September 7

Stop bickering

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

September 7 Stop bickering Double standard Leadership Guardsman’s perspective Noble cause AAFES pricesSeptember 8 That’s the Army Serious injustice Dedicated teacher Chiemsee closing ‘Undercover hideaway’September 9 Friend was hero Lynch did nothing Toilets wanted Alcohol letter embarrassing Reasons for enlistingSeptember 10 Lazy thinking Thanks for support Right to gripe Gay issue GIs have always complained Different standardsSeptember 11 No morale left Enough already Heard enough Lynch not heroSeptember 12 Where’s Army values? Iraq isn’t done yet Lynch not heroic Conclusions misleadingSeptember 13 Combat Infantry Badge No respect for Army medics Cycle of justifications Shouldn’t join

Members of my platoon here in Iraq get a kick out of reading the letters in Stars and Stripes. It’s the one portion of the paper that we read when we get one at all. Recently we’ve enjoyed the debates between servicemembers who argue about little things. Since this is my third deployment in the last four years, I’d like to share some things with fellow readers.

First, let’s stop comparing deployment lifestyles. My first deployment was to Kosovo in early 2000. I was a private, fresh from basic and airborne school, so I thought it was horrible. When I deployed to Afghanistan in January 2002, I learned how wrong I was. Kosovo had beds (not cots), showers, heat, air conditioning, a 24-hour chow hall and a respectable post exchange. (I was at Camp Monteith). In Kandahar, we had sand and not much else.

I know how bad the soldiers in the desert have it. I was that guy last year. Here in Mosul I have showers, air conditioning, phones, computers and a post exchange. I know that other people in theater also have these things. I ask those in Kuwait to stop complaining. After all, when was the last time a soldier at Camp Doha was shot at? I truly feel for those sucking it up in the desert.

Second, I have some news for the reservists in theater who are saying how horrible it is that they were taken from their lives and families: All the active-duty people around them had the same thing happen to them. My son was born on July 4 while I was here. Others in my unit are also new fathers. We don’t know when we’ll see our children, but we have a job to do. Will we deploy after six months at home? Most likely. That’s what we do, even if some active-duty people just signed up for college money.

Finally, the mail: It was slow in Kosovo, it was slow in Afghanistan, it’s slow here and it will be slow wherever we go next. That’s a fact we must accept. We should just be happy to get mail at all. Some soldiers never get anything.

Writers should stop all this back-and-forth bickering and remember those who are worse off than themselves. But what would I do for entertainment if they did?.

Cpl. Brad JamesMosul, Iraq

Double standard

I’m writing to inform readers that the National Guard and Reserve components are getting dragged across the coals.

I’m in the National Guard and was activated to Camp Doha, Kuwait, in January. We ended up staying at Fort Carson, Colo., for a month and finally got here in February. I’m with an Engineer Utility Team, which means we maintain Camp Doha and the surrounding camps. We’ve built offices and sand tables, and even painted the airfield taxi lines by hand. We’ve done everything that they’ve set in front of us.

We’ve been in country for almost seven months and have just been informed that the Guard and Reserve components can’t take rest and recuperation leave. But active-duty servicemembers can and have taken R&R leave after their initial six months in country.

Active-duty servicemembers also have some clue as to when they’re getting sent home. But we don’t have a set date. We’ve heard rumors about staying until November or next February.

As guardsmen we become Title 10 soldiers, which means we get put into active-duty status. Yet there’s a double standard. How is this supposed to be an “Army of one”?.

Sgt. Brad M. PodanyCamp Doha, Kuwait


I’m deployed out of the 16th Signal Battalion from Fort Hood, Texas. The heat is one thing, but the leadership toward soldiers is another. I hope someone will listen to what we have to say instead of not wanting to get involved. It would help out a lot.

On Jan. 20, we were called in on our day off to report to base because we were headed to Turkey. Then things changed and we ended up in Iraq looking for Saddam Hussein. While we had orders to leave in January, we still didn’t leave until April 6. Nobody has answers to our questions, so we’re frustrated.

I have a lieutenant colonel who took it upon himself to bring the whole battalion out to Iraq instead of the two companies that were supposed to come. This hurt a lot of fellow soldiers who were wondering why. It was because the lieutenant colonel pushed for us to come so he could get his promotion. He’s not out here with us anymore because he knew when we were coming that he’d be on a plane leaving his soldiers behind. I don’t understand how he can call himself a leader after a power move like that. Since arriving in Iraq I’ve seen my lieutenant colonel, command sergeant major and first sergeant all leave. Now I’m hearing that my company commander is starting the process to leave us as well.

We were told our mission was for six months. Now they’re telling us it will be a whole year, and we’re without a mission.

While in Iraq I’ve received a lot of bad news which makes it hard to function without my family. I had two uncles die within five days, and my wife was giving birth at the same time. Can readers believe that my old and new lieutenant colonels both wouldn’t let me go home?

I thank Stars and Stripes for listening to soldiers. I respect Stripes for that. I ask Stripes to please keep supporting us throughout our peacekeeping in Iraq.

Pfc. Preston J. GravesAl Asad, Iraq

Guardsman's perspective

On behalf of myself and the many guardsmen and reservists here in Iraq, I want to provide a viewpoint from an E-5 guardsman’s perspective.

First I’d like to commend the writer of the letter “One-year deployment too long” (Aug. 5).

I and the nine soldiers with me have been away from our homes since Feb. 16. I haven’t seen my wife and children since April 20.

