European and Mideast edition lettersfor the week of September 28 to October 4, 2003
Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)
September 28 Dad’s standards Outdoor Education Selective punishments Tax-free gas? In over our heads Dedication and respectSeptember 29 Finish duty, go home Finding defeat in victory Comments shameful Rambling thoughts on news Lynch’s lifeSeptember 30 Very special person Comments imbecilic Indians serve proudly AAFES inflexible Thanks to MPs Joined for college moneyOctober 1 What if? Surgery in field Zoo trip not GIs’ finest hour Tiger’s death sends message Mail crushedOctober 2 Complaint about complainers Higher purpose Send us home ‘Doonesbury’ met my markerOctober 3 One year enough War on terrorism medals Share the wealth Feel proud We’ll be votingOctober 4 Medication in theater Provide a feeling of pride Feels their pain Money is money
Not too long ago an Army private wrote the letter “Army too soft” (Aug. 10) about all the complaining by deployed troops. I agree with him that Army soldiers are too soft, and I want to encourage the complainers by telling them about my dad.
He grew up in Washington state, a fair-haired boy roaming his family’s farmland and the nearby woods with a rifle in his hands. He dreamed of becoming a doctor. But after joining the Army, World War II changed all that. No complaints. Still in his 20s, he married, and my mom was two months’ pregnant when my dad was deployed to New Guinea. My older brother was 20 months old when my dad returned more than two years later.
I’ve read the letters my mother saved. No complaints. Only love, hope and encouragement. Many years after the war, my dad told me about the time he was in the jungle and had to evade detection by sitting motionless in a tree for three days while the Japanese enemy made camp below.
My dad was near starvation more than once and resorted to eating monkeys at times. The men there had to deal with leeches, extreme jungle heat, disease and hand-to-hand combat. For years my mom saved a blood-stained Japanese flag that my dad took from one of the enemy he killed. My father was not the kind of man who, if he were alive and serving today, would have allowed himself to be indoctrinated by the mediocrity of a “politically correct,” kinder, gentler Army. He knew what it was to be an American soldier.
I remember a World War II photo of him. He was skinny with a big smile and, of course, a rifle.
Dad would sit at our kitchen table, shirt sleeves rolled up, with his Camel cigarettes and coffee. He’d tell me how to care for some small injured animal. In our vegetable garden, he’d show me how plants grow.
In his 40s, dad spent time in and out of Veterans Affairs hospitals due to war-connected injuries. Still, no complaints. I’ll never forget as a teen seeing another veteran in one of those hospitals. Rudy, tall and slim, was still goose-stepping up and down the hospital corridor, clicking his heels and rendering the German salute. He obviously was conditioned that way while in a prisoner-of-war camp. I saw this with my own eyes. Yet some of our soldiers deployed today complain about the mail being slow.
My dad died at the age of 53, 100 percent disabled, and not once did I ever hear him complain about his duty or his country. It’s my hope that all the troops currently deployed in danger zones in foreign countries measure up to my dad’s standards and remember that they are American soldiers.
Marilyn WillettHeidelberg, Germany
The Department of Defense wants good leaders, right? What better way to promote and “grow” leaders than starting with the Department of Defense Dependents Schools?
Outdoor Education at Hinterbrand Lodge in Bertchesgaden, Germany, is a program built on the principles of Outward Bound that gives students a chance to start developing leadership skills as early as fifth grade. But this program is set to be closed after this year.
I’m a DODDS educator returning from sponsoring my fourth group to Hinterbrand, and all the parents I’ve talked to are very upset that there’s no future for Hinterbrand Lodge. On this last trip, one boy’s brother and father had been through programs at Hinterbrand Lodge including Project Bold, a summer program. They and other students will remember the “Run and Dip” for the stamina and other character traits it took to complete. Some will remember the ropes course, which challenged students to overcome fears and trust their teammates. Some will remember the other qualities required to learn how to act as a team in order to accomplish a task. Each student experiences his or her own challenges and takes away something valuable for the future.
Promoting leadership requires strong programs to develop and nurture young people who will be our country’s future decision makers. DOD and military officials need to think outside the box in order to find a way to keep this invaluable education available to all DODDS student for years to come. I hope readers will join in voicing their support for the continuation of programs at Hinterbrand Lodge.
To learn more about Hinterbrand Lodge, readers can click on www.hint-lod.eu.odedodea.edu/.
Shawn GaleBöblingen, Germany
I hope readers can tolerate one more opinion on the story “‘Outstanding’ officer punished, fined for child porn, allowed to stay in Army” (Aug. 1). I agree with the writer of the letter “Child porn not victimless” (Sept. 23). I’d find it extremely difficult to render such a respectful greeting to this officer or to those who stood on the carpet and professed his greatness. But I’m a soldier and I’m required to do so without regard to the officer’s moral shortcomings.
What I fail to understand are the AFN commercials that remind us to not write bad checks or we can go straight to jail. I’m also blocked from visiting some lingerie Web sites based on the nature of the pictures. But it’s OK for us to look at naked children and call it “art.” Why air commercials warning us of the consequences of visiting inappropriate Web sites if the punishments are only for select individuals?
Sgt. 1st Class Constance CoustautWiesbaden, Germany
How can AAFES claim that the gasoline we buy is tax free? A liter of super unleaded is 50 cents. That’s almost $2 a gallon. How can that be tax free when the U.S. national average is $1.73 (according to the AAA Web site) including tax? Granted, it’s still less than the $4 a gallon that the Germans pay. But out of that $1.05 or so for a liter, 74 cents of it is tax. So if an Esso would take my VAT form, I’d pay about $1.20 a gallon for tax-free gas.
