August 10

Heart in Liberia

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

August 10 Heart in Liberia When do we go home? Keep machine running Where’s AFN radio? Stop-loss policy No complaints from heroes Army too softAugust 11 Are troops soft? Gripes are disservice Keeping faith Big U.S. cars are bestAugust 12 Faith in the Army Quit sniveling U.S. should help Liberia Improve the mailAugust 13 In the Army, not Boy Scouts Don’t like it? Don’t re-enlist A poor choice of words Questions go unanswered It’s all about numbersAugust 14 Punishment too lenient Combat badges Need morale boosters Reality check needed Not much sympathyAugust 15 Spouses are special Vet clinic to the rescue Motorcycle story biased Career over Wrong is wrongAugust 16 McNamara had his turn It’s a life, not a job In good hands Arab nations need to step up Driven to satisfaction Time will prove us right

I’m an American, I’m a Liberian, and I’m a soldier. I’m writing to inform my fellow comrades in arms about this little country on the western coast of Africa called Liberia that’s currently in the headlines.

Liberia was founded in 1822 by the American Colonization Society for the expressed purpose of repatriating freed slaves back to Africa. In 1847 these freed American slaves declared their independence and called the country Liberia, the first independent black country in Africa. Relations between the United States and Liberia have always been historically tight. Liberia has been America’s closest ally in Africa, often manifested by Liberia’s voting with the United States on global issues, even when the rest of Africa was opposed. During World War II, Liberia was used as a transit point for GIs en route to the North African theater to confront Gen. Erwin Rommel.

Because of Liberia’s devout allegiance and support for America, Liberians have been resented and ridiculed by other Africans as “America’s stepchild.” So it should not be a surprise that the world is calling on the United States to assist in bringing peace to Liberia. The British and French intervention in Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast resulted in the cessation of hostilities in these two countries that share a common border with Liberia. So today Liberians are crying out and wondering why America has not come to their aid.

But sadly, they are naïve. Reality in today’s world of global politics is basically, “What can you do for me?” It’s difficult for the average Liberian, who is starving and dying for no reason, to grasp this fact. These poor people have not had any stability for more than 14 years. At least 250,000 have been killed.

So as I write this letter, I have a dilemma. I know that the military that I’m a part of is being stretched to its limit. Then again, I know Liberia. I know it would take no more than a battalion presence to help end the bloodshed. Liberia has nothing strategically or economically to offer America but its friendship. Hopefully that’s still worth something.

As a noncommissioned officer with more than 10 years of service to the U.S. Army, I’d willingly go to Liberia for free, forfeiting all pay and allowances to assist my fellow servicemembers if needed. As I sit in Baghdad, my loyalties are to my unit, the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry, and my soldiers. But my heart is in Liberia where my family and people are dying.

Staff Sgt. Abuoh NeufvilleBaghdad, Iraq

When do we go home?

It was good to hear that the 3rd Infantry Division is finally getting out of Iraq. Hopefully there will be follow through this time. But what about everyone else? Once 3rd ID is gone, what’s the next warfighting unit to leave? I worry that the Central Command is so concerned with the 3rd ID that the other warfighting units will be forgotten. Granted, 3rd ID was the buildup force in Kuwait before the war, so its members deserve to be the first ones home. But what about the 101st Airborne Division, 2nd Brigade; 82nd Airborne Division, 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment; and the company from the 1st Armored Division that fought with 3rd ID?

Throughout the war, media coverage focused on 3rd ID’s push to Baghdad. What about the other units that helped it push? What about the 101st cleaning up every city that the 3rd ID passed by? Again, 3rd ID deserves to be home first. But what’s the next step to get the warfighting units home? Is there a plan that goes further than the 3rd ID? If so, CENTCOM should let these units know.

The only thing soldiers want to know right now is when they’re going home. Even if it’s not for a year, at least they’ll know. When soldiers PCS to Korea they know exactly what day they’ll leave. One of the biggest morale boosts in Iraq right now would be an end date for the units that have been here since the beginning.

Now that 3rd ID is scheduled to really leave, what about everyone else?

Staff Sgt. Matthew MuellerBaghdad, Iraq

Keep machine running

I’d like to thank all the combat support elements here in Iraq and in the Central Command area of operations. Despite the criticism, the lifeline still continues to operate, although it’s excruciatingly slow. Thanks also to the spouses and family members back home for their support and concern. As a combat support soldier, I understand how missions go.

As far as the mail, I’ve been guilty of complaining but have learned to be patient and keep the complaints to myself.

We understand how long the 3rd Infantry Division soldiers have been here and all the missions they’ve completed. They should stay motivated. We’ll all get home eventually.

All those who have complaints should remember that the policies and regulations printed in black and white by the armed services are flawless. It’s those of us in uniform who have to keep the machine running without error.

Sgt. Shawn NelsonIraq

Where’s AFN radio?

Where’s AFN radio in Iraq? Our unit arrived in theater on April 8. We arrived in Baghdad on May 5. All we can get on the radio is the British Broadcasting Company. During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, AFN was there. It was in Bosnia, Korea, Germany and Alaska. I’m sure the list goes on. But not in Iraq. What gives? I’m sure the soldiers would like to hear an American radio program, get our news from America and be able to listen to a variety of music. And we’d definitely like to hear one or two sports programs. The BBC just doesn’t cut it here.

Staff Sgt. Darren S. DingerBaghdad, Iraq

Stop-loss policy

I’m a soldier currently serving in Iraq, and I’m writing to criticize the Army’s stop-loss policy. Why isn’t there a lift of stop-loss for Reserve and National Guard soldiers? I think it’s unfair that active duty soldiers get to go home at their ETS while we reserves and National Guardsmen can’t get out during our end of service contract.

