September 21

Other factors

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

September 21 Other factors Reservists needed Double standard Deployment threatens Reserve U.S. vs. AAFES gas prices Angry about Lynch Too much attentionSeptember 22 Esprit de corps Reservists different ‘International guard’ Thanks for support Getting outSeptember 23 Many thanks Drinking in combat zone Bush misleading Americans Only battles are different Child porn not victimlessSeptember 24 Lower enlisted soldiers Leadership Discrepancies All took oathSeptember 25 Not frantic Alcohol not an option Migraine medicine needed Government’s pawnsSeptember 26 Short end of stick Stolen mail Keep the faith All signed up for this Treat reservists equallySeptember 27 Can’t get property back Anti-alcohol order Cardboard coins Can’t fly flag Courage and power Unions and deployments

This is in response to the recent announcement that Reserve and National Guard soldiers in Iraq will serve one-year tours. I’m a member of the Army National Guard who is affected by this order. I always hear people say, “Well, this is what you signed up for,” when our guardsmen voice their discontent with this order. But there are other factors that readers should consider.

When a National Guard unit mobilizes to deploy, we don’t go straight to the Middle East. We first go through mobilizations at stateside bases that are always far away from our home states. In our case, we spent almost three months getting ready for deployment before we even got to Iraq. Then once our one-year tour is up, we have to redeploy to the stateside base and go through demobilization procedures. We also have to use up any leave we accumulated in the 15- or 16-month period before we head back to our civilian jobs. This can mean that some of us will be gone from our jobs for almost a year and a half.

Putting our employers through such a length of time without us could seriously jeopardize the chances of other reservists and guardsmen to find work. It’s unlawful to discriminate against someone who’s in the Reserve or Guard. But how does a person know that the reason he was never called for an interview was because he wrote on his resume that he’s a guardsman or reservist?

With such a large call up for such lengthy periods of time away from work, I’m willing to bet that employers will think twice about hiring citizen soldiers in the future to avoid losing key personnel.

Reservists and guardsmen should be used to augment our active duty soldiers, not to cover up serious shortcomings in the number of active duty personnel.

Spc. Carl JacksonBaghdad, Iraq

Reservists needed

I recently read the letter “No morale left” (Sept. 11). It was written by a reservist. To my understanding, an employer can’t fire a worker if the worker is a reservist deployed overseas or in combat.

I’m not complaining, but if President Bush orders us into combat, then what choice is there? None. It goes back to the day everyone in the armed forces raised their right hands and were sworn into this way of life. I feel like it’s a battle between the Army, Army Reserve and National Guard. But the real battle is on the streets of Iraq.

I’m a signaler, so I can’t say much about the combat part. But I know that if I have to squeeze the trigger, then so be it. It’s either be shot at or shoot at someone. Which one do readers prefer?

There are times that my morale has gone down, but there’s not much I can do about it but suck it up. My daughter was born three months after I got to Iraq. I couldn’t go home to be with my wife and newborn.

This might sound bad, but we should enjoy the pay. That’s about the only good thing that can be said about being here besides helping Iraq rebuild.

Reservists are really needed, and their help is greatly appreciated. Indeed, this is an “Army of One,” one Army fighting our nation’s war.

Sgt. Mahoma TelloBaghdad, Iraq

Double standard

I’m a National Guard soldier serving in Kosovo. I just read the letter “Where’s Army values?” (Sept. 12). National Guard soldiers have the same Army values that most of our Army counterparts have. We not only serve our country when needed, but we serve our states as well. If our states have floods or blackouts, who is called? Not the Army.

The Army has set its values for us to follow, and we follow them. But let me tell readers how the Army values National Guard members. It mobilizes us for one year with an option for a second year. It sends us to Ft. Stewart, Ga., for some training that was scheduled to be completed within a month. But the Army makes us sit there for more than three months to support Ft. Stewart’s economy. The extra three months at Ft. Stewart were a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Those who retire from the Army after 20 years of service receive a retirement check the following month along with all the other benefits. When we retire after 20 years of service with the National Guard, we’re required to wait until we’re 60 years old before we see our first retirement check. This is a double standard.

We can go to war with the regular Army and serve peacekeeping missions with the regular Army, but we don’t receive the same benefits as the regular Army. So until the letter writer walks in our shoes, I think he should keep his opinions about the National Guard to himself.

Staff Sgt. Kevin DreibelbisCamp Monteith, Kosovo

Deployment threatens Reserve

The idea behind Reserve components is to help in emergencies. They are to be a ready militia during a time of war or when great need arises. They’re then to return to their homes, their jobs, and their families. This is a part-time role, not an active-duty tour. Yet the active-duty professionals continue to insist that the Iraq deployment will not overwhelmingly affect recruiting and retention. They insist that all of the Reserve component forces will come around and realize, in looking back, that the deployment really wasn’t that bad.

Tell that to the college students who will be two years behind their classmates and peers. Tell that to the proprietors who no longer have businesses. Tell that to the working professionals who just missed the biggest promotions of their careers. Tell that to the soldiers whose families won’t be there to welcome them home.

The Reserve component program will be severely crippled in six years, if not totally dead. America was founded to provide the freedom of voice and with the integrity to speak our differences.

