September 1

Role of minorities

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

September 1 Role of minorities Good old boy network Five-year rule not racist Censoring

September 2 Big fraud Detainees column Vehicle dealer service Vending machines

September 3 School staffing Voting overseas Poor attitude Thanks for letter

September 4 Race just one factor Building bases story

September 5 ‘Starving children’ reply Adults also a problem Trying to buy computer

September 6 Class sizes Almost time to vote

September 7 Be thankful for noise Sept. 11 suggestion

I just read the letter “Five-year rule” (Aug. 27), and I’m appalled by the writer’s utter disregard for the truth in relation to the role of minorities in the U.S. military and in federal civilian service.

The writer claimed that “every position of responsibility previously held by minorities (has) been filled by Southern white males and every position held by a white male is replaced by a Southern male.” Where on earth did the writer get his data? Certainly not from any credible source of information that provides legitimate statistics regarding minority employment within the Department of Defense.

According to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Force Management Policy) summary report of November 2001, African-Americans are equitably represented in the military overall and minorities, as a whole, appear to be proportionately represented and not on the decline within the commissioned officer corps. Eight percent of officers are African-American, which is closely in line with the ratio of African-Americans in the civilian population of 13 percent. African-Americans make up 16 percent of warrant officers and were even found to be “over-represented” in the Reserve Component. The report also said that while minorities comprise proportionally less of the officer corps, their representation levels are in keeping with the minority statistics among the pool of college graduates from which second lieutenants and ensigns are drawn.

The letter writer also made the unsupportable claim that “all senior civilian positions are held by whites.” This is a grossly inaccurate statement. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, minorities make up just under 20 percent of all GS 13-15 positions. In addition, the OPM reports that minority civilian employment has increased 79.6 percent from 1990 to 2000. The OPM further reports that 30 percent of total federal civilian employees are minorities, with 17 percent percent of those being African-American.

These statistics graphically demonstrate that minorities, and African-Americans in particular, make up a significant percentage of the federal civilian and military work force on every level, including the highest levels of management. These statistics are a testament to the commitment of the U.S. government to pursue equal opportunities for all Americans.

I find it despicable, particularly during these uncertain times, that there are still those who would proffer half-truths, embellishments and falsehoods to perpetuate a political agenda that is incompatible with the goal of team building within our military and civilian ranks and is potentially detrimental to our ability as a nation to effectively fight the war on terrorism.

Lisa SnoddyLondon, England

Good old boy network

I’m a proponent of the Department of Defense’s five-year employment rule, provided that the rule contains no clauses exempting certain job titles, occupational categories, “hardship,” “hard to fill,” or “mission essential” circumstances. I agree without any doubts with the observations and comments in the letter “Five-year rule” (Aug. 27). I thank the writer for presenting the facts and the emotional and intellectual aspects of the racism that is pervasive within DOD-Europe.

As a black American male who was locally hired by the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia-Europe in Mainz-Kastel, Germany, less than nine months ago, I can attest to the good old boy network and racism that exist within this organization and its parent agency. I experience racism and cronyism every day. Whites are hired from the States to fill high-paying slots while a great majority of blacks in this organization are low-paid employees. This makes no sense because blacks make up the majority in the military’s logistical/supply/procurement occupations. So there should be a cadre of highly-qualified blacks to occupy upper-management and directorial slots within DSCPE, the Defense Logistics Agency and other government agencies in Europe.

I arrived in Germany last year. I’m a GS-05 with a target grade of GS-06. My official supervisor is a white American male who practices cronyism blatantly and has been assigned as a civilian government employee continuously in Europe for more than 15 years. The military commander of this organization (a white German American) is well aware of my supervisor’s acts of cronyism. But the aforementioned commander will retire from the military within the next few months, and he most likely doesn’t care if his managers are playing favoritism and hate games.

I was removed from the operational contracting office less than 90 days ago by the aforementioned civilian supervisor and “loaned” out to Product Services. I have yet to receive an official transfer to Product Services. (I realize federal employment guidelines state that I can be “loaned” out for up to 90 days without reassignment orders.) But this is a “test” of sorts by this organization to see whether or not I’ll be accepted by the white power structure. If I’m not, then I’ll be dismissed from this organization.

