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April 13

Vets back troops, oppose war

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

April 13 Vets back troops, oppose war Categorizing and bashingApril 14 Proud of troops Heartfelt thanks Stand united Barred from facility COLAApril 15 U.S. troops in Germany Doctor’s protest Tax statusApril 16 Forging diplomacy Lynch’s rescue One worldApril 17 Sister service Photo of bodyApril 18 For troops, against war Flag on Saddam statue Hiring lawyerApril 19 Anti-American rhetoric Thanks to soldiers Airport security Ripple of freedom

I remember being a young soldier in Germany with the 1st Armored Division in late 1990, preparing to go to war. I remember those feelings of fear and excitement and uncertainty and anticipation. My family worried about me as many families now worry about those deployed in Iraq.

What I didn’t understand then, and what many letter writers don’t understand now, is why people could be protesting the war. I’d like to share my experiences and perspectives as an eight-year Army veteran and a protest organizer. Maybe my words can help bridge that understanding gap.

The most common and divisive misconception is that those who oppose the war in Iraq don’t “support the troops.” Nothing is further from the truth. I have never met a peace activist who wanted anything more than the safe return of those deployed. What most of these well-intentioned activists don’t understand is how it feels to volunteer to put one’s self in harm’s way while someone safe at home screams that the soldier is “killing for oil” or some other nonsense. I understand that. But I also now understand that the motives of those opposed to the war generally fall into two groups: pacifists and realists.

Pacifists oppose war in general. Their views are simple. They think state-sponsored killing is wrong. Period. I respectfully disagree. I’m a realist. I understand, for example, that the first Gulf War was fought to send a message from a unified international community that a country could not invade its neighbor. There are more than 163,000 Gulf War veterans on Veterans Affairs disability as a result of that policy decision. That huge sacrifice was made so the world would be a safer place. In contrast, the current war in Iraq is being fought without international consensus and is therefore likely to make the world a more dangerous place by creating more hatred toward Americans.

Respected scholars and experienced diplomats have convinced me that U.S. leaders have made a grave mistake — one that’s being paid for with the lives of those now executing a flawed policy. As a former soldier who has come to this belief, how can I sit at home and claim to “support the troops” when I believe their leaders have failed them? I must honor their sacrifice by opposing the war. I hope beyond hope that we are wrong and that the sacrifice achieves the stated goals of democracy in Iraq and a safer world.

I’m now privileged to help lead a large organization of vets of many generations who feel the same as I. Our message to the troops is clear: We support them. We respect them. We think President Bush has failed them. It’s not just our right to protest. It’s our responsibility to the troops.

Seth PollackVeterans for Common SensePhoenix, Ariz.

Categorizing and bashing

This is in response to the letter “Prayers for troops” (April 5). It disgusts me that the writer, a Ph.D., can be ignorant enough to make discriminatory remarks such as, “Many people said Americans don’t like Bush. There’s a name for these people: Democrats.”

The letter writer should be ashamed for categorizing and bashing. Saying all Democrats hate Bush is like saying all gay people have AIDS. There are some Democrats who support Bush and some Republicans who don’t. But right now the focus shouldn’t be on Democrat or Republican. The focus should be on the troops out in the field who are risking their lives for us. There are probably many Democrats who have already died for their country in this war against Iraq. Putting them down is only a slap in the face to the families and friends they’ve left behind.

I thank God that there are Republicans to question Democrats and vice versa. As we can see from the Iraq situation, too much of one power can cripple and destroy a country and its citizens. The whole idea behind ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein is so Iraqis will one day be able to freely question their government.

The next time someone writes a letter about “prayers for troops,” let’s keep the prayers positive and the negative comments about different affiliations out of the picture. America is wonderful, every single different person included!

Melanie FordRamstein Air Base, Germany

April 14

Proud of troops

I cannot even begin to say how proud our troops make me every day. I just had to write to show my support and to sing their praises. I watch in awe on television as they storm into unknown situations. They show compassion to Iraqis who could turn on them at any given moment and tend men who may have shot at them minutes before.