It seems that this is just more unfair pricing by AAFES so it can pad its profit margins at the expense of military members. But what can we expect from a monopoly? When will AAFES learn that if it takes advantage of customers overseas, it will lose those customers in the States when they have a choice?
I do the majority of my shopping on the Internet. Even with shipping, it’s cheaper. I just wish I could buy gas that way as well.
Tech Sgt. Michael A. SnowSpangdahlem Air Base, Germany
In over our heads
I’m a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard stationed in Kuwait, and I’d like to send a special thanks to all the people who had a hand in deciding that guardsmen and reservists will spend one year in country. They can keep us here as long as they want, considering that we have absolutely no rights compared to our active-duty Army counterparts. But I will thank them personally, along with a lot more guardsmen and reservists, next year at election time.
Whatever happened to taking care of soldiers? When I attended the Primary Leadership Development Course and the Basic Noncommissioned Officers’ Course, the first thing they taught us was to take care of our soldiers no matter what. I don’t see this happening, considering the way we’re being treated when it comes to redeployment.
Let’s face it: We’re in over our heads. Yes, we removed Saddam Hussein from power and destroyed his Iraqi regime. But why are we losing so many soldiers each and every day? This is not a war on terror, as the newspapers are saying. It’s a war to protect America’s vital interest, which is oil. Why are we lying to the American public? Maybe we’re instilling fear in them by saying this is a war on terror and the terrorists could strike our homeland. The only terror I’m hearing is in my family members’ voices every time I call home. It seems that every time they turn on the TV, they’re hearing about how convoys are attacked, and they worry that it may be one of us.
We’re never going to be able to stop the killing of Americans while we’re here. How many American lives are the price of oil worth? The Iraqis want us out, and I, along with many guardsmen and reservists, feel it’s time to get out. I don’t believe in what we’re doing here, and when I get home and my ETS is up, I’ll end my 14-year career because of the way we were treated.
Sgt. John C. LaczkowskiCamp Arifjan, Kuwait
Dedication and respect
I’m amazed and confused about what “citizen-soldiers” believe their role should be in today’s Army. I spent 14 years on active duty and two and a half years in the Reserve. In that two and half years, I’ve spent 18 months deployed. I have a life and a family. But I also have a dedication and respect for our nation that allows me to wear the uniform and the support of a family that enjoys the freedoms that come with service to the president and the United States.
I’m currently in Bosnia, and every day I wake up proud of my country, my unit and my uniform. Just because we join the Reserve doesn’t mean one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer anymore. The soldiers whining about deployments and retention don’t deserve to wear the uniform. We have a job to do, and Uncle Sam has asked us to step up to the plate. If the uniform is too much of a burden to wear, they should take it off and keep it off. Maybe they should never have joined to begin with.
I’ve spoken to many soldiers here in Bosnia, and we agree that it’s time for patriotism to be retaught to our soldiers in the active-duty, Reserve and National Guard components.
Sgt. 1st Class Ralph HurleyBosnia
Finish duty, go home
I’m writing in response to soldiers who are past their ETS dates and who complain about their living conditions, etc. Everybody here in Iraq complains. We don’t like this place or the war. Nobody does. But it’s our job, and I’d rather do it than have my kids or grandkids do it. I have three kids, and I miss them very much.
I got here March 19, minutes after the war started, and I’m still here. I miss my family and everything back home that I took for granted. Sometimes our living conditions are bad. But this war isn’t over. We get hit by mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades almost every day. What do we do? Drive on.
Some of my friends have been hurt, but I have a mission: going home. First finish my duty here, and then go home. I love the Army and what I do. Soldiers should stop complaining, finish their jobs and go home. They should ETS or PCS and stop putting other people down with their complaints.
We are very lucky the draft isn’t in place. I had hoped to go home soon, but I still have until March of next year. It’s not bad for soldiers. At least they’ve done what some others can’t do. They should be proud, keep their heads up, stay safe and go home.
Sgt. Jose R. GarciaSamarra, Iraq
Finding defeat in victory
This is in regard to the letter “Bush misleading Americans” (Sept. 23). Four and a half months into the stunning liberation of Iraq, and the neoliberals are prepared to surrender. Once again the neolibs insist on snatching an enemy’s defeat from the jaws of an American victory. These part-time generals and Monday morning diplomats are the ultimate conclusive arguers. They write as if they were part of the administration’s inner circle. They note dates of meetings, who was there and what was discussed — then argue against their own ridiculous straw man.
Neolibs are born with white flags in hand and French accents. They would rather trust American security to the likes of the Third World-dominated United Nations than an American president. They see a conspiracy any time two government officials meet to discuss American security. They don’t mind seeing America shrink within herself as long as the French and United Nations are not upset. Their idea of defending America is adopting a Rodney King world view and foreign policy of, “Can’t we all just get along?”
In order to discount the possibility of cooperation between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, neolibs rely on stereotypical behavior among Arabs. (This group hates that group so they could not possibly cooperate against a common enemy.). If the Department of Homeland Security used this neolib logic to screen airline passengers, the neolibs would have a fit.
Neolibs note that American soldiers are dying in Iraq, as if it’s the first time soldiers have died in war and as if it would be better if the fighting were taking place on the streets of New York defending the U.N. building there rather than in Baghdad. Neolibs argue that our soldiers are fighting to protect one another rather than to defend America. A soldier’s bond with his comrades has existed since the first time men joined in battle as units. This bond is the essence of esprit, of the band of brothers: “For he who sheds his blood today with me shall be my brother.” What neolibs don’t get is that by defending one another, our amazing armed forces are defending America as well.