I’m under a two-year employment probation, and such a probation is a form of slavery and indentured servitude. I could write volumes concerning the unfair practices of this organization, but I hope this letter will shed light on this organization and alert the powers that be within DOD-Europe. My parents told me to tell the European and American communities about this organization, and I have begun by writing to Stars and Stripes. My parents are the grandchildren of slaves.

I don’t hate white people. I’m not a member of a civil rights organization, but I have nothing against those who do belong. I can say without equivocation that many blacks within DOD-Europe are not willing to stand up and fight against racism within federal employment. That’s due in part to many of them being military retirees who have become complacent and have very little fear of being without a job because they receive retirement payments. Many blacks also embrace the notion that “nothing more can be done when the white man rules.”

Those blacks who believe that prayer answers and changes all things should look back on the Jim Crow era in the United States. They’ll see that many religious leaders, both black and white, used direct action tactics combined with prayer and meditation to combat racism.

The senior management in this organization is by far predominately white American males. I am battling an illness, but this organization will more than likely dismiss me either before this letter is published or upon its publication. I ask that blacks and whites alike work together to dismantle the good old boy network within DOD-Europe and elsewhere.

Carlos Lee RawlsMainz-Kastel, Germany

Five-year rule not racist

The five-year employment rule is not racist as was claimed in the letter “Five-year rule” (Aug. 27). I work in an organization that has recently lost nearly all of its former U.S. work force of hundreds due to the rule’s implementation. Black, white, Hispanic, male, female, young, old, newcomer, old-timer, whatever. They all came under the ax. There were no exceptions offered and less than a handful granted, and only for very limited extensions. Our own “five-year rule” policy reads: “The length of your initial tour in Germany is ordinarily three years. Tour extensions are NOT automatic nor are they an entitlement. The first extension, to the five-year point, must be requested by your supervisor and agreed to by you. DOD policy on rotation of civilian employees restricts any tours beyond five years for most civilian employees, other than those employed as family members. ALL DOD appropriated-fund employment in the overseas area counts toward that five-year limit, regardless of agency. The requirements for extension beyond five years are mission related.”

One of the letter writer’s comments is well worth repeating: “Why is every position of responsibility previously held by minorities filled by Southern white males, and every position held by a white male is replaced with a white Southern male?” There is nothing about “Southern white males” in our own organization’s policies regarding hiring or the five-year rule. Perhaps where the writer works it’s different. If not, and I expect it isn’t, the writer should be reprimanded and counseled for implying such.

The world is not as “black and white” as the letter writer believes, and certainly not in the U.S. government. I encourage the writer to meet and support his command’s policies. As a pastor and a chapter president of the NAACP, I expect him to be a leader and keep expressions of vitriol to his private life.

Robert StewartIncirlik Air Base, Turkey


I read a letter from a soldier a few months ago regarding the censoring of the movie “Monster’s Ball.” Apparently AAFES isn’t the only organization that is censoring. Last week the film “Boyz in the Hood” was on AFN television, and there were countless parts either cut out or edited. The following day the movie “The Bad News Bears” was aired. Yet there were several curse words that AFRTS neglected to edit out. I think it’s ironic that AFRTS can edit an R-rated movie, yet can’t edit a children’s movie.

Recently AFN TV aired the movie “Something About Mary,” and it was edited. It seemed that there were more black screens with something clever to say than actual movie scenes. If the personnel at AFRTS have so much time on their hands that they can come up with these clever saying instructing us to “ask a friend what is going on,” why don’t they just spend the time finding movies that are proper for us? Maybe “The Sound of Music”? But that was set during a war, so that would never work. “The Wizard of Oz”? No, they would have to edit the Wicked Witch out so there were no “satanic scenes.” We viewers clearly are not capable of handling such a tedious task as finding a show or movie that doesn’t contain atrocious violence and sexual scenes, let alone cursing.

AFRTS boasts of how it does not edit the content of its programming. It even has a commercial about it, although I don’t know why it bothers. This is simply ridiculous. At what point did we lose the right to decide if something is too vile for us to watch? Parents are, or should be, responsible enough to regulate what their children watch. But adults don’t need this assistance. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and their spouses don’t need to be protected from the “evil” of television.

Carolyn MadridFriedberg, Germany

September 2

Big fraud

When I read the letter “Five-year rule” (Aug. 27), I agreed with almost everything the writer said. The only exception is that the five-year employment rule has no color barrier. I have had plenty of white friends who are no longer here with us. A lot of managers and supervisors have used the five-year rule as a tool of mass destruction. The five-year rule has been implemented toward the lower pay grade employees more so than the higher-ups.

