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December 1

Can’t use PX

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

December 1 Can’t use PX Slain soldier Fashion police Evangelists

December 2 Recruiters at schools Retiree postal privileges Dangers to children

December 3 Shut out from AAFES Bagging argument

December 4 DODDS cuts Fisher House Front-page photo

December 5 Soldier’s slaying Role of U.S.

December 6 Steamed by DODDS cuts AAFES’ hours Gas prices

December 7 Physical fitness Confederate flagStripes great paper

My name is Sgt. John Ray. I’m in the U.S. Army. I’m currently deployed in southwest Asia at a base shared by the U.S. Air Force.

The Air Force has a compound on this base. It allows members of the British military and U.S. Navy to utilize its AAFES post exchange facility. But we in the Army are not allowed to set foot on the compound.

I’m under the impression that AAFES stands for Army and Air Force Exchange Service. It’s not “AFES” or just the Air Force Exchange Service. We even have a problem with the AAFES trailer entering this air base. It seems the Air Force says who can and cannot enter this base, even though the Air Force is just a tenant unit like us.

This is even worse: The other day we had an injured soldier. Our medics didn’t have the equipment or facilities to handle this soldier. The soldier needed to be taken to the Air Force’s medical facilities. When the soldier and medics reached the gate, they were told, “If it’s not life threatening, then go to the next Army base.” It’s 45 minutes to one hour away.

Sgt. John RayAli Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait

Slain soldier

It’s with mixed emotions that I write this letter. Today I mourn the death of Private 1st Class Clint Lamebear. I didn’t know him personally, but I’m also an American Indian from New Mexico. This young soldier was a proud person. He pursued his dream and joined the U.S. Army after high school. Coming from a family with a military history — Navajo Code Talkers, to be exact — Private 1st Class Lamebear was rich with pride and family honor. His dream became reality on Nov. 12 when he reported for duty in Germany. It ended 96 hours later when he was slain. Two U.S. soldiers have been charged with robbery and murder. Why?

If convicted, the charged soldiers need to be punished to the fullest extent. Murder does not deserve a slap on the hand. I encourage U.S. Army officials to seek the death penalty. Anything less is absolutely unacceptable. And think about how Pfc. Lamebear’s family found out that he had been slain. It was through the media, not the U.S. Army. This was an ultimate dishonor to Pfc. Lamebear and showed no respect to his family. This was also a slap in the face.

As an Indian, I’m outraged. Now is the time for the Army to prove it’s an “Army of One.” Not an “Army of One minus the Indians.” We are not savages.

If convicted, the suspects must pay for these crimes. If they had the choice, would they choose a one-way ticket to Ft. Leavenworth Prison or a one-way ticket to face the family of Pfc. Lamebear for life?

Trudy Garcia-DeeleyNaples, Italy

Fashion police

I read the letter “PT clothes” (Nov. 22). I didn’t know the fashion police were in town. I believe the writer will find her answer in Army Regulation 670-1. As for the spouses who don’t “work,” I’m one of those spouses. I do work, but not outside the home. My job consists of changing diapers, wiping noses, and telling bedtime stories. I don’t get paid with money, but I’m paid with lots of smiles and hugs and with the hope that I’m raising a good kid.

From time to time I’ve worn part of a physical training uniform. This doesn’t mean that I don’t shower or don’t do my hair. And I’m sorry, but I don’t wear much makeup. I do wear my own clothes. The writer should know her facts before she writes.

Patrice AlcornBaumholder, Germany

Evangelists

Is there a law or regulation against door-to-door evangelists? Readers know who I mean. They’re people who come to our doors asking if we know where we’re going when we die. (I do. Thanks.) In all my time in the military — as a Army brat, a soldier, and now a dependent spouse — I’ve had the uncomfortable experience of discussing my religion with a complete stranger.

Perhaps I was foolish in believing that, since we’re spared telemarketers in Germany, I would not have to endure door-to-door missionaries. But a man has visited my home three times in the last year. The first two times, I thought I made it abundantly clear that I didn’t want to talk to him.

During my first visit with him and his wife, I told him I’m a Wiccan and had converted from Christianity 20 years ago. So I was already aware of everything he wanted to tell me. I just didn’t believe in it. I didn’t say he was wrong. Christianity just doesn’t work for me.