Sgt. John A. KrumKuwait

U.S. vs. AAFES gas prices

I noticed the letter “Cycle of justifications” (Sept. 13) about gas prices. I returned from three weeks of leave on Sept. 11. I rented a vehicle at the Nashville, Tenn., airport during my leave and covered more than 2,500 miles in Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. I purchased gas in numerous places. I paid anywhere from $1.52 9/10s to $1.62 9/10s per gallon for regular.

Upon returning to the Nashville airport, I fueled up the vehicle. The cost of regular fuel was $1.59 9/10s per gallon. But on the pump was a sticker that said, “Includes .21 4/10s cents for Federal tax, and .18 4/10s cents TN state tax” per gallon. Minus the taxes, the fuel cost was $1.20 1/10s per gallon. I assume the vender was making some profit on the gas sales, but I don’t know that figure.

I haven’t bought any gas from AAFES since my return because I left my vehicle with a full tank. But unless the price has dropped, I think I paid in the neighborhood of $1.80 per gallon in August. So I have to agree with other readers about the “mystery” of AAFES gas pricing. My figures are in black and white.

Edward J. ResslerWiesbaden, Germany

Angry about Lynch

I’m writing about the upcoming book, “I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story.” This story and the whole deal with Lynch makes me a little angry.

Yes, she went to war and fought for her county. But what about Shoshawna Johnson or Pfc. Lori Piestewa, the Native American female who gave her life and left behind her children and family? What did the Army or anybody give that soldier? I sure don’t see publishers beating down her family's door to publish her story and keep her memory alive for her precious children.

I’d also like to express my opinion about Lynch’s $1 million book deal. What did Lynch do that thousands of other soldiers don’t do every day? To me, this is my job. I signed a contract, and nowhere does it say that if I become a prisoner of war, I’ll walk away with a book deal, a new car, and an addition built onto my house.

Nothing makes me happier than serving my country and ensuring that my son is safe in this crazy world.

Lynch should consider herself a lucky soldier and not forget where she came from. She should remember the soldiers who paved the way and gave their lives for our country. Lynch should also remember the Native American woman who gave her life for our country and left behind her precious children.

Since Lynch thinks America deserves to hear her story, has she considered that we should hear it for free?

Sgt. Joy M. DutyKitzingen, Germany

Too much attention

I feel that the media attention Jessica Lynch is getting is a bunch of junk. Where are the others who were lost, killed and taken as prisoners of war? Lynch doesn’t remember what happened, so how is she going to make a movie or do a book? The only reason Lynch has been made a so-called hero is because she’s a woman.

What happened with the other POWs? Why aren’t they receiving any media attention? Why didn’t they get honorably discharged and receive $1 million? Why didn’t they get new cars or their homes refurbished?

I don’t understand what our society is thinking. The only thing Lynch should be honored for is staying alive. Her unit reportedly crashed and Lynch was injured. She wasn’t shot. What makes that so special?

As the wife of a deployed soldier, I feel that Lynch should not have received so much attention.

Corrine LighthizerMannheim, Germany

September 22

Esprit de corps

What’s happened to esprit de corps? I write because of a situation I’ve witnessed between our services here in Kaiserslautern, Germany. I’m greatly saddened by its existence. The thought that this could happen in these progressive times is breathtaking. I know there are differences between the Army and Air Force, but not so great that people can’t coexist.

We’re in a circumstance that no one has created directly, yet we’re drawn together to accomplish a mission. The mission makes it necessary to put aside our differences as competitive services and serve our country. I really believed that there were no differences in the services. We wear the uniform of the U.S. military, period.

What is esprit de corps? Communication is vital in times of need. Yet we can’t hold things together to support our servicemembers who put their lives on the line. How in the world can we fight together when we can’t live together?

Leadership responsibility is clear, as well as subordinate responsibility. Air Force or Army, we are all one. They are both representative of the best, and if the best can’t get along, what do we have left? Servicemembers may not have volunteered to be here at this place and time, but they did volunteer. We need to do the right thing and get along.

Esprit de corps is a concept based on years of trials, fears, tears and sweat. It really comes alive when we make it a reality. Let’s all come together and realize that we’re all in the U.S. military to serve our country. We should make every effort to make an uncomfortable situation work for the good of all of us. Who will be the first to step up and say, “We are comrades in arms”?

Leroy TaylorRamstein Air Base, Germany

Reservists different

Many people say that reservists and guardsmen need to stop bickering and suck it up. I’m a reservist, and I won’t stop bickering until the day I’m home with my 3-year-old son.

Active-duty members keep reminding us that we volunteered and we’re soldiers. That’s true. But I only volunteered to do this part time, and it makes my blood boil to know that active-duty soldiers who put on this uniform every day seem to have shorter tours. I didn’t mind doing a six- to nine-month rotation. But why should we have to stay longer when there are soldiers who signed up full time?

We have reservists who are losing jobs, houses and even families. Reservists are different. This is not an “Army of One.” Unlike active-duty soldiers, we can’t ETS or PCS from here. A Washington Post story said that there’s not a retention problem in the Reserve or Guard. Of course there isn’t. We can’t leave! Reservists and guardsmen still in the states will of course sign back up because they’re still going to school, to their real jobs and home to their families.

Many single parents are being neglected. Hence, their children suffer. Many of us are losing money. The government talks about how morale is high. Where is it looking? Kuwait? Of course morale is high in Kuwait. Living conditions are better and there’s more recreation for soldiers.