I’m part of a 10-man detachment. We specialize in water well drilling. So far we’ve drilled wells in two separate locations and have had no success. We’re working with equipment that had sat on its rear for 15 years. Then we’ve overloaded it with work in a 24-hour operation for 25 to 30 days straight. And that’s not to mention the work of 10 men. This has produced a host of mechanical breakdowns. But despite a lack of parts, we’ve continued the mission with some redneck engineering and good mechanics. So far our water wells have produced nothing but salty water and the stench of sulfur that smells like boiled eggs. Excuse me for asking, but hasn’t Iraq’s water source been from rivers for the past several thousand years?

On a more personal note, my wife and I have six children together ranging from 5 to 15. We also have a lawn and landscape business. At least I hope we still have a business when I get home. My absence has placed a tremendous burden on my wife’s shoulders. I’m wondering if the Army and my government will be there to help me keep my business afloat when or if I get home. I know I’m not the only guardsman or reservist with similar circumstances.

A one-year rotation for me and other guardsmen is not a morale booster or an incentive to remain in the Guard. Can I go home now? I have a wife, four stepchildren, and a livelihood that needs my attention.

Sgt. Dale BrownIraq

Nobel cause

I’ve been in Baghdad for a little more than a month with a Quartermaster Company. The days are hot and the work is sometimes long and dull. Our company consists of a group of reservists who for the most part would rather be home with our families. I’ve read all the active duty vs. reservist letters. They’ve said they’d like to go home, how bad things are here, and that it’s no fun being in a war zone.

There are some things in life that transcend personal comfort — such as freedom, fair play, human rights and the right of people to live without fear. I think our mission in Iraq is a noble cause and that the Iraqi people deserve the chance to have something like we Americans have.

It’s not easy or fun to help free people and give up so much of our way of life for people we don’t know. But that’s the American ideal, and it’s one reason I’m in the Army. Sure, there are other reasons. But I couldn’t hold my head up if we don’t stay in the battle and give Iraqis a chance to taste the sweetness of liberty. Sure, they may not realize what we have to offer. But we’ve got to give them a chance. It’s tough and bloody. There’s no floor show and no beer, but it’s our ideal.

Many will call me a pie-in-the-sky fool. Maybe. But someone in this world has to stand up for what’s right, and the former leader of Iraq was not right. I hate this as much as the next person. But we’re the only ones in the world who will and can fight so that little kids don’t grow up in fear.

Sgt. Wayne MallaviaBaghdad, Iraq

AAFES prices

Maybe I’m wrong. But my grandfather told me that when he was in the military, the commissaries and exchanges were the places to shop because of great prices that no commercial stores could beat. Why is that not so today? This is how it was explained to me: The commercial stores went to Congress to complain that they were losing a great deal of business to commissaries and exchanges because servicemembers were bringing in civilians to shop. Congress responded by making the Department of Defense raise prices to just below the average cost of commercial retailers so they would “still be a perk to the military.” Is this still a perk? No, it isn’t.

It’s about time that AAFES hears the cries of its customers. Why should we suffer just to appease civilian retailers? My suggestion is to close the doors to non-ID cardholders and lower prices. This service should be made a real value again. Not only would this put more money in the pockets of servicemembers, it would also increase shopping at these services and thus make more money. I would stop shopping off post if AAFES lowered its prices.

Spc. Scott A. RapachBrunssum, Netherlands

September 8

That's the Army

I’m assigned to Task Force 1st Battalion, 13th Armor, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Divison, and am currently stationed in Baghdad, Iraq. I’m responding to the letter “Wasted time” (July 27).

We active-duty soldiers often joke about how we should have joined the Guard because of its duality. But in times of conflict it doesn’t matter if one is a so-called “weekend warrior” or a full-time soldier. Our nation calls and we go. We must be prepared to accept whatever adversity comes our way, whether as part of a “deception force” or actively engaged in the heat of battle. Fooling one’s enemies is a vital part of warfare. The letter writer believes his time was wasted. But in the grander scheme of things he’d have missed his semester of school anyway, his comrades their jobs, and all of them their families.

But so, too, have all the GIs who’ve deployed. Many have kids they’ve never seen. While heartbreaking, this doesn’t make them special. It’s a hardship shared by all GIs. GIs during the U.S. Civil War expressed the same feelings that many of us are writing home about now. That’s the reality of war and the price paid by all those who’ve given their lives to their nation’s defense. It’s always been like this, and anyone who feels it should be otherwise is hopelessly naïve or equally foolish.

While the writer was wasting his time in Fort Lewis, Wash., my unit was already sweltering in Kuwait and had been for almost a month. We’d just moved into Camp Pennsylvania after sitting in a staging area for two weeks with very little mail and without showers, phones or the Internet. Our time was not being wasted. Our turn had yet to come. There’s not one soldier in 1-13 who wouldn’t have traded places with the writer in a heartbeat. But we all knew it couldn’t be helped. That’s the Army.

Once called, our time is the Army’s time. Once called up, a guardsman receives the same pay as a regular duty soldier of his pay grade 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays.

We have a lot of problems here in Iraq. Despite the attacks, our casualties have been comparatively low. Many of our brothers in the Middle East don’t have the same luxuries that many of us in Baghdad and other cities have. But we’re all brothers in arms. We all swore the same oath. We all had our business explained to us and were all warned about what it could mean before we signed on the dotted line. That’s life. That’s the Army. And like every other soldier throughout the long march of history, the best we can do is suck it up and drive on with the mission.

Spc. Sean D. McBruneyBaghdad, Iraq

Serious injustice

I’m deployed to Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division. There’s a GI in my company from Arizona who’s a Mexican immigrant. His name is Spc. Monterro. He’s not yet a U.S. citizen. He’s served his country for nearly three years now. By the time he goes home to begin clearing, he’ll have spent nine months in Iraq and Kuwait.