The second visit, the evangelist brought a young middle school girl with him. While I understood that the Bible expected him to spread the word of God, I wasn’t interested. What did he say? “Well, if you have a delicious chocolate cake recipe, wouldn’t you want to share it with everyone?” Excuse me? “Not if they did not like chocolate,” I replied.

On the evangelist’s last visit, he brought along another child. Was that supposed to make me more receptive? Before I even said hello, he launched into his spiel about how science would not save the world, and he pulled out an article on stem cell research.

I firmly but politely told him that I didn’t want to have this conversation. He said he would return at a more convenient time. I told him quite clearly that I didn’t want to talk to him again and that I never wanted to see him at my door in the future. Maybe this time he’ll remember my words as well as he remembered my name.

If I want to revert to Christianity, I’ll talk to the local chaplain or attend one of the myriad of churches in the area. I don’t want to get the evangelist in trouble. But I want him to stop coming by to talk to me like we are old friends. I can’t be the only one experiencing this.

Connie L. RobertsWiesbaden, Germany

December 2

Recruiters at schools

I just finished reading the Juleyka Lantigua column “Military recruiters bully schools for access to students” (Nov. 22) about military recruiters at schools in the United States.

The column was as biased a report as one could write. Under current law, enlistees are required to be at least 18 years old or 17 with parental permission. In our country, a man or woman 18 years of age is considered an adult. An adult can make decisions concerning his or her life without parental permission.

Schools that allow IBM recruiters on campus should also allow military recruiters. Both recruiters offer jobs, but with one major difference: A military recruiter offers an enlistee an opportunity to guard the liberties that Ms. Lantigua enjoys in the United States.

As a 19-year-old with no job, a wife and a child, I joined the military. It gave me self-respect, a fair living, full medical benefits for my family and a future. Through the GI Bill, it paid for my education as an undergraduate and for law school.

I’m still a proud member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve and have been associated with the military for almost 30 years. I would not trade one day of it for a day with IBM.

The race card that Ms. Lantigua so blatantly played was a classic case of a person who possibly knows the real story, but finds that it sells more papers to ignore it. I was one of those troops in Vietnam. I volunteered to go because I believed that it was a job worth doing. I served with a large number of minorities. But they were not there because of their color, as Ms. Lantigua alleged. They were there because they either had not finished high school, did not have a deferred job or had nowhere else to go.

All of us had our names pulled from a hat. When a person’s name came up, he either had a deferment, served or left the country.

Our country needed soldiers during that time and had a long-standing legal draft to fill the ranks when there were not enough volunteers. It happened in World War II and Korea.

Because the United States occupies the position in the world that it does, it cannot just retreat into a cave and wait out the storm.

Military recruiters today offer incentive bonuses for some jobs. So does IBM and Microsoft. The U.S. military must compete with civilian recruiters for the same resources. In a democratic society, that’s the way it works.

Ms. Lantigua has the right in our country to express her views, and I accept her column as an exercise of that right. But I don’t accept her misstating the truth or twisting the facts.

Col. Ronald W. SchmidtMainz, Germany

Retiree postal privileges

The letter “Mail privileges” (Oct. 27) concerned the origin of the one-pound limit imposed on merchandise received at APOs by retirees.

On Oct. 17 I ordered a paperback book through the Heidelberg Book Store in Germany, thinking that it would weigh less than a pound.

On Oct. 28 I received a letter in my APO mailbox saying that the book had been received and returned to the publisher because it “exceeded the 16-ounce limitation for Box-R patrons.”

On April 3, 2001, a package of pistachios was returned to my niece, who had sent it to me for my birthday. She called me and thought it was ludicrous that something like that happened.

I obtained a copy of U.S. Army Europe Regulation 600-8-3. I quote the applicable paragraphs:

“c. Parcels weighing more than 16 ounces that are sent to Box-R personnel will be handled as prescribed in a and b above. The parcels will be delivered to the addressee with a written warning that the weight exceeds the weight restrictions prescribed by DOD Regulations. The APO will keep copies of these warning notices. If the violation happens more than two times in one year, overweight parcels will be returned to the sender marked ‘Exceeds Regulatory Weight Limitations for Box R.’”

