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August 31

No Sympathy

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

August 31 No sympathy Yearning for substance Units not recognized Problems fixableSeptember 1 ‘Part-timers’ busy True heroism Mail clerk greatSeptember 2 Serve with pride Deserve better phone access Unhappy? Get out Reserve your criticism Not getting paidSeptember 3 Not complaining Priceless gift Telephones Retention Listen to soldiersSeptember 4 Come clean on gas pricing Homosexual unions Getting gouged DODDS helped MarineSeptember 5 Freedom not free Medical treatment Be part of solution Put in effort We’re prisonersSeptember 6 Not always part-time Sad end to tour In defense of bottled water

I’d like to respond to the letter “Active duty should take over” (Aug. 24). I’m in an active-duty unit tasked out to a Reserve unit in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since May. This comes after spending two months in the same situation in Turkey. Under reservists, adding insult to injury, our combat patch will be a Reserve patch.

I have no sympathy for the writer sitting around at a stateside installation for three or four months waiting to move out while we were already overseas. At least it was possible for family members to occasionally meet with the soldiers awaiting deployment.

The writer also said, “We didn’t volunteer for this.” Did they ever find the guy who held a gun to the writer’s head and twisted his arm to sign up for the National Guard?

My last gripe is the writer’s comment that for active-duty members, “it’s their only job,” meaning that active-duty soldiers’ only job is the military. At my last duty assignment, I worked two part-time jobs at the same time. I’d get off from one and go to work at the other, all while still active duty and newly assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C. Shortly before our deployment I had several successful job interviews for various part-time employment, half of which were managerial positions.

The bottom line is that those who complain should at least know what they’re complaining about.

Spc. Jim JenningsCamp Wolf, Kuwait

Yearning for substance

As a soldier deployed in Baghdad, I look forward to the three- and four-day-old copies of Stars and Stripes that my unit gets for news and current events. Being detached from modern news mediums is part of the job, and I expect Stripes to be abreast of the world’s happenings.

In the Aug. 11 issue there were multiple articles on serious international issues in Liberia, Jakarta, Iraq and on the Israelis and Palestinians. But I was more than disappointed to see that the most important thing to Stripes wasn’t these issues. It was the story “Air Force back on track for fitness test” (Aug. 11). It was about the Air Force’s new physical training program.

Does anyone really care so much about the Air Force getting a new PT program that it should overshadow world events, including American soldiers in combat? Since Stripes caters to servicemembers, does Stripes really think they want to read about airmen running laps or current events shaping the world around them?

Most soldiers tolerate Stripes because it’s the only media we can get ahold of. But I think Stripes’ values need to be reevaluated. Deployed soldiers yearn for substance in Stripes. Instead, it’s filled with human interest nonsense that doesn’t affect anybody except apparently the Air Force.

So when Stripes’ editors get together and decide what to print and where to place it, they should please keep in mind the readers who want newsworthy articles instead of pages filled with airmen on treadmills.

Spc. David C. RatliffeBaghdad, Iraq

Units not recognized

After reading the article “USAREUR troops on the move” (Aug. 26), I found myself hurt and very angry about the detailed information on troops deployed as part of V Corps. The article failed to mention two units that are part of V Corps and have been deployed since February and March. These invisible soldiers and units are with the 3rd Corps Support Command and the 19th Support Company. Both are based out of Wiesbaden Army Airfield, Germany. I’m the wife of one of these soldiers, who are part of the 19th Munitions Division. He’s been gone for about 176 days.

I’d appreciate a correction or an apology to the soldiers and wives of these units who have been there since the start of the war and its supposed ending. They’re still there giving 110 percent for the mission.

Donna Rae SiegfriedWiesbaden, Germany

Problems fixable

I’m writing in response to the letter “Act like the best” (Aug. 23). It was written by a sergeant in Mosul, Iraq. He said everyone should stop complaining about being over here because it’s their job. That’s true. It’s our job to be here and to fight terrorism and all the other evil in the world.

I’ve been deployed since February, and I wish I could go home. But I understand that the Army needs me here, and I have no problem doing what I signed up to do. In defense of the complainers, yes, it’s an all-volunteer force. But when these people volunteered, they were never told that they could be involuntarily extended past their expiration of term of service dates. There are soldiers over here who have been serving going on two years past their original ETS dates. I’m quite sure they volunteered for service. But I’m also positive that they were never told that they could be involuntarily extended to serve for an additional two years past their ETS dates.

So the sergeant who hates to read complaints in the letters section should relax. Soldiers complain. That’s what they do when they’re disgruntled. It’s one page in a newspaper. These soldiers have every right to complain, specifically the soldiers who have been extended involuntarily for so long past their ETS dates. Some of these soldiers have probably been here and will probably be here longer than the writer has or will ever be.

The writer also said that being over here doesn’t give soldiers the right to complain to the media. I beg to differ. Above all else, this definitely gives them the right to complain. They’re out here dealing with it the best way they know how. We fight for the right to express ourselves. There are limits on how we should express ourselves and about whom we express our feelings. But they still have the right to express their feelings to a certain extent, complaining or otherwise.