My ETS date was Jan. 16, 2003, and I’m still in the military even after stop loss has been lifted. I’m an Army Reserve soldier and a military policeman. The lifting of the stop-loss policy doesn’t apply to me. What happened to “An Army of One”? Sometimes I feel it should be the regular Army and the Reserve and National Guard, too.

I’m not writing to complain or whine like so many soldiers do. I’m writing because I served my country and then some. I’m also losing money — $40,000, to be exact — because my military pay doesn’t compare to my civilian pay. As a result, I’m about to lose my home.

As a civilian, I work for the Department of Justice. I feel I could better serve my country working there than as a soldier.

Spc. Walter SmithIraq

No complaints from heroes

I’m a fire support team member attached to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment in Iraq. I have radio watch every night, and I’ve listened to numerous hair-raising occurrences. The same three platoons go out every night to set up traffic control points and static guard positions. On many nights they’ve been engaged by enemy personnel with rocket propelled grenades and AK-47s. Their tanks have suffered direct hits by rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun fire. Some soldiers have been injured during these ambushes. Yet they still perform their duties well every night, not knowing whether they will make it back.

Day after day I watch these soldiers age beyond their years because of these attacks. One platoon sergeant who we jokingly call “Grandpa” is now actually starting to look like one. One otherwise friendly, outgoing individual has almost entirely distanced himself from the others. These real soldiers are starting to look more haggard every day, obviously suffering from combat stress. Two have been hospitalized and sustained possibly irreparable wounds from a recent RPG attack.

But what makes me proud is their reaction. Knowing they’ve been ambushed or attacked more than any other platoon in the battalion, they still drive on. No one will hear these GIs complain about no air conditioning as they sleep in warehouses with temperatures reaching well into the 100s. No one will hear them cry about still getting mail that was sent almost three months ago. Instead, they’re thankful to read their mail and to be alive for the ones who sent it.

Having crossed the berm into Iraq as the base of the spearhead with the gallant 3rd Infantry Division, these men bravely served together up to Najaf. They then fought with distinction under every brigade of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

My idea of a hero is one who goes out to fight while everyone else sits on the sidelines and watches. They go out and do their jobs without crying. These men are seasoned combat veterans who’ve fought bravely during intense battles. These men are heroes.

Staff Sgt. Thomas SealAbu Ghraib, Iraq

Army too soft

This is in response to the letter “Armies fight wars” (July 15). I’m a military policeman deployed in Baghdad, and I give props to the writer. As the writer said, typical gripes and complaints are acceptable. But some of what I hear every day isn’t.

My unit has noncommissioned officers cracking as well as soldiers. We’ve had soldiers and NCOs threatening to kill themselves. We never even saw intense combat. Take a look at previous wars fought by U.S. servicemembers. Hardships were much worse, as was the combat intensity.

Morale efforts, such as the Internet, satellite phones and television, have drastically improved. I think our modern Army is too soft. GIs shouldn’t forget how to be GIs, and most of all shouldn’t forget their Army values. Suck it up and drive on!

Pfc. Randy IversonBaghdad, Iraq

August 11

Are troops soft?

I read the letters in Stars and Stripes to gain perspective on the thoughts and concerns of other soldiers in Iraq. Unfortunately, there appears to be an increase in the amount of whining over a lack of amenities such as e-mail, air conditioning and hot meals as described in the letter “Living conditions” (July 21).

Where do these soldiers think we are? Have we really become that soft? There’s no doubt that the soldiers and Marines making the first charge have paid their dues. And with an average of an American death a day since the war ended, there’s no doubt that collectively we’ve all paid our dues. But rather than complain about what we don’t have, we should be grateful for what we do have.

I’m stationed in Ramadi. My accommodations aren’t perfect. We’re lacking windows, doors and air conditioning. But I’m much better off than members of other platoons in my company who are living in tents or bombed buildings in the desert sand. These soldiers have virtually no relief. They come to my compound and are amazed at how good it appears we have it, regardless of the lack of air conditioning or the frequent mortar and rocket propelled grenade attacks. I’ve also visited compounds such as Al Asad Air Base and the Office of the Coalition Provisional Authority palace in Baghdad, and I’m amazed at how good they appear to have it. With the amenities they have, one wouldn’t think there’s a war going on. The point is, there’s always someone working harder or living worse than you.

Most of us likely have relatives who fought in World War II, Korea or Vietnam. What they endured should make us feel ashamed for complaining about slow mail and a lack of e-mail and air conditioning.

Sgt. Scott LewisRamadi, Iraq

Gripes are disservice

What kind of service do Stars and Stripes editors think they’re providing by consistently publishing letters that denigrate every aspect of the military? Do Stripes editors really think this is responsible journalism?

I could understand if the complaints highlighted issues that need to be addressed by others not readily available to the writers. But I was particularly incensed by three letters knocking the leadership of our U.S. Army officers. The writer of the letter “Wasted time” (July 27) went so far as to imply that because he’s a National Guardsman, his time was too valuable to be wasted waiting somewhere.

I’m a military spouse stationed overseas with a family, and my active-duty husband’s time is no less precious. I’m no stranger to deployments. We all have personal stories. They’re stories that involve courage, sacrifice, patience and mistakes. The soldiers who’ve written these letters need to recognize that it was their choice to serve in the military. Serving in the military should never be viewed as a part-time job. It’s a lifestyle and should be considered as such prior to joining.