These men and women in uniform are what every man and woman in America should strive to be like. I just want to let the troops know that all their sacrifice and hard work are appreciated, and that there are millions of Americans praying for them to come home safe and soon.

I thank our troops. They are the pride of this great country. They’re in my mind and in my heart every minute of the day. God bless them. We’re awaiting the return of our heroes.

Christine AtencioEspanola, New Mexico

Heartfelt thanks

I’m an Englishwoman living in London, and I just want to send my heartfelt thanks and all my love and prayers to American, British and other coalition forces serving in the Gulf. All of us are praying for them and hope they come home very soon after a job well done. God bless them and bring them home safe.

Kathleen ShannonLondon, England

Stand united

I’m proud to be an American and that the fighting men and women of our country give me the right to feel that way. With our backs against the wall, I feel the war in Iraq was something we had to do. No one likes war, but when it comes we have to stand united.

As for the protesters, the Dixie Chicks and Michael Moore, I bet they voted for Bill Clinton.

I thank the members of our armed forces for a job well done and for making us Americans back home proud.

James KuglerSt. Marys, Pa.

Barred from facility

I’m a Department of Defense employee who works for AFN Europe in Frankfurt, Germany. For 22 years I and American servicemembers, DOD employees and family members have congregated at the CSA Field House to unwind after a long day of work. The CSA Field House is a clubhouse run by the State Department.

The CSA Field House has implemented a new policy that allows access only to CSA employees, mission Germany ID card holders, and/or Ponds Security guards with ID cards. This facility used to allow free access to all, including local nationals, until Sept. 11, 2001. Increased security and limited access to ID card holders only was then imposed. This implementation was completely understood. But to restrict the access of U.S. military ID card holders, retired military ID card holders and American passport holders is thoughtless and unjust.

With the present atmosphere of war and the majority of the European community not accepting America’s invasion of Iraq, removing the only oasis/sanctuary in Frankfurt is unconscionable. Why?

Craig RandFrankfurt, Germany


Can someone explain why my cost-of-living allowance dropped by $99 this month? In March an E-7 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, with three dependents received $574. According to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service Web site, the April COLA for that same E-7 will be $475. Why the $99 decrease? Anybody got any ideas? I certainly don’t feel that my dollar has more buying power downtown now than it had in March. Unless I missed something, one dollar still buys .90 to .91 euro.

Master Sgt. Burl StubblefieldRamstein Air Base, Germany

April 15

U.S. troops in Germany

I find it interesting that not only are the German locals protesting the war in Iraq, now they want U.S. troops removed from Germany. I doubt if any of these protesters work on American posts. I seriously doubt that the Germans who are being paid by American tax dollars want us to leave Germany.

I understand that the German protesters don’t represent the feelings of Germany as a whole, just as the protesters in the United States do not represent America as a whole. But try as I may, I can’t come up with a reason why any German would want U.S. troops to leave Germany. Aside from the fact that the United States is providing jobs for many German citizens, what about the money that American families spend on the Germany economy and the money the U.S. government pays Germany for our housing, electricity, etc.? Germany says its economy is bad now. What would it be like if we left? Those who would suffer most if the United States left Germany would be Germany’s citizens. The protesters are so caught up in protesting that they don’t even realize the self-destructiveness of their own message.

Personally, I hope the protesters’ wishes are granted. Our purpose for being in Germany was initially to protect the Germans from the former Soviet Union. Do any of these protesters remember this? I believe the German government needs a wake-up call. The German government is unappreciative of what the United States has done for Germany in the past and has snubbed us recently on the Iraq issue. The next time Germany needs protection from potential threats or invaders, maybe it should call Jacques Chirac.

Debbie RayHohenfels, Germany

Doctor’s protest

I’m writing in response to German Dr. Eberhard Hoffmann’s protest against the war in Iraq. An Associated Press story said Hoffmann has posted a sign in front of his office in Germany stating that he won’t treat anyone from countries belonging to the U.S.-led alliance in Iraq.

As a retired U.S. Army officer, I’ve served in many locations throughout the world. These assignments have taken me away from my homeland and family for extended periods. There hasn’t been one occasion in which I’ve deployed because the lives of my family or their freedom were specifically at stake. I cannot say the same for the people of Germany.