The writer also said the U.S. military is acting like a bunch of spoiled kids. I don’t recall a bunch of spoiled kids taking Iraq. I could’ve sworn that a bunch of grown men and women stomped into Iraq with a purpose and succeeded in ousting an “evil” regime. Put up or shut up? I’m quite sure that the U.S. military definitely put up and is continuously putting up.

Soldiers will always complain. It’s our job as leaders to try to help them the best way we can. We’ll never be rid of complaints, but leaders can help soldiers deal with their problems instead of writing about them. Leaders have to deal with complaints, prioritize them and deal with them on a case-by-case basis.

Instead of saying he doesn’t want to hear the complaints, maybe the writer should listen. He’d be surprised how fast complaints can die down when a caring leader addresses the problems. Most problems are easily fixed.

Sgt. 1st Class Dennis StrubhartKuwait

September 1

'Part-timers' busy

My Army Reserve Military Police Company, with fewer than 100 MPs, arrived here in Iraq a couple of weeks after the 3rd Infantry Division. We’ve transported and guarded thousands of enemy prisoners of war, worked mass grave sites, escorted numerous VIPs, and protected civil affairs and Criminal Investigation Division teams. We’ve searched numerous buildings, trained Iraqi police and, of course, executed the never-ending convoy security missions. We guard prisoners in Balad, Baghdad, Dogwood and Nasiriyah, even though there are tens of thousands of active-duty troops in these places sitting in camps. Now we even man listening posts/observation points which were manned by an infantry battalion. The members of the unit we replaced just got their Combat Infantryman Badges. There’s no such thing as a CIB for Reserve combat MPs, only a paycheck. Our ranks are made up of ex-Marines, ex-active duty MPs, city, state and federal law enforcement officers, and yes, even a few college kids.

Even though our readiness numbers hover around 70 percent, we still have no plans to go home, only rumors of extensions. We’ve watched aviation units, Marines and now the 3rd Infantry Division go home. Next I’m sure we’ll watch the 4th Infantry Division and 1st Infantry Division roll south to redeploy.

Our story is typical of Reserve and National Guard units in this war. Small units from small towns all over America with no generals, no pretty patches, no political clout and no rotation schedule home.

I’m sure some active-duty first sergeant on “deployment” to Germany or Kuwait will respond to this letter with the usual “shut up and drive on” dogma. But full timers should choose their words carefully, because without us “part timers” they might actually have to go to war.

Spc. Mark PetermanAn Nasiriyah, Iraq

True heroism

The 120-degree heat of Fallujah has compelled me to write in response to all of the Pfc. Jessica Lynch hype. I have to agree with the letter “Why did Lynch get medal?” (Aug. 2) regarding the Bronze Star being awarded to this soldier. If the rumors surrounding her capture and injuries are true, then I also must ask why she received this medal. Was it all a propaganda stunt to win American sympathy toward this conflict? Who knows? Furthermore, who cares? I don’t. I think it’s awful that a young soldier had to go through that ordeal due to the incompetence and inability of her leaders to properly navigate and read a map. But Pfc. Lynch is not a hero.

Let me tell readers about true heroism. My friend Mike Quinn was killed on May 27 at a traffic control point in Fallujah. He was shot during an ambush and killed because he wasn’t wearing his body armor. He had given his vest to a young soldier who didn’t have one. Mike’s unselfishness cost him his life and saved his soldier’s life. He was my friend, a fellow “master gunner,” and most of all, a leader. He is my hero, along with Tom Broomhead and Bill Latham, two other noncommissioned officers killed from my troop. As a people, we need to seriously analyze what constitutes a hero.

Staff Sgt. Dave HarrisFallujah, Iraq

Mail clerk great

I’m a soldier with the 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor from Fort Riley, Kansas. Like many readers, I’ve endured the frustrations regarding our mail. But I’m not writing to complain. I’m writing to express my thanks to our mail clerk, Spc. Sevey. This soldier truly went above and beyond his duty to serve his unit and the Army.

Those of us who were here all remember how bad the mail was in the early stages of the war. It was basically nonexistent. While everyone gave up hope of ever receiving a letter or package, Spc. Sevey never quit. Day in and day out, he would ride out into hostile territory, sandstorms and God knows what else in search of mail.

Because we were attached to several different divisions, Spc. Sevey had to make four, five, and even six different stops to find our mail, often coming back empty-handed. But he always remained positive and would be pleased to pick up even one letter. He endured our constant complaints and bad attitudes, even when they were wrongly directed at him.

Spc. Sevey is probably the best mail clerk in the Army. He belongs on a tank. But nevertheless, he accepted and performed his mission flawlessly and with the utmost dedication.

In a few short weeks Spc. Sevey will be leaving 2-70th Armor to pursue bigger and better things outside the Army. I want to thank him for all of his hard work and his positive attitude. We’re losing a great person and a great soldier. I wish him nothing but the best.