Paragraph 67a states: “Mail privileges, both to and from Box-R patrons, are limited to parcels that weigh 16 ounces or less.” The regulation also states that “cards, letters, magazines and newspapers are not considered merchandise.”

Does this imply that retirees can receive two overweight parcels of merchandise per year? Naturally they would have to pay customs duties and any other fees prescribed by regulations. The files of “warning notices” should be of interest to the IG during his inspections.

Lt. Col. Robert W. Reid (ret.)Heidelberg, Germany

Dangers to children

I’m glad a skate park is available to our students at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. I’m happy they have someplace to go. But I have some important safety concerns.

I’m a teacher at Ramstein American High School, and I know the traffic patterns around the area. I’ve called the security police three times and visited with the head of security about the dangerous situation that has become standard. Namely, it’s the students who crowd around the park’s locked gate after school. As they wait to get in, the students skateboard on the street and overflow into it. Many times they don’t move when they see a vehicle coming. I was appalled while driving when one student refused to get out of the middle of the street. He indicated that I should drive around him! I drive a Ford Escape SUV. It’s a big vehicle. The student just calmly stood there on his skateboard.

That was when I made my second call to security and my first visit to the head of security. Patrol cars have been sent when I’ve asked, but it’s an ongoing concern. A child is going to get hit by a car one day, and I live in fear that it will be my car. I never speed on that road. But even going 10 miles per hour is scary when those students are all over the road. There is an access gate on the side near the building. Is it possible to use that as the access gate so the students would overflow into the parking lot rather than the street?

A second concern I have is safety in the park. Many times, and at odd times of the day, I drive by and see youths of all ages using the park. That’s a good thing. But I wonder how safe it is for the elementary and middle school students alongside high schoolers and even adults. The adults are between 18 and 25 years old. They’re at the park to enjoy it, not to watch their children. I know young children are supposed to have parental supervision, but it doesn’t always happen. I grow concerned when I see the park full of students, who are doing very dangerous things in the first place, without any supervision. Also, rightly or wrongly, mental images of parks in New York and Los Angeles with drug dealers pop into my head.

Maybe I’m an alarmist. Maybe not. I don’t have children. But as a teacher, I can certainly appreciate the effort it takes to watch over kids and keep them safe, many times in spite of their efforts to the contrary. I worry that I’m going to have an accident involving a child who decides to see if he can race across the street on his skateboard before my vehicle gets to him. A child has done that while I was driving. That’s the first time I called the police.

Much of my frustration stems from the fact that the students are totally oblivious to traffic. They feel the road belongs to them, and they know it would be a driver’s fault if anything happened. It would be easy to move the access gate to the existing one next to the building or put in an access gate on the forest-side of the park.

Nancy HartmanRamstein Air Base, Germany

December 3

Shut out from AAFES

The U.S. Army recently deployed a task force from Germany to the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The task force is made up of slice elements from units throughout Germany, with the core of the force being the 2-6 Air Cavalry Apache attack unit from Illesheim, Germany. Supporting units include the Alpha and Bravo Company 7/159th Aviation Regiment from Giebelstadt and Illesheim, the 159th MEDDEVAC unit, and the 5/158th Aviation Regiment.

The first stop for the task force was Camp Doha, Kuwait. An AAFES post exchange there was available for all military branches to use. After two weeks at Camp Doha, the task force moved to Ali Al Salem Air Force Base, Kuwait. Our troops expected to still have the same luxuries that we had at Camp Doha. Unfortunately, the U.S. Air Force thought otherwise. Are we all here in support of the same country and the same if not similar missions? Don’t we all fall into the category of the U.S. military? Don’t we all have the same commander in chief? Or is it the U.S. Air Force and then the rest of the services combined? It certainly seems like that at Ali Al Salem. Our brothers in arms have turned on us and made us outcasts from the military.

The Army’s use of base facilities at Ali Al Salem, such as the gym and post exchange, are totally out of the question. How can this be if AAFES stands for Army and Air Force Exchange Service? Has it been changed to NAAFOES (No Army Air Force Only Exchange Service)? How can this be if funds to build the exchange were generated by both the Army and Air Force? Does the Air Force not realize that we too have contributed to AAFES during our years of dedicated service? If so, why does the Air Force insist that we Army troops are not permitted to use these services at Ali Al Salem? Are members of the Air Force afraid that our soldiering skills may rub off on them? Do they think we’ll show them up just because of our high and tights? Do they not want to be corrected for walking around with their hands in their pockets? What’s the problem?