He spoke to someone about his citizenship status recently and was told he needs paperwork to begin the process. He was told that when he gets back to the States he’ll have to pay fees, be interviewed, take a test and undergo a background check.

It amazes me that this soldier, along with a generation of young immigrants who have served “their” country in a combat zone during a war, must pay fees, take a test, give an interview and get a background check. Is their service in the U.S. military not a great enough price paid? Have they not passed the ultimate test of any American citizen? These men and women served “their” country in combat. What more is required of them? Their lives? Is that the test of their citizenship? I believe they’ve earned their citizenship and proven all that must be proven.

I was lucky enough to be born a U.S. citizen. This soldier was not. When I step on U.S. soil as a citizen, he won’t be. I’ve served my country. So has he and a lot of other immigrants. Don’t we all deserve to set foot on U.S. soil as Americans?

We have a generation of young Americans at home who can’t answer simple history questions and who choose not to serve their country. They’re citizens, while GIs like Monterro aren’t, even though they serve and put their lives in harm’s way for our freedoms. When they get home and can’t claim to be Americans — even though they proudly wear the uniform — it will be a serious injustice. This isn’t the American way. They’re Americans. They’ve paid the price in full and proven that they deserve their citizenship as much as anyone.

Pfc. Kenneth BrownIraq

Dedicated teacher

After reading the letter “DODDS helped Marine” (Sept. 4) about all the good that Department of Defense Dependents Schools do, I decided to add my two cents.

Last year my son had the privilege of being taught by Mrs. Jan Lowry at Patch Elementary in Stuttgart, Germany. She dedicated herself to helping my child, who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Lowry’s ability to temper patience with firm standards enabled my son to have an excellent school year. For the first time he felt successful and proud, and he achieved more than we expected.

Parents of ADHD children can relate to the necessity of having a teacher who sees their children on their own level and doesn’t compare them to their peers.

I thank Lowry for her dedication to all our “brats.” Those whose children are in her first grade class this year should count their blessings.

Tonya WillisStuttgart, Germany

Chiemsee closing

A few years ago it was decided to close the fabulous Chiemsee, Germany, resort to justify a huge hotel complex in Garmisch. Why? Certainly not profitability. Chiemsee still had a substantial positive net income in 2002 and probably will in 2003. In the article “Chiemsee Lake Hotel checks out” (Sept. 4), nobody doubted this. All that was said by Richard LeBrun, Armed Forces Recreation Centers resorts in Europe general manager, was that the “market base was dramatically reduced within the last six months . . .”

My wife Terry, my kids and I strongly believe that if AFRC would’ve put in the marketing efforts for the “sunset summer,” it probably could have at least covered its costs and made a contribution to the many families of deployed soldiers.

The real reason for the closure overall seems to be that some people high up in the AFRC hierarchy want a big hotel with a golf course nearby more than a country resort with a beach. What should families with kids do in the summertime in Garmisch? Go to an indoor pool and use an outdoor Jacuzzi? There is no beach and no sailing. Since there seems to be no significant financial issue other than the need for the transfer of funds from Chiemsee to Garmisch, it would have made sense to keep Chiemsee open at least until the hotel in Garmisch actually opens.

We’d like to thank the extremely courteous and knowledgeable AFRC staff at Chiemsee, and especially the “boathouse crew,” for their many years of service. We wish them the best in the future. Hopefully we’ll see each other at the lake again.

Karl-Heinz DullmaierDarmstadt, Germany

'Undercover hideaway'

I’m confident that I’m not the first or the last reader who will comment on the story “Undercover hideaway” (Sept. 3). Imagine my surprise when my 12-year-old son brought home Stars and Stripes to use for current events and read about a Department of Defense Dependent Schools teacher spending time at an hourly-rate hotel that features master and servant rooms!

Perhaps the reporter should limit his time spent at hourly-rate motels to his personal time. Stars and Stripes might also consider appealing to a broader readership by featuring vacation hot spots that don’t require clandestine visits to the local health clinic upon returning home.

Master Sgt. Steven WachterRamstein Air Base, Germany

September 9

Friend was hero

I keep seeing articles and hype about Jessica Lynch, who the Army has deemed a hero. Quite frankly, it’s starting to make me sick. I’m not saying that what she went through wasn’t hard, but come on. The investigation showed discrepancies in the stories. First, her injuries came from hitting the truck in front of her, not from any enemy activity. Second, she never fired her weapon. Third, she was not taken to an Iraqi hospital as a POW. And we’re honoring her as a hero?

Unfortunately, I can’t be deployed due to injuries I sustained before all this happened. But there are other soldiers who are more worthy of being labeled heroes than Lynch. One of them was my best friend, Spc. Craig S. Ivory. He was like my little brother. He recently passed away due to a blood clot in the back of his brain. He was a hero.

Spc. Ivory was a combat medic with the 501st Forward Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade. He saved lives and kept the soldiers under his care healthy and able to continue to fight. He was recognized on AFN television for his duties and what he and his medic team were doing and accomplishing. Spc. Ivory continued to take care of other soldiers even when his own health was deteriorating. He took the time to make sure that all his patients made it home alive. Some of those soldiers couldn’t be saved, but he did everything in his power to make every effort to save them.

Spc. Ivory also went on countless patrols and looked out for the members of his patrol teams. He did his job and did it well. That is heroism — the selfless service to take care of others before one’s self.