Pfc. Mark LaucksBaghdad, Iraq

September 2

Serve with pride

I’d like to say something about the letter “War is not summer camp” (Aug. 23). The writer is one outstanding soldier who I’d be glad to serve with. His noncommissioned officers and officers need to commend him.

He was absolutely right. Servicemembers signed up. We are at war. They should deal with it. I volunteered to come out here. I’d have it no other way. Yeah, I miss my wife and daughter. But who doesn’t miss their families? All I know is that when I’m done over here and on my way back home, I’ll know that I served with pride and that the world is a better place because of it.

We should find the positive in any situation, and in the words of the letter writer and military personnel before him, “Suck it up and drive on!”

Sgt. Patrick SalmonCamp Fox, Kuwait

Deserve better phone access

I’m writing in regard to the letter “Phone rates” (Aug. 9). The writer was correct. We do deserve better facilities in regard to phone access and rates. But what’s worse is that, although it’s nice to have, the 1st Infantry Division has a Burger King at the Baghdad airport. The problem is, where are the phones?

I’m stationed in an area where phone access isn’t even available. Noncommissioned officers have satellite phones, but they charge $1.25 to $1.50 a minute. This is no way to live: a Burger King before morale-boosting phone access.

I was deployed to Kuwait from May 2002 to November 2002 for Operation Intrinsic Action and also for Operation Desert Spring. Now I’m redeployed to Baghdad for 12 months. I just hope the NCO support channel and chain of command can resolve this issue soon. A lot of my brothers in my unit also feel the same way and are beginning to feel the neglect of important issues by senior soldiers, some of whom served in the first Gulf War as E1s-E4s.

Spc. Christopher GormanBaghdad, Iraq

Unhappy? Get out

I’m an Active Guard/Reserve soldier who’s been deployed for more than six months. While I’ve been in Kuwait, I’ve read Stars and Stripes when it’s been available. I’m tired of reading complaints from “professional” soldiers about how members of the Reserve and National Guard should be going home. They seem to feel that since they have jobs or are in school that they have more rights than active-duty soldiers.

In case they’ve forgotten, they’re now active-duty soldiers. Did they think that just because they joined the Reserve or Guard that they’d never be deployed? If so, they were naïve. Perhaps they were forced to join the military? I think not. Possibly they joined so the military would pay for them to get college degrees. Or maybe Veterans Affairs gave them loans to buy houses. These are all nice things that the military provides for them.

This is the price they decided to pay the day they signed their contracts and took the oath. They took the chance that one day they’d be mobilized and deployed. That day has come.

I know there are some Reserve and Guard soldiers who aren’t complaining. By no means is this directed toward them. For the most part soldiers have done their jobs and should be proud of what they’ve accomplished. Those who are unhappy should please get out. I beg them.

Staff Sgt. James HollowayCamp Arifjan, Kuwait

Reserve your criticism

On behalf of all Reserve and National Guard soldiers and airmen serving on hardship tours around the globe, I’d like to thank the writer of the letter “Don’t like it? Don’t re-enlist” (Aug. 13) for sharing his low opinion of us and his disdain for our individual concerns. His extemporaneous wit and well-placed sarcasm, depicting our civilian lives, families and careers as nothing more than “frat parties” and “Mr. Bean’s sociology midterm exam” really showed us the error of our ways.

To answer the writer’s questions: Yes, we all signed up for military service because we thought the money was good. From my own personal experience, the military is a great source of supplemental income to my part-time civilian job shoveling animal excrement at the local zoo. It really helps when it comes time to pony up my share when our frat hosts another kegger.

After having served or watched colleagues leave to serve in Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, East Timor, Somalia, Desert Shield/Desert Storm and in other contingencies, it perplexes me that we were all so shocked to be asked to serve in Afghanistan and Iraq, too. I guess we should have taken the past 15 years of conflicts as a hint that another round of deployments might be around the corner. I can’t explain how we were all so naïve as to believe that this time the Pentagon would pardon us from the obligation we agreed to fulfill.

I’d also like to express the shame and guilt we all now feel for placing our families in this situation. Since I feel my soldiers should share the same self-control and foresight as the writer, I’ve ordered all my married soldiers to file for divorce when they return home. This will allow their spouses to remarry people outside the military who can better provide for their families, lest we get deployed again. I’ve also ordered all of my married and unmarried soldiers to lead lives of celibacy from this day forward to ensure that they will not again place a dependant in a situation in which they don’t have at least some control.

I hope these ideas catch on in other units and in our sister services so that in the near future the military will appear to the casual observer as nothing more than a bunch of nuns and monks running around with assault rifles and machine guns.

I’d like to thank the writer again for so aptly illustrating how meaningless our civilian lives really are. His opinion has been heard! From the writer’s position in Misawa Air Base, Japan, where he’s allowed to wear civilian clothes, enjoy running water, shop at the local post exchange/base exchange, take in a ball game or get a beer with his buddies and sleep comfortably in his own bed at night, he of all people has earned the right to criticize.