Let’s be real. Every civilian knows that a lot of GS-13s and above are working for at least a full bird or light bird colonel. If a full bird wants an employee to stay, he stays, point blank. There are ways around the five-year rule, such as making employees’ positions hard to fill. This exempts GS-13s and up from the five-year rule. Anybody who says otherwise is full of it. I’ve seen it firsthand. GS-6s and below aren’t afforded the same opportunities as GS-15s.

Now let’s take a look at the real problem. The Department of Defense claims that stateside employees have to come overseas for career advancement. This is a bunch of baloney. Does the DOD think that we are all morons? It’s preposterous to think that stateside employees must come overseas or they would be unable to advance in their careers. Do readers think some midlevel employee at Microsoft is forced to come to Germany to “better or advance his or her career”? I don’t think so.

When one gets down to the bottom of the pot, it all comes back to this: Some bigwigs back in States invented this five-year rule so they could basically get a free vacation to tour Europe. I can picture a group of fat cats sitting in their high and mighty offices overlooking the Potomac:

“Hey Bill, I really wish I could take the wife to Italy, but I just don’t have the time with my job and such.”

“Hey, I have an idea,” says Ted. “Let’s move our jobs to Europe for, like, five years or so.”

Bada-bing, bada-bang, five-year rule. Regardless of what type of spin is put on it, sending people back to the States is a big fraud. The millions of our hard-earned tax dollars being spent makes me sick. The entire process is riddled with favoritism and revenge. This policy has made a lot of subpar supervisors and managers into demigods who hold the ultimate weapon of mass destruction — no, not a scorned woman, but the five-year rule.

Stephen MaloneKaiserslautern, Germany

Detainees column

The column “U.S. can’t conceive of granting due process” (Aug. 27) by Colbert I. King of the Washington Post was not only offensive, but ridiculous. King’s idea of comparing the barbaric penalty of the Nigerian courts against a poor single mother with the detaining of potential war criminals is shocking. But of course, that was King’s goal. There is no comparison between the two cases. Nigeria’s Islamic court under the Muslim sharia law demonstrates why our government wisely chose to separate church and state.

The condemnation of the mother to death by stoning is barbaric. No one should condone it as King did implicitly by saying the court’s “decision was heard on appeal by an upper sharia court, also in predominately Muslim northern Nigeria.” By King’s logic, the majority should rule no matter what. So in my hometown, which is predominantly conservative Christian, we should be the ones who determine the laws. But our Constitution guarantees the rights of the individual. Nigeria is denying this woman’s basic human right to life. And that is somthing which every thinking person should condemn.

There is no comparison with the case of the two detainees. By taking up arms against the United States, they come under the purview of the law of war. King’s comparison is idiotic. But this type of rhetoric is typical of left wingers who really couldn’t care less about the fate of that poor woman in Nigeria. King is only concerned with his liberal agenda.

Steven D. MartinezVilseck, Germany

Vehicle dealer service

To say I was disappointed in the service I received from Annex Motors in Vilsek, Germany, would be an understatement. I called on Aug. 21 in reference to a 2001 white Dodge Intrepid. I spoke to a salesman. He gave me most of the information that I asked for, but I needed to call back later to find out the answers to some other questions. For example: Who owned the car previously? What was the final asking price for the vehicle? I was told I’d get a return call. When no call came, I called again for information. I drove up on Aug. 23 from Hohenfels, Germany, to test drive the vehicle. I liked it but noted that the passenger side window would not roll down. I asked if that could be fixed. I was told yes and that I’d get a call back when that had been checked. No call back. I called again on Aug. 26 and requested that the window be looked at as well as an electrical smell that I had noticed. Then I’d be willing to purchase the car. I was told I’d receive a call back when those two items were fixed.

No call back. I called yet again on Aug. 27. I was told that my telephone number had been lost, but that the two items I had requested to be repaired would be fixed since the car was still under warranty. So I’d receive a call back after 3 p.m. No call back.

I called again on Aug. 28 at about 11 a.m. I said I was calling in reference to the 2001 white Dodge Intrepid. I was put on hold and then spoke to the manager. The manager informed me that the car had been sold. I asked to whom. I was given the buyer’s name. I asked how that could be when I had told them I wanted the vehicle. I was asked if I had put down a deposit. No, I said, but I would have had one been requested. I had looked at the car on Aug. 23 and called my bank that evening. The loan for the car was approved. Only the vehicle identification number was needed.