People say this is a war. I understand that. In the combat phase of the war, everyone had a big part and it was an “Army of One.” When it becomes one again, I’ll quit bickering and tell the rest of my fellow reservists and guardsmen to do the same.

Shantaya HainesIraq

'International guard'

This is to all those Army active-duty people who tell us reserves and guardsmen to suck it up and drive on. I am a prior service Marine and did four years active duty, so I know what active-duty is like. That’s why I’m a guardsman and not an international guardsman.

I’ve been here since May 1, and I’ve seen a lot of things since the war was officially announced as over. One of my friends was shot in the stomach five feet away from me. That’s right — an international guardsman. So don’t think we are out here just twiddling our thumbs.

I’m with a transportation unit that outperforms any of our so-called active duty transportation units in our battalion. So to avoid any more embarrassment to the active duty, just send the international guardsmen home! This is going to do nothing to help the recruiting of new soldiers. So the active Army guys better re-enlist for the next stay in the world’s largest ashtray. And those guys can suck it up and drive on.

Did I mention that our unit has 20 soldiers who have ETS dates and can’t go home because they are international guardsmen? And we don’t get to go back home to attend any kind of military schools because — you guessed it — we’re international guardsmen, trying to suck it up and drive on.

Spc. Ron HuffmanIraq

Thanks for support

I’m with the 64th Military Police Company, 720th Military Police Battalion. I’m writing because the Wal-Mart distribution center in Sharon Spring, N.Y., is supporting our company’s morale here in Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Mrs. Valarie Ruff, operations manager, has sent us DVDs, a basketball, a volleyball/badminton set and an assortment of board games, including Yahtzee and Scrabble.

Mrs. Ruff found out about me because my father, Lawrence Molinaro, and his girlfriend, Diane Hayes, work at the distribution center.

The 64th Military Police Company soldiers and I would like to send our thanks and appreciation to Mrs. Ruff and all the workers who helped support us out here. God bless them.

Pfc. Michael MolinaroIraq

Getting out

My Army Reserve unit was called up in February. We’re in the 244th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy) out of Fort Carson, Colo. A majority of us got transferred out of the 88th Regional Support Command. We arrived at Fort Carson in March for in-processing and didn’t get to Kuwait for about four and a half weeks. We finally got to Iraq at the end of June.

For the first month all we did was sit around and pull guard duty. I remind readers that we’re engineers. The pace has picked up, and now we’re building fighting positions and putting up forward operating bases all over Iraq. It’s now September, and we were recently told that our orders are getting extended until May 19, one full year in theater. One could go active Army and be done sooner.

We’re a Reserve unit that will have been active for 18 months by the time we actually return home. As a result, many of my fellow troops are getting out and not re-enlisting. Many have full-time jobs and careers back home with bills that we can’t afford to pay off with our new reductions in salary. We don’t agree with the decisions of Congress. This has affected soldiers’ families, lives, financial situations and especially their morale. We realize that many are in the same exact situation. But we’re just asking everyone to join us in prayer for a quick and safe return home.

Spc. Timothy GarfatIraq

September 23

Many thanks

I’d like to thank all the members of the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor for their support in crossing the berm into Iraq and taking Nasiriyah. That marked the beginning of a lot of historical firsts for the soldiers of Company B and 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor.

A special thanks also to Gen. David H. Petraeus of the 101st Airborne Division, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment Widow Makers, and Company C, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry (1st Armored Division) for the opportunity to learn firsthand how to fight side by side with the infantry in urban environments. My platoon and I learned more from the experiences in Najaf, Hillah and Karbala than any manual or controlled training event ever could have taught us. It was an honor fighting with them all. We hope they learned as much from us as we learned from them. We will never forget our brothers in arms who fell during the heavy fighting.

I also thank our families and friends back home for their support. We look forward to properly thanking them once we return home. Thanks also to Company A, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry (Team Amoeba). Our home away from home wouldn’t be complete without them. They brought us in as a part of their team and family, and it’s been a pleasure working with them.

Finally, I want to thank the members of my platoon. I was unable to properly say farewell due to a rapid and unexpected career progression. It was an honor and a pleasure serving as platoon leader at Fort Riley, Kan., and ultimately leading them all into combat in Iraq. There were tough times when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, but did. But instead of giving up, they all sucked it up and drove on. When I was reaching the end of my rope, all it took to set me right was a brief conversation with them and I was good to go. I’ll never forget the times we shared and everything they taught me. They all made being a platoon leader easy and possibly the best and most rewarding job I’ll ever have in the Army.

1st Lt. Matthew C. WilliamsBaghdad, Iraq

Drinking in combat zone

This is in regard to the letter “Alcohol in Iraq” (Sept. 6). I truly regret not being in the Air Force so I can drink in a combat zone. It really pains me to have to obey my leaders even though I swore an oath to do so. Is it not asking too much to have our three-beer limit? Is it also not too much to ask for a weekly visit with my wife, a post exchange, free Internet service, free phone service, adequate housing arrangements, free cigarettes and hot and cold running water?

I’m sorry. I lost my map, but I think I’m still in Iraq. Judging by the shooting, the improvised explosive devices and the car bombs, I’d even venture to say that we’re still at war. But it’s really hard to see through my beer goggles, being in the Army and able to purchase all that I can.