1st Lt. Charles UngerCamp Speicher, Iraq

Not getting paid

I’m a member of the California National Guard. I’ve been activated since Feb. 7 and have been in the Middle East for about three months. I’m currently deployed to Kuwait/Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. My expiration, term of service date was June 28. But since I’m in the Guard I was automatically extended. Apparently no one told the finance department, because I was kicked out of the system. So I haven’t been paid since. It will be two months on Sept. 1 since I’ve received any money from the Army. I have a family. What am I supposed to tell my creditors? It’s not my fault the Army hasn’t paid me.

Instead of allowing me to go home to take care of my family and financial problems, my chain of command offered me Army Emergency Relief. If I’m not in the system, I should be allowed to go back to my job so I can take care of my family. I’ve been to the inspector general and the chaplain.

I have another question. Why is it that National Guard and Reserve soldiers are not allowed to ETS from theater? Regular Army soldiers are available to ETS from theater. What’s the difference? We’re all on Title 10 orders. I’ve even been told I have to re-enlist. Does anyone really think I’m going to re-enlist after being treated like this? If I can’t be put back into the system, then I should be sent home.

I thank Stars and Stripes for its concern about soldiers and their problems.

Spc. Frank KiperKuwait/Iraq

September 3

Not complaining

This is in response to the letter “Quit sniveling” (Aug. 12). I’m a 23-year veteran of the active duty Army and National Guard. I’ve been deployed to Bosnia and places I wish to forget. I agree with the letter writer that as noncommissioned officers we need to stop complaining and whining. We need to act like leaders.

I’m stationed in northern Iraq. The writer is missing out on all the fun here. Too bad he’s at Camp Doha, Kuwait. Where else in the world can one sleep on dirt or wooden floors and watch insects crawl across the floors, tent mates and ourselves? But I’m not stating a grievance.

Air conditioning? Not around here. We have electric fans that move hot air around when the power is on. We’ve gone through six generators. It’s something about the dust and heat that’s caused them to stop working. Again, I’m not criticizing.

I spend quality time with my troops. We stand in line to eat, shower, use the latrine and shop at the post exchange. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. And if we don’t feel like eating in the dining facility, we can go over to Burger King. Oh, I forgot. We don’t have a Burger King. My mistake. But we do have sun-baked Meals, Ready to Eat. Oh, what a treat. But I’m not complaining.

I look after the morale of my troops. I make sure they call home when the phone is working or e-mail loved ones when the system is working. Both the telephone and e-mail are great devices when they work properly. I’m not whining either.

The local population entertains us with nightly mortar attacks, sniping and ambushes. They go through a lot of trouble to do that. But I’m not complaining.

The mail? Well, let’s not beat a dead horse. Once more, I’m not grumbling.

Live like a civilized human being? The thought never entered my mind. We have it so great here in Iraq that I feel bad for the letter writer. And to think we get paid to do this. But I’m not finding fault.

Did I mention the lovely aroma of burning waste? It makes my eyes water to think about it. The Korean rice fields have nothing over it. Again, I’m not being a grouch.

As I said, we NCOs need to support our chain of command by holding them accountable to correctly find out when redeployment is going to happen, inform the troops and then make it happen. We NCOs are the backbone of the Army, and this backbone is hot, sweaty and worn out. But once more, I’m not complaining, criticizing, expressing dissatisfaction, finding fault, or bellyaching at all.

Sgt. John EppersonCamp Anaconda, Iraq

Priceless gift

I’m writing in response to the letter “Kids without parents” (Aug. 1). I’d like to send out a heartfelt thanks to the writer for voicing her support for single and dual military parents.

My husband and I are both deployed in Iraq. Leaving our two children was the hardest thing we’ve ever done. Our 7-year-old daughter understands that her daddy and mommy are defending the right of freedom. But our son was only 5 months old when we both deployed. There’s no way for a 5-month-old to understand. Our son turned 1 at the end of August. So we’ve already missed his first step, first teeth and first words. These are things we can never get back.

I want to let all soldiers know that although we miss our children greatly, we’ve given them a priceless gift. Other than giving them the gift of life, our time in Iraq has given them the gift of freedom. When I think about my kids growing up with the freedom to make any choice they can, my lonely days without them are well worth it.

Even though we’ve both volunteered to serve our country, I think there should be some type of regulation that prohibits both parents from being deployed at the same time. Our biggest concern is if something happens to both of us. What about our children? We did a lot of research to find such a regulation and failed. There are regulations about an only male son and sole child, but nothing about dual military or single parents.

No one wants to stay away for 365 days, but sometimes there’s a price to pay for freedom. For the Iraqis it’s a loss of life, but for Americans it’s far greater.

I’m proud to be an American. May God bless all the soldiers still here in Iraq and may he bless all those families who have lost loved ones.

Sgt. Teressa L. WhiteBalad, Iraq

Telephones

I’d like everyone to know about AT&T and the military. I’m currently assigned to the 253rd Transportation Company from Cape May, N.J., that’s serving in Iraq. While in Mosul I was able to use the telephones to call my family in the United States. Now AT&T has removed those phones and put in a new tent with phones. But these phones have connection fees. With a 100-minute phone card I’m only able to make a six-minute call. We don’t make a lot of money and shouldn’t have to worry about phone fees.