Doug SchumickStuttgart, Germany
This is in reference to the letter “International guard” (Sept. 22). I realize that the writer is upset because he’s in the National Guard and can’t PCS or ETS. But he really shouldn’t be upset. Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers have fought in many previous wars. To call himself an “International guardsman” is an insult to his comrades and his unit. He should be ashamed of himself.
In addition, for the writer to claim that he’s in “a transportation unit that outperforms any of our so-called active-duty transportation units” is not only conceited, but also wrong. I’m in the 51st Transportation Company. We were there on Feb. 2 and crossed the berm on March 20. We’ve been there ever since. The writer should do us all a favor and keep his negative comments to himself.
Sgt. Ronold H. WahlBaghdad, Iraq
Rambling thoughts on news
I have some rambling thoughts on the news in the Sept. 24 Stars and Stripes. In the story “Praise for Canada’s lack of lunacy,” we were informed about actor/activist Martin Sheen, a fellow who takes himself very seriously, presumably because he plays the president on “The West Wing.” The story said Sheen exulted in crossing from the United States to Canada, having “left the land of lunatics.” He went on to tell his Canadian hosts that, “I always feel a bit more human when I come here.” While I fully appreciate Canada’s many positive national characteristics, I wonder why Sheen doesn’t simply stay there.
The story “Lynch visits VFW” treated readers to five paragraphs of non-news about Jessica Lynch having lunch with Veterans of Foreign Wars members. Many soldiers have already written letters to the editor decrying the constant coverage afforded to Lynch, and they were right. Lynch is, after all, only a soldier recovering from severe wounds sustained in a battlefield version of a freeway pileup. She’s not a heroine who did anything noteworthy. Lynch deserved a Purple Heart, but not a Bronze Star.
That poor, maligned Bronze Star. If the medal had feelings, one would have to feel sorry for how much its value has declined in just a few decades. At one time, one had to do something courageous in dangerous circumstances in order to receive it, so few were awarded. During the Kosovo air campaign, many Bronze Stars were awarded, especially by the Air Force, including one to a Pentagon briefing officer. It seems that “PowerPoint Ranger” has become a new branch of combat arms, and briefing a skeptical audience in a crowded room is considered as daunting as engaging a hostile enemy on the battlefield. And now Lynch got a Bronze Star for being in the back seat of a Humvee without a seat belt on when it crashed. Imagine what she could have been awarded had she been wearing a seat belt! Poor Bronze Star.
Finally, in “the critic’s corner” of Pulse magazine, we were informed that a strong selling point of today’s DVDs is the many extra features that each DVD contains, such as alternate endings. Imagine that! People can watch the same film, yet enjoy different endings. I can see many useful applications for this feature. For example, if a film of Martin Sheen’s life is ever made, I can watch him stay in Canada where he can feel more human. And in the forthcoming film of Lynch’s life, I can watch her wear a seat belt as she fades out of public view, doing what most soldiers do: serving their country and doing their jobs well without fanfare or a Bronze Star.
Alessandro SacilottoBrussels, Belgium
I want to thank Stars and Stripes for its vigilant coverage of the American hero Jessica Lynch. The information Stripes has provided has been matched only by NBC, CBS, FOX and CNN.
In lieu of Lynch’s importance, I think it might be prudent to follow the lead of all the news networks during the Iraq war and embed a reporter in Lynch’s life. In fact, the networks might want to locate every living former U.S. prisoner of war and embed a reporter into their lives. By including a reporter in the daily lives of all these POWs, our nation would be reminded of the fact that our country has had quite a few thousand people who have spent time in the hands of our enemies.
Sgt. M. CrescitelliKabul, Afghanistan
Very special person
I’d like to recognize and thank a very special person in my life. I used to be a person who didn’t understand what it meant to have a wife and didn’t know what being a husband was all about. But my wife, Amanda, came into my life and changed me. She made me the person I am today. I’m proud of who I am, and she couldn’t have done a better job. Besides being a great wife, she has given me a wonderful family. We have the best son that parents could ask for. His name is Eric.
I’m currently deployed to Baghdad, and I miss my wife so much. I thought that the deployment was going to be hard, and it has been. But my wife has made it so much easier because she takes care of me, even though she’s not here. Not many days have gone by without me getting something in the mail from her.
Besides all the mail I get from her, my wife also does many other things back home. She’s a Family Child Care provider for the children of two majors, one lieutenant colonel, and one captain — a total of five kids. In my mind, she’s without a doubt the best FCC provider. She also gets up every morning to make breakfast for our 6-year-old son and takes him to school. She pays the bills on time, cleans the house, does the laundry, goes to the gym, and makes dinner. She’s never complained once when I’ve asked her to find something and mail it to me. She’s maintained a close relationship with both of our families and kept them informed about any news that she’s heard. She’s the best wife, mom, and FCC provider in the world.
I thank my wife for all she’s done for me and our family. I love her and will never forget that her love is so remarkable. She can always count on me. I’ll always take care of her. I miss her and can’t wait until the day I see her again.
Sgt. Ryan DarbyBaghdad, Iraq
This is in response to the letter “The Waaaah Page” (Sept. 14). I think the writer has some growing up to do. His comments were imbecilic and juvenile. They were not becoming of a college-educated, commissioned officer or 15-year military veteran. No wonder our soldiers complain if this is how leaders of the National Guard conduct themselves.