I served in Germany from 1984 through 1987 in Fulda, where I was assigned to an armored cavalry regiment responsible for patrolling the former East/West German border. I also served in the American sector of Berlin. I did this because of my dedication to my country and my respect for the freedom of Germany. I rarely felt appreciated and did this despite the rejection I sometimes felt from many German citizens. I also did this because I knew Germany could never protect itself from the former Soviet Union. How would the Germans have felt if after World War II while their country was rebuilding, the American people and others throughout the world protested our presence in their country?

I can think of no people, in the United States or anywhere, who always agree with the decisions of their politicians. In all cases I respect freedom of choice, even when it means large demonstrations outside American bases in Germany or in the streets of America. Despite this, I find it appalling that a doctor would express his opinion by publicly stating that he will refuse to treat people from coalition countries. Does Hoffmann really believe that these potential patients are in any way personally responsible for the choice to engage in war with Iraq? Does he think the warring soldiers are responsible for the decision to go to war? Does he think people from coalition countries currently in Germany are responsible for the war? I thought doctors accepted oaths which stated they will treat all people.

Our doctors in Iraq are not only treating U.S. military personnel, they are also treating the Iraqis who were trying to kill our soldiers. I think the doctor should have his license revoked.

Don CoronaSierra Vista, Ariz.

Tax status

I’m a soldier currently deployed to Turkey in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I recently read the letter “Waiting for tax-free status” (March 30). I can relate to the writer’s situation because requests by my chain of command for tax-free status have twice been denied and a third request in now pending.

I understand that Turkey is not an area where any actual combat has occurred. But according to my leadership, the risk of terrorism to me and my fellow soldiers is quite high. As a matter of fact, it is high enough to require that we wear full body armor any time we leave our building and to lock a full magazine of ammunition into our weapons when traveling from one compound to another.

I’m no expert in tax-free status, but I believe that the soldiers who have deployed here deserve it just as much as the soldiers deployed to Kosovo do. I’m very disappointed that my unit didn’t get to take a more active role in this war, but I certainly hope that the U.S. Army doesn’t take out its frustrations with the Turkish government on its soldiers by failing to declare this area tax exempt.

Spc. Zebulon A. SouthMardin, Turkey

April 16

Forging diplomacy

Differing national objectives relating to Iraq is what really led to the internal rifts in NATO, the United Nations and among European Union members. It’s a dangerous situation of inflammatory economic and popular zingers that in the past have led to world wars. Now that U.S. foreign policy has proven itself successful, our opposing allies (Russia, France and Germany) have regrouped to make new demands.

In an effort to mend this relationship, the United States just might see itself forced to give in to these new demands — namely, the right to participate in future peacekeeping operations under the U.N. — in an attempt to converge national interests for the sake of world peace.

Noteworthy are the facts that not only did these nations cast aside our long-standing friendships to oppose us, but they also hindered us in every possible diplomatic way, putting their own immediate interests ahead of those of the Iraqi people.

Once again, American, British and coalition forces died to free complete strangers from an insane dictator in a faraway land. Let us not forget these noble acts of altruism in this just war of liberation in the dark weeks of skirmishes and diplomatic bickering that lie ahead.

Capt. Raphael EreditaRamstein Air Base, Germany

Lynch’s rescue

I’m the wife of an Army soldier who is about to deploy as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon hearing the news of Jessica Lynch’s rescue, we were all very excited and happy for her, her family and the country. What a morale boost for all of our soldiers.

But as we sat here and watched over and over the news stations showing her coming home, I became rather upset. We kept hearing how she was “stretcher No.4” being loaded onto the plane. We heard of the “hero Jessica Lynch and 40-some other soldiers who were wounded.” What about those other soldiers? Who were on stretchers one, two, three, four, five, six and seven? Are they any less of heroes?

If my husband or my friends’ husbands are wounded, will they all have scholarship offers and vacations waiting for them? I hardly think so. Are these things available to all of the other soldiers who have been injured in this war? Again, we haven’t heard that they are.