AT&T doesn’t help soldiers. Instead, it’s running a business as usual. Unfortunately, we don’t have a choice of which phone company we can use.

We’re doing an important job here by keeping our freedom and fighting for the greatest country in the world. But we don’t have good sources of communication when we want to call our loved ones.

Spc. Orlando MirandaIraq

Retention

I’d like to comment on the letter “One-year deployment too long” (Aug. 5). The writer had the courage to write what the majority of us are feeling here in Iraq. He is absolutely correct about retention. When my contract expires, I’m gone. I know I don’t plan to let the Army take another year of my life. Six months can be forgotten, but a year will never be forgiven.

I want the writer to know that he indeed feels the true pulse of the troops. I appreciate the fact that someone does. I can only hope that he’s not punished for telling it like it really is.

2nd Lt. Nicholas BradfordIraq

Listen to the soldiers

This is in reply to the letter “Quit sniveling” (Aug. 12). There’s only one point in the letter that’s justified: Noncommissioned officers should use the chain of command to report unit status and morale. At the same time, officers need to paint a true picture of their units’ status and morale to higher headquarters. The easy answer to superiors is that we’re motivated and prepared to go the distance and that everything is fine.

As for “the whole freedom-of-speech thing,” what is the writer really fighting for? The Constitution isn’t a “thing” to be taken lightly. It’s who we are and what we’re about. The very second we take it for granted and reduce its importance is when we stop being American soldiers and start being mercenaries.

The soldiers here in Iraq have every right to complain and should be allowed to do so, if for no other reason than to blow off steam. They’re being shot at and blown up, and some of them die every day. We’ve had our fill of battalion formations centered on a pair of boots, a rifle, identification tags and a helmet. If letters of complaint make soldiers feel better, then let them write. Write 10 of them. They should say their peace and say it proudly because it’s their right.

The enemy doesn’t need to sway public opinion to gain ammunition against us. It has all the real ammunition it needs. We who’ve been on the receiving end of that ammunition know this all too well.

As a combat veteran of two Gulf wars, my advice to NCOs is to listen to their soldiers, give them reassurance, strive to improve their living conditions, and always focus on getting them home alive and as soon as possible.

Staff Sgt. Robert S. WilkenAbu Ghraib, Iraq

September 4

Come clean on gas pricing

After reading the story “Fill’er up now to save some cash” (Aug. 29) about gas prices increasing about 10 cents per gallon, I must add my comments to this ridiculous situation.

In the letter “AAFES” (July 19), Maj. Gen. Kathryn G. Frost, the AAFES commander, said AAFES Europe consumers are getting a break on gas because we don’t have to pay around $4 a gallon like the local folks do. Well, considering the gas costs AAFES in the neighborhood of 30 cents a gallon, why should I feel lucky? I also don’t have to pay the 16 percent German sales tax if I have a VAT form, or Germany’s considerable income tax, or several other things that German citizens have to pay. On the other hand, I don’t get kindergeld for my child or enjoy the extensive medical benefits or social safety net that Germans do.

What the locals pay for gasoline is totally irrelevant to AAFES ripping off its gas customers. Why is what we pay for gas in Germany based on the average price of gas in the States? A pipeline breaks in Arizona and the lights go out in the Northeast in the United States, and we pay more for gas. And AAFES has the temerity to add on dispensing fees to the already inflated gas price, as though customers are not already being gouged enough.

Since Maj. Gen. Frost won’t explain the rationale behind AAFES’s outrageous gas pricing policy, I feel obligated to offer my own theory. I believe AAFES is an inefficient, costly retail operation that has to increase its prices to make up for its lack of ability to run a large retail operation.

Why does AAFES have a two-star commander? Do they teach retail management at the senior service schools? It’s obvious from the indifferent sales people, the poor selection and the not-very-low prices that AAFES is not a terribly well-run operation. Is there any reason other than job security and turf protection that the entire post exchange/base exchange system cannot be contracted out to Wal-Mart or Target or another giant retailer with real experience?

Readers should take a look at the AAFES Web site and view its annual report. For a company that does $7 billion in sales and yet doesn’t pay any taxes, has minimal shipping costs, pays no rent and doesn’t have many other expenses that a comparable civilian business does, the bottom line should be much larger.

It’s about time AAFES comes clean and explains the price of gas in Germany or prices it at a level more realistically related to what AAFES is paying for it.

Ed LadaHeidelberg, Germany

Homosexual unions

On July 31, Father Stefano Gorzegno, an Italian priest, became a national hero when he plunged into the Adriatic Sea to save seven children from drowning. He died afterward. Very little was mentioned in the secular press. There are thousands of pastors like Father Gorzegno.

