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A Wall Street Journal column reported that it is estimated $95 billion in gift cards were sold in the United States in 2010, an increase over previous years. It’s really not surprising gift cards are selling like hotcakes, given the convenience they provide the average consumer. Lately, you’ll see more gift cards offered than ever before at your local store. While the gift card provides the consumer some benefits, the issuing company celebrates with high-fives and chest-bumps each time a card is sold.

So why would they celebrate so much? From the moment you purchase the gift card, the issuing company has your money. Understanding there is a time value to having money today rather than later, the company is smiling knowing it will be on average weeks, months or years before the gift card is redeemed and some cards are lost or thrown away with a residual balance.

In fact, ACS Unclaimed Property Clearinghouse Inc. reported in 2003 that roughly 10 percent of gift cards are never redeemed. This means the issuing company gets to keep on average 10 percent of each gift card without providing any product or service. Now you can understand the high-fives celebrating your “free” money.

Recently I observed several Air Force entities pushing their respective gift cards. From a business perspective, I understand why they want to get into the gift card game to claim their share of the “free” money, but I find it unfortunate they’d target their own Air Force family for a surplus of unearned income. My advice is to understand the gift card trap and stay away and remember cash is truly “king.”

Daniel McDermott

Ramstein, Germany

Weapons ‘smart,’ but not safe

“GIs testing ‘smart’ weapons that leave nowhere to hide” (article, Nov. 15, presents a disturbing perspective of our excessive trust for our allies, or our naivete while dealing with the enemy.

The new XM25 Defilade Targeting Engagement System is not much bigger than a standard service rifle and fires 25 mm rounds that can be programmed to explode on impact, in front of or to the side of the wall from up to 700 meters away. How smart is this weapon? (The article gives a full description of this weapon’s capabilities.)

Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, the project manager for the XM25 with Program Executive Office Soldier, calls it a “game changer” — but for whom? The weapon allows soldiers to kill enemies hiding behind walls or other cover by firing above, or to the side of, the wall. My question is: How soon before we become the enemy dying behind the wall?

On Dec. 26, 2009, an Iraqi soldier turned on American soldiers and killed two of our troops while on patrol together. On July 13, 2010, an Afghan soldier turned on British soldiers, killing three while patrolling the borders together. And in November, an Afghan soldier killed an American servicemember, also on patrol. Who really is the enemy?

Yes, the XM25 is a formidable weapon — if we can keep it our secret. The enemy reads newspapers, too! Why can’t we keep secrets? Once the secret is revealed, it loses its power.

The best protection for our troops is the element of surprise. Once that element is lost, we have lost a battle. I pray we don’t end up selling the weapon to our friends, who can make us victims of our own intelligence ... or friendship! It has happened in the past, and it still happening as we continue trusting and arming our “friends.”

Silvestre Guerrido

Landstuhl, Germany

Stripes in 7

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