I know I’ll get some feedback on this letter, and some people will say I’m off my rocker. But there’s no one on this earth who can tell me that my friend, my little brother, wasn’t a hero. He was small in stature but big when it came to the size of his heart. He’s left some big shoes to fill. I tip my hat and salute Spc. Ivory for all that he did. He constantly looked up to me and I always looked out for him. Now I look up to him.

Sgt. Paul DietrichVicenza, Italy

Lynch did nothing

What’s the big deal with Jessica Lynch? Her convoy got ambushed and she was left for dead, captured and then rescued. She did nothing and she’s a hero? Plus she was not the only prisoner of war who was rescued.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very glad that she didn’t die. But she did nothing. How about the guys who saved her? No one hears about them or the many other soldiers who’ve been wounded or died. They get a word if they’re lucky. They’re not getting $1 million for getting injured, getting out of the Army and writing a book about it.

This makes me very upset. How many other POWs have there been who didn’t get anything? And how many are still out there? And Lynch gets $1 million for being there. So can anyone please tell me why Lynch is getting all of this money and fame while everyone else gets nothing or just a blurb here and there?

Sgt. Josh FrischmanHeidelberg, Germany

Toilets wanted

I’m posted in Balad, Iraq. Since my arrival, I’ve read numerous letters from soldiers complaining about living conditions, food, the mail, telephones and Internet connections, the heat, dust, laundry, communal showers, etc. But I haven’t seen a single letter complaining about the one thing that grates on me the most: burning human feces.

The burning takes place daily, morning and evening. One can see and smell the black smoke and fumes emanating from the cut up drums of waste mixed with JP-8. Gallons and gallons of fuel are mixed and burnt for hours, permeating the air we breathe, contaminating our tents and clothes, and potentially doing harm to our health.

We’ll never get indoor plumbing. That would be asking too much. But how about just plain, old-fashioned chemical toilets?

Martin AyalaCamp Anaconda, Iraq

Alcohol letter embarrassing

I’ve been reading Stars and Stripes almost daily while deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After reading the letter “Alcohol in Iraq” (Sept. 6), I actually became embarrassed to be in the military.

Day in and day out, all we read anymore is people complaining about what they don’t have, from bottled water to time off to daily three-beer rations. Is the writer kidding me? I’m not going to go into the whole “you joined the military so suck it up” rhetoric. But let’s be realistic. What are servicemembers really expecting to be provided while over here in combat mission status? I’d think that most of us would be grateful for what we do have and not complain about what comfort items we’re doing without. We should be grateful that we aren’t in some of the forward units and that we have the privileges that we do, such as writing to Stripes to complain.

There are soldiers being killed every day, and the writer had the audacity to complain about not being able to socialize and wash the dust from his throat with a few beers. But maybe that’s what’s to be expected from an E-6 in the Air Force.

The writer was correct when he said “soldiers will be soldiers,” because who does he think is out front fighting day and night while he’s back in the rear worrying about his own morale and well-being? If the biggest choice that Air Force personnel have is to risk getting caught illegally purchasing alcoholic beverages, they should consider themselves fortunate.

Staff Sgt. Jason LovellCamp Doha, Kuwait

Reason for enlisting

I’m the spouse of an active-duty soldier stationed in Europe. I read Stars and Stripes almost daily. Lately I’ve read numerous letters to the editor written by soldiers. Some of these soldiers complain. Others write in response to the soldiers who complained. I’ve noticed that many people make statements like, “Don’t like it? Get out.” Or things like, “You shouldn’t have been so naive to not know what you were getting into.” And also, “You joined of your own free will.” Well, that’s true. But some people don’t know what exactly it is they’re getting into.

My husband joined so we could raise a family and have free housing, medical coverage, 30 days of vacation a year, life insurance and a chance to tour Europe. What a pretty picture we were painted! It sounded great. But no one told us about working 15 hours a day, field time every other month for 25 days at a time, rotations to Kosovo for months on end, and the possibility that we would be apart for one year due to Operation Iraqi Freedom. That never crossed our minds. We figured on field time and a possible six-month rotation. But a year? Never.

We also never imagined being treated like dirt when my husband is home. I was in Germany for six months before I knew exactly what a Family Readiness Group is. We took cabs and rented cars for three months to get groceries and get my husband to and from work. I heard things like, “families stick together” and that the Army is firm on “family values.” Well, in response to all those who say, “Don’t like it? Get out,” I say don’t worry. In two years and 11 months, we will!

Misty LewisSchweinfurt, Germany

September 10

Lazy thinking

This is in response to the letter “No sympathy” (Aug. 31). What is it that warrants the label “complainer” that I see all the time? Having spent almost seven years on active duty and two years in the National Guard qualifies me to make the assertion that these two components are actually different. Imagine that! Different commitments, different resources and different capabilities. I know this is where the tiresome retort “But you volunteered!” comes in. I sure did. And I don’t mind being deployed here in the Balkans. But that doesn’t change the undeniable fact that in the Guard, people primarily sign up to be full-time civilians and part-time soldiers. So I do have a certain measure of sympathy for them.

Who makes up the Guard? We’re police officers, teachers, truck drivers, paramedics, warehouse managers, construction workers and college students. Through our own lives, we contribute to society. And in times of national crisis, we know that the National Guard is expected to help augment or supplement active components. But I take exception to the opinions of the letter writer and others like him who demonstrate ignorance when they can’t tell the difference between a legitimate concern and a complaint. If they’d listen to these “complaints,” they’d hear that these “whiners” are simply wondering what purpose they now have in the Middle East. After all, didn’t President Bush declare an end to combat operations and thereby reduce the number of troops there?