Is Jessica Lynch a hero? I believe so. I also believe that every man and woman in the military are heroes, be they overseas, stationed stateside, or part of this operation. It’s frustrating to us to hear about one soldier getting onto a plane with so many others who seem to be nameless and unimportant to the media. I hope the families of the soldiers on the other stretchers know how much we all appreciate their soldiers.

Tara CherizardHanau, Germany

One world

The letter “Anti-American rhetoric” (April 7) made me ask myself why I’m only against the war in Iraq but not against Americans.

The writer said, “Too often the U.S. is stabbed in the back by so-called allies. These are countries in which the U.S. has poured billions of dollars since World War II.” He went on to say, “Millions of dollars have been wasted on the United Nations.”

Does the writer think dollars can “buy” allies? “These countries” the writer was talking about are very grateful for the “poured in billions” after World War II. But were these billions supposed to “buy” our freedom to make our own decisions? Dollars can buy many things, but they cannot buy minds, at least not mine.

The writer also said, “Certain members of the U.N. want to weaken America and rule as a one-world government, claiming dominion over the United States.” My free mind tells me that the last time I checked, there was only one world, and America is just one part of it. God bless the world.

Petra HatleyFürth, Germany

April 17

Sister service

Throughout my Army career I’ve worked regularly with our sister services, and like most soldiers I’ve always considered their sole purpose to be a support role — to get the Army to the fight. I’d like to share some recent experiences that have opened my eyes to what at least one of our sister services really does.

I’m working with an Air Force C-130 wing, forward deployed, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It’s not the most glamorous assignment for a Special Forces soldier. I’ve worked with regular Air Force crews before, but always considered them glorified truck drivers.

I want to dispel any notion that because I’ve been working closely with the Air Force that I’m suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. It isn’t that way. These C-130 crews don’t walk on water, but they’ve impressed me with their mission-focused, get-the-soldiers-to-the-fight attitude.

On a continuous basis, the wing’s mission planners and crews have gone to extremes to ensure that “our boys” (their words) get to the fight in a way that supports the ground commander’s plan and also takes care of the GIs. The whole crew has that single focus, starting with the loadmasters in the back. When cramming 52 combat-loaded soldiers into an aircraft, the loadmasters sit the soldiers and ensure that they’re able to quickly get out of the aircraft when they reach their destination. The loadmasters also help carry the soldiers’ excess gear, help reposition weapons, and always seem to bring enough goodies to pass out to the fighters on board.

Gearing up and strapping into their seats is the easy part. Flying during combat conditions is chaotic. Each crewmember continually transmits on and monitors several radios, watches instruments, reads charts, and scans the ground for surface-to-air missiles, all while flying blacked out with no illumination at 300 feet above the ground. Then they try to locate and land on a small, remote runway or dirt strip with only covert lighting. All of this is with one focus: to get “our boys” to the fight. Each crewmember understands full well that the infantry private on the back of their aircraft is the most important person in the whole operation. He will be the reason the United States wins this war.

I know a lot of Army guys will wonder how hard that can be when they’ve had all that crew rest. I’ve always thought crew rest was a big crock. I’ve flown with these crews on numerous missions, and crew rest doesn’t work. I’ve been worn out since the first few days. It isn’t like working a shift. These crews fly for 12 to 18 hours.

I’m not trying to say these Air Force crews are single-handedly winning the war. But they take our heroes to the fight, resupply them, and bring them home. So I can tell the rest of the Army folks who have the same impression of the Air Force that I had that they are true warriors who work around the clock to keep our fighting force in the fight.

Maj. Tony RisiCamp Snoopy, Qatar

Photo of body

As a parent, I’m constantly being made aware of how important it is for children to read, read, read. Educators, parents and public service announcements encourage children to read newspapers daily. I was thrilled when my son finally started reading more in the newspaper than just the comics. As a 13-year-old, he finds the current war in Iraq fascinating, primarily because of all the “cool” military equipment being used.