Spc. Noah W. BarkerCamp Arifjan, Kuwait
Indians serve proudly
This is in response to the letter “Native Americans in military” (Sept. 15). I’m with the 1457th Engineer Battalion, and we’ve got a large number of Navajo (Dine) in my battalion. All active-duty and veteran Native Americans are looked upon proudly by our friends, families, and communities. We Navajo are especially proud of our contributions during World War II, when the “code talkers” used the Navajo language as a weapon against the Japanese. We Navajo have a long history of being tough fighters, as witnessed by the ferocious resistance we put up against the Spanish in the early 1800s and against the U.S. Cavalry during the mid-1800s.
America has been our country longer than it has for others. So like them, we always stand ready to defend the United States against a threat of outside aggression. No one is more proud of being Americans than we American Indians. Homes and offices abound with pictures — some dating back to World War II — of Indians proudly serving in our armed forces. Veterans take a prominent place during powwows, flag details, squaw dances, Native American church meetings, and family get-togethers. Active-duty and veteran servicemembers are held in very high esteem, and our families frequently contribute money, food, and support to make our service a little more bearable. Some of us were here for Operation Desert Storm and have now returned for Operation Iraq Freedom. We serve proudly.
Spc. Albert Arviso IIIBaghdad, Iraq
As an active-duty servicemember, I’ve asked my spouse to make many sacrifices. Among them was to put his career on hold for three years while I’m stationed in Germany. Employment here for spouses is limited, and AAFES provides the majority of positions on post. I was really disappointed and surprised recently at the way AAFES handled several scheduling situations.
It seems AAFES would understand that the military often requires servicemembers to work at odd times and often on short notice, and that it would be flexible with spouses who do shift work. But recently my spouse and the spouse of a co-worker both had to resign from AAFES because we were called in to work on a Saturday and our spouses needed to stay home with our children. AAFES refused to be flexible with their schedules. Even with several weeks’ notice, AAFES was still unwilling to give my spouse the time off that he needed, even with a full staff to cover his shifts.
I understand that employers have their own missions to accomplish and scheduling can be a problem. But I’d expect a company like AAFES, especially here in Germany, to understand the special needs of military dependents. After all, we’re talking about shift work, not a company that’s only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Perhaps because there’s always a demand for jobs here in Germany, AAFES doesn’t feel it needs to accommodate its employees because it can always say goodbye and hire the next person standing in line. Whatever the case, I know AAFES lost two good employees in one day because of its unwillingness to be flexible.
Pfc. Karen HauptWürzburg, Germany
Thanks to MPs
As my family and I leave U.S. Army Europe, I want to thank our wonderful young military police. I truly think they’re great. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, and it doesn’t matter whether they’ve already been on long shifts. They still greet all of us nicely and wish us a good day. I’m sure they don’t always get the same back, but they still greet the next person passing their stations nicely. This is such great professionalism and such great dedication to our safety. I thank them and wish them all the best wherever they may serve.
Elke GlavanHeidelberg, Germany
Joined for college money
This is in response to the letter “Shouldn’t join” (Sept. 13). I’ve only read Stars and Stripes a couple of times since I’ve been deployed to Iraq. Yet every time it seems like there’s someone somewhere in Kuwait complaining about being deployed and how hard he has it. I’d like to see these soldiers live outside in the dirt with no air conditioning, no power, and no fast food (although one can make a hamburger with a Meals, Ready to Eat No. 8), and take showers with a five-gallon water can. I did this for the first four months I was here. I’ve been here for six and a half months. I will love the day that I have a solid roof over my head and a cold bottle of water to drink. I will be here until April of next year, maybe longer.
I’m one of the soldiers who joined for the college money, or for the wrong reasons, according to the letter writer. Like a lot of other people, I have a wife and two babies who I left at home.
Unlike the first part of the letter, I totally disagree with the second part. The letter writer said that people who join for all the wrong reasons shouldn’t join at all. But I hope he realizes that would take away at least 75 percent of reservists and guardsmen. The college money is the reason that most of us joined.
Despite the reasons we joined, we’re still here in Iraq (not Kuwait). We’re risking our lives and doing our jobs every single day. We’ll continue to do them as long as we’re over here, no matter what the reason was that we joined. I’m proud to be an Army reservist.
Sgt. Mario MucurioFallujah, Iraq
What if all soldiers deployed in foreign lands protecting U.S. interests said in one collective voice, “We won’t do this anymore!” Imagine what would happen. Terrorists would run wild, shouting joyous sounds of victory. Men in hiding would come out and “play.” Governments would fold, lifestyles would change and lawlessness would prevail.
What would happen if freedom was taken from us in the same way lives were taken on Sept. 11, 2001? Would we stand and fight, no matter the costs or hardships? Or would we constantly remind ourselves how bad things are and how long we’ve been away from our homes and families? What if there were no soldiers willing to take a stand and spend time away from their homes and families for the sole purpose of providing a better future for our children?
I thank all the soldiers serving our great nation. I can’t say it enough. They are the reason I have freedom of choice. They are the reason my 4-year-old son will grow up and be whatever he chooses. They are the reason I was able to marry my wonderful wife. They are the reason I can send this letter of my own free will. They are the reason I will die a free man and love the life that was given to me by the brave men and women who sacrificed so much for others.