Never mind that we miss our families. I’m certain that it happens to everybody regardless of component and service. But leaders are failing those under their charge when they can’t instill a sense of purpose in those they lead, be it moral or objective. Could it be our civilian leadership has failed the letter writer in the Middle East? My only hope is that the letter writer and others like him never get to lead troops if the best they can do is dismiss everything as “complaints” and everyone as “whiners.” That’s lazy thinking, if it’s thinking at all.

Staff Sgt. Howie HuEagle Base-ConnorBosnia and Herzegovina

Thanks for support

I’m a Unit Support Group leader for the 70th Transportation Company in Mannheim, Germany, and I’d like to say thanks to the leaders who are continually coming out to support our group. Whether it’s meetings, functions or socials, they’re always there in full force with ideas and suggestions. Their attitudes are not that they have to attend, but that they want to be there to participate and meet all those in attendance. We all know that leadership is by example, which they are definitely doing for all road warrior soldiers and family members.

So I send a special shout out to Capt. Lanier, 1st Lt. Blanchard, 1st Sgt. Bush, 2nd Lt. Corbett, 1st Lt. Moize and 2nd Lt. Hicks. I know how busy their days and evenings can be, and I appreciate every minute that they spend with our Unit Support Group. They have no idea how much of a difference they’re making in the perception of leadership and interest in the families. I know that they’ll continue to support the efforts of our group, which makes it all so much easier.

Kelly AndersonMannheim, Germany

Right to gripe

I’ve been in Kuwait for several months and have had a good time reading the letters to the editor, both pro and con, about conditions here in Kuwait and in Iraq. We’re all entitled to our own opinions, and here’s mine: Anyone who says that they love it here should have their heads examined. None of us should love it here when we have loved ones back home worried to death about our well-being. We should just do what it takes to get the job done and go home to our families and careers.

Second, all of the professional soldiers who get a kick out of making fun of the folks who happen to air their gripes should grow up. How would they like it if someone criticized them when they weeped about something in their lives? The last time I looked, we were all on the same team, whether it be active duty, Guard or Reserve. Let’s start respecting everyone’s right to gripe and not be vicious about it.

Thomas F. Curran Jr.Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

Gay issue

Here we go again with the whole gay issue. Gay marriage. Should they adopt? And oh, we can’t forget about that pesky pedophilia, can we?

Why is it that every time there’s any issue surrounding gays, there’s an automatic attachment of pedophilia to it? As far as religion goes, it’s not gays who are the problem. It’s the Roman Catholic Church that has covered up and moved priests to prevent them from being caught.

Pedophilia is a problem, not homosexuality. Gays should be able to adopt without fear of being labeled as pedophiles. Granted, maybe they should be watched, but no more than anybody else.

This issue is getting old, just like the archaic arguments. All these moralistic and ethical attacks on gays are the only shelter that religion can stand behind, rather than “Love thy neighbor” or “Judge not . . .”

Paul DeckerMannheim, Germany

GIs have always complained

This is in response to the letter “Problems fixable” (Aug. 31). I was really surprised to see that the writer was my drill sergeant in advanced individual training.

I agree 110 percent with his viewpoints on soldiers’ complaints. Soldiers have complained about inconveniences since the American Revolution, all of which are covered by the First Amendment. I read Stars and Stripes every day, and rarely do I see letters to the editor in which someone isn’t complaining about mail service, a lack of air conditioning in tents or having to drink 100-degree water. I also agree that most, if not all, of these things can be easily fixed. Most of them have.

I, too, sympathize with people who are extended past their expiration, time of service dates, because chances are that it wasn’t explained to them that this clause was in their contracts when they signed them. If anyone has a reason to complain, they probably have the best one. When they see other people in the same situation leaving the theater to ETS, it must greatly upset them to know that they aren’t going, too.

I wish to thank the writer of “Problems fixable” for setting straight the writer of the letter “Act like the best” (Aug. 23). The writer of “Problems fixable” has proven himself in the past and present to be a noncommissioned officer who truly cares for his soldiers.

Sgt. Douglas R. CarlileKuwait

Different standards

I’m in a Reserve unit that’s been in theater since April 15. We’re going to be in Iraq for who knows how long. I’m an Active Guard Reserve, and my expiration, term of service date was in July. I went to check when I can get out of the system and was told that since my orders have me deployed with a Reserve unit, I have to stay until the unit is demobilized and a period of 90 days following the unit’s demobilization.

What’s the point of having an “Army of one” when we still have different standards and regulations? Wherever I go I’m considered active duty, yet I fall under Reserve rules for the most part.

I know soldiers who are active duty, and they’ve been allowed to ETS from Iraq. So why can’t AGR and Reserve soldiers ETS from theater? I think the Army has a double standard. If soldiers are coming up on their ETS dates and they don’t want to re-enlist, then they should be allowed to get out.

What happened to this being a voluntary Army?

Staff Sgt. Hector MartinezBaghdad, Iraq

September 11

No morale left

I joined the Reserve so I could be a part of the great “Army of One.” But the “Army of One” is only for active-duty soldiers. It hasn’t been so great for us here in Kuwait. As a reservist, I should be treated like an active-duty soldier. Therefore, active-duty or Reserve soldiers who were deployed for six months or longer should be able to leave when their time comes. Active-duty soldiers shouldn’t get to leave first and then the Reserves may go after everyone has gone.

One thing no one is looking at is that active duty soldiers will always have jobs and the means to support their families. But reservists have only their jobs to support their families. When I joined the Reserve, I realized I was never promised anything. But it just seems to me that if I’m willing to give my life for something I believe in, then maybe someone should be able to realize the problems we’re facing and be willing to say something. They shouldn’t tell us it’s our problem, because how do they expect soldiers to do their jobs when back home things aren’t working out too well?