I don’t understand this kind of service. Never once was I given a courtesy call of any kind. I always made the call. Never once was I asked to put down a deposit. Never once did I receive an apology for this mistake. What kind of business is this? I’m limited in the places where I can get reliable service, and I’m very disappointed with the service. I’ve told anyone I can that the service was not satisfactory, and I hope that they don’t try to use this business’s services.

I sincerely hope that this is not a general practice for this organization. I will not be using its services, and I won’t recommend it to anyone in the Hohenfels community.

Beckie NicosonHohenfels, Germany

Vending machines

I know this letter will seem strange to some, but maybe someone can tell me what is going on. For more than a year I have worked at the central receiving branch at the KIC Activity down the road from Daenner Casern in Kaiserslautern, Germany. In that time I have seen only one vending machine, and it’s for German cigarettes. I asked why there are no other types, and no one could answer me. Now they just put in a German Coca Cola machine that takes euros. I don’t have a problem with that. But what gets me is, why are there only German vending machines and no AAFES machines? As it stands there is only one place to get anything to eat here on the facility. And the dinner facility on Kleber Casern is off limits, which is another story.

Whom do we contact to get some snack machines and a Stars and Stripes vending machine here on our work site?

Joseph D. DuncanKaiserslautern, Germany

September 3

School staffing

Some readers might recognize my name. I’ve been writing letters to Stars and Stripes about Department of Defense Dependents Schools staffing procedures since 1987. This year is no different.

Until noon on Friday, Aug. 23, I had a class of 40 first-graders on my class list. Thankfully, Dr. Archie Bates found additional teachers to create two new first-grade classes. Unfortunately, these two positions are woefully inadequate for the needs in the Baumholder, Germany, complex. Wetzel still has class sizes of 26 in second, third and fourth grades. Our newly formed combination classes in fifth grade have 29 and 30 students. Neubrücke has a kindergarten class of 31 children and a fourth grade of 32.

Dr. Bates said that kindergarten has an acceptable ratio because there is an aide in the room with the teacher. Specialists are teaming to reduce the workload in the fourth grade because there is no staffing available and they must cover it internally. Dr. Bates says he has “no additional staffing.” It’s a numbers game.

How can DODDS afford to fund a principals’ conference, all expenses paid, for three days in August? Where did the money come from to pay for the scoring of the Writing Assessment? Approximately 75 teachers were flown to Washington, D.C., were paid their salaries for 12 days and received lodging at a cost of $198 per day. Where are the priorities? Is funding a principals’ conference more important than hiring teachers? Is Equal Employment Opportunity training more important than ensuring every child has direct contact with a teacher?

What about spending more than $10,000 to send a football team to Italy or for reading training in Maui? How can DODDS spend $112 million dollars to put two remedial teachers in every high school in DODDs and still have 31 students in a kindergarten class? Is the education of a kindergarten student any less important? How can a teacher of 31 children ensure that each child is forming the letters correctly or hearing the sounds in words when she can’t even get between the desks?

The foundation for a good start is laid at the primary level. How can the administration sleep at night knowing there are classes of 31 students when research validates the importance of small class sizes? Don’t believe the commercials. Staffing is done by numbers, and kids don’t count.

Dorrie MeckesPresident, Baumholder Area Education AssociationBaumholder, Germany

Voting overseas

Thanks for the article “Military pushes to get out the vote” (Sept. 1), which encouraged military servicemembers and civilians overseas to vote in upcoming elections. But I think it needs to be repeated: Absentee voters, particularly from APO addresses, need to be doubly careful to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s in completing their ballots.

In the 2000 election, the Democratic Party ran a major campaign designed to invalidate as many military votes as it could. The most minor of technicalities were used to throw out ballots across the country.

The effort that got the most attention was in Florida, where Democratic officials succeeded in getting more than 1,400 overseas ballots disqualified. In Miami, they succeeded in eliminating nearly half of the 307 overseas ballots.

The effort to reduce the number of valid military-personnel absentee ballots was considered a success by the Democratic Party. Rather than being ashamed of the effort to keep the ballots of America’s servicemembers down, many Democratic Party organizations across the country, particularly in states having closely contested elections, plan to challenge as many military absentee ballots as possible again this year.

