The chaplain who wrote the July 27 letter “Withstand forced immorality” appears to be confused about his job description. In our military, a chaplain ministers to his own religious followers when it comes to dogma, and does not proselytize, oppose or convert those who do not share his particular beliefs. A rabbi does not picket the dining facility for not serving kosher food, just like a Muslim cleric tolerates fellow soldiers who eat pork. The respective practices are “immoral” in their eyes, but the existence of those practices around them does not force them to deny their faith.

Gays serving openly in the military will not force the letter writer to “deny Christ.”

Lt. Col. Peter Teil

Stuttgart, Germany

Benefits of overseas bases

Once again our politicians are screaming for more defense downsizing here in Europe and in the Pacific. I am referring to the July 22 article “Lawmakers want more overseas base cuts.” Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., is quoted as saying: “I do not think we should be spending money to have troops in Germany 65 years after World War II.” Well we are not, and never will be, an Army of occupation. We are, first and foremost, a forward deterrent. I imagine many of our neighbors to the east consume vast quantities of vodka and champagne every time further cuts overseas are proposed.

Although I agree that many defense weapons programs should be eliminated (many of our present defense capabilities are years ahead of potential enemies), individual members of the House and Senate will fight to keep them if they are located in their respective constituencies. I wonder how many programs Mr. Frank is proposing to cut for Massachusetts?

These proposals are strictly political; although I do not have hard numbers to support my opinion, I believe that in our present situation it is much more cost-effective to deploy troops who are already 3,000 miles closer to the fight.

We should also consider the effect this could have on recruiting. Many young people join the military solely for the opportunity to see the world; if we eliminate or reduce those chances even further, many potential recruits would no longer consider military service as an attractive way to serve. The strategic and long-term thing to do is to increase the number of overseas troops so that military aggression can never be a viable option for many of our world neighbors.

Glen T. Best

Heidelberg, Germany

Value GIs, veterans as assets

In response to your [online] article “Overseas military spending comes under congressional scrutiny” (it appeared in the July 22 print edition as “Lawmakers want more overseas base cuts”): As taxpaying citizens, let’s take a scrutinizing look at our members of Congress and cut their pay and benefits. Why as a military do we insist on being used and abused by our government as an expendable asset when time after time we have proven our worth?

Without a military, there is no America; without America there is no government. We coexist in a land of policies and budgets. If we want to ensue cuts in government spending, let’s look at our representatives — who don’t deploy to ensure that life in America goes on as it does. Private corporations pay a premium for the best security in order to maintain their viability. This nation’s current and future veterans are this nation’s best assets. We should value them as such.

Sgt. Matthew Parke

Grafenwöhr, Germany

Can’t lose freedom to choose

With a few notable exceptions, the Department of Defense has long maintained a policy roughly stating that if it’s legal in the States, it’s legal for the troops. Banning such a commonly used substance as tobacco could start a dangerous path toward barring military members from numerous activities or substances (“Military smoking ban still in limbo,” article, July 18). What about cheeseburgers? They certainly cause significant health problems. What about motorcycles with their high accident rates? Extreme sports like snowboarding for sprains and fractures? Alcohol?

It’s clear that the military demands higher standards of its members to maintain good order and discipline. But if the DOD starts going beyond the law to decide which lifestyles are best for its members, it starts taking away a key part of what it means to be an American: the freedom to choose.

Senior Airman Joel Zuhlke

Dover Air Force Base, Del.

Financial incentives matter

Your July 18 article “Military smoking ban still in limbo” describes the Institute of Medicine finding that smoking causes a “major health and financial burden on the military” [as the findings were paraphrased in the article]. The menu of options presented in the article seems to be somewhat binary — as if the only two options are to allow smoking or to ban smoking.

The men and women of the armed forces give up so many of their freedoms when they decide to serve. Taking away this one small, and legal, pleasure strikes me as unfair and overly paternalistic.

There is another option that allows the servicemembers to be treated as the adults they are, allows them the same freedom of choice enjoyed by their civilian countrymen whose freedoms they protect, yet still accomplishes the dual objectives of reducing the financial impact to the taxpayer and reducing tobacco use. The option: employ the power of economic incentives to encourage behaviors they want while simultaneously discouraging the behaviors they find troubling.

For example, a deduction of some nominal amount of a tobacco user’s paycheck would be appropriate — possibly $30 a month — to be set aside in a special Tricare fund that would go toward prevention and treatment of common ailments caused by smoking and chewing. Such a fee would serve two purposes: 1) It would offset the costs of the prevention and treatment, and 2) It would provide a monetary incentive for the servicemember to quit smoking. Private insurers have been setting insurance rates based on risk factors for years using actuarial calculations. Perhaps the military could look to them for advice.

Keith Waltz

San Antonio

POWs also across the pond

Your recent article concerning the Shenandoah Valley Chapter of the U.S. Daughters of 1812, “1812 more than an overture,” July 13, reminded me of the stained-glass window in St. Michael & All Angels Parish Church in Princetown for which the National Society of United States Daughters of 1812 donated 250 pounds (about $1,000 at that time, 1908). It depicts the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ in seven panels. The inscription at the bottom reads:

“To the glory of God and in memory of the American prisoners of war who were detained in the Dartmoor war prison between the years 1813-1815, and who helped to build the church, especially of the 218 brave men who died here on behalf of their country, this window is presented by the National Society of United States Daughters of 1812. Dulce est pro patria mori.”

In June 1910, Mrs. Slade, representing the society, went to England to unveil the window in a special ceremony. Readers might well ask where is Princetown and where were American prisoners of war detained? Princetown is about 18 miles north of Ply-mouth, and the prison is Dartmoor, familiar to readers of Sherlock Holmes novels.

The American Cemetery is quite beautiful and well maintained. Until recently, the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom used to visit on July 4 each year.

The Korean War is not the only “forgotten war” in which many Americans gave their lives.

Bernard J. Delahunty

Seoul, South Korea

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