A lot of readers may think that I should stop my complaining and crying. That’s OK, because I deserve to complain and cry. So before judging me, readers should please put themselves in my reservist boots and then see if I have the right to complain.

It’s already hard to focus on being here for six more months. They told us that they were working on a window of six months or a little more to get us home. But once again that turned out to be just another rug pulled out from under us. So now we’re stuck here until January 2004 or thereafter. By then, of course, I’ll be unemployed. So how can we keep up the good work like everyone is telling us?

I have no morale left in me. The 38 soldiers in my unit are slowly losing any faith they had in getting home before Thanksgiving or Christmas. I hope no other reservists or guardsmen will ever have to go through what we’re going through.

Benjamin MunginKuwait

Enough already

I say enough already to all the people taking issue with the complaints from soldiers in Iraq about how long they’ve been serving. I have all the respect in the world for veterans of previous wars. But in World War II, servicemembers knew that when Germany, Japan and Italy were defeated, they’d go home. In Korea, soldiers knew that when they stopped North Korea, they’d go home. In Vietnam, they knew that when they stopped the North Vietnamese, they’d go home.

So can anyone tell me at what point the war on terrorism ends? Terrorism has been around for as long as man has fought man. So those criticizing the complainers should please stop saying that the troops will come home when the “war on terror” is over unless they can tell the soldiers who are fighting the war when it will end.

I don’t know about the rest of those in the military, but I only intended to sign up for 20 years and then retire. I never planned on serving for the rest of my life.

Spc. Scott AustinEagle Base, Bosnia

Hard enough

I’m writing about all the people who are telling deployed troops to stop crying about the Iraq deployment. I’ve heard enough. I’m sick and tired of people pretending everything is well in Iraq and that it’s not supposed to be any other way because there are “certain circumstances” that come with deployments.

I’d like those who say our troops complain too much to think about how often they shower each week, how often they have hot meals that don’t say MRE on the package, how often they write e-mails to friends, and how often they telephone loved ones.

I’d also like them to think about how many days they work without at least a couple hours of sleep, how often they get to shut a door behind themselves to have a minute to themselves, and how often they sit somewhere in an empty building on a stakeout or stand on top of a bridge to guard a road in bright sunlight for 12 hours.

I believe the people who say soldiers complain too much don’t do these things. I bet they phone their loved ones a couple of times a week and have Internet access.

My husband has been deployed with the 1st Armored Division since April. We talk by phone about once every three weeks for 20 minutes. Some of the letters I write never get to him, and Internet access works the same way as the phones. My husband hardly gets any time off. His letters break my heart. He’s sick and tired of being down there. He’s getting burned out, and there’s nothing I can do to help him.

I have fears every day that my husband is getting his head blown off up on that bridge. Letters take a long time, if they get here at all. When I read them I know that he was doing as good as he could two weeks ago. But what about today or yesterday? Every time I talk to him he sounds more tired and worn out.

Please don’t tell me the soldiers in Iraq shouldn’t complain. We’re into the fifth month of them being gone and “issues” don’t improve at all. Instead they get worse.

I believe more people should complain about our troops’ quality of living, if that’s what anyone wants to call it, and shout for improvements. How are things supposed to change if nobody points out the problems? With all the things going wrong, I won’t be surprised to see the Army shrink by the end of this deployment.

All the deployed soldiers who point out stuff that’s going wrong should keep doing it and pray for improvements. They should keep their heads high. They’re doing a great job considering the circumstances. They’ll all be home in no time, and we’ll be here waiting for them.

Stefanie SpearsBüdingen, Germany

Lynch not hero

As a decorated Vietnam veteran with the 1st Cavalry Division from 1966 to 1968 and a member of a Pennsylvania National Guard infantry unit serving in Kosovo — yes, Vietnam veterans are still serving in infantry units — I held my emotions until I read about Jessica Lynch’s $1 million book deal.

For Lynch and most others in her “lost patrol” to receive the Bronze Star is an affront to all Bronze Star medalists who earned their medals. The Bronze Star has now been reduced to the rating of a scouting merit badge.

Instead of receiving medals, all the patrol members with Lynch — except the one who did act as a soldier and put up a fight — should have been recycled to basic training to relearn map reading and basic soldiering skills. Their sergeant should also have been reduced in rank for incompetence.

Perhaps the Army should tell the true story, as we all know Lynch’s vehicle was not hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. It crashed into the vehicle in front of it. This was a vehicle accident at most in a combat situation, not the “hero” spin put out by the Pentagon and the media.

The book’s profits could go toward Veterans Affairs outreach programs. When I was wounded and hospitalized on several occasions, my family was not flown to my bedside. I took a bus home, not a helicopter. Lynch is no hero.

Sgt. Mike FeeneyCamp Monteith, Kosovo

September 12

Where's Army values?

I’m very disappointed that National Guard servicemembers are complaining and causing dissension among the services when asked to fulfill their duties and obligations as soldiers. These soldiers are not living up to the seven Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. All soldiers were trained to live by these values at all times and should be ashamed of themselves for not having the discipline to do so.

Our current mission is to conduct combat operations to secure Iraq. In Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division (Iron Dukes), this mission will be completed with the highest level of military professionalism.

The writer of the letter “Active duty should take over” (Aug. 24) is a prime example of a soldier who doesn’t abide by the seven Army values. He doesn’t deserve to wear the uniform if he isn’t able to serve with honor and uphold the Army’s tradition. All who wear the uniform should be professionals in their fields of expertise and live honorably by the seven Army values.