So voters should please double and triple check to see that if they vote absentee that they do everything correctly. If this practice of disqualifying overseas military ballots by overzealous political party operatives bothers readers, they should consider writing a letter to the editor of their local stateside newspaper. They should mention that they’re intending to vote in the upcoming election and hope the public will fight this concerted effort to restrict votes from American military personnel overseas from being counted.

Mike LowryStuttgart, Germany

Poor attitude

This is in response to the letter “Five-year rule” (Aug. 27). At first, it was difficult to decide what the writer was upset about. He managed to severely criticize the five-year rule, white people, retired officers and local nationals with equal ferocity. It’s sad to realize that someone with his attitude actually works for the U.S. government, and in a foreign land where the local nationals will identify him as a typical American. I can only assume that his demented letter was the result of being told that his five years were completed and he had to go home. The writer could never guess that his negative, bitter attitude might be the cause of his troubles. In his current state of mind, his attitude would not enhance, improve or benefit any working environment.

The writer appears to fit the definition of an “ugly American.” And what a shame. President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell are trying to build international coalitions to seek peace, safety and security in lands where there are mistrust, inhumanity and senseless violence. Our combat troops are being called upon to help rebuild total societal infrastructures, and the writer cannot understand the reasoning for working side-by-side with local nationalities. Now maybe we can understand where the expression “Yankee go home” came from.

If it’s true that attitudes govern actions, then the writer is a menace to everyone he works with, and is especially detrimental to our relations with foreign nationals. While we are trying to find the “bad guys,” we find that we have one among us. I don’t claim that everything is right and as it should be within the U.S. government, but it’s a heck of a lot better than in many other places.

The writer would have us believe that the race issue is his alone, but that’s not true. Gen. Robert E. Lee said that any kind of racial discrimination “is a moral and political evil in any society, a greater evil to the white man than the black.” On a more contemporary level, witness President Truman’s enforcement of civil rights in the armed forces.

Angry, violent, bitter leadership accomplishes very little. I challenge the letter writer to become a progressive leader who can use a whole menu of positive initiatives to change the system. It’s so easy to criticize and so difficult to take responsibility for making things happen. Leadership requires character, credibility and a positive belief in both one’s self and the objectives at hand. Good leadership should eliminate nonproductive attitudes, not enforce them. Leadership should also develop effective means of conflict resolution, not create more troubles.

The letter writer faces a big challenge. He needs to be careful, because sometimes a little bit of bad erases a whole lot of good.

Clifton J. JesterKadena Air Base, Okinawa

Thanks for letter

Thanks for publishing the letter “Five-year-rule” (Aug. 27). The writer wrote what all of us are thinking and feeling. What a great letter. How very true!

Christa GollidayKitzingen, Germany

September 4

Race just one factor

I’ve never read a letter that begs for a rebuttal more than “Five-year rule” (Aug. 27). I’m a white, 21-year U.S. Army retiree who doesn’t work for the federal government. As a longtime resident of Japan, I visit the bases regularly and have become friends with many U.S. government employees.

I have also seen many of these people leave their jobs and friends to return to the States for no other reason than what I consider to be a stupid rule.

Government employees, for the most part, are dedicated to their jobs far beyond what is expected in the civilian world. I’ve seen them working in the evenings and on weekends, not occasionally but all the time. The letter writer seems to think that those holding all management positions should be a particular color or race and then the world would be fair. I can assure him that the U.S. government — with all its power and regulations guarding against the exact scenario he described — is not allowing a “Southern good old boy” connection to operate within its purview.

I can also assure the letter writer that, through the government’s minority quota system, a balance is struck to ensure that this type of thing doesn’t get a foothold in the system. Has a white guy ever given another a job? You bet!

That is a double-edged sword that cuts both ways, and I’ve seen minorities do the same thing. That doesn’t make it right. It only confirms that it happens sometimes and we are all subject to human frailties.

Vigilance on the letter writer’s part is to be applauded. But playing the race card indicates that he hasn’t done his homework and needs to back up his assertions with statistical studies and not just what he perceives.

Randall BaileyZama City, Japan

Building bases story

I was extremely surprised and disappointed to see the article “AF rethinks how it builds bases overseas” (Aug. 20).

