servicemembers and their families. The assertion that servicemembers have this luxurious compensation package is increasingly common. However, benefits are neither equally distributed nor discretionary income for individuals.

The Army structures its soldiers’ benefits in order to ensure their mental, psychological and physical fitness. Collectively, soldiers form the Army’s most basic and important weapon system; soldiers are the basis of all combat power. Soldiers’ benefits, then, are not an overly benevolent pay plan, but rather a basic investment in the maintenance of the Army’s most important asset.

Asserting that soldiers should be paid less, that they are overcompensated because they enjoy the benefit of policies designed to ensure their operational readiness, is ridiculous. This is the same supposedly lavish compensation that fails so spectacularly to attract and maintain soldiers that recruiting and retention bonuses are an essential element of maintaining end strength.

The current pay plan, for all its alleged generosity, leaves some soldiers reliant on food stamps and other government aid and still others below the poverty line. If the winds of political change are upon us and as a country we wish to declare that we value the soldier less and so will pay the soldier less, that is our choice (and a sad commentary in its own right). However, we owe it to ourselves to debate the issue honestly rather than cooking up some figures to indulge the fantasy that the majority of our servicemembers are somehow overpaid.

Capt. Dave Lenzi

Camp Ramadi, Iraq

Bombed sites hurt by location

Thanks for The Rumor Doctor’s information clarification of the “Save One for Speicher” myth in the Sept. 4 edition (“Did bombers ‘Save one for Speicher’ in WWII?”). Several still-hearty B-17 officers, however, say that towns along the western German border probably received more than their share of destruction due purely to location. When overcast German weather blocked visibility on primary targets, B-17s dumped their bombs on secondary sites along the German border on the way home — making towns such as Speicher (10 miles from the German/Luxembourg border) handy targets.

Likewise, in what is today the Kaiserslautern Military Community area, Pirmasens and Zweibrücken took the brunt of aborted raids to Ludwigshafen, Frankfurt and Mannheim despite the lack of military significance. A few downed American fliers were indeed executed in this area, not by local citizens, though, but by German military or Gestapo elements. For more information, visit the outstanding Westwall Museum in Niedersimten before it closes for the winter, or google Klaus Zimmer’s research on the “Flugzeugeabstuerz-Saarland” website for World War II air crashes in this area. English-speaking experts are available through both sources for programs on this topic.

Ann Shields

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany

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