I know things must be hard for deployed soldiers who can’t see or touch their families. Some soldiers have children who they haven’t even seen. Other soldiers who’ve given their lives for their country have children who will never see them again. I offer the tears in my eyes for comfort. I say a prayer that all soldiers will be reunited with their families and have lifelong happiness. They have earned it and have given it to so many others. They are doing a job that requires separation, hardships and faithful understanding of their purpose. God will truly bless them for their time and efforts, as will those of us who benefit from their sacrifice. I can say this with a grateful heart and pounding patriotism: I live free!
Spc. Casey HowellEagle Base, Bosnia
Surgery in field
Recently U.S. and Republic of Korea forces conducted the Ulchi Focus Lens exercise.
This exercise is designed for [South Korean] and U.S. forces to practice the skills needed in the event of hostilities on the Korean peninsula. This includes medical treatment of causalities. Unfortunately — or, in retrospect, fortunately — I required a surgical procedure during this year’s UFL.
My military doctor informed me that because of UFL there would be an opportunity to get my procedure completed sooner than projected, and there would also be a procedure available during UFL that could speed my recovery time. The only catch was that I had to volunteer to be treated at a field hospital in support of the UFL exercise. I had visions of leaking tents, muddy boots and mosquitoes everywhere. But needing the surgery and wanting a speedy recovery, I agreed.
I reported to the 121 hospital. Six other soldiers and I were moved to a helipad. A Medevac helicopter complete with a flight medic and all the medical equipment necessary to treat each patient in flight picked us up. We were categorized, loaded onto the helicopter and flown about 20 minutes to the field. When we landed, a medical team with litters, medics and nurses met us. We were accessed, quickly moved into the reception tent, and briefed on what would happen from there.
I was amazed at the site’s setup. It was a clean, well-lit, air-conditioned tent. It was obvious that a lot of hard work had gone into preparing the tent to meet medical standards. There were soldiers from Hawaii’s Tripler Army Medical Center who worked alongside U.S. soldiers and Korean Augmentation to the United States Army soldiers from South Korea.
The ward noncommissioned officer in charge gave a tour of the facility and explained all the actions that would occur the following day in surgery. The facility had everything: X-ray machines, a pharmacy and even a blood bank. The place was so clean and everyone so professional that I couldn’t help but feel lucky to be having my surgery there.
The night before my surgery, I relaxed and move around the compound on my own. I walked around with the critical eye of a sergeant major, and I was amazed at the effort that had been put into the facility. From the generator mechanics to nurses to the soldiers who cooked the meals, this was a truly professional operation. I’m not a medical person, but the field facility that was set up would rival many facilities that some countries have.
I had my surgery, and I’m happy to have had the experience of a field hospital. The more important part is that I want to let soldiers in South Korea know that should hostilities happen and they need medical treatment, the medical team in South Korea is ready to provide them with world-class treatment.
I hope — and I’m sure it’s true — that our fellow soldiers in harm’s way around the world are receiving the same treatment I received during the training exercise here in South Korea. I salute all the soldiers who had anything to do with setting up and operating this field hospital. It was truly a job well done.
Sgt. Maj. Patrick O’ConnorSeoul, South Korea
Zoo trip not GIs' finest hour
I read the story “Tiger bites U.S. GI” (Sept. 21) about U.S. soldiers going into the Baghdad zoo after hours and after they’d had a few too many drinks. One soldier fed a tiger and it bit him. Then another soldier shot and killed the tiger.
Was the tiger hiding weapons of mass destruction? Was it a threat to the multibillion-dollar war machine in Iraq? Will the soldiers be severely disciplined for this? Will Americans ever learn to stay the hell out of other people’s/animals’ business? Does a dead, caged tiger make up for the inability of the American mega-military to find Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden? Does the American military have to constantly live up to its World War II reputation of “Best fed, worst led”?
Vince HamerCalgary, Alberta, Canada
Tiger's death sends message
If all our troops in Baghdad have left to do is get drunk and take potshots at caged animals, what is going on over there? Where was their commanding officer? Who supplies the beer for the parties at the zoo?
I’d like to hear the Army’s story on this. I want to get our folks home safe and sound, but things like this make our troops look more cruel and bloodthirsty than Saddam Hussein’s.
Bennett LilesStockbridge, Ga.
One of the packages that I received in the mail recently in Iraq was crushed. Another one was perfectly fine. Why was one of them damaged? I’m in a line unit, and the only morale booster that most of us get is receiving mail. This sort of thing greatly damages what little morale we have.
The food contents inside my crushed package were spoiled, so now I have to choke down more Meals, Ready to Eat. We’ve had to eat MREs for the past six months. My CDs and DVDs were also crushed. I was hoping to have something to do on my rest and recuperation trip.
Postal workers should please be more careful with our mail. It’s all we have right now.
Pfc. Jeremiah L. MinorIraq
Complaint about complainers
I’m writing to complain about all the letters that complain about the living conditions of servicemembers supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. I’m currently in Kuwait after returning from Iraq, and I enjoy reading Stars and Stripes every day. I find it a constructive way to pass the time and stay informed of current events. But letters filled with nothing but grievances plague the letters section almost every day, wasting space that could be put to better use.
Whiny subject matter only serves to escalate the severity of servicemembers’ depression. Evidence of this can be observed through the responses of other servicemembers who write with the sole intent of belittling previous writers’ experiences with horrible stories of their own. We’ve all made sacrifices during this conflict. Active duty and reservists, Marines, soldiers, seamen, airmen and guardsmen are all united in this together. They should set an example of strength and perseverance for the rest of the world.
I’m not suggesting we let problems escalate by not talking about them. But soldiers and leaders should discuss and solve grievances in an intelligent manner, not by hopelessly writing away to a publication. If all else fails, nothing beats sharing a complaint or two with peers while feasting over delicious military chow.