If the letter writer is so jealous of Army members and our drinking habits, why doesn’t he join us? Our new slogan can be, “Drink all that you can drink.”

If the writer wants something to whine about, he should whine about not having discipline among his unit, starting with himself and his noncommissioned officers. The soldiers who I work with have discipline and obey orders, including the outdated joke the writer referred to as General Order No. 1.

Staff Sgt. Henry D. WatfordBaghdad, Iraq

Bush misleading Americans

President Bush is misleading Americans about the reasons for invading Iraq. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers are dead and many more wounded. Our soldiers are fighting to defend each other, but not truly fighting to defend America, and America is what they signed up to defend. Why then are our soldiers dying, if not to protect America?

On Sept. 15, 2001, our president met with his cabinet at Camp David. Neoconservatives led by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and Vice President Dick Cheney lobbied for their special interest groups instead of the American people. They told the president that now was the time to go after Saddam Hussein. They said that American forces may get bogged down in Afghanistan just as the British and Soviets had, and America needed early successes to maintain domestic support. Iraq, they claimed, would be easy pickings. This had nothing to do with Sept. 11, 2001, weapons of mass destruction or threats to America. Bush decided that Afghanistan would be first. But Iraq would be next. Who on Sept. 15, 2001, was thinking about liberating Iraq? I think most Americans wanted to get Osama bin Laden. If that’s true, then Bush and Rumsfeld have failed us.

In the first Gulf War, Iraq had the fourth-largest army in the world. It was backed by WMDs and a strong air force. In the years since, every U.S. weapons system has been improved tenfold. Meanwhile, Iraqi’s forces had been degraded by more than 80 percent. Yet we’ve lost more soldiers in the latest Gulf War then we did in the first. Why? Leadership. Not Gen. Tommy Franks. He did his job. It’s Rumsfeld and his boss who refused to listen to the generals about the number of troops needed after taking Baghdad. Do we really want Rumsfeld transforming the Army?

Saddam and bin Laden hated each other. Saddam kept al-Qaida out of Iraq and kept the Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq under control. But Bush removed Saddam from Iraq, and now al-Qaida and other terrorists are pouring into Iraq to kill Americans. The Islamic fundamentalists are also rising up and talking about kicking the Americans out and taking over the country. All Bush could do was say, “Bring it on.” Yet he chose to fly over Baghdad in the safety of Air Force One.

Bush insulted the United Nations, and now he’s begging it to help clean up his mess. Do we really want to give these guys a second term?

James CarrethersHeidelberg, Germany

Only battles are different

I’ve been in Vietnam. Now I’m ending my career in Kosovo. What men go through in war is nothing new. Only the battles are different. Only time can heal. They remember what peace tastes like. They should just remember that someone else has had it tougher, and that there is always someone suffering worse than them. War is hell. Returning home is a piece of heaven.

Sgt. Thomas MashCamp Bondsteel, Kosovo

Child porn not victimless

This is in regard to the story “ ‘Outstanding’ officer punished, fined for child porn, allowed to stay in Army” (Aug. 1). It’s an outrage that 1st Lt. Andrew Rutan is still an officer and still in the Army. Child pornography is not a victimless crime. People who possess and receive child pornography are promoting the abuse and exploitation of children. It doesn’t matter if it’s one picture or a thousand. A person who looks at child pornography is no better than the people who create it or abuse children.

As an enlisted soldier, I’m required by hundreds of years of Army tradition to salute Rutan, even though he’s a disgrace to our country, the Army, his family and himself.

Spc. Zachary CollinTikrit, Iraq

September 24

Lower enlisted soldiers

This is in response to the letter “Make best of deployment” (Sept. 17). The writer is shallow and narrow minded. For him to say, “I understand that’s what lower enlisted do” regarding complaints in Stars and Stripes was stereotyping and generalizing. My husband is a lower-enlisted soldier who’s deployed to Iraq, and he’s a lot more mature, responsible and level headed than most noncommissioned officers I’ve seen. Maturity and responsibility do not fall under any rank or age structure. It’s solely an individual thing.

I’m so tired of lower enlisted members being discredited because of their rank. Just because some wear E-6 or above doesn’t always make them credible people. I’ve witnessed enough leaders who are not worthy of the rank they wear. For a lot of them it’s just a bigger paycheck, better retirement, power, and control. Any soldiers can read the creed, remember the creed and live by the creed, but if they don’t believe in the creed, that’s the problem. It’s something one feels. The leaders who are worthy of the rank they wear know what the creed feels like.

Lower enlisted soldiers don’t complain because they see sergeants complain. They complain because they’re human. Everyone complains about something at one point or another. Could it be because they’re Americans, and most Americans are known to be spoiled, selfish, greedy and ungrateful? Most of the soldiers down there don’t know how to live without television. We take things for granted. Everyone is guilty to some extent.

The way the writer, an NCO, generalized about lower enlisted soldiers sounded as though he has no trust, faith or respect for his subordinates. A good NCO will listen instead of ridiculing and degrading his soldiers. He won’t tell them to shut up.