We’re all here for the same reason: to fight for freedom. Are we going to have to tell war stories about how we were mistreated by Air Force personnel while deployed in a faraway land, just like them? Some day it may be the other way around. The Army will have a base and Air Force personnel will need access and accommodations. How will they expect to be treated?

The Air Force should remember its roots. It branched off from the Army. The Air Force should never forget that, because the day will come when it will need the Army’s assistance. So we should start working together now and not wait for that day to come. If our troops are kept happy, They’ll give 110 percent. Sharing is caring, and caring is the will to fight as one unit.

Sgt. Niall M. TwomeyAli Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait

Bagging argument

I want to address the issue of youngsters bagging purchases at post exchanges. I’d like the writer of the letter “Don’t beg just yet” (Nov. 15) to know why youngsters should bag or participate in fund-raising for school trips or other school activities.

Sending these children out to raise money instills the work ethic and gives them a sense of accomplishment. I used to sell candy bars and other items to raise money for school clubs and any other school activities when we needed money. It made me into a better person at a young age and showed me that it took work and determination to get things done.

In my eyes, these children are doing nothing wrong. It also shows them what adults have to do day in and day out at our workplaces. It shows them that adult life is hard work and that they have to work for what they want or need. So people need to stop and think before they say anything against these kids.

Some adults have forgotten that bagging can educate children and instill a sense of responsibility. People are forgetting that this could be a teaching or learning thing for a child. I know it taught me a lot when I was growing up, and I’ll never forget what I did in my younger years.

Deborah LangstonVilseck, Germany

December 4

DODDS cuts

I’m a student at Naples American High School in Italy. On Nov. 25, our school became aware of the $18 million budget cut facing the Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe. I’m heavily involved in sports activities, and as a manager of the sports teams I can understand why the athletes don’t appreciate the way the cuts are being handled. I also have friends who participate in a myriad of extracurricular activities who will also be affected by the cuts.

The article “Student activities to lose with DODDS budget cuts” (Nov. 25) also mentioned that DODDS in Europe has known about these cuts for almost a month. Is there a reason why the people who the cuts will affect the most — the students — didn’t find out about them until recently?

At our school, we’ve seen the “across-the-board” cuts that DODDS in Europe talked about in the article. Any conferences that teachers would normally attend have been put on hold or cancelled. The Hinter Brand Lodge trip has also been cancelled. The items on the cut list that have affected our school’s atmosphere the most have been the cuts to sports. A home basketball meet, the first of our season, has been cancelled. The athletes and coaches are quite disappointed. The threat of other possible cancellations has the entire school in the throes of rumors. We know we have to wait to hear the final decisions, and it’s just starting to seem like a lifetime before we’ll know.

In my U.S. Government and Advancement Via Individual Achievement classes, the question of why has come up more than once. Why are these cuts being made? Why can’t the money come from anywhere else? Why are the dependents of America’s fighting forces being affected the most?

Did anyone ever ask the athletes what they thought? What about the beautiful voices in the chorus class? Did anyone ever ask for their opinions? Did they ask the person preparing for Model UN? Did they even think to talk to the students and get their opinions on what should go and what shouldn’t? Did they even try? I know that at our school they didn’t. All they did was tell us that we’re facing an $18 million budget cut and let us know they had some difficult decisions to make. Everyone knows that when a person has to make a difficult decision, one of the best ways is to get help and not do it alone — ask for help and get the opinions of others.

“No Child Left Behind” was the slogan displayed all across DODDS in Europe schools. Now it seems as if the means for not leaving them behind has gone out the window along with our $18 million.

Melissa HayNaples, Italy

Fisher House

Today we return to Germany to dedicate a second Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher House at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Our world has changed significantly since the dedication of the first Fisher House just last year. The horrific terrorist attacks on our homeland, with the resulting deployments of thousands of service personnel to Afghanistan and its surrounding areas, prompted Fisher House Foundation to fast track the building of a second, larger house at Landstuhl to ensure that families can be reunited with loved ones wounded or injured on the battlefield.

