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I am very disappointed that Stars and Stripes decided to publish the photo of a destroyed M-ATV, in which five soldiers were killed, on the front page of the Aug. 15 edition (“ ‘My whole squad is gone’ ”). I fully support reporting the news from the Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom areas. However, I don’t believe that photos of battle-damaged equipment, especially a catastrophic improvised explosive device strike, help the cause.

I have always heard it preached about how soldiers aren’t supposed to take photos of battle damage for operational security and other reasons, but we allow Stars and Stripes to publish it on the cover? What purpose does it serve to show a picture like that?

Staff Sgt. Jeremy Stallard

Kandahar, Afghanistan

Story placement questionable

It’s a shame that an article on wordsmiths (“Wordsmiths take aim at simplifying acronyms”) was placed on the Aug. 15 front page with a story about a platoon that took casualties (“ ‘My whole squad is gone’ ”).

I sure hope our tax dollars are not going to a group of people in a room whose sole occupation is coming up with acronyms, many of which are thrown in there just to make the acronym work. I think the most glaring example right now would be SHARP: Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention. So I suppose we’re supposed to be preventing the response? But it’s getting to the point where an infantryman is almost studying the acronyms more than he is the battle plan.

Something else the Army needs to cut back on is the use of Microsoft PowerPoint. I’m seeing too many occurrences where people turn in work that is much more fitting of a Word or Excel file (phone trees) and they give it in PowerPoint because they can make it look prettier.

We also go to endless briefings on suicide prevention and surveys about a soldier’s mental health. I have an easy solution right here: “Have a problem? Talk to a chaplain or mental health professional. It’s undocumented initially and can help you come to a solution.” It’s not even 30 seconds, gets the message across, and lets people get on with their daily lives rather than mandating that everybody goes to the class when there’s a handful of idiots who don’t understand the concept of “That’s wrong, don’t do it.”

You’ll find that infantry has some of the smartest people of the Army, mostly because they volunteered for it. Problem is, they’re the lower enlisted.

Sgt. Bob Hand

Grafenwöhr, Germany

GIs have earned benefits

Regarding the Aug. 17 article “Budget cuts may force end to 20-year retirement rule” (on stripes.com as “Could 20-year retirement be a casualty of the budget fight?”): Every time money is an issue for the United States the first areas targeted are military pay, Social Security, health care and defense.

Being in the military is nothing like working a normal job. How many civilian jobs start at 0600 and go to 1700 if you are lucky? Then when you finally get home, the phone rings and you have to go back to work because one of your employees did something he or she was not supposed to do. How many civilian jobs have you work 24 hours ensuring that buildings are locked, arms rooms are secure, barracks are checked, phones are manned, then have you go to work the following day because you have a shop to run and your next in charge is now on duty or taking care of that “problem soldier” or that family member? This is all while not being deployed.

It is true that we have the best retirement plan, but don’t we deserve it since we are fighting for our country and its people?

If this [proposal] passes, our money goes into a 401(k) type of plan, and how well has the stock market been doing the last several years? Exactly!

I understand and agree that the deficit must be reduced. Members of Congress should look at cutting their pay first. Next, everyone who makes millions/billions of dollars from playing sports or making music, big corporations, big investors — tax them more. While we are doing that, let’s stop giving money to all the countries who are pocketing it (see the Aug. 17 article “Curbing corruption in Afghanistan”). In the Federal Reserve sits $1.2 billion in dollar coins. Why can’t that money go toward the deficit? Will it really cost that much to get the coins, take them to the bank and say, “Here, put this toward our bills” (“It’s time for coin policy to make sense,” column, Michael Zielinski, Aug. 17)?