Mary SuthannWiesbaden, Germany


Yes, guardsmen and Army reservists are getting the short end of the stick. (I’m active duty.) Yes, soldiers are whining and complaining. (I’m an American, too.) Yes, it stinks major moose antlers to be stuck in Iraq for a year. (I’m married. For now. My wife’s probably thinking annulment.) Yes, whomever’s in charge of logistics should be fired. (I’m mechanized smoke. What am I doing instructing transportation and infantry units on how to do military police work?) Yes, we’re burning out on the war on terrorism. (I’m burnt out just reading about it, let alone fighting it.) Yes, morale is dropping straight to hell. (I’m doing something about it.)

We leaders are failing in our jobs. One of the Army tenants of leadership is to provide well-motivated guidance. But instead of motivating and encouraging our soldiers, we seem to be adding to the emotional bedlam. Morale is something every leader can do something about, from the lowest corporal to the generals on high. We leaders must break it to our troops honestly and with compassion, and lead by example. For every fault we find with higher-ups, we must ensure that those faults are not representations of us. There are some things we leaders cannot change, but it’s important to our soldiers that they know what’s unchangeable and what’s being done to change things for the better.

So the logistics stink. So year-plus deployments stink. So the situation is nasty and too many soldiers are getting chest wounds from improvised explosive devices and worse.

All too often, my father said, “If it’s broke, then fix it — or quit whining about it.” I’ve been sitting on my duff for far too long. My soldiers need me. Leadership starts here.

Maybe it’s time a lot of us leaders started following the basic tenants of our faith, our training, and our responsibilities. Complaining is an American-given right. But doing something about it is where some of my fellow leaders have been slacking. Let’s get our servicemembers home in one piece, and while we’re at it maybe see what we can do to take the sting out of war.

If morale stinks, then it’s our fault. But we leaders are learning. We see some mighty big problems, but we’ve got a mighty big wrench.

Sgt. Joe ParishCamp Patriot, Kuwait


Why is it that active duty personnel deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom who have already ETS’d were allowed to return home after stop loss was lifted while National Guard and Reserve component soldiers who have ETS’d must remain indefinitely?

I joined the National Guard with no intention of making it a career move. I wished to serve my country, uphold family tradition, and learn new skills. I’ve served for seven months in Operation Iraqi Freedom, five months beyond my ETS date. I’ve served my time, as have others who have ETS’d. When will we be allowed to go home?

Now we’ve been informed that we will likely be extended for another six months in country. Such an extension would prevent me from ETSing for more than a year after my original commitment is completed. I feel like I’m being held prisoner.

Particularly disheartening is that my unit, the Army’s first tri-component military unit composed of a National Guard company, a Reserve company, and two active-duty companies, has already sent home its ETS’d active-duty soldiers. Our leadership talks about us all going home together, yet it doesn’t hold true when it comes to soldiers who’ve completed their military commitments. If the goal is component integration and to form a stronger, more efficient, and more flexible military organization, then all the components must share the same expectations, restrictions, and guidelines.

When I’ve questioned my leadership about this discrepancy I’ve received only vague nonanswers and I don’t knows. Someone told me it’s because the active-duty component has replacements for their soldiers while we don’t. That doesn’t make any sense. I know recruiting efforts have continued while we’ve been away and that our company had five or six new recruits heading off to basic training as we were being deployed. They should have completed their training by now. Why can’t they fill in for those of us who have ETS’d?

Of all the discrepancies in treatment between the Reserve components and active-duty soldiers, this certainly must be the most demeaning and demoralizing. Are we being told that our time and service to our country is worth less and therefore we should have to serve longer? I choose to believe that perhaps the problem is just being overlooked in the bureaucratic system of near-chaos that seems to reign supreme when it comes to paperwork, pay issues, and other similar administrative difficulties. Perhaps I’m an optimist. Perhaps someone can clear this up for me.

Spc. Amy LynnMosul, Iraq

All took oath

I’m writing in regard to the letter “Active duty should take over” (Aug. 24). I agree that active-duty personnel signed up to do this very duty while guardsmen did not. But there’s a bigger point to be made, which is that we all took an oath, be they guardsmen, reservists, or active duty, to protect America against all enemies foreign and domestic.

I see a very serious problem. It’s almost becoming typical for many Americans to take their freedom for granted. What the writer needs to do is stop thinking about himself and start thinking about his family and all those who he’s helping right now.

Spc. Donald BunnIraq

September 25

Not frantic

I’m writing in regard to the letter “Becoming frantic” (Sept. 17). I, too, am assigned to the 105th Personnel Service Detachment, and I disagree with almost everything the writer said. I haven’t heard people threatening to hurt themselves. Granted, I don’t spend as much time with other members of my unit as I could. But I feel there are better avenues than the press to deal with this.

As a noncommissioned officer, the writer should be a leader we should have faith in. She should try to help soldiers who are feeling down, either through the chain of command, the chaplains or the mental health care professionals stationed here at Camp Wolf, Kuwait.

I agree that my unit works hard and does its job well. But the job is not that hard. The worst part for me is boredom during our 12-hour shifts. We must not be too bogged down since we’re being allowed to take rest and recuperation leave between now and when we go home for good. Almost all of us will be allowed to go home if we choose for up to 15 days. I’m very thankful that I can be home to see my son born at the end of October. If this extension means that I’ll miss the first few months of his life, I knew that was part of the job coming in. If the writer has a problem with our government leaders, then she should vote for who she thinks will do a better job. That’s one right we don’t give up when we take the oath.