The house we dedicate today is 40 percent larger than the one dedicated in June, 2001. Located across the street from Fisher House I, Fisher House II has more suites, and we’ve added a family room in addition to the living room. Together, the two houses will be able to accommodate 19 families.

We are humbled at the outpouring of voluntary support for Fisher House I at Landstuhl. In 18 months, more than 350 families have stayed at the house, saving an estimated $390,000 over the cost of commercial lodging. Thirty-eight of the families were there to support a servicemember who was a casualty from Operation Enduring Freedom.

We hope no family members ever find themselves in the circumstances which would require a stay at Fisher House, but we are determined to do our best to meet the need. God bless every member of the U.S. armed forces, their families, and those who support them.

Arnold FisherChairman, Fisher House FoundationRockville, Md.

Front-page photo

How could the Nov. 22 front-page headline “2 GIs shot in Kuwait in serious condition” have a picture under it of dancing Department of Defense Dependents Schools teachers? Wasn’t it enough to have the other photos on page five with the article “DODDS teachers learn new steps in dancing classes” (Nov. 22)? Any pictures of soldiers in Kuwait would have been better than the teachers.

Francesca DorrityVicenza, Italy

December 5

Soldier’s slaying

When I read online about the murder of Pfc. Clint Lamebear, my heart was full of sorrow. I ask all readers to remember Pfc. Lamebear and his family, and to remember the names of those accused of taking the life of a fine young man. Those suspected of killing Pfc. Lamebear must be forgiven, for somewhere in their backgrounds they most likely were victims of emotional and/or physical abuse. But for some uncanny reasons, they were able to obtain entrance into the U.S. military.

I’ve read many stories about military servicemembers who committed heinous acts against mankind and animals, and I’m convinced that the entrance requirements for military servicemembers are lacking and compromising. The compromising is due in part to maintaining troop levels, etc. When will the U.S. military stop looking the other way when it comes to the mental health of its troops? I know the Defense Department has conducted numerous studies on the mental health of its troops, but it’s apparent that many mentally disturbed individuals have committed crimes while serving on active duty. Therefore, I have no doubt that there are many mentally disturbed servicemembers who are lingering in the shadows.

I don’t know the Lamebear family, but as a former Army specialist I shared the uniform that Pfc. Lamebear wore with pride. Instead of so many readers crowing about what the military hasn’t done for them, perhaps they should write more about the inhuman acts which many of their own commit against one another and seriously address those acts in an intellectual forum. They should keep Pfc. Lamebear and others who have passed away due to the horrors of mentally sick people in their hearts and minds.

Carlos Lee RawlsGiessen, Germany

Role of U.S.

What’s the appropriate role of the U.S. in foreign and domestic affairs? Whatever’s in the best interests of the U.S. without infringing on its citizens’ rights or taking away life or whatever liberty others have in the world. The U.S. needs to be less intrusive in its foreign policy — politically, socially, economically, and most importantly, militarily. We need to take a moderate approach on terrorism at home and abroad. We don’t need to invade every country that has weapons of mass destruction or harbors terrorists. If we did, we’d be economically and militarily drained. It might be OK to invade Iraq. But we must be careful and determine whether Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden and others are worse threats. Is Hussein the biggest threat right now? The answer is an emphatic no.

The biggest priority for the U.S. in the 21st century should be how to keep our standard of living and continue to advance and prosper. How do we keep our American republic from becoming an American empire? How do we keep the U.S. a dominant force and a great power? How do we keep the U.S. from the same fate as the Roman and British empires?

Ways to save our republic include writing more letters to newspapers and to congressmen, as well as voting more often. A republic requires the participation of nearly all adults. So we need to encourage people to participate in governmental affairs. We don’t have the security and liberty we want and need because our government has failed us and we’ve failed ourselves.

Allowing freedom of religion would help bring back morality. Allowing school children the freedom to worship without governmental interference would bring much-needed morality and structure to their mostly unorganized, high-speed, stressful lives. Finally, everyone needs to read more newspapers and news magazines and think critically. They shouldn’t believe everything that’s nursed to them by the federally-controlled media.