We were all shocked on April 13 when my son, as he sat down to eat his breakfast, pointed out the front-page picture in Stars and Stripes which showed a dead Iraqi surrounded by several U.S. soldiers. We’re all aware of the violence of war. We don’t need to have such a visual image displayed on the front page of Stars and Stripes. One can’t help but recall the outrage Americans felt when U.S. soldiers were displayed in a similar fashion. Unfortunately, war seems to be a necessary evil. But must we display the carnage in such a manner?

I’m so thankful to be an American and to enjoy the freedoms that come with my citizenship. I don’t want to suggest that Stars and Stripes be censored in any way, other than by a sense of common decency. We like to consider ourselves a leader in the world community. Yet time and time again we seem to allow ourselves to stoop to standards below what we expect of others.

I will continue to encourage my children to read newspapers and discuss their content. But I wish I didn’t feel the need to censor our “hometown newspaper.”

Sarah LargeVilseck, Germany

April 18

For troops, against war

While there are a number of people protesting the war in Iraq, we Americans are very proud of our brave servicemembers who are courageously serving throughout the world. They are all in our thoughts and prayers. We know that the freedoms we enjoy as Americans are ours only because of the selfless sacrifices of these servicemembers who have fought to ensure that we have them.

I’m one of those people who disagree with President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq when we did. But don’t think for one minute that I and the rest of our nation aren’t behind all of our troops 100 percent. Instead of demonstrating, I chose a more subtle approach to voice my disagreement.

Before the war began, I wrote several letters to the president hoping to affect his decision. I wanted the president to continue the efforts in the United Nations to arrive at a peaceful method of disarming Saddam Hussein. Or barring that, I wanted the United States to build a broad-based, international, U.N.-supported invasion of Iraq. I believe it was possible, but would have required more time and effort.

Once the war began, I prayed our troops would achieve their objectives quickly and with as little bloodshed as possible. I hoped they would return home to their families who love them and to their grateful nation. I believe it’s my duty as an American not only to support our armed forces, but to inform the president and members of Congress who represent me when I believe they have made mistakes in judgment or are proceeding in ways contrary to how I wish to be governed. Along with voting, I believe that these are my patriotic duties, and to do anything less would be unpatriotic. I believe the anti-war demonstrators have similar feelings that they’re trying to express.

We live in the greatest country on earth. It’s become so great and will become even greater by our willingness to question our leaders when we feel it necessary. But servicemembers should please not mistake our desire to improve the governing of the United States with a lack of appreciation for our servicemembers. Americans, both pro-war and anti-war, appreciate all that servicemembers do for us, whether we agree with our leaders or not. We appreciate what servicemembers do for us in times of peace as well as in times of war. We pray for their safe and rapid return home. I thank our servicemembers. God bless them and God bless America.

Joe MurphyPrairie View, Ill.

Flag on Saddam statue

I was overjoyed to see the American flag draped over the face of a Saddam Hussein monument the day the Marines liberated Baghdad. But my joy was short-lived as I began to hear CNN and National Public Radio repeatedly suggest that displaying the American flag was “counterproductive” and indicative of America’s “neo-colonial aspirations” in Iraq. These notions were subjective and far from truthful. The smiles on the countless faces of liberated Iraqis proved it.

Unfortunately, some leaders have fallen victim to these same liberal notions that U.S. fighting forces shouldn’t have displayed Old Glory after soundly defeating the enemy. They were more concerned about creating “further tensions” and “maintaining good public relations” than they were about allowing our soldiers the reward of proudly displaying Old Glory. This was not an unreasonable reward, considering the blood and lives that were given for that victory. People, especially Americans, must understand that the proud display of Old Glory on any prominent feature formerly belonging to the enemy shows that our fighting forces have been victorious.

I was disappointed to see that the Marines were quickly given a politically correct order to take down the American flag from the Saddam statue and replace it with the Iraqi flag. (As if flying the American flag is an offense!) I can only imagine how hard it must have been to carry out that order. Replacing Old Glory with the Iraqi flag would have been appropriate if the victory had been achieved by anti-Saddam freedom fighters who spilled their blood on their own soil for their own freedom. But this wasn’t the case. It was the efforts of Americans that liberated Baghdad. They arrived first through the jeers of protesters around the world and then through the fears of danger and death. They spilled their blood and sacrificed their lives to defeat the enemy.