I see very little value in printing these letters other than giving soldiers a very public outlet to air their emotional temper tantrums.

While I’m stationed overseas, I welcome the opportunity to experience a new culture. But I also embrace every effort the Army has made to provide little conveniences that remind us of U.S. life. The simple act of receiving a daily newspaper on my doorstep reminds me of home. I look to Stars and Stripes to provide news and information about events occurring in the military, as well as hometown news. Stripes’ articles provide a sense of unity to the armed services and reminds us that we’re one military working for a joint cause.

But to regularly print opinions from disillusioned soldiers does a disservice to the soldiers who are proud of their military contribution, no matter how menial the task. For the most part, our leadership continues to work tirelessly to improve quality of life while still working on real-world missions. Stripes editors should please take the time to acknowledge the efforts that are being made for our benefit instead of highlighting the kinks and personality conflicts that are present in any given situation.

Laura GallagherYongsan, Seoul, South Korea

Keeping faith

Recent reports that Gen. John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, intimated that field commanders might punish servicemembers who question Pentagon leaders on the direction of U.S. involvement in postwar Iraq — including the servicemember who told a reporter: “If (Defense Secretary) Donald Rumsfeld was here, I’d ask him for his resignation” — raise some very serious concerns for those of us who swore to defend the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment.

Unless the enlistment oath I swore to uphold 53 years ago has been amended to insert the phrase “except for the First Amendment,” it would appear that Gen. Abizaid is one of the domestic enemies of the Constitution who I swore to defend it against. I swore the same oath without the deletion of the First Amendment when I was admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court.

When the war started, media people were “embedded” with the troops to report on what they saw, heard and felt was going on. Apparently the troops, media people and the rest of us were never informed that only “good news” could be told by the troops. That silent order, written in invisible ink, was “issued” by Gen. Abizaid. It is understandable that he would want to please Secretary Rumsfeld. But, as was said of another general, “Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.” Can commendations, promotions and even medals for praising the secretary of defense or president be far behind?

It now appears that members of the armed forces, including National Guardsmen and reservists, may be subject to “reprimand or something more stringent” (Gen. Abizaid’s words) for expressing negative opinions about Rumsfeld. Would the “something more stringent” apply while they are on active duty only? Would it apply during weekend and summer training sessions when the reservists and guardsmen get back? Would the threat apply to every member of the active, Reserve and National Guard forces until they leave military service? What “more stringent” punishment does the general have in mind?

He can certainly inflict severe punishment on the regulars and reserves under his command in Iraq. But if he tries, know that if asked I’ll do everything in my power to defend both the Constitution and those being punished for exercising their rights under it up to and through the High Court of Military Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. I strongly suspect I would not be alone in keeping faith with the oath we who take the Constitution seriously swore on this regard.

Burton M. WeinsteinStratford, Conn.

Big U.S. cars are best

I hear all of the hype about conserving gas and that Congress would like to see us getting an average of 40 miles a gallon from our vehicles by 2015. I think this is all bunk.

We Americans like our cars big. We like our giant slurpy gulp drinks. Very big and cool. If we have a problem getting oil, then why not send our military out to secure more for us? We are the premier world power, and we should be reaping the benefits of our efforts.

We need big cars because, for the most part, we Americans are bigger and heavier than most occupants of this earth. If other countries like Germany and Japan want to reduce the size and increase the performance of their vehicles, let them do it. American cars will always be the envy of the free world. Germany and Japan may sell more cars, but ours will take up more space on the autobahn and demand respect on the narrow driving paths throughout old Europe.

Staff Sgt. Jeremy AlexanderRamstein Air Force Base, Germany

August 12

Faith in the Army

My name is Staff Sgt. Fred Ballard. I’m deployed with the 596th Signal supporting the 3rd Brigade Combat Team in Baghdad. I’d like to thank all the members of Stars and Stripes and its affiliates. All the troops in my section really enjoy reading the paper. We especially enjoy the letters. It’s such a joy to read about everyone’s trials and tribulations while deployed. It makes this place seem a little more comfortable to be able to share and read about different views on numerous subjects from people all over this region. It really lets us know just how much in common everyone has with one another. I also enjoy reading the chain arguments and discussions that are printed from time to time.

My heart goes out to all the soldiers who are unhappy and don’t want to be stationed here in Iraq. I, on the other hand, have enjoyed being deployed here and have learned several valuable lessons. First, life is very fragile and not a second should be wasted. I had a near-death experience when I first arrived in Iraq, and since then I consider every day a gift from God. Second, I’ve developed new friendships and re-established old ones that have been positive influences in my life.

I think a lot of people in my family took it for granted that my military career was safe and uneventful until now. This deployment has nullified that comfort zone and really given my family a reality check. Now they see me as a hero and a patriot. It’s kind of funny because I’m not really doing anything different from what I’ve done on numerous field problems in the Army. Now I’m just doing it around real bullets.

I also have a renewed sense of direction in my life. Seeing all the hardship and suffering among Iraqis has inspired me to not only support this mission wholeheartedly, but to also have faith in the Army and its mission to bring peace to those who are not strong enough to fight for themselves. A lot of people want to get out of the Army, but I think I’m going to stay in and see what’s in store for me around the corner.

Staff Sgt. Fred T. BallardBaghdad, Iraq

Quit sniveling

This is an open letter to noncommissioned officers serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I’m currently stationed at Camp Doha, Kuwait. While my living conditions are not as austere as they are for those serving in Iraq, I’m a veteran of several deployments which closely resemble the situation in Iraq. They include Somalia, Bosnia, IFOR, and many others.