The writer’s complaint about a student missing another semester of school baffles me. Is our generation so self-absorbed that it thinks missing one semester of college is the worst thing that’s happening right now? The families of the men and women who are never coming home wouldn’t think it’s that important. Besides, nothing in life is free, and this is payment for all the free schooling, enlistment bonuses and even full-time jobs that people enjoy in the National Guard. I’d love to have an exact date for when I can go home. But that’s not always how it works.

I want everyone to know that not everyone in the 105th is “frantic.” We all want to go home, but some of us are willing to tough it out. Readers shouldn’t judge the entire unit by the ranting of one NCO.

Pfc. Anthony J. SchumanCamp Wolf, Kuwait

Alcohol not an option

The writer of the letter “Alcohol in Iraq” (Sept. 6) is most likely one of many who become crybabies when they can’t have something. The writer is very delusional if he thinks alcohol is allowed in hostile areas. He probably just arrived in country after the Army and Marines fought the enemy and then secured the area so those in the Air Force can sleep at night.

The military provides us with water, food, medical care and combat equipment. Who gave the writer the right to complain or ask what he should get? The writer also cried about 12-hour work shifts. The real men of honor worked three to five days straight during the war. After the war we continued to work 16-hour shifts, some less.

In both Iraq and Kuwait, alcohol is not an option. In fact, the Persian Gulf is a no-alcohol area. The writer thinks the armed forces are like a Burger King — have it your way. I guess he needs to work for Burger King flipping burgers.

The only right the writer has is to defend freedom, our country and the rights of others who can’t defend themselves. He should get out if he can’t stand his situation.

Sgt. 1st Class Robert BodemanCamp Doha, Kuwait

Migraine medicine needed

I’m one of the thousands of soldiers “lucky” enough to be living at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. We have two post exchanges, one of which is open 24 hours a day, two 24-hour gyms, a 24-hour Internet café, several well-known food chain outlets, a newly-constructed swimming pool and even a healthy patch of grass. This new installation has been touted as one of the most state-of-the-art installations, and it’s still growing. Included in our accommodations is the Troop Medical Clinic.

I’m a 20-year sufferer of severe migraine headaches. I deployed with my standard 90-day supply of medication. But with migraines, one never knows how long that 90-day supply is going to last. My unit arrived in theater April 22. By mid-June I’d exhausted my medication supply. Seeing that my supply was running low, during the first week of June I went on sick call for refills. I was told that my medication would be ordered and it might take up to 30 days to arrive.

As I write this it’s almost halfway through September, and the only medication that relieves me of these debilitating headaches has yet to arrive. I’m fairly sure that out of the thousands of troops here at Camp Arifjan who utilize our TMC, I’m not the only soldier who relies on this particular medication.

If Camp Arifjan is so advanced, why is it so difficult to obtain this fairly common and very effective medication?

Sgt. Fara FieldsKuwait

Government's pawns

I’m a National Guard soldier currently serving in Iraq. I’d like to explain something to the writer of the letter “Unhappy? Get out” (Sept. 2). I’m by no means a “professional soldier,” so I suppose he won’t mind if I complain.

One thing the writer must understand is that we are still nothing more than guardsmen. We’re nothing more than the government’s little pawns who are used when active-duty soldiers are tired of doing their full-time jobs. This isn’t my full-time job, nor would I ever want it to be. How does that ad go? “One weekend a month, two weeks a year”? I guess I was young and naïve to think it would be so easy to get college money that way.

The writer spoke of all the nice things that the military provides. For guardsmen, maybe it’s those enormous drill checks every month. No. They’re far from enormous. Could it be the great signing bonuses? I wouldn’t know. I didn’t receive one. Or could it be that great GI Bill? Well, with the amount of money it takes to get a college degree nowadays, the GI Bill is nearly peanuts.

What it all boils down to is that the National Guard has done me absolutely no good. I didn’t sign up to be an active-duty soldier. So I don’t need to be begged too much to get out. Bring me the papers that say I’m done and free to leave this prison I call the Army. Tell me I can go home to my wife. Trust me, I’ll sign them faster than the writer can say “ETS.”

I suppose since the writer is at one of the worst duty stations in the region, he of all guardsmen has the right to criticize. Camp Arifjan resembles that of a Club Med vacation hot spot. Baskin Robbins, Subway, Burger King and Pizza Time are among the eating alternatives to escape the chow hall monotony. E-mail and telephones are also luxuries found at Camp Arifjan that the majority of troops in the Middle East are living without. If the sun and heat are about to bring troops to their breaking point, a cool swimming pool is conveniently located outside the air-conditioned buildings.

Those stationed at Camp Arifjan are not only out of harm’s way, but they also have many amenities that can be found back on our native soil. If we could all be there with the writer, a deployment would probably feel like a vacation.

So the guardsmen who think this is great should please go active duty. I beg them.

Spc. Chad KetchamBaghdad, Iraq

September 26

Short end of stick

As a veteran of all four branches of the military over the past 18 years (Army and Marines active duty, Naval Reserve and Air National Guard), I’ve seen many changes in the military. Yet one thing remains locked in the past — communication.

The letter “Where’s Army values” (Sept. 12) obscures the fact that a large operation like Operation Iraqi Freedom is mired in miscommunication every day. If a troop gets the short end of the stick, then he’s apt to be sore. The guardsman who complained about his deployment and subsequent extension in Iraq was expressing genuine concern for his future.