If the establishment of Old Glory in the Baghdad town square was all it took to get the enemy to come out instead of hiding behind women and children or in hospitals and schools, then we should display Old Glory with a brass band playing our National Anthem.

I’m thankful this political correctness and fear to fly Old Glory didn’t exist during World War II when Marines raised her on Mount Suribachi. If this were the case, today’s monument of Iwo Jima would be flying the Japanese flag instead of the American flag.

It’s obvious that taking down Old Glory from the Saddam statue was very poor judgment. Military leadership should avoid making this mistake again in future battles. I implore military leaders to consider when and how to fly Old Glory in victory. America’s fighting forces, and especially the Marines, should always be granted the right to display Old Glory after victory is attained through American bloodshed.

Bill WillettHeidelberg, Germany

Hiring lawyer

For all readers who require a German attorney, I can only use the hackneyed Latin phrase: “Caveat emptor” or “Let the buyer beware.” Unfortunately, military legal offices can only offer limited legal assistance, and they don’t provide a referral service.

Here’s my story: My husband, a dual citizen, died in Germany. His estate was processed through the German courts. I was concerned about tax liability, since the tax-exempt amount to which a spouse is entitled is much lower than in the United States, or so I thought. So I sought out the assistance of a legal practice with an in-house tax advisor specializing in tax issues. But I dealt primarily with one of the lawyers who is not a tax attorney. He never really explained the options, and he went to another practice in midstream, taking my case with him without consulting me. I owed no taxes, but I received a whopping — and I do mean whopping — bill from the lawyer for a relatively straight-forward tax process.

I have recourse to redress what I consider charges that are totally out of line. It’s to take the problem to the German Lawyers’ Association. But I was told by the Consumer Advocate’s central office that this esteemed organization tends to protect rather than preclude legal malpractice. This is all the more reason to be extremely careful. The other option is to sue my lawyer. This would normally involve additional expenses. But luckily I took out legal insurance some time ago.

I strongly advise all those with tax issues to seek out the services of a competent tax advisor, who normally charges much less than an attorney. Much better service is likely. Don’t fall into the same trap I did.

Annette E. ReisererDarmstadt, Germany

April 19

Anti-American rhetoric

Since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, there has been an increase in anti-American rhetoric in most of the German media. The primary focus has been “aggressor America” and resulting Iraqi civilian casualties. Comparisons have been made between the “senseless” Allied bombings of Hamburg, Nuremberg, and Dresden during World War II and the bombing of Baghdad by coalition forces.

German media has also said America’s treatment of Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is inhumane. Palestinians have been portrayed as victims of Israeli suppression supported by America. Some talk show participants have said that Americans are historically warmongers, and this war is about Iraqi’s natural resources. President Bush has been compared with Adolf Hitler. I also detected malicious joy, covertly and overtly, over American casualties in the Iraq war. Apparently there was no differentiation between being anti-war — any war — and anti-American.

One can argue for or against the war. But subjective journalism reinforces anti-American sentiment. In addition, anti-American sentiment has been further reinforced by the incumbent German government’s alliance with France regarding the Iraq war. I don’t suggest that all Germans were infected by this phenomenon. But I think that the majority of them may have either latent or overt anti-American feelings.

German anti-Americanism was also prominent during the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Central America (especially Nicaragua), and during the installation of cruise missiles in Germany. Demonstrations took place when Frankfurt International Airport expanded. It became the antecedent in the Frankfurt region for hatred toward almost anything American. Many violent clashes followed. Rhein-Main Air Base was targeted and its entry blocked by demonstrators.

Truthfully, the only times I’ve experienced pro-American attitudes in Germany since World War II was when President Kennedy visited Berlin, immediately after the Cuban missile crisis, and when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. Anti-American demonstrations in Germany were, and still are, probably orchestrated by communist sympathizers and other leftist groups who take this opportunity to disseminate their hatred toward America.

I wonder if the younger generations among them know that without the United States entering World War II, they wouldn’t enjoy the right to demonstrate.