I’ve read and watched the constant complaining and whining about conditions in Iraq and a lack of information about redeployment. I understand that we’re Americans and the whole freedom-of-speech thing. But we leaders must understand the ramifications of all this negative public criticism of our leaders and policies. The enemy cannot possibly defeat us on the battlefield. Their only hope is to sway public opinion, and all this bickering is only giving the enemy more ammunition and hope. And that in turn costs us the lives of our fellow servicemembers.

I believe we have the right to voice our opinions. But they should be given in the right place, at the right time and using the right method. I’m seeing far too many NCOs complaining about everything and anything. Frankly, I’m embarrassed by their words. I’ve yet to meet a drafted member of our armed forces in this theater of operations. We all signed up willingly and were aware of the possibilities of deployments. Many reservists and active-duty servicemembers didn’t complain when they were drawing their paychecks in peacetime.

We’re at war. There are no set rules or end dates. We’ll go home when it’s completed. We have an obligation to our country, our families and our comrades in arms to toe the line and quit sniveling. The threat is real. Many would like to see our country destroyed. We’re the forces who can prevent that.

I ask that we stop complaining in public and not continue to give the enemy a reason to fight on. If not for themselves, then servicemembers should do it for their colleagues whose lives they place in danger with each dissenting opinion about conditions, leadership or redeployment.

Sgt. 1st Class Jorge L. RiveraCamp Doha, Kuwait

U.S. should help Liberia

This is in response to the letter “Sainthood status” (July 11). The writer made a good point until he mentioned, “All this crying that ‘America has to do something’ gets really old.” The writer mentioned Liberia, where I’m from.

I’m currently serving in the 4th Infantry Division, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment in Iraq. I’ve read about the ongoing problems around the world and recently in Liberia. Does the writer know his Liberian history? When’s the last time the writer saw a Liberian flag? Does James Monroe — hence the capital of Monrovia — ring a bell?

No, Liberians aren’t asking for the United States to help. Help should be given. Hopefully the United Nations will prevail and we can continue to grow up, as the writer put it, and forget that free slaves along with Americans founded Liberia. Charles Taylor certainly didn’t ask for help when 450,000 Liberians were killed from 1989 to 1996, and the United States certainly didn’t provide help.

The United States stands for freedom and democracy. But when you’re born into it, I suppose you don’t understand. I think 2,000 troops isn’t that many. Let’s make it 2,001. I’ll volunteer.

Staff Sgt. Sekov TaylorKhanaquin, Iraq

Improve the mail

This is in regard to the letter “Quit complaining about mail” (July 8). The writer works at the Joint Military Mail Terminal in Kuwait. Was the writer kidding?

I’m a soldier assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment. We fought with the 3rd Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division. We’re currently attached to the 1st Armored Division. Our C Company was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division during the war.

The writer said he worked more than 12 hours a day, seven days a week sorting mail. Wow! He really had it easy! How many times was he shot at or attacked by the enemy with mortars or rocket-propelled grenades in Kuwait over the last six months? How many of his friends have been killed, wounded or hospitalized because of mental stress in the last six months?

How dare the writer even think of criticizing soldiers who’ve been in combat over the last six months. Our line companies, mortars and scouts are still continuously attacked to this day. These soldiers have every right to be critical of the postal system. It was absolutely horrible the first two months after the war started. Members of the 3rd ID’s postal unit (the 129th) were working 20 hours a day at times and did everything they could to get every piece of mail every day. The problem was that the mail was not stored properly or brought to the postal units in a timely manner. It doesn’t matter whose fault it was. It happened.

The writer will never understand how important it is for a soldier to receive a letter or package from a loved one during a terrible time. He hasn’t seen the looks of disappointment on soldiers’ faces when they ask for anything that’s been sent from home and are told there’s no mail because none has been brought up from Kuwait.

The writer should stop worrying about his ego and keep focusing on improving the mail. I know the soldiers at the JMMT in Baghdad process every piece of mail they receive. I’ve personally seen this over the last two months. I’m a mail clerk.

The writer was way out of line criticizing combat soldiers. It’s their right to complain if something is broken. The writer would understand this if he had crossed the berm in March into Iraq like we did.

Spc. Kevin SeveyBaghdad, Iraq

August 13

In the Army, not Boy Scouts

I constantly read complaints about not getting mail, not getting good food, poor living conditions, and not knowing when we are leaving.

I believe we all raised our hands and chose to join the Army. All the leaders who were telling us to stay motivated and be hard-chargers wrote the letters that were the most negative.

I’ve missed my birthday, my wedding anniversary, my son’s birthday and my wife’s birthday. But I continue to motivate my troops and soldiers. If all the leaders would put as much time into motivating and encouraging their soldiers as they do into writing negative letters, maybe their soldiers would be happy.

My troops have been notified that they will stay in Iraq possibly until April. That will be a year. So leaders should make what they can of the situation and make things happen at their camps to be better. We’re in the Army, not the Boy Scouts.

Sgt. Danny HillCamp Marlboro, Iraq

Don’t like it? Don’t re-enlist

I’ve read many complaints from folks deployed to Iraq about being there so long, missing their spouses and not having seen their newborn children. These are some of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard. And I offer my condolences to the families who’ve lost loved ones in this and other conflicts around the globe. I’d also like to offer a word to those still serving who complain about their position: Don’t re-enlist. I don’t care to be serving next to them.

Did these people really enlist only because the money was good? Did they honestly not believe the possibility of being separated from their families? Did they think that marrying or having children with a servicemember would pardon them from the obligation they agreed to fulfill?

