June 15

Unsung heroes

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

June 15 Unsung heroes Loves her dad Marne patch Religious letters Mail service not goodJune 16 Fix the mail! Where’s the leadership? Where’s the cards? Censorship Discipline Calling homeJune 17 3rd ID spearheaded war Guardsmen/reservists Adult magazines/Pulse Complaining