There are currently about 50 different conflicts in Africa which have resulted in thousands of deaths. Yet Germans are not demonstrating against these conflicts. Why not? I assume because the United States is not involved. The point is that Germans are not demonstrating against war so much as they are demonstrating against the United States.

Heinz WeingaertnerChief Warrant Officer (Ret.)Vilseck, Germany

Thanks to soldiers

I want to thank all the soldiers of 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment from Büdingen, Germany, who attempted to get my husband out of his tank in an unfortunate accident on Nov. 8, 2002. I’m grateful for everything they did and I realize nothing more could have been done. I’m very sorry to have lost my husband, but I’m facing the fact that it was his time to go.

These men will always be a part of me, and my husband could not have been the man he was without them. I know Sgt. Johnston, Sgt. Lightner and Sgt. Bitle did all they could. I love those guys so much. I also thank the Family Readiness Group for all the support it showed me through the roughest part of my life. The 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment truly showed it could pull together as a family when necessary. Again, I thank them.

Jennifer StehleKilleen, Texas

Airport security

I’m in the U.S. military, stationed overseas. As such, I may travel without my passport using my military ID and a set of orders or leave paperwork. I’ve never been required to present a passport for entry into the United States and have never had any problems with U.S. Customs until now.

I recently traveled from Naples, Italy, to Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., on Air France, changing planes in Paris. I arrived on April 6 at 7:30 p.m. When I approached U.S. Customs, I presented my military ID. I was prepared to show my permissive temporary duty paperwork. But I was instead directed to show my passport. (I carry a nonmilitary tourist passport as a security precaution.) Then I was given the third degree about my destination, how long I was planning to stay in the United States, etc.

I reacted predictably. I asked why, as a U.S. military member, I was being given such a hard time. An official told me I had no call to get upset, and that he was just doing his job. He then walked off. I stayed at the counter waiting for several minutes. Upon his return, the official asked me what I was still doing there. I replied that he hadn’t told me we were finished and that I could leave. He then gave me his permission to continue on.

I’m curious about when the United States stopped being a free country. I’m curious about when the U.S. government decided it needed to keep track of my whereabouts. I never used to need the government’s permission to travel. I used to be able to go where I want, when I want, and it never used to be anybody’s business. When did the government decide that harassing and tracking U.S. citizens and military members is an appropriate exercise of governmental authority?

The terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center, those who attempted to blow up something in Seattle, and the hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were neither members of the U.S. military or U.S. citizens. Military members are right now fighting and dying to bring freedom to the Iraqi people while the Transportation Security Administration is working vigorously to deny those same freedoms at home.

I suggest those at the TSA read the Declaration of Independence. It was excessive interference in the freedom of Americans that formed the justification for the Revolutionary War. It might be instructive for them to also read the Constitution, particularly the First Amendment (freedom of assembly), the Fourth Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure), and the Fifth Amendment (a person cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself). These sections are quite clear. While perhaps they are inconvenient to those at the TSA, they are freedoms that people like me have fought and died for over the centuries. Why do those at the TSA so cavalierly ignore these hard-won freedoms?

Master Sgt. Kris CarlsonNaples, Italy

Ripple of freedom

While the U.S. military is most assuredly aware of the effect its presence is having on Iraq’s liberation, I wonder if our troops realize how far Operation Iraqi Freedom is extending. Their efforts, however difficult, have succeeded far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East.

In the U.S. we are awed by the jubilation of a people anticipating what we already enjoy — freedom. But we’ve had Iraqis in the U.S. who’ve been afraid to speak out publicly or give their names to the press out of concern for their loved ones in Iraq. They live in the United States, but because of a tyrant across the sea they’ve also been fearful to fully exercise their guaranteed right of freedom of speech. Saddam Hussein’s evil hand was reaching beyond Iraq without chemical weapons. Thankfully, the coalition forces have cut it off.

Some Meals, Ready to Eat shared, some confidence gained. One tank, one statue toppled. Three weeks, God willing, will lead to a lifetime of freedom for the people of more than just one country. I’m not an Iraqi, but I thought our military should know how far the ripple of freedom extends. I thank our military.

Joan DomicoloPaterson, N.J.

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