If future writers read this ironic letter and decide to write something with actual content instead of complaints, my efforts will not have been in vain. Like many others, I look forward to reading the entertaining and informational anecdotes and comments in the months to come.
Lance Cpl. Scott LawsonCamp Commando, Kuwait
I’m tired of reading letters that we’re fighting in Iraq for America’s freedom. No great foreign army is invading my land, nor am I on the roof of my house fighting off hostile attacks. I’m here in Baghdad fighting. My great country is a great distance away. I’m a paid killer. That’s what I do, and I enjoy what I do. Please don’t candy-coat what we’re doing here with a bunch of patriotic propaganda.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my country and I’ll do whatever I can for her. I’ve proved it with my six years in the Marine Corps and two years in the Army. I’m here because I’m paid to fight, and I like to fight and raise hell. I’m not fighting for any politicians or the thousands of U.S. millionaires who couldn’t care less about this war. I don’t fight for homeless Americans who have nothing or for my family and friends. I fight for my soldiers. I fight for the less fortunate people of Iraq and the masses of starving children. I fight for the innocent people (especially my soldiers) who are killed unjustly and demoralized by these scumbag thugs who are too afraid to come out during the daytime and get an old-school, real-American ass-whuppin’.
I see the small children digging in trash dumps. They have nothing. I bring what little food I find, but it’s hopeless. There’s just too many hungry children. These kids are special. They’re the future, and I’ll do whatever I can to protect them. In a lot of ways, they remind me of my own 3-year-old daughter.
So first, I’m here for my buddies. They watch my back and I watch theirs. Second, I’m here to help suffering children. And third, I’m here to do the job I’m paid to do. I don’t care about the living conditions, the continuous work, the lousy food, using the latrine in a field, drinking bad water, wearing all this gear in 120-degree heat, or picking up dead bodies. Things could be a lot worse, like being burned to death in a skyscraper.
In the future, if U.S. servicemembers in Iraq have to complain, they should write something more interesting. We already know about the water, food, toilets, heat, living conditions and separation from families. They should quit stating the obvious. We already know that Baghdad and Kuwait suck. They should be men and quit crying like little children. All they’re doing is needlessly upsetting people back home who think that we’re suffering and have it bad. We don’t. At least we’re alive and we’re fed.
I come from a good company and a great battalion. We’re taught to be hard because the minute we think it’s safe, that’s when we’ll get whacked. Not everyone thinks like me. That’s OK. I’m here for a higher purpose. Most of the soldiers here are doing a great job. This letter is for all the crybabies in the military who don’t rate to be called men. Long live the fighters!
Sgt. Joseph M. LynchBaghdad, Iraq
Send us home
I’m with the 459th Engineer Company (Multirole Bridge Company). My unit arrived in Kuwait on Feb. 13. I crossed the berm on March 19 with the 3rd Infantry Division scouts. They were our escort for a reconnaissance mission. Three days later, my company linked up with us north of Talil Air Base, where we were attached to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. My company moved north with the 1st MEF, and not up Highway 1, if you know what I mean.
After our intense ride north, we built a ribbon bridge and crossed the 1st MEF into Baghdad. My unit is the first unit to build under fire since World War II over the Rhine River. Every news station, magazine and newspaper said it was the Marines who built that bridge, but it wasn’t. It was us, the 459th Engineer Company (MRBC), an Army Reserve unit from West Virginia. We lived on the river banks for two months in horrific conditions. There were open sewers running into the river and we lacked drinking water. We were doing jobs we weren’t trained to do, like patrolling local towns, stopping looters, controlling traffic, manning checkpoints, helping wounded civilians and removing unexploded ordnance, ammunition and arms from local houses and property.
And that’s not all. After we got word that we were pulling out, we knew how much of a traffic problem this area would be without our bridges. So we drove 40 miles south to an area where an Iraqi ribbon bridge was in a field. Our maintenance people worked around the clock, repairing shrapnel and bullet holes in the bays. Within four days, my company built an Iraqi ribbon bridge over the Nahr Diyala River for the people of Iraq.
Now we’re here at Camp Dogwood just off Task Force Bullet, where we became truck drivers because of our palletized load system trucks. We’re now the base headquarters for a large portion of Camp Dogwood within eight other companies in our sector. We also provide the Quick Reaction Force for our sector.
My point is that the combat units are going home. We were attached to the 3rd ID and the 1st MEF and saw action with both. We were at both spearheads, and we’re not leaving until Feb. 15, 2004. Did someone forget about the 459th? Did we not do enough? We did our missions and a lot more under extreme conditions. Remember, we’re reservists, and we saw more action than most active-duty units in Iraq. So what’s our issue? Send us home with the units we were attached to during combat. Sometimes you gotta throw a dog a bone!
Staff Sgt. Andrew LaMotteCamp Dogwood, Iraq
'Doonesbury' met my marker
I usually mail the comics home for my kids. I’ve never had to censor one before, but I brought out the black marker for “Doonesbury” in Stars and Stripes’ Sept. 7 edition. Why would Stripes publish such an offensive strip? How many young readers are going to be asking their friends what m----------- is? I was sorely disappointed in Stripes publishing this particular cartoon. Stripes should please be more selective with what it prints as enjoyable media in the future. I can only hope that other readers who are parents would also appreciate it.
Pat HyattChief Warrant Officer 2Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo
One year enough
I’m a member of the 269th Military Police Company in the Tennessee Army National Guard. I’m stationed in Baghdad, Iraq.