The U.S. should also be deeply involved in the world’s economy. We need a fresh economic approach to combat weapons of mass destruction and terrorists in the Middle East. We could create a Marshall Plan for the Middle East, which would economically build up the region. But we have to leave the region’s culture and religion alone. To receive monetary assistance, each Middle Eastern country must get rid of weapons of mass destruction and hunt down terrorist organizations. We should build more bridges than we burn to ensure liberty and security at home and abroad.

We should highly encourage other nations to create democratic institutions. But we can’t force our will upon the world. The best governments are those that govern least. Let the people decide what form of government is best for them. If a government doesn’t meet the needs of its populace, its people should have the right to peacefully change their bad government for a better one.

Jeffrey Lee WellbaumHeidelberg, Germany

December 6

Steamed by DODDS cuts

Almost a week after reading the news that the Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe will face “sharp budget cuts” next year, I’m still pretty steamed.

The cuts, detailed in the story “Student activities to lose with DODDS budget cuts” (Nov. 25), are absolutely unbelievable.

As a servicemember for more than 19 years, I’ve gone where I was told to go and done the jobs I’ve been asked to do. Sometimes they were in less than ideal settings. I’m a servicemember. I do what I signed on to do.

My children, on the other hand, are not servicemembers. They get to tag along by default. My kids get to endure having to start all over again at a new school every couple of years. That’s really tough on them. On this tour, they get to attend a government-sponsored school that’s having its budget cut for inexplicable reasons.

I fail to see the logic in cutting the Department of Defense Education Activity’s budget — for the second year in a row, no less — in a year when the Department of Defense’s overall budget has increased. These cuts could not have been what President Bush meant when he said during the 2000 presidential campaign that he’d be “the education president,” and that “no child would be left behind.” Or, to the military in particular, “Help is on the way.”

If readers misconstrue my disdain as unprofessional or disloyal, that is not my intent. Were I stationed in the States, I would carry my grievances to my local school board and elected officials. Here in Germany, we have no such luxury. The destiny of our schools is decided by those at the very highest levels of the federal government. It’s rather more difficult to get time with the secretary of defense or the president to let them know I’m unhappy and dissatisfied with their military family members education policies.

Without blindly throwing darts, let me simply state that I’m not satisfied with the curriculum standards, nor the apparent quality of teachers within DODEA. When I compare the schools here with those in Fairfax County, Va., from where we moved, the difference in quality is stark. I believe that instead of reading about budget cuts, we should instead be reading about bold new initiatives to partner DODEA with the Department of Education to provide a model, world-class education for our children.

Educating children is an expensive and absolutely necessary responsibility. If we attempt to do it on the cheap, we don’t get a quality product. I’m not satisfied with the quality of education that’s being provided.

The teachers and administrators have incredibly tough jobs. Now we are being told their jobs will be even tougher due to budget cuts. How can anyone think it can be improved by applying fewer resources? These cuts are not justified, and I urge the leadership and my peers here in Germany to voice their dissatisfaction to our civilian leadership and elected officials. Our child-ren deserve better.

Lt. Col. John TibbettsHeidelberg, Germany

AAFES’ hours

For readers who are unaware, AAFES decided to have its facilities open on Thanksgiving. I don’t know if this occurred in the States. I only know that I was informed that it happened right here.

I wonder what prompted a retail outlet, which brags about being there for soldiers to serve soldiers, to be open on a holiday when most patriotic Americans like to be at home with their families.

In my opinion, AAFES opted to make family-member spouses, who are most of its work force, work on a holiday not knowing if U.S. forces are going to be involved in yet another major engagement. There’s a possibility that this was the last holiday some spouses might see their soldier husbands.

I’ve asked my soldiers if they’d be likely to visit AAFES facilities during a national holiday. They replied no. Most of my friends, who are soldiers and their spouses, also said no. So the only reasonable conclusion I can draw concerning AAFES’ decision to have its stores open on Thanksgiving was due to greed and the search for the almighty profit. Most of AAFES’ customer base, which AAFES so proudly professes to serve, did not shop on Thanksgiving. So why did it have its stores open for business? For whom were they open?

Staff Sgt. Jeffrey S. KirkHanau, Germany

Gas prices

The price of gasoline in the U.S. dropped 6 cents a gallon in November. Is AAFES listening? When will we see our prices drop, since AAFES ties its gas prices here in Germany to U.S. prices?