The reporter quoted a senior Air Force officer as saying he was embarrassed for the Army engineers constructing K2, an Army airfield in Karshi-Kalabad, Uzbekistan.

In contrast, the Air Force work at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, is “obviously right.” I’m surprised, because neither the reporter or any person identified and/or quoted in the story has been to K2, seen our master plan, proposed military construction, or talked with the leadership team at K2. In fact, on several occasions the original K2 leadership team solicited Air Force help with participation in base design and construction. I’m unaware of a single input not incorporated into plans and activities.

Today, just 10 months from inception, K2 Army, Air Force and Marine leadership is joined at the hip making decisions in joint meetings, after thorough staffing and with disciplined management controls.

As good as K2 is, we are capturing lessons learned and getting better every day.

By describing K2 as “an embarrassment and an example of what doesn’t work,” the reporter and comments attributed to senior leaders did a tremendous disservice to the almost 10,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who have supported or are still supporting Operation Enduring Freedom at K2.

It also risks introduction of interservice rivalry that is not currently present.

Like the reporter and the officers quoted in the article, I have not been to both bases. Nor can I address why these officers hold K2 in such low regard. The reporter failed to identify a single item suggesting what is wrong with K2.

I can state emphatically that K2 meets the requirements of Operation Enduring Freedom and the intent of the commander, CJTF-180.

By geographic location alone, it’s clear that the K2 and Manas missions are different. Design requirements and resource restrictions necessarily make these two bases an apple to orange comparison.

I have no doubt those responsible for Manas are doing an admirable job. As for K2, I’ll let evidence and servicemembers speak for themselves.

Without exception, when U.S. Air Force aircrews have the luxury of choosing where to eat and bed down, they do it at K2 because in their words, “It’s the best base in the AOR.”

Lt. Col. Jon J. MillerBase CommanderStronghold FreedomKarshi-Khanabad, Uzbekistan

September 5

‘Starving children’ reply

It was a nice try by the writer of the letter “Starving children” (Aug. 28). He seemed to try to elicit feelings of guilt and responsibility for starving children from people like me, citizens of the “rich countries” he said could be “possibly responsible for the crime.” Please give me a break.

The people responsible for the world’s starving children are the children’s parents and the citizens of their respective countries. Parents who cannot afford to feed their children should practice birth control. Many don’t since they hope their children will one day be their caretakers in their old age. So they try to have as many children as they can, not worrying too much about how to feed them or care for them. These parents and the citizens of their countries need to become educated in birth control, agricultural techniques, and political, social and economic institutions that create enough food and distribution of the same. This would ensure that the children of their countries are fed properly. They also need to ensure that their elderly are taken care of, whether they have children or not, so their populace will not have children just to ensure their survival and comfort in their old age.

The key to solving the problem of starving children is education and dispelling the ignorance of the populations in the countries where the children live. Most people wallowing in poverty, ignorance and starvation are the architects of their own existence. To blame those who are not wallowing in the same for their plight is ridiculous and not productive to achieving any solution.

We have to continue to educate and train people to help themselves. Many do not wish to change and help themselves. They are lazy, lack initiative and, like the letter writer, find it easier to blame others for their plight. To take on the responsibility of feeding these people would actually make the problem worse. They would become dependent on this food instead of learning to help themselves. Populations would then increase, and we’d have more mouths to feed. And in their continued ignorance, entire populations of such countries would continue to believe that the “rich countries” owe them, not just food now, but a standard of living equal to what the “rich countries” have. So then we’d have to supply them with housing, clothes, entertainment, etc., as well as food.

Some schools in Third World countries are actually teaching their children that the reason they are in poverty is because the United States and other rich countries consume most of the world’s resources, including finished goods and services, leaving little or nothing for them. What a crock. We consume most of the world’s resources because we create most of the world’s resources. People who are in poverty invariably don’t create much in the way of resources, so there is not much for them to consume. They need to learn how to work with themselves and with technology to create the resources they desire instead of blaming their plight on others.

For those who suffer from temporary problems of famine and hunger due to droughts, etc., there is always plenty of help out there to temporarily alleviate their problems if the citizens are willing to cooperate with international organizations that provide such relief. But this isn’t always the case, and the citizens of such countries do sometimes starve. (Remember Somalia in the early 1990s and North Korea today?) But once again, to blame the “rich countries” is unfair and untrue, and it does nothing to achieve a long-term solution to this problem.