My unit was mobilized under Operation Noble Eagle on Nov. 24, 2002, and went on active-duty status Dec. 6 of that year. We were immediately deployed to Fort Campbell, Ky., and dutifully left our wives, children, careers and homes in support of our nation. For six months at Fort Campbell we worked tirelessly in law enforcement, force protection and training roles. In early June we were sent to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We’ve since been conducting military police operations in Baghdad. We’ve fought to the best of our ability and sustained several combat-related casualties.
On Sept. 10, after 10 long months of deployment, we were informed of the Army’s new deployment policy regarding guardsmen and reservists currently serving in Iraq. The policy says that National Guard and Reserve troops will spend no less than one year in Iraq regardless of how long they’ve already been deployed. This is why I write.
The gallant and courageous soldiers in these two part-time components have stepped up and sacrificed much for their country and have done so without hesitation. It is not only these soldiers who sacrifice. Their wives, children, mothers, fathers and siblings also sacrifice much in their absence. These men and women volunteered to serve their country without regard to their own well-being. They did so because they believed in good faith that their government would act appropriately in their time of need. This policy is proof positive that our government has not. The policy is atrocious and an insult to soldiers and their families. I and other guardsmen and reservists ask for help and support in overturning this grotesque policy which victimizes soldiers and their families back home.
If this unjust policy remains in effect, this will be the longest deployment of guardsmen and reservists since World War II. The longest carrier deployment in history was 10 months long.
The 3rd Infantry Division was recently in the news because of an outcry to end its strenuously long deployment. These full-time soldiers were sent back to their families after only 11 months. Our deployment is currently scheduled to last 18 to 24 months. That is 18 to 24 months away from our homes, wives, small children, businesses, careers and communities. This is a grave injustice.
Spc. Richard HodgkinsonBaghdad, Iraq
War on terrorism medals
I’m writing to comment on the newly introduced Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. I think they’re an excellent idea. Everyone participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom and other terrorism-related theaters deserve one of these medals. But I vehemently disagree with the fact that there is not an identifier to tell what specific theater the awarded soldier served in.
I’m not a medal chaser. But the lack of an identifier does a terrible disservice to the soldiers who served and are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also dishonors and disgraces the men and women who have sacrificed their lives in these theaters. I refuse to watch their memory not be honored. Let’s properly lobby our leaders to give the fallen what’s theirs and to receive what we have earned.
Spc. Craig SmithCamp Cedar, Iraq
Share the wealth
I’m a big history buff. So it struck me, while sweating to death out here in Kuwait, why not do what the German army did in World War II? To motivate their troops to invade Russia, they promised each soldier a parcel of land. What I’m suggesting is that the oil companies now pumping oil out of Iraq (and making money) might perhaps share that wealth with the forces serving in the Middle East. Each soldier would get either a certain amount of money or free gasoline for life. I figure it’s our blood, sweat and tears that are helping to secure President Bush’s oil, so why not share the wealth?
Scott HolstCamp Spearhead, Kuwait
Servicemembers who belong to state and national associations get enlightened truth and facts. At conferences they get an education about benefits that elected officials don’t want to give us or have taken away. Without membership or participation at these conferences, we wouldn’t have what we have today. We may not want to hear or like what’s said at these conferences, but we can voice our opinions.
One benefit on the table for the last seven years is a 20-year retirement for reservists and guardsmen. Granted, they’d only make about one-third that of a full-time military retiree. But congressmen have only come up with 60 sponsors. So as they vote in raises for themselves and make their own retirement pay easier to draw, this tells us they don’t care about armed forces members. Do they really care about those who put their lives on the line for our country’s freedom and protection?
Now reservists and guardsmen have to meet some of the same requirements as full-time soldiers. We’re also away from our families. It’s an option we chose when we signed up and raised our hands. But we leave behind not only families, but also employers who depend on us and provide for our families. If readers were bosses and knew that they were going to lose employees for one year or more, would they employ reservists or guardsmen? What about employees who lose their jobs when they go home? Those stories from Desert Storm still haunt some of us. Have elected officials made any improvements or prepared for that yet?
How much do congressmen who recently took their vacations care about soldiers overseas and providing protection near and far? This allowed the budget to rest as we waited to get replacements forward and enough funds to get soldiers home.As we servicemembers greet one another coming forward or returning to places where we’ll go home, we should feel proud that we were here and did our jobs. We need to stay focused on our jobs. We should make sure as we return that it’s safe in the rear, as it’s safe for those who advance. If we soldiers fail to do our jobs, then we’ve failed.
Sgt. 1st Class Jim LumpkinCamp Wolf, Kuwait
We'll be voting
I’m assigned to a military police company in Baghdad, Iraq. I’ve been in country since May 28. My job has been training Iraqi police officers in a police station in Baghdad. I’ve been in the Army National Guard for 15 years. I’ve served in deployments in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Panama, Honduras and now Iraq, and I’ve never seen guardsmen and reservists get treated like we have on this deployment. All guardsmen and reservists should suck it up and drive on, as all active-duty soldiers have been telling us, as well as a few guardsmen and reservists who obviously don’t have lives back home. They’ve got us this time, but they won’t get me again.
As for those who say, “If you don’t like it, get out,” from what I’ve been hearing around Iraq, that’s going to happen. Our voices will also be heard in November of 2004. All the governors and senators of our home states will also hear our voices in the future for not trying to get us out of here.
Sgt. Christopher ClarkBaghdad, Iraq
Medication in theater
I’d like to add another side of the story in regard to the letter “Migraine medicine needed” (Sept. 25). The writer complained about the Troop Medical Clinic pharmacy at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. I’m the noncommissioned officer in charge of the pharmacy at Camp Arifjan, a civilian pharmacy technician, and a 91W (health care specialist) for the Army.
I sympathize with the letter writer’s pain. She’s correct in believing that she’s not the only person at Camp Arifjan who is suffering. Thus the reason for a TMC. I work very hard at my job to provide medications for those who need them. I’d like readers to understand the following:
1. The modification table of organization and equipment for my unit (Company A, 205th Area Support Medical Battalion, Camp Atterbury, Ind.) doesn’t provide for some of the services we offer at the TMC, including the pharmacy. If we didn’t care and went by the book, the pharmacy wouldn’t be here at all. Neither would our optometrist, mental health expert, chiropractor and physical therapist.
2. I don’t want readers to believe that we offered nothing to the letter writer for her pain. We have more than one medication for her condition. Why she hasn’t tried them, I don’t know. Maybe a re-evaluation is in order.
3. As much as we try, I’m not running a drug store chain. We have a limited supply of medications to choose from a formulary. Readers should think of it as a very large menu. Although there are thousands of things to choose from, one can only get what’s on the menu. I try my best to get medications from other sources and work my supply chain to death. But if I can’t get it, I can’t get it. There are some medications that will never be available in this theater. Again, the writer may have to try something else.
4. There’s no such thing as a “common medication” in Kuwait. All medications are hard to come by. The writer should remember where she is. Even though we can bring the writer technology and training support, people and organizations from our country (the Food and Drug Administration, for one) have a say in what medications are shipped from the States and where they go. Not everything in the States is available overseas. The writer can try to have her prescription filled at home and sent to her by a family member. It may be her only choice if nothing else works.
Just as others are doing the best they can with what they have, so are we at the TMC. We believe in the quality of our care and will do our best to serve the writer’s medical needs. But we have our limits like everyone else in this theater.
Sgt. Stephanie Jones-BeckNCOIC, TMC pharmacyCamp Arifjan, Kuwait
Provide a feeling of pride
My dad, like many others, is deployed to Iraq. His morale and well-being are very important to me and my sister, Nika, not just for him, but also for the way it will affect our family when he comes home. The way soldiers are treated down there, positively or negatively, will not only affect them at a time of war, but also as a reflection during the rest of their lives. Our mom tells us the soldiers should be thankful that they’re in Iraq for a year and not a lifetime like the Iraqis have to be.
The leadership should help provide their soldiers with a proud feeling to serve their country, not for them to regret it. Our family is very proud of our dad, Spc. Greg Suthann, for being the American soldier that he is. We want all the soldiers to get along with each other and come home safe.
The following is a quote from Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield in his address to the West Point Corps of Cadets on Aug. 11, 1887. It’s in support of the letter “Leadership” (Sept. 24).
“The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice as to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The mode or other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself while he who feels, and hence manifests disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred toward himself.”
Katie SuthannWiesbaden, Germany
Feels their pain
I’ve read so many comments about how hard it is for our soldiers, our spouses and our families, whether it’s because of deployments, guardsmen duty or basic life in the military. I feel their pain, understand their concerns and hear their voices. But I try to remember that the only things I want my husband to focus on are his safety and completing his mission. I don’t want him to worry about his family structure or finances or spend a moment doubting my ability to cope. I also don’t want him focused on discord among his peers and fellow comrades in the armed services. I don’t want the enemy to have ammunition to weaken his resolve in the event of capture. I want him safe, strong, focused and driven. And if he feels weak, I want him lifted up by my and everyone else’s unwavering support.
I obviously believe in free speech. I also believe there’s a time and a place for exercising that right. I’m proud of everyone in our military family. I truly thank them for every painful moment, every hardship and every dusty, dirty day and night that they’ve spent away from home (or curled up on their couches because they couldn’t sleep in their beds all alone).
I’m proud of those who tell a friend when they feel weak or sad, and so very thankful to those who tell America when they feel strong and proud. I’m thankful to everyone, no matter how they’ve dealt with the hardships. I just pray that when my soldier is deployed to defend my rights as an American that he hears that I love him for every moment and every sacrifice. I pray he hears every day how proud I am. I pray he hears my whispers in his dreams, not the comments of others’ discord.
Lynne HansonSchweinfurt, Germany
Money is money
This is in reference to the letter “Cardboard coins” (Sept. 27). Like the letter writer, I’m stationed here in Iraq. I’m in Baghdad, and I also shop at my post exchange. But unlike the writer, I don’t mind carrying around those “stupid” cardboard coins. I don’t know if the writer remembers way back when we were in the civilian world and those coins he used to get weighed down his pocket and all.
No one told the writer to spend his money at the PX. The Army gives the writer food and water. If getting paper coins is really hurting him, then the writer shouldn’t shop at the PX and eat Meals, Ready to Eat, dining facility food or have his family send him food.
If the writer would open his eyes when looking at these coins, in little print they say, “This is a gift certificate and has a retail value of the face value and is redeemable at only your PX/BX.” That means it can be used in Iraq, Germany or anywhere else there’s a BX/PX. If the writer doesn’t want to carry around little cardboard coins, he can send them to his family. I’m sure his family wouldn’t mind using them. They’re money. If the writer doesn’t have a family, he can send them my way. My kids would love to spend them.
Money is money, no matter how one looks at it, be it a cardboard coin, a quarter made out of silver, or a penny.
Staff Sgt. Kenneth AllenBaghdad, Iraq