Unlike the letter writer, many guardsmen have another life to worry about. They entered service with the notion of part-time commitment. Additionally, the notion of “one team, one fight” doesn’t always apply. Many people are getting the short end of the stick, including me. I was sent to the theater of operations with only four days’ notice. I got the short end of the stick.

To have teamwork, we need commonalty, and there’s not a whole lot of it around right now.

Staff Sgt. John HaranAludeid Air Base, Qatar

Stolen mail

I’ve been deployed to the Middle East for five months and have been on active duty for seven months. I’m with a bridge building Reserve company from Wisconsin and Marquette, Mich.

Being over here is hard on a person for several reasons: Being away from family, pay loss, being in a war zone, etc. But I recently found another reason that it’s hard.

I’d been waiting on a DVD player to come in the mail. I walked into my tent and finally saw a package with my mom’s name on it, and it said “1 DVD player” on the customs slip. But when I opened the package I found that my mail had been tampered with. I received everything but the DVD player. Somewhere between my hometown post office and Baqubah, Iraq, someone took the DVD player and left only the protective box it used to be in.

I’d like to remind civilian and military people in the mail system that tampering with mail is a federal offense. It greatly brings down the morale of people who are eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Spc. Jennifer HarrisBaqubah, Iraq

Keep the faith

I understand the complaints and concerns that all soldiers have with the current deployment to Iraq and Kuwait. The treatment of soldiers across the board needs to be considered for who stays and who goes. No single soldier or company or unit or battalion or group or brigade or division should have priority over another.

Everyone here in Kuwait has families, children, jobs and homes. We’re all away from the things that matter the most to us and keep us focused. There are soldiers here who have missed their children’s school graduations. But we’re all here for a purpose. It’s not so much to help people who in most cases are far worse off than ourselves, but to try to ensure that future generations won’t have to endure what we are now.

I pray to God that my son or daughter won’t have to go to a distant land to fight for an unnecessary cause. But this cause is necessary and just, which is why we’re all here. The freedom to live as we want and to say what we want without being criticized is the basis for who we are. Just the fact that we have the Stars and Stripes letters forum without reprisals should make us glad to be soldiers today.

I’m a reservist with 19 years, and I’ve seen my share of deployments. Each one was different from the other. I’d be lying if I said they were all good. But one has to make the most of time spent performing the mission. Our actions have global effects. There will be some good that comes from all this.

Family and friends will worry about our safety. We should cherish the time spent calling loved ones. That’s who we’re fighting, working, sweating and sometimes even bleeding and dying for.

Like others, I’ve been extended until 2004. But we’re going to continue until the job is complete and then return home to our other lives.

God bless everyone who serves. They should be strong and keep the faith.

Sgt. 1st Class Marlon BrooksKuwait

All signed up for this

I’m with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment in Tikrit, Iraq. I’m writing in response to the letter “Active duty should take over” (Aug. 24).

I was in the Marine Corps for eight years, and now I’m in the Army. I know for a fact that active-duty and Reserve personnel take the same oath upon enlistment and re-enlistment “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States … .” Does that sound familiar? Nowhere in the oath does it say that reservists will only deal with floods. And nowhere does it say that reservists only have to participate on weekends or if they’re not in school or if their employers say they can go to war.

The writer seems to think that reservists and guardsmen are the only people who have jobs or go to school, not to mention have families and contribute to their communities. I received my bachelor’s degree while on active duty in the Marine Corps while working with the Toys for Tots program three years in a row.

I have three words for the letter writer: Suck it up! None of us like it here. The conditions are miserable. But guess what? We all signed up for this, whether the writer wants to believe it or not.

Spc. Curtis RawlinsTikrit, Iraq

Treat reservists equally

What happened to the saying “Army of One”? I’m a reservist in Kuwait and was just extended until April 2004.

The Army wants us to believe that this is an “Army of One.” But how can this be an “Army of One” when reservists and guardsmen are extended and our orders are being changed daily? We have to serve 365 days in country even though we’ve already been here for six months.

Why can’t Congress make it so that reservists get the same benefits that full-time people get? We have wives and children. Now we’re also being told that we can’t receive midterm leave. We’re the ones who are supposed to be at home. Reservists and guardsmen have jobs and families who need them at home. The full-time people need to realize that this is their only job, or should I say the main source of income for them.

We part-time personnel are often put down by full-time personnel. Who twisted their arms to go full time? I sure didn’t, and no one here did either.

If this is an “Army of One,” let’s act like it. If we have to serve, give us the same treatment given to these so-called full-time people who pitched a fit to get home. The truth be told, they are the ones who really need to be here. They get paid the big bucks to be over here, and they’re sitting at home.

It’s not fair for Congress or President Bush to change the orders of soldiers who have been here for six or seven months and were supposed to be going home. Is this an “Army of Two” or will it be an “Army of One”?

Sgt. John WhiteCamp Commando, Kuwait

September 27

Can't get property back

I’m deployed to Iraq from my home station of Darmstadt, Germany. We’ve been deployed in this theater since February. Five weeks before we deployed, our command had all single soldiers living in the barracks pack up all their personal belongings and put them into storage. We’ve now been in Iraq for seven months, and some of us are preparing to ETS and PCS to other duty stations. But contrary to what we were previously told, we’ve been informed that upon returning to Germany our personal goods won’t be returned to us.