Our current retirement plan is fair and it is what we deserve. I ask that we all fight to keep the current plan because we deserve to get a little something after 20 years or more of service, instead of waiting another 20-plus years in hope that the stock market has recovered enough to survive.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeremy A. Kelly

Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

Military not the private sector

In the Aug. 17 article “Budget cuts may force end to 20-year retirement rule” (on stripes.com as “Could 20-year retirement be a casualty of the budget fight?”), Todd Harrison, a fellow for defense studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, states: “There are few private companies that offer a pension plan as generous as the military’s retirement plan.” That may be true, but there are fewer private companies that require their employees to face death on a daily basis.

The prominent argument used in the military retirement proposal is that changing the plan will make the defense retirement more in line with corporate America. Last time I checked, I didn’t work for a corporation. The Defense Business Board made the argument that soldiers’ skills are more transferable than they were 20 years ago, so they will have no problem using those skills upon leaving service to get another job — thus retirement payouts can be deferred until age 65, the age recommended by the board that retirees be eligible to begin receiving payouts. Members of Congress are eligible to receive benefits after five years of service at age 50, by the way. I haven’t seen too many job listings for a 40-year-old infantryman with bad knees and a permanent hump from a ruck, or a 20-year combat engineer with traumatic brain injury and two hearing aids from four tours doing route clearance.

So, after serving the nation honorably for 20 years, veterans will be given a DD214 and told to go get a job, that Uncle Sam doesn’t support freeloaders. The same was done in World War I where soldiers returned home and were given certificates promising cash payouts plus interest in 25 years. The Great Depression interceded and many veterans were unable to support themselves. The resulting demonstrations helped Herbert Hoover lose the presidency and, after much pain, Congress authorized early payout. Apparently learning lessons from the past isn’t high on Congress’ priority list.

I urge all current and past servicemembers to write their congressional representatives on this issue. The government asks a lot of those who serve, I don’t think getting a retirement plan that’s better than what most private companies provide is too much to ask for in return.

Capt. Justin Thompson

Contingency Operating Base Delta, Iraq

Exasperation, then desperation

Holding people at gunpoint is not the answer to the question, “How can I get the help I need?” (“Held hostage: The system denied Robert Quinones the mental health treatment he needed, so he armed himself and demanded help at gunpoint,” article, Aug. 19; on stripes.com as “Army vet with PTSD sought the treatment he needed by taking hostages — but got jail instead”). But asking for help in a civilized manner isn’t the answer, either, so what do those in the know suggest a desperate person do? They can’t answer because they’re too busy issuing dramatic discourse about a desperate person doing a desperate thing after being turned out by people who aren’t desperate.

The elephant in the room is the unwritten, unspoken, widespread policy: Most people in need are not going to get help, no matter what they do. If they politely ask, the answer will be “no.” If they violently ask, the answer will be jail. And if they kill themselves, well, we’re all conveniently off the hook. Yea for us.

Are the individuals responsible for Robert Anthony Quinones not getting the care he needed (and earned) going to be named publicly and charged with anything, or are we going to use yet another servicemember in need as a poster child to shield the guilty parties and distract us from the reality we don’t want to face? Those in the position to help and who don’t help should be held responsible for their neglect.

No, we can’t know what a desperately ill person will do. That’s the point. If you aren’t compassionate enough to do the job for which you were hired, at least use your selfishness to your advantage by assuming that turning away a desperate person will bring you harm and then take action accordingly.

Diana Hartman

Böblingen, Germany

Taking aim at M16 technique

Regarding “ ‘It’s like being sent to war’: Single moms working as Army drill sergeants face many challenges” (front page, Aug. 18): The article itself was good. My issue is with the supporting photograph [that appeared with the continuation of the article inside the paper].

I retired an infantry 0-4 with 24 years in the infantry, 21 years ago. This is the second time I have seen in Stars and Stripes soldiers using the magazine and magazine receiver to hold the M16 to their shoulder. Last time the rear stock was above the shoulder. This practice of pulling back on the front of the magazine was almost surely going to cause a misfeed/jam. If that was where you were supposed to hold the weapon, there would have been a stock installed there. Where are they getting these people?

Richard Martin

Contingency Operating Base Adder, Iraq

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