Yet last year during the priestly child sex abuse scandals in Boston, headlines were splattered all over the world even though such horrible acts were committed by less than 2 percent of the Catholic clergy. The secular press also forgot that in 2000 (before the Boston crisis) there were 62,506 cases of child abuse in Massachusetts alone, and that the Catholic Church had nothing to do with 99 percent of child abuse reports during a 60-year period. This is according to the Massachusetts Department of Social Services.

In whatever religion, men and women who do good and uphold hard-won moral principles are often criticized and considered old-fashioned. Now we’re coming to a turning point in history, a time when traditional family values are being challenged by the so-called gay rights movement. How far is this movement going to go? Will it lead to the horror that child molestation in the future will not be a crime?

Gay activists have recently sought to have homosexual rights included in international human rights treaties and want the United Nations to provide equal benefits to same-sex couples. Canada has recently approved same-sex “marriages” followed by demands of child adoption by gay couples who want the same rights as married couples. In New York, plans have been made to have the first all-gay high school. More recently, an openly gay minister was chosen as bishop in the Episcopal Church.

To disagree with gay activists today is to be considered “homophobic” and discriminatory. The paradox is that certain gay rights advocates don’t want interference in their private lives. Yet they are interfering in the very moral and essential fiber of each nation, namely family life defined as mother, father and children as well as maternal and filial love.

I support President Bush 100 percent for his courageous stand in favor of traditional marriage. There are too many kids in the streets, on drugs or alcohol, due to divorce and rejection by parents.

America has been truly blessed. But we can lose these blessings if we adopt laws that are not only contrary to objective morality but also contrary to nature. Pope John Paul II and millions of Christians do not hate homosexuals. To hate one’s neighbor is a sin. But to legalize homosexual unions on par with heterosexual unions would destroy, as history has shown, the very fiber and moral cohesion of any given society.

Jean-Paul PoninskiChievres, Belgium

Getting gouged

I just heard on AFN and read in Stars and Stripes that blackouts on the East Coast in the United States and a ruptured pipeline in Arizona are going to cost AAFES gas customers another 10 cents a gallon for gas here in Germany. Why do we have to put up with AAFES gas price gouging policy? Did a pipeline rupture in Kaiserslautern? Did Berlin have a blackout? It’s ridiculous that we have to pay the average stateside price for gas.

I urge readers to make their dissatisfaction known to AAFES about this unfair practice. I guess since AAFES is our only option, we have to put up with its prices. But that still doesn’t make it right. Average stateside prices include federal, state and local taxes, so we’re getting gouged.

Master Sgt. Burl StubblefieldRamstein Air Base, Germany

DODDS helped Marine

I’d like to put a name to at least one of the Marines in the photo headlined “Possible gold mine?” (Aug. 8). The one in the right front is my son, Lance Cpl. Todd Kiessling.

There’s more to the story than just his name. Todd is an Army brat. He literally spent his entire life, less two years, in Germany and in the U.S. Army Europe communities of Baumholder, Pirmasens and Heidelberg. He also spent a year at the U.S. Embassy in Bonn. He is a product of Department of Defense Dependents Schools in those communities.

After his graduation from Heidelberg American High School in 2001, Todd attended the University of Maryland in Mannheim for one year before joining the Marines in July 2002. As Paul Harvey would say: “And now you know the rest of the story.”

My wife and I are rightfully proud of our son, his fellow Marines and all servicemembers. They’ve done a great job for our country.

I occasionally hear complaints about the DODDS school system, but it’s done a great job in helping us raise our son to become a fine young man and a great American. I thank DODDS and the fine teachers who influenced and helped Todd throughout the years as the great DODDS system embarks on another school year.

Helmut KiesslingHeidelberg, Germany

September 5

Freedom not free

I’m a Professional Filler System physician from William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, who is currently supporting the 4th Forward Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit, Iraq. At the battalion aid station I’m a general medical officer but occasionally do consultations in adult and child neurology.

I’m proud and honored to serve my family, unit and country here in Iraq or wherever the mission may take us. I miss my wife and children, but I know that our sacrifices now will hopefully ensure stability for a long time to come, ensuring their long-term safety and well-being. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Freedom is not free or guaranteed. We must do what is needed to preserve it.

Lt. Col. Roman Bilynsky, M.D.Tikrit, Iraq

Medical treatment

I’ve been in Iraq for four and a half months. I really don’t want anyone to think that this is a complaint letter. But why is it that when a soldier needs medical attention, the doctors don’t feel like being bothered so they tell them anything? If you have a rash or something has bitten you, their favorite two medicines are Benadryl and Motrin. Benadryl does not cure everything.

One Saturday morning three co-workers and I went to sick call. When we got there a colonel started yelling at us for being two minutes late. But they saw us anyway. We explained why we were late — because we stay out in the middle of nowhere at a pump station an hour and a half away from Tallil.

When my friend went in to see the doctor, her body was swollen from head to toe. The doctor told her it was “heat thermeya.” I’ve never heard of that. He also told a male that the lump on his head was his skull.

So we went to the Air Force hospital with one of my noncommissioned officers for dental. I asked a master sergeant if he’d ever heard of “heat thermeya.” He started laughing. Then he checked out my friend and drew some blood. Now she’s on her way to Germany.