Matthew J. BrandstetterAviano Air Base, Italy

Adults also a problem

There have been a lot of grievances written lately about big problems in local housing areas, such as children screaming and playing unsupervised in housing area parking lots. I also have a similar grievance, only mine is not about children. Mine is about some of the adults occupying government housing who apparently need about as much supervision as children.

For example, there is a woman who screamed so loudly during what I guess was an argument that a few of her neighbors were afraid she was being beaten or worse. After the military police were alerted, the woman attempted to “blacklist” the individual who she groundlessly suspected of having called the MPs.

Another favorite is the so-called “assistant building coordinator” who preaches to high heaven about area standards such as the bulk trash areas, even to the point of wanting to get the post’s sergeant major involved. Yet large lakes of oil are left all over the parking lot by that individual’s privately-owned vehicle, causing a potential hazard for all those unsupervised children I read about.

Another instance that sticks out in my mind is the harassing phone calls that are made to another resident whose husband is 1,000 miles away in Kosovo. The calls contain such intelligent remarks as, “You better watch your back” and, “You better find new friends, ’cause you have none here.”

For the past two and a half years, I’ve considered the Schweinfurt, Germany, community to be great, and I still do. Yet it’s no wonder to me why there is an issue with children when some of the “adults” can’t play right and set this kind of example.

Sgt. Brandon HawkinsCamp Bondsteel, Kosovo

Trying to buy computer

With the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks quickly coming, I thought the American people would be interested in how one company is treating our military servicemembers overseas. I’m stationed overseas serving two separate bases, AFNORTH in Brunssum, the Netherlands, and Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base, Germany.

Since the end of August, I’ve been trying to order a computer over the Internet from The first problem with the company was that it would not send its product to an APO. I have heard from other military members who said there are a few companies that refuse to ship to APOs, so I wasn’t too upset. Being stationed overseas, having items shipped to an APO is the only way we can purchase from American Internet and catalog companies. So I contacted my parents in Massachusetts, and they agreed to have the computer shipped to them and then pay again to ship it to me at my APO address. I went online again and ordered my computer. But low and behold, I got a message that the company will not accept an overseas credit card. My VISA card is from Andrews Federal Credit Union, a credit union based in Suitland, Md. (This is according to the information on the back of my card.) It was issued from a military installation in Schinnen, the Netherlands. I have used this credit card to purchase from many companies — Victoria’s Secret, J.C.Penney and Newport News, just to name a few — and have never had a problem. Here I am, supporting the United States and the men and women in uniform serving overseas, and I can’t get PC-Xperts to send me the computer I want.

All of this is disappointing when the American people are supposed to be pulling together with the war on terrorism. This company does not support our men and women in uniform serving overseas.

Liz NuytsAFNORTH, The NetherlandsGeilenkirchen, Germany

September 6

Class sizes

I’d like to thank the writer of the letter “School staffing” (Sept. 3). The kindergarten and fourth-grade classes the writer talked about at Neubrücke Elementary School in Germany that have more than 30 students in them hit very close to home for me. I have one daughter in each class. I personally know each of these teachers, and they are hands down two of the best I’ve ever seen. And having four daughters in school, I’ve seen my share. I’ve been told about the “old days” when class sizes were more than twice the size of what these are, but my question is simple: Does that make it right? Should we make the same mistakes because educators at times misprioritized in the past?

I’ve heard from educators who’ve said that from an educational standpoint, having more than 30 kindergartners in one class for only two and a half hours is not “outlandish.” Then what is the magic outlandish number? I’ve asked the proper people in authority that question, and I still don’t have an answer. I was told that it’s like when a stock splits: There really is no specific number.

Speaking of stocks, after a little probing I’ve found that money, or a supposed lack thereof, is what’s really driving the train here. I guess this could be a crazy opinion, but it seems to me that the quality of education for our children, from the most early forming years through senior high and beyond, should be at the top of all our priority lists when it comes to spending dollars. I know it is for me. That’s what prompted me to write this letter.

I believe that loving my kids and desiring that they get a quality education are paramount, whether at Department of Defense Dependents Schools, at home, or anywhere else. This opinion is not mine alone, but is rooted deeply in the hearts of many of the silent and not-so-silent parental majority.