Pvt. 2 Shakim WhiteBaghdad, Iraq

Iraq isn't done yet

I’m an Army Reserve soldier serving in Iraq, and I just read the Washington Post article, “Parents of Troops in Iraq Fight to Get Them Home” (Aug. 14). It mentioned the “Bring Them Home Now” campaign.

I’d love to go home. I’ve put in a leave request to go home for two weeks. I need to go home. I have a lot of things that I need to take care of. All servicemembers need to be home with their families and contributing to their communities.

But Iraq isn’t done yet. The international forces here haven’t finished what we started. It would be irresponsible for us and the rest of the world to abandon Iraq now at this crucial point. We have a moral obligation to help people in need.

Iraq was devastated long before we invaded. Iraqis have no concept of how to live in a free society. If we leave now, we leave a vacuum for someone more evil than Saddam Hussein to fill.

Iraqis remind me of latchkey kids whose parents are drug addicts — they have enough survival skills to get through the day, but they can’t see past tomorrow. That’s not just Arab culture, it’s dysfunction. We have to take these people by the hands and show them how to grow and mature into a country that contributes to the worldwide community.

We can’t leave Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo or the Philippines. We need to send more people to Liberia and every other nasty little hot spot that pops up in Africa. We need to work to overthrow the extremist Muslim regime in Iran before any more people there die. Every day that we delay in taking care of Iran, another person in that country dies in the name of Allah.

We need to be everywhere there are jihadists or other extremists willing to kill people based on their religious or ethnic or tribal affiliations or for having an independent thought. We need to be everywhere there are corrupt leaders keeping their people crushed down under the weight of their own greed.

If that means I have to live another year or more in Iraq, then so be it. If it has to be 10 more years, then I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make it right here. If that means that other families don’t have their soldiers home with them for a while, then that’s just how it has to be. I’ll sleep out in a dirt field and live without all of the comforts of modern living for the rest of my life if that’s what it takes to eliminate the threat to freedom and ensure that we never have to come back to finish this job again.

I’m willing to pay more taxes, spend more time deployed, and even sacrifice my life if that’s what it takes. Freedom costs, but it’s worth every penny and every drop of blood.

Staff Sgt. Brenda MontagueCamp Babylon, Iraq

Lynch not heroic

I’d like to voice my opinion on “America’s hero” Jessica Lynch. It seems rather taboo for people to deny her heroism status. But I’ve never been one to go with the grain, so here goes. Why is Lynch so special? Thousands of men and women are in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan fighting for freedom and everything that America stands for. There are people shot and killed every day, and none of them have received the publicity and status of Lynch. And I’m sure that a lot of them don’t expect to be called heroes because they’re just doing their jobs.

The members of my unit have been in Kuwait and Iraq for a collective eight months, and none of them have been deemed heroes. They’ve been shot at and mobbed by crowds of Iraqis just like all the other soldiers over there. And the reason it’s nothing out of the ordinary is because we all raised our hands and swore to defend our nation from enemies foreign and domestic. Yet one woman who was taken prisoner because her unit made a wrong turn is a hero. She’s even said herself that she doesn’t remember the incident.

So what exactly is so heroic about her situation? I think that’s the biggest bunch of junk. She received a new car, an addition on her family’s home and much, much more. What about the rest of America’s heroes? Instead, the government debates whether or not to cut our pay.

I think the media needs to cool it with the Lynch hype.

Spc. Colleen DixonVilseck, Germany

Conclusions misleading

I recently read the article “Military education system at head of class” (Aug. 22). I have an extensive college math background, and the story’s conclusions are based on misleading statistics. Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe includes students who are homeschooled in its data.

It’s a proven fact that homeschooled kids do better than those in regular schools. Before DODDS-Europe can take the credit for its great scores, it should take out the scores of homeschooled kids and then do its comparison. I think readers will realize that their scores are not as high as the story tried to give them credit for. The story did give credit to parents who actively take part in their children’s education, but it never directly mentioned those who home school.

My wife and I homeschool our kids because of the poor level of teaching in the elementary school here in Vilseck, Germany. I don’t want to give the impression that all the teachers in Vilseck are bad. There are some excellent teachers. But as always, the bad ones taint the good ones. There are many parents here who have removed their kids from regular school in the past year for homeschool.

The statistics from this school, presented to us when going over our kids’ scores, showed very little improvement in DODDS-Europe students from last year to this year, especially when the correct statistical comparisons are made. It’s amazing how people can be baffled and misled by statistics, especially those who are ignorant of the real statistical data.

How many of these students just came from a stateside school and were here less than a year before taking the test? Is Stripes going to give the DODDS-Europe system credit for its education too?

Staff Sgt. Brian LawVilseck, Germany

September 13

Combat Infantry Badge

Recently I’ve read several letters from soldiers with military occupational specialties other than infantry who aren’t eligible to receive the Combat Infantry Badge. The latest was “ ‘Part-timers’ busy” (Sept. 1).

Soldiers of every MOS have been tested and proved themselves in battle throughout Iraq under extreme conditions. They should wear every award, badge and patch with pride. They’ve earned the respect of other soldiers. They should have the satisfaction of knowing that they have contributed to something great. But the CIB was created under very specific conditions for very specific reasons.

The CIB was created in 1943 to specifically honor the contributions of the infantry. In the history of the award, Army Regulation 600-8-22 says that “it was recognized that the infantry continuously operated under the worst of conditions and performed a mission which was not assigned to any other soldier or unit.” It further stated that the CIB was to recognize “the Army infantryman, the only soldier whose mission is to close with and destroy the enemy and to seize and hold terrain.”