If the price of gas in the U.S. went down to something like 50 cents a gallon and the price AAFES was paying for it was something like $1 a gallon, would we pay 50 cents a gallon? Let’s try the reverse. If the price of gas in the U.S. went up to $2 a gallon and AAFES was paying $1 a gallon for it, would our price go up to $2 a gallon? I’m pretty sure I know the answer to the second question. I’m not real sure about the first one.

Thanks, AAFES, for the continued gas price ripoff.

Mike CauseyMannheim, Germany

December 7

Physical fitness

On a recent visit to the 6th Area Support Group in Stuttgart, Germany, I picked up a Stars and Stripes and was shocked at the Nov. 22 front page picture showing a “dance expert” teaching Department of Defense Dependents Schools physical education teachers how to dance and incorporate dance into their physical education curriculum. Not only was the “dance expert” obviously overweight, but most of the PE teachers pictured seemed to be, as well. I realize the front page and interior photos with the story “DODDS teachers learn new steps in dancing classes” (Nov. 22) cannot represent the majority of the 150 teachers who participated in the training, but they did cause me to wonder.

What kind of example are these physical education teachers giving to the children and young adults in DODDS? One of the best ways to lead is by example. As a former aerobics instructor and fitness enthusiast, I recognize that dancing can offer a variety of fitness benefits, including improved circulation and coordination skills. But an overweight teacher can send a whole lot of mixed messages. The DODDS teachers portrayed may be great PE teachers, program developers, listeners and motivators. The dance expert may be a qualified instructor. I have no proof otherwise. But the photos are evidence that as role models of fitness, these teachers are failing.

Obesity is America’s secret tragedy. Health and physical fitness awareness need to start with our families and our teachers. Furthermore, parents of DODDS students must insist that the European administration hold these government employees to the highest standards of fitness. I’m disappointed as a taxpayer to find out that I indirectly support these educators as roles models. It sure puts a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Teachers shape the lives of our future.”

If the PE teachers need some guidance, they can look to the four-point plan for fitness laid out by President Bush last June:

1. Exercise daily.

2. Eat a nutritious diet.

3. Take advantage of health screening opportunities.

4. Make healthy choices.

Amy BugalaBolingbrook, Ill.

Confederate flag

The writer of the letter “Government needs God” (Nov. 24) implied that a minority group was interfering with “his heritage” of the Confederate flag. I trust that the writer is not an advocate of slavery. Perhaps he longs for some misty, distant memories of the antebellum South that were not linked to slavery. Or perhaps he honestly believes that 11 states rebelled against the United States over lofty principles of “states’ rights.” Unfortunately, the Confederate flag has precious little in common with these more gracious attributes. Such altruistic “lost cause” explanations were promulgated by Southern revisionist historians and other apologists of the Confederacy during Reconstruction to mask the shame of the primary cause of the Civil War.

The sad truth is that seven lower states in the South, joined later by four from the upper South, shared only one “states’ right” that motivated them enough to secede, and that was the preservation of the vicious, shameful institution of slavery. The Confederate states, under the banner of their new flag, also demanded the extension of slavery into territories seeking to join the United States. In addition, they wanted the strictest enforcement of the “fugitive slave laws,” which required that escaped “properties” be returned to their rightful masters in the slave states.

The letter writer curiously referred to only “one ethnic group that disagrees with” veneration of the Confederate flag. Is he so caught up in the “lost cause” mythology that he honestly believes only descendents of African slaves could possibly object to the display of that flag? There are many “ethnic groups,” including white males like myself, who are quick to recognize in the Confederate flag its historical significance — a symbol of those who tried to tear apart the United States in their efforts to promote slavery.

Col. Michael R. SimoneDarmstadt, Germany

Stripes great paper

Stars and Stripes is a great newspaper. The travel section beats anything in the civilian sector. I have fond memories of Stars and Stripes as a member of the Air Force at Tachikawa AB, Japan, and in Tokyo and Athens, Greece, from 1961 to 1964. I’m 62 and retired, but have kept up to date through my son-in-law, who is at Eagle Base in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I want to thank all of our military people for a job well done. I’d also like to wish them a safe and happy holiday season. Our nation, my family and I appreciate their commitment to stand and serve.

Joe VukonichTrinity Alps, Calif.


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