After our recent town meeting, I had to leave early. On the way out, I was told by someone that there was no reason for me to whine about this issue because nobody around here had the authority to do anything. This person said that I should write my congressman. I figured writing to Stars and Stripes would be a good start. This is the first letter I’ve ever written to a newspaper. It feels pretty good to vent, get stuff off my chest, and exercise this freedom God has given us.

Chaplain Darin PowersBaumholder, Germany

Almost time to vote

Once again it will soon be time to vote. This is the chance for military members to choose those in their local, state or federal “chain of command.” Choosing a member of the legislative branch in the Senate or House of Representatives can be just as critical as voting for president. Servicemembers’ votes have an immediate effect upon the policies and plans of our country. Servicemembers should be registering to vote and/or applying for their absentee ballots. The 2000 presidential election proved that every vote does count.

Commanders or others in leadership positions should be pushing this issue as hard as they push for cooperation with specific unit associations, the Combined Federal Campaign or blood drives. Those who wish to vote should see their unit’s voting representative or go to for details. The voting process is getting progressively easier to do by mail and online. There are no valid excuses not to vote.

Regardless if servicemembers prefer to vote for individuals or their favorite “team,” they should get their ballots counted.

Glen S. BartoChief Warrant Officer 2Operation Enduring Freedom

September 7

Be thankful for noise

I just read the letter “Noise” (Aug. 27) and feel compelled to respond. At one time, my family and I lived on the casern in Bamberg, Germany, as well as in Giessen. On many occasions, tanks rolled down the street on the way to or back from the border. I was thankful that they were rolling by, and on school mornings I’d walk our sons to their school about a block from our quarters to make sure all would be well. Today, I’d love to hear those tanks go by again and be back in our quarters with my family back together. We’d know we were all safe and protected at this critical time in our lives today. Cavalry and anyone else can go rolling down my street right now if our nation calls for it. And they can feel free to use a lawn mower or a weed eater under my window any time. It’s such a small price to pay for our freedom.

I’ve been the widow of a retired servicemember for more than 15 years. For more than 21 years, neither I or anyone I knew minded one time to be awakened at the crack of dawn or in the middle of the night by tanks and heavy equipment passing by. We all knew there was a job to do and it had to be done. So a little lawn mower noise certainly wasn’t minded. We were thankful the person running the mower was able to do a small task at home. That meant he was able to be home with his family.

We have suffered terrorism on our very own soil right here in the United States, and the lives of our brothers and sisters in foreign lands are imperiled as I write. So the letter writer should be thankful for each sound she is able to hear that is in innocence. She should appreciate birds chirping and children’s laughter and yes, even the hum of a lawn mower. God bless America!

Nancy Tomek (Smith)Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Sept. 11 suggestion

I’m a military spouse stationed overseas. Sept. 11, 2001, made a huge hole in all our hearts, as I know it did to the victims and their families. When I saw the news on AFN, tears poured down with disbelief and anger, saying, “Not my America!”

We are originally from Illinois, and before Sept. 11 we would think of New York in a vague way. But when it was hit, it was “Our New York!”

I’m not an architect or a painter, but I have a vision to fill that open sore and space where the twin towers were. It is two towers joined in the middle by a tall pillar of marble. It would be a pillar that would go up past the towers and would have a giant clock that would move forward. It would also chime the hour that the cowards plowed into our towers, lives and hearts to test our freedom.

Let’s cry out on all the anniversaries of the attacks and scream out to all who will see how unjustified, cowardly and murderous these actions were.

The clock would be a healing blue and lit at all times. The outside of the pillar would have all the names of those murdered on Sept. 11, 2001. They’d be carved in stone. At the base of the pillar would be the words “United we stand,” and of course the date that is burned in all our hearts, Sept. 11, 2001. The victims’ families would want to see the names of their loved ones, so how about a glass elevator on the outside of the pillar which would pass each and every name?

This time, the towers themselves would be built one floor higher than before to show the terrorists that what they break down we together will build up better, taller and stronger than before.

The outside of the towers would have long, horizontal, shimmering panels that reflected clouds, trees and life. Inside there would be, of course, many open spaces, plants and healing colors of pale blues, lavenders, greens and lots of sunlight. It would also be very nice to have the towers highlighted with blue lights on the ground. A soothing blue.

A building is just a building, not life. But the life it contains is priceless. It is what America built and will build again, and it will say to all of us that we shall never forget. Two towers, united together forever.

Pamelia S. GastonAviano, Italy

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