In order to properly clear and prepare for ETS, we’re given 90 days at our home station. That means we’ll be in Germany with absolutely nothing. We’ll have no clothes and no kinds of entertainment at all. This has been raised to our chain of command, which claims to be powerless and seems unwilling to help us. We’ve been told that it’s not “cost effective” to give soldiers their own possessions back to them. The Army feels it’s cost effective to spend money on morale programs for single soldiers, yet it doesn’t see fit to give our own property back to us. Cost shouldn’t be an issue when it comes to doing right by soldiers who have made sacrifices in war.

We could buy clothing and other things upon returning to our home station. But we’ve also been told that we won’t have another transportation pickup. This means we’ll have to live out of duffle bags for three months, because that’s all we’re allowed to take on the flight back to the United States.

This goes beyond clothing and entertainment. Soldiers going to new duty stations need the inprocessing and outprocessing paperwork that’s in storage. We packed our belongings in preparation for a deployment, not a PCS or ETS move.

Those who should be helping us don’t seem concerned. They’re all married with families and houses full of possessions. We single soldiers have nothing. We’ve helped win yet another of our great nation’s wars, and the only gratitude we receive from our superiors are cold, empty rooms and no thanks.

This is an outrage. The Army is withholding our possessions from us against our wishes.

The Army claims to care so much about single soldiers and their welfare, but it’s apparently too much to ask to be given our own property back. I hope someone can justify this to me and the American people.

Spc. Joshua E. MarshallBalad Air Field, Iraq

Anti-alcohol order

This is in regard to the letter “Alcohol in Iraq” (Sept. 6). I have no idea what the writer was talking about in saying that Army members can buy all the alcohol they want. We’ve been under General Order No. 1 since we got to Kuwait back in March. I’m sorry if the writer is so dependant on having a beer that it affects his job performance. I didn’t even know that anyone at any time was authorized alcohol in Iraq.

I know it’s hard working outside seven days a week. I’m deployed supporting the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul. We still live in tents. I’ve been working on a civil affairs team that goes into town at least five days a week wearing full “battle rattle” in 130-degree temperatures. I know the flight line is hot. But so are the city streets, where there’s no breeze and the smell of open sewers can’t be escaped.

Oh, I almost forgot about the “beggar kids” who the writer mentioned. I think he was talking about the homeless children whose parents most likely died in the first Gulf War. They’re trying to survive while we try to better educate them by rebuilding Iraq’s schools.

If the writer really needs a beer, he should ETS. Some of us here still believe we can help these people. The writer should remember why he joined the military: to protect freedom.

Staff Sgt. Frederick TwomblyMosul, Iraq

Cardboard coins

The post exchange gives us stupid cardboard substitutes for coins at my base in Kirkuk, Iraq. Surely thousands of consumers have passed through the PX tent here and received these cutouts as change in lieu of real money. I understand that it’s costly to transport and maintain coins. But the post office is doing it, so why can’t AAFES? Not only do these paper coins force servicemembers to spend that money at the PX, it’s also insulting that our real money is exchanged for something that might as well be Monopoly money.

AAFES is reaping thousands of dollars in additional revenue from servicemembers who must spend this money at the PX or otherwise discard the paper cutouts. I don’t believe this is legal tender minted by the U.S. government, so what gives AAFES the right to use these paper coins? AAFES puts real meaning into the phrase “nickeled-and-dimed.”

Sgt. Alex BokdeKirkuk, Iraq

Can't fly flag

On Aug. 29 I was told by our battalion command sergeant major to take down the American flag that was flying over our company command post. According to a policy letter which couldn’t be produced, soldiers serving in Iraq aren’t allowed to fly the red, white and blue.

These are the same colors that my ancestors fought for. They symbolize the freedom we fight for every day. Soldiers have fought, bled and died to preserve what these colors stand for, and now we’re being told that we can’t display them with pride.

I don’t ask for more pay. I don’t ask for more time off, and I seldom ask for better working or living conditions. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to hide the American flag instead of flying it with pride over our company. I didn’t sign on the dotted line because I needed a job. I signed on the dotted line to serve in defense of our country and what it stands for. It’s stated on the Army Values card, under “Soldier’s Code V.,” to be proud of our country and its flag. I am.

Capt. John M. RichardsonIraq

Courage and power

I’m a soldier with Company B, 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment. This is in response to complaining by servicemembers. We all know that it’s not easy serving in Iraq, especially when the temperature rises above 130 degrees. I want to believe that if we put all our efforts together, we’ll have the courage and power to handle it. I’m praying that God will protect all of us, and it will be part of our life stories. The longest journey begins with the first step. I encourage everyone to complete this historic mission.

Moriba AmbroseIraq

Unions and deployments

I was a member of the Teamsters union at UPS in Nashville, Tenn. I was notified that my union membership has been cancelled due to nonpayment of dues. During my research I found out that there’s no provision in the union charter for deployed reservists or guardsmen. My attempts at contact have yielded no response.

The time has come for all U.S. labor unions to put aside partisan politics and protect the re-employment rights of the more than 20,000 citizen-soldiers whose deployments have been extended in Iraq. It’s their patriotic duty.

Spc. Joseph M. LangfordKuwait

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