I’d rather a doctor tell me he can’t find the problem than lie to me. This isn’t meant for all doctors, because there are some good ones out there. I don’t have a medical degree, but I do have common sense.

Spc. Archie QuadedraIraq

Be part of solution

I’m a noncommissioned officer serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I’m writing in regard to the large number of letters written by soldiers and leaders bashing their chains of command. I’m appalled that most of them are junior and senior NCOs. In almost every issue of Stripes I read there are soldiers complaining about how their chains of command aren’t taking care of them.

Why haven’t these soldiers taken these problems up with their chains of command instead of publicly airing their dirty laundry? Since when has it become acceptable to show disrespect for chains of command in this manner? What’s the difference between posting complaints in a letter for large numbers of soldiers to read or complaining in front of soldiers about one’s chain of command?

The chains of command are doing their jobs by supporting their leadership, and as leaders it’s our job to support them. We leaders know that if we have problems, we can exercise our right to use our chains of command and, in doing so, present solutions to problems.

We should become part of the solution, not the problem. We all took an oath and live by a creed. I think some of our leaders need to go back and reread them again. They should read them as many times as it takes until they sink in. They should make a choice to be true professionals or step down and let others who are ready step up and take charge. We should always remember that we’re professionals, noncommissioned officers, and leaders.

Staff Sgt. Michael HunterIraq

Put in effort

This is in response to the letter “Promotion system” (Aug. 27). I wish I could cover all the writer’s concerns. The promotion system is under review and will be for years to come. The recently completed Army Training and Leader Development Panel Phase II (noncommissioned officers study) cited the Select, Train, Promote system as one of the improvements that the Army needs to focus on.

I believe that with the sacking of the Skill Qualifications Test and Self Development Test, the playing field for soldier promotions was moved far in the direction of soldiers who don’t deploy. As the writer said, these soldiers have more time for necessary schooling to get promoted. Deployed soldiers are heavily penalized because they don’t have the necessary schooling. Or more correctly, they don’t have the points that those schools provide to compete on an open playing level with soldiers with either no or limited deployment experience.

In the end, the writer’s career is in his own hands. Has the writer completed an Army/American Council on Education Registry Transcript System transcript? This could go a long way in his getting additional college education points. For instance, Maryland University requires only 10 hours of courses before it accepts a transcript. This could be accomplished with three courses or five to 10 weekend seminars. It also offers video courses. They can be taken in the field. I’ve spent long hours in the field in Germany sitting in front of a video course getting those points.

The writer also said he’s had to get correspondence courses extended. In the first Gulf War, I completed more than 90 hours of courses as an infantryman. Never did I lose sight of my goal. I was having 18- to 24-hour workdays at times. I spent downtime working those correspondence books.

I’ve been where the writer is. I was disgruntled, frustrated and seething with anger. A fine, professional NCO took me by the shoulder and gave me some of the same advice I just gave the writer.

I was just selected for sergeant first class. The writer should grab the bull by the horns and ride it to success. It’s by no means an easy task. But what worthwhile thing in life is easy?

Staff Sgt. Stacy SpearCamp Doha, Kuwait

We're prisoners

I’ve been in the National Guard since 1977. This is my first deployment. I always thought that when we were activated we became regular Army — an “Army of one.” I received mobilization orders on Feb. 10. These are the only orders I’ve been allowed to see. I know we have orders to be in country because one of my soldiers had to get medical help back at Camp Arifjan and he was given a copy of his orders. I’ve asked my commander and first sergeant about these orders and have been denied. I’ve had several other problems with them and have been denied to see my command sergeant major and inspector general.

My men ask me for guidance and I’m limited because my senior leadership has failed me and my men. Here at Tallil Air Base in Iraq, the National Guard units are run by politics, just like back home. The Army has rules to keep politics out. But the Army of one doesn’t apply to the National Guard.

I want to go home. My wife sent a letter to our governor back home, and I have a letter in response. The response says that there’s no stop loss. Yet when my men’s expiration, term of service is up, they’re not allowed to leave.

We’re prisoners here. I haven’t been allowed even one day off since I’ve been deployed. All we want is a date — something to look forward to. My wife also wrote to senators and even to President Bush. None of these people seem to care about our fate.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael CranfillTallil Air Base, Iraq

September 6

Not always part-time

This is in response to the many letters from guardsmen, reservists and some active duty soldiers. Although I’ve read several positive letters, the trend seems to be growing more negative. The letters are often from guardsmen and reservists. I’m a guardsman.

The guardsman who wrote the letter “Active duty should take over” (Aug. 24) said he’d planned on helping out with floods, storms and riots. He took an oath to defend his country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. He said he didn’t volunteer for this. Does he think he was drafted? We guardsmen and reservists make up more than half of the total force. He should do the math and understand that the Army team is dependent upon us to go to, fight, win and return from any major conflict. As a guardsman, the writer will also probably respond to natural disasters and domestic uprisings and provide the majority of our homeland security. The writer should look above his left breast pocket. It says “U.S. Army.”