Almost all soldiers in Iraq have operated in deplorable conditions, and some did “close with and destroy the enemy.” Nothing should be taken away from them. But even some soldiers from infantry units were ineligible to receive the CIB despite the fact that they performed every task that the rest of us did. They didn’t meet the criteria for the award.

Our battalion worked with many great GIs of countless MOSs. The major command that we served under was a military police brigade. We were watched over as we cleared the houses of villages and ran late-night patrols from the hand-dug holes we lived in for months.

We are appreciative of the fine soldiers who watched over us. They showed their warrior spirit when needed. Many soldiers worked and fought alongside infantry units all over Iraq and continue to do so.

Like all GIs, we in the infantry chose our MOSs. We draw the same pay according to our grade and ask for no additional incentives. We recognize and appreciate the skills of all the soldiers who join us on the battlefield. We all do our jobs and more.

No badge will ever exemplify the great things that Army members have done. But let soldiers wear their combat patch, Combat Medical Badge, crew badge, brassard or whatever badge they’ve earned with pride — and leave the CIB alone.

Douglas C. RappCamp Arifjan, Kuwait

No respect for Army medics

Kudos for the letter “Army behind curve” (Aug. 24). The writer hit the nail squarely on the head concerning today’s Army medics. We’re the least-respected, least-thought-of military occupational specialty in today’s military. Medical personnel are last on the list for training, the Noncommissioned Officer Education System, equipment, repairs, and promotions. But they’re first for details, duty rosters and any other jobs felt not befitting the time and effort of the almighty combat GIs.

The decision to combine the medical specialist and licensed practical nurse into one MOS has been disastrous for LPNs. Fifty two weeks of intensive training, hands-on exercises and real-life working are lost to provide a larger manpower pool for combat arms units. MOSs such as LPN, physical therapy assistant and other advanced specialties were avenues of advancement in the medical field. These required months of in-house training and months of schooling. The specialists were assigned to units in which they actually utilized the training, were encouraged to build upon it with further education and allowed the time to do so.

This is no longer the case. Now it’s just another avenue of getting medics to combat arms units. This would not be necessary if these units were not a death sentence to medics’ careers. Male Army combat medics will not get a Medical Department Activity assignment, even if they re-enlist. It’s not going to happen. But a combat division replacement is guaranteed. It’s not worth the disrespect or contempt we receive from combat arms personnel. The cliques or having to be on someone’s good side just to get a “fair opportunity” to advance one’s career is not worth it. Someone just not liking you and stopping your progression is just too much to ask of any soldier.

In the very near future, many medics will be “taking it to the house” simply because of the lack of respect that medics receive in this environment. It should not be that way, but it is, and it will only get worse in the months and years ahead.

Pierre F. ClineTikrit, Iraq

Cycle of justifications

Here we go again. We’re repeating once more the cycle of justifications for AAFES’ exorbitant gasoline prices in Europe. It goes like this:

First, U.S. gasoline prices rise. The reason is irrelevant. Second, AAFES sees an opportunity to raise prices, using the above as justification. Third, Stars and Stripes slavishly publishes AAFES’ propaganda. Fourth, customers protest. Fifth, AAFES graciously and slightly backtracks in succeeding months.

I’ve often wondered why Stripes feels compelled to print what it must know is claptrap in the guise of AAFES justifications. Much is made of the “basing” of gas prices on U.S. prices. But oil prices are very similar worldwide, and I’m sure that the actual price that AAFES pays for gasoline correlates for the most part to wholesale prices in the U.S. without taxes.

Since AAFES pays no taxes, as I understand it, and since we are closer to the source of most oil and refineries, the pump price here should approximate the U.S. pump price minus the taxes. These include ads, facilities costs, a reasonable profit, insurance, salaries, and delivery.

So the pump price here should be significantly less than in the U.S. When anyone asks AAFES what it actually pays for gas, the only explanation is irrelevant babble about contributions to Morale, Welfare and Recreation, U.S. prices, diaper prices, and prices on the economy in Europe.

Why doesn’t Stripes perform a real service to its readers? Why doesn’t it find out and publish the actual price paid by AAFES per liter on a single day or in a single month and print it side-by-side with the retail price per liter to customers? If Stripes does this, it should insist on printing only the price paid to the contractor. That would clarify the issue.

Charles KitchensBad Aibling Station, Germany

Shouldn't join

I’m writing in response to the letters “Double standard” (Sept. 7) and “Guardsman’s perspective” (Sept. 7). “Double standard” complained about not being able to take rest and recuperation leave. But wait a minute. The writer is at Camp Doha, Kuwait! What does he need to take rest and recuperation from? Is all that Burger King and KFC food finally getting to him? Or is the marble palace/Morale, Welfare Recreation center just too stressful to handle? I’m pretty sure the writer’s been there, and if he hasn’t, I highly recommend it. It will let him get the nice “rest and recuperation” he so desperately needs.

The writer of “Guardsman’s perspective” said that “a one-year rotation is not a morale booster or an incentive to remain in the Guard.” Why is he in the Guard in the first place? He claimed to have a lawn and landscape business. Doesn’t it make him a nice income? If he’s still struggling to make ends meet even with owning his own business, then maybe a part-time job would have suited him better than joining the Guard. With six kids, I don’t know why he’d take the risk of being deployed. He knew about the risk, right? The rest of us also have families and lives that need attention. I don’t think the writer’s family is more special than ours.

Some people who join the Guard or Reserve believe too much in the commercial that says “one weekend a month, two week a year.” But then again, they join the Reserve or Guard for the wrong reasons, like getting college money. These people shouldn’t join. We don’t want people like them out here with us.

Seaman Jorge H. RomeroCamp Commando, Kuwait

Stripes in 7

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