There are reasons I’m not married and don’t have children. It’s not that I don’t want to get married (again) or have children of my own. But I’ve come to the realization that I could not, in good conscience, put myself or anyone else in a situation that I don’t have at least some control over.

The decision on whether to re-enlist is one thing military members have control over: Either sign or don’t. If they choose to make the military a career, they’ll see more deployments and more separations.

This applies not only to active-duty, but also to Guard and Reserve. I realize they had jobs, college courses, frat parties or whatever before being called up. The only problem is that the interests of the U.S. government won’t take a back seat to Mr. Bean’s sociology midterm exam.

Staff Sgt. Larry JeffersonMisawa Air Base, Japan

A poor choice of words

This letter is in response to the story “The consequence of comments” (July 22). I sympathize with the soldiers who are in Iraq and had strong words to say about their deployment, how long they’ll be staying and when they’ll be going home. But the people who had strong words about members of the U.S. government made a very poor choice.

The sergeant who said on ABC News that “I’ve got my own ‘Most Wanted’ list” and “The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and Paul Wolfowitz” desperately needs to be re-educated in tact, professionalism and, most of all, leadership. As leaders, we have hard choices to make. The four leaders in the sergeant’s deck made tough decisions they thought were necessary to protect our country. Yes, their actions required thousands of troops to be deployed to Iraq and away from their families for long periods of time.

I’m married and have two kids at Fort Hood, Texas. But I joined the Army knowing that I could one day be called to go into combat and if need be put my life on the line. As an NCO, I have a duty to ensure that my soldiers and I complete our mission for the greater good of the unit, the Army and the country.

Those four “aces” felt it was their duty to ensure that Saddam Hussein abide by U.N. Resolution 1441. Those aces went well out of their way to try to resolve the situation diplomatically. And the sergeant had the gall to criticize them? What decisions would he have made? Remember Sept. 11, 2001? Has the sergeant forgotten?

Staff Sgt. Shawn McFaddenTikrit, Iraq

Questions go unanswered

I had no problem with being deployed to Iraq. Of course I was disappointed that I’d be leaving my family and friends. But I’m proud to represent the U.S. and defend the Constitution. I have nothing to complain about. I get food and water. Everything else is icing on the cake. But I do have two questions that nobody seems to be capable of answering. First, when exactly are we going home? Six months? One year? I don’t think it’s that hard to decide. Every day I hear a different rumor, and rumors harm morale worse than any mortar round or rocket-propelled grenade ever could.

Recently my platoon sergeant reminded us to stay vigilant and remember why we’re here. We all looked at each other and laughed. That leads to my second question: Why are we still here? Our return home should be near the end of the planning stages, because our missions are either completed or near completion. Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. In many places we’ve helped establish a new Iraqi government. We were also supposed to find weapons of mass destruction. But we haven’t found any or any substantial evidence that they exist. We were also supposed to root out any terrorist activities. Terrorist cells remain. But rooting them out shouldn’t take four divisions, two armored cavalry regiments, a few individual brigades, various National Guard and Army Reserve units, and Special Forces units.

If anything, having so many troops in Iraq has spurred more terrorists to come here because there’s a greater number of targets. This part of the mission can be done far better by small, easily maneuverable units like those in Afghanistan. I don’t see even one division in Afghanistan, only parts of one. The rest of that division returned home, only to be turned around shortly thereafter and sent to Iraq. Now they’re stuck here with the rest of us for unspecified politicians trying to save their reputations. I don’t believe soldiers’ lives are worth anybody’s vanity.

If the current trend continues, more soldiers will have lost their lives during the “peacekeeping” operations than in actual combat. The answers we seek are heavily shrouded in secrecy. The last time I re-enlisted, my contract said it was for the regular Army, not the Secret Service.

Sgt. Daniel A. DeilerSamarrah, Iraq

It’s all about numbers

I want to know exactly how important numbers are in this deployment situation. I am a National Guard soldier who is only a year and a half into military service. Could somebody please tell me what is supposed to be most important in our profession?

I am part of a signal unit, so once we get set up there really isn’t much work to do until it’s time to break down and go home. In the meantime, we’ve had several soldiers who have gone home on emergency leave or been sent to the States for medical reasons. What I don’t understand is why some of them have been brought back.

One soldier had a heart attack, and was brought back to Iraq. Another, a good friend of mine, was sent home because of a herniated disc in his back. He spent a month at home and underwent open-back surgery. It took six doctors to get him home for this operation, but the opinion of only one got him back overseas. He is again in Baghdad, complete with a profile that disables him from carrying his weapon or even wearing a frag vest or LBV. Why is he even in a combat environment when he isn’t needed? Numbers. And to think I joined a military where I thought the soldier came first.

Spc. T.J. RumlerCamp Franklin, Iraq

August 14

Punishment too lenient

I’m writing on behalf of myself, Staff Sgt. Santos N. Ortiz, and Sgt. Carl A. Harkleroad in response to the article “Officer punished for possessing child porn” (Aug. 1). I know we won’t be the last to express our outrage about the punishment that 1st Lt. Andrew Rutan received.

Military personnel have long been held to a higher moral code when compared to their civilian counterparts. This disgusting, morally reprehensible and illegal activity should not be defensible. Lt. Col. Michael Barbee, the commander of 1st Lt. Rutan’s 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment from Illesheim, Germany, said, “He’s an outstanding officer.” We have to disagree. The prosecutor, Capt. Howard Matthews, said, “This case isn’t about a vicious criminal or a lunatic. It’s about a good soldier — a soldier who has a secret obsession.”

Is Matthews sure he wasn’t working for the defense? Capt. Jonathan Crisp, the defense attorney for Rutan, would have us believe that Rutan collected these photos as art. How naive does Crisp think we are?

Rutan is not an outstanding officer, nor is he a good soldier. He needs to be locked up. It should make all of us uneasy to know that he is still on the street.

It’s unconscionable that Rutan received a formal reprimand and loss of money. Had he been an enlisted soldier, Rutan likely would have received the maximum punishment allowed by court-martial. The punishment does not fit the crime. Rutan should have been reduced in rank, forfeited all pay and allowances, received a bad-conduct discharge and prison time. Child pornography is a particularly heinous and disturbing crime. Rutan received a slap on the wrist. He deserves much more.

Staff Sgt. Robert B. WilkinsForward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq

Combat badges

This is in regard to the article “Guardsmen earn combat badge” (July 30). I’d like to congratulate soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 293rd Regiment of the Indiana National Guard for being awarded the Combat Infantry Badge for their duty at Tallil Airfield in Iraq.

I’m a member of the 822nd Military Police Company. The 822nd MP CO and a platoon from the 223rd Military Police Company were temporarily assigned to support the 1/293rd Regiment at Tallil Airfield. The 822nd MP CO assisted with perimeter security and provided personnel at checkpoints leading to the airfield. The platoon from 223rd MP CO provided personnel for checkpoints on the main road leading to Tallil (Route 8).

The 822nd MP CO performed the above duties from March 29 until April 4. I don’t know if there were other units assigned to support the 1/293rd Regiment to secure Tallil Airfield after mechanized units moved forward.

Only infantrymen qualify for the Combat Infantry Badge. I’m wondering if units that were attached to the battalion in question are eligible for any other award.

1st Lt. P. Campos-CruzCamp Bucca, Iraq

Need morale boosters

This is concerning the letter “Aghast at Kid Rock trash” (July 2). Boo hoo! While the writer is in Kitzingen, Germany, I’m in Baghdad. We know the difference between right and wrong. We need morale boosters, no matter what kind they are. Why doesn’t the writer come over here and perform? Instead, he wastes space with such comments in a perfectly good newspaper like Stars and Stripes.

Sgt. Darin BurgessCamp Dogwood, Iraq

Reality check needed

Before coming to Iraq, I’d never read Stars and Stripes. Now we get a copy whenever the mail gets through. I’ve been absolutely appalled to read letter after letter from soldiers whining and complaining as if it’s not fair that their country has called upon them to do the jobs they volunteered to do.

In the letter “Support us!” (July 27) the writer referred to a soldier who merely raised his hand for college money and instead has an M-16 and has been sent to war. When he raised his right hand to enlist, what was the soldier thinking? That he’d receive “free” money with no effort or sacrifice on his part? Did the soldier think that he was a special individual who was in his own Army of one whose sole purpose was to serve himself?

I also read an article about one soldier asking for the resignation of U.S. government officials and another soldier having his own “wanted list.” Other soldiers have also cried about Meals, Ready to Eat, how hot the weather is, how little sleep they’ve had, and the amount of time they’ve been in country. These soldiers need a reality check. They need to do some homework on what their units have endured in previous wars: extreme heat and cold, heroism by almost every man, and no mail at all. At times whatever food they could find was all they ate. The hardships in those wars were far greater than any we have in Iraq. We won’t find soldiers from World War II writing war protest letters. They were honored to serve their country and very proud to do so.

All the negative press is taking away from the true patriots and warriors who would go into combat again and again if their country called. The Marines in my unit spit out their pacifiers when they were 3 years old, as have other servicemembers who proudly serve their country when called. If these soldiers want to whine and cry about how unfair it is to them, they should do us all a big favor and quit. They are of no use to anyone. I salute all those who serve proudly and do so with honor, courage and commitment.

Sgt. Frederick SweeneyDiwaniyah, Iraq

Not much sympathy

I’d like to apologize to the writer of the letter “Wasted time” (July 27) for the harsh treatment he’s received while activated in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. As an active-duty soldier, I have no concept of what it means to have time that’s precious. I’m certain that my wife and three children don’t need me around nearly as much as the writer’s family does. I can only imagine how tough it must have been to be “stranded” at Fort Lewis, Wash., while those of us without lives beyond the Army got to live the good life in Iraq.

I think it’s terrible that the writer had to put his life on hold, especially his last semester of college, while Gen. Tommy Franks wasted the writer’s precious time attempting to deceive Iraq’s military. Being active-duty, I can’t imagine what that must have been like for him. Perhaps the next time the Army makes war plans, it will consult the writer to see if the war fits into his schedule.

All sarcasm aside, I spent last year in Afghanistan and this year in Iraq, and I know that I’ll also be away from home next year. There are guys in my unit who’ve spent less than six months of the last three years at home. So the writer will understand if we find it hard to feel much sympathy for him and his plight. The writer raised his right hand like the rest of us.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian D. RoushIraq

August 15

Spouses are special

In these days of trials and tribulations, the negatives seem to always outweigh the positives and float to the top. But I’d like to direct readers’ attention to some positives about the greatest asset in the military arsenal: military spouses.

Since early May I’ve been deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 1st Armored Division, 1st Brigade, Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment. My wife is a Family Readiness Group leader and a manager of a base thrift store in Germany. When I left, she took over full responsibility of our household as well as the care of our two children, just as numerous spouses do when we leave. When the men leave, they leave many vacancies in and around our home bases for their spouses to fill. For instance, the women of our casern now coach my son’s baseball team. They keep statistics and scores and still provide snacks and refreshments as always at the end of the games.

Between work and her many Family Readiness Group duties, my wife is our family accountant, seamstress, mechanic, mentor and even a shoulder for me to lean on when she could probably use one herself. She’s the cream of the crop as wives go. Maybe that’s why she was voted Army Spouse of the Year when I was on drill sergeant duty a few years ago. If asked why she does it or why she puts others before herself, my wife will say it’s because she loves them. That’s what military spouses do and that’s why they’re so special.

About a month ago my father was diagnosed with cancer. He didn’t want to tell me because I was deployed. He said I had enough to worry about. So my wife packed up the kids and took a space-available travel flight to see my parents and make their lives more enjoyable. She also helped take care of my grandmother. I didn’t ask my wife to do this. She just did it because she loves us. No thought ever crossed her mind about her needs or what she’d like to do. It was just the fact that someone needed help and that she could provide it.

Now my wife will soon pack up and head back to Germany. The kids need to get ready for school. She probably thinks the house needs dusting, and she knows there are battles to be fought on the home front. Another crisis diverted and evildoers thwarted at the hands of my ever-capable and faithful companion, my military wife.

So here’s to all the military spouses everywhere for a job well-done and a hearty hooah!

2nd Lt. Darren R. TetersBaghdad, Iraq

Vet clinic to the rescue

I’d like to thank the folks at Tierarztliche veterinary clinic in Werneck-Ettleben, Germany, and especially Dr. C. Knaup and Dr. N. Knaup. Recently my 2-year-old Yorkshire terrier was hit by a car while I was deployed to Hohenfels at the Combat Maneuver Training Center. The accident resulted in a broken pelvis, a broken leg and a broken tooth. It sent my wife, at home with two little boys, into a frenzy trying to find a vet clinic that would provide emergency care.

Unfortunately, the vet clinic on post here in Schweinfurt was closed, as were eight other local vet clinics. My wife finally called the Tierarztliche clinic and was told to bring the dog immediately. These folks provided the very best emergency vet care and comforted my wife and children, who were no doubt shaken up and bawling.

It feels good to know that someone in this community was able to look after my family members in their hour of need while I was downrange. I thank the Knaups for treating my wounded pet’s injuries and my wounded family’s spirits.

Christopher FanninSchweinfurt, Germany

Motorcycle story biased

I was appalled at the obviously biased article “Agency to require better motorcycle training” (Aug. 1). I’ve been riding motorcycles for more than 27 years, and I’ve never been involved in an at-fault accident. The only accident I’ve ever had on a motorcycle was when an inattentive car driver merged into my lane and struck my bike.

Statistics can be manipulated however one wants. The article said that 14 cyclists have died over the past 10 years. But it didn’t say how many people have been licensed on motorcycles over the past 10 years. It only showed that approximately 10,000 people are currently licensed motorcycle operators. If we were to assume that there were 10,000 motorcycle operators a year for the past 10 years, then wouldn’t that equate to 14 deaths out of 100,000 operators over the past 10 years?

If I were to cross-reference an article about water safety, didn’t 50 U.S. Army Europe soldiers die in water-related accidents over the past 10 years? But nobody is calling for mandatory water safety courses and that mandatory Coast Guard-approved life vests be worn every time a soldier enters the water.

I know that when I entered the Army I signed away many of my constitutional rights. But leaders can’t begin to know how bad they hurt me when they want to regulate how I should enjoy my off-time freedom by dictating how I should ride my bike. Would any of the 14 people who died within the past 10 years have really been saved if they wore long-sleeved shirts, long pants, leather gloves, a full-face helmet, and leather boots that cover the ankles? No, I don’t think so. It’s a fact that the No. 1 killer of motorcyclists is inattentive car drivers.

Sgt. Stephen E. MandernachKaiserslautern, Germany

Career over

This is in response to the letter “Double standard” (Aug. 8). The writer said she was “disappointed in the military justice system and the chain of command” because 1st Lt. Andrew Rutan was allowed to “keep his career” after being convicted of possessing child pornography because he’s an officer.

Let me assure the writer that Rutan’s career is over. Why? Because he is an officer. The writer needs to understand that punishments given to officers may seem light, but that’s not the case. All it can take in some cases is one letter of reprimand, or even a counseling letter, in an officer’s personnel file to ruin his chance of being promoted past captain, let alone his chance to extend his service commitment.

Staff Sgt. Andrew MathewsNaples, Italy

Wrong is wrong

It’s a bit disturbing that the Army is now condoning criminal activity if one is a “good soldier” in other respects or perhaps just an officer. I’m referring to the article “Officer punished for possessing child porn” (Aug. 1). First Lt. Andrew Rutan was given no jail time and only a small fine for receipt and possession of child pornography. In the same community only two days earlier, an enlisted soldier also charged with child pornography was fined a much higher percentage of his wages and given jail time and a bad-conduct discharge.

Crime is crime and wrong is wrong. All soldiers should be held to the same standard regardless of rank. This is not a “secret obsession,” as the prosecutor was quoted as saying. This is a sick, illegal hobby that violates all of our children and military community standards. It should not be tolerated by any military member.

Vicky JensenMannheim, Germany

August 16

McNamara had his turn

Stars and Stripes on Aug. 6 ran an [opinion column] by none other than Robert McNamara, secretary of defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. McNamara’s legacy is carved in stone — literally. The Vietnam Wall in Washington lists the names of the 58,000 or so Americans he sent to die.

McNamara would later admit in his book “In Retrospect” that he realized early in the conflict there was no way to win and that more and more Americans would be sacrificed for nothing. This isn’t the case. We could have and would have won if it weren’t for incompetent, arrogant, ignorant fools like McNamara running the show.

In his editorial, McNamara urges the United States to join the International Criminal Court. He begins with a parable of Gen. Curtis LeMay of World War II whose position he states as, “If you’re going to fight, you should fight to win” and “If you’re going to use military force, then you use overwhelming military force.” With this he disagrees. Big surprise to those Americans who fought in Vietnam.

McNamara implores that “the violence and cruelty” of war be eliminated, but he doesn’t suggest how to do this. He then says, “We need a clear code, internationally accepted, so that not only our Congress and president know, but so that all our military and civilian personnel know ... what is legal in conflict and what is illegal.” Has anybody bothered to tell him about the Geneva Conventions? In fact, the only people who don’t follow it are those who find themselves on the business end of the U.S. Army.

Sending Americans to their deaths wasn’t enough for McNamara. Now he wants to send them to jail.

What troubles me most is not that he is writing this drivel, but rather that Star and Stripes is printing it. I understand the concept of free speech, but sometimes common sense has to prevail. Newspapers employ editorial censorship daily. It’s not a bad thing as long as it’s used properly and fairly; needless to say, I strongly believe that McNamara’s piece ought not to have made the morning cut.

Pfc. Stephen BozichKaiserslautern, Germany

It’s a life, not a job

I enjoy reading Stripes, and since my husband deployed I read it every day. I also enjoy the letters, but just had to write and say my hat is off to the writer of “Quit sniveling” (Aug. 12).

I do not hear from my husband via phone or e-mail because he’s a soldier in Iraq. I hear from him by mail and, yes, sometimes it takes a while but we both receive our mail eventually. As I said, he’s in Iraq!

Even though conveniences would be nice, we didn’t expect them. We expected a yearlong deployment. It’s not fun, but being a soldier isn’t supposed to be fun. And I married a soldier, which means life for my family isn’t always fun either.

My family is proud of our soldier and all the soldiers who watch his back daily. For some, it’s not a job. It’s a life.

Kaye ReedBaumholder, Germany

In good hands

Those of us living in Europe have a lot of things to worry about. No. 1 is the welfare and safety of those we love who are deployed and in dangerous places. But it is good to know that when I head to work there is great, professional, loving care for both of my most important assets — my girls. My mind these days is so overwrought that it is wonderful to know there is a place I can leave them without worrying.

The School Age Services here in Heidelberg is outstanding. Michael Tojo, Adriana Alvarez, Matthew Allred and the rest of the staff caring for children who provide loving care make being a single parent at least easier. The crowning glory of the SAS in Heidelberg is “Miss Suze” (Susan Bailey), who has taught my older daughter, Senya, so much that I never seem to have time for, given love and an open ear and heart when she needs one. She is truly an Army of One.

What makes this group outstanding, though, is caring for my younger daughter, Emma, who is moderately to severely autistic. Despite Emma’s strange behaviors, all staff members have strived to understand her. They deal with her outbursts, her misbehaviors due to her disability, her constant differentness. And they do so with love, concern and caring.

Without folks like these to help raise our children, we would be unable to perform the mission. They are a credit to our community and deserve all our thanks.

Melissa BallaSt. Leon-Rot, Germany

Arab nations need to step up

I see Stars and Stripes infrequently here, but I don’t recall any coverage on this subject. (I won’t mention the heat; lack of air conditioning or cold water; broken promises of redeployment; or speculation on site improvements).

Here I sit in a country in a region that most Americans knew very little about before the involvement of American soldiers. Occasionally, some of the Iraqis (or other regional Arabs) ask why it is taking so long for the United States to get things going here. I think I finally have a decent answer.

The United States can solve the entire issue by offending the Arab world and making this part of the United States; but that would surely alienate the culture in this area. I truly believe that if the international community could ever get to the point of agreement, it could also correct the problems. But who would pay for this new Iraqi government?

Here is my thought: This area is home to some of the largest mineral resource wealth in the world. Why not let the neighbors of this beleaguered nation help in rebuilding this part of the world? The basic question is, “Where is the Arab League? What about OPEC?” I know they would be deeply interested in their future and the possible consequences of a run-away oil production in the 51st state of Iraq.

Master Sgt. Stefan SteudtelTikrit, Iraq

Driven to satisfaction

I have a comment about Exchange New Car Sales located on Mainz-Kastel near Wiesbaden, Germany. I purchased a van in 2002 from a salesman named Michael Mulvany and was pretty darn happy with the way the whole process went. As a matter of fact, I was so happy that I went back to him and ordered another car to be picked up in the States when we recently moved back. It was so smooth and I was always kept informed. Mulvany knew his business and I was impressed with his professionalism.

I picked up my new Neon about two weeks ago from a dealer in Baltimore. I asked him about the price I paid and told him how smoothly the whole process worked. He said he could never sell me the same car at the price I paid.

The Baltimore dealer said whoever handled the deal on the overseas end did a fantastic job for me. Of course, it was Mulvany. I just want to show my appreciation by saying that I think Exchange New Car Sales is a great opportunity, and if you are seriously looking for a great saleperson, find Mike Mulvany. You will recognize him by the huge smile and the Irish accent!

Bill VannurdenBaltimore, Md.

Time will prove us right

Stars and Stripes, keep up the great work. Even on your worst day you’ll never be as bad as CNN (Constantly Negative News) is on a regular basis. Troops in Iraq, take heart! Time will prove us right. In the meantime, take cover. Blow away anything that looks the least bit out of place. Wish I could be there with you. Perhaps my chance will come soon!

Master Sgt. Bill FarrarRamstein Air Base, Germany

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