As for those who continue to think that guardsmen and reservists are any less than the rest, maybe they should tell that to my young specialist, who hit a land mine on Aug. 7 and lost his feet. Or maybe they have the nerve to tell his wife and children that his sacrifice was less because he is only in the National Guard.

My plea is to the minority of those who write about petty complaints. They should focus on what they have and less on what they don’t have. Regardless of what they “hoped” they’d be doing, the part-time force is not always part time.

I hope soldiers who write future letters realize that the forum is an opportunity to be either constructive or embarrass us. The Reserve components are not a party, nor are they a class that people can just drop once they decide they don’t like everything about it.

I doubt that many, if any, soldiers love being in Iraq. But let’s get the job done and get the team home together.

1st Sgt. Chris FoxBaghdad, Iraq

Alcohol in Iraq

This is in regard to the story “Airmen’s freedoms include alcohol” (July 25). I want to set the record straight that the sale of alcoholic beverages stopped here at Freedom Air Base, Iraq, on Aug. 13 at 1 p.m. due to the enforcement of General Order No. 1. This regulation is an outdated joke and an insult to all the hard-working, dedicated airmen who are making Operation Iraq Freedom happen. Are today’s servicemembers asking too much to be allowed a daily three-beer ration? Are we now to consider beer a “weapon of mass consumption,” a poison that undermines the abilities of our troops?

The sale of beer at the base club is plain and simple: big business. Accrued funds are used to buy furniture, televisions, stereos, games and countless other wonderful items. After working 12-hour shifts on the flight line seven days a week in the heat of an Iraqi summer, airmen should be able to unwind with a daily three-beer ration card. But now Air Force personnel will have no choice but to risk violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice by purchasing alcoholic drinks from illegal sources such as the mail service, home brew kits and Army buddies.

While Air Force personnel are restricted to base, Army troops regularly travel downtown to Kirkuk, orders or not. Soldiers can purchase all types of alcoholic beverages sold by beggar kids on street corners.

In Iraq people want their three-beer limit to socialize, wash the dust from their throats and unwind from their stressful, hazardous duty assignments. It would also help fight boredom. To restrict the sale of beer to troops in Iraq is detrimental to the morale and well-being of all airmen, especially since Army members can buy all they want. Soldiers will be soldiers.

Tech. Sgt. Guy A. SpauldingFreedom Air Base, Iraq

Sad end to tour

A friend was being packed out about a week ago at the end of a three-year tour here in Naples, Italy. Local national men from a company picked by personal property at the Navy support site arrived in the morning and began working. They appeared very competent.

Our friend had placed her suitcases and important papers in her car in the carport across from the house first thing in the morning to avoid having something get packed inadvertently that she’d need later. Her purse, with car keys and wallet inside, also went onto the car’s front floorboards.

After a very full day of work, the packers left and our friend intended to head to the base to pick up water and snacks for the next day’s efforts. That’s when she discovered that everything in her car was exactly as she’d placed it that morning — except that her wallet was gone from her purse.

My friend called me from a neighbor’s to ask what to do. I suggested she come to my place and use our call back number to notify VISA right away. (My friend’s phone had been disconnected the same day.) We called the Personal Property Office and got three of the movers to come back. They went through the car at least four times and unpacked several boxes that were full of stuff from a part of the house where the wallet could have been. No luck.

That’s when my friend finally came to my place and we called VISA’s Worldwide Service Center. We learned that eight attempts had been made to withdraw money from her government VISA card. There were no attempts on her credit union card — yet. Now we knew she wasn’t about to “find” the wallet in her car or house.

The next day only three of the packers returned. They wouldn’t look my friend in the eye or talk to her except when it was absolutely necessary. The packing and load out was finished in record time.

My friend was advised by the Carabineri that if she accused the individual she suspected by name, he could sue her if by chance he couldn’t be convicted. So my friend just listed the company in her report. What a sad end to what should have been a great experience.

After having our car radios stolen in December, and then one of our cars in January, and then my wallet in Poland and a suitcase in Milan on an Alitalia flight, I’m getting quite paranoid. My wife and I are feeling less like a presence for peace here and more like the lobster plate on a smorgasbord for the local crime cartel.

Dennis E. O’NeillNaples, Italy

In defense of bottled water

The writer of the letter “Water solution” (Aug. 23) compared “Joes” to his 2-year-old son. Lower-enlisted soldiers should never be compared to anything of the sort. “Joes” are the true backbone of the Army, and noncommissioned officers are our leaders. If anyone should be compared to a baby it’s officers, with the exception of warrant officers.

It’s hot in Iraq, so if soldiers want bottled water they should get it. After all, we do 90 percent of the Army’s work. So when the letter writer finds a way to keep the water in the water buffalos cold in Iraq’s 130-degree temperatures, then he can ask soldiers to let go of their water bottles and go back to trusty canteens. I promise that when he takes care of the “Joes,” we’ll take care of him.

Spc. Michael K. McKinneyCamp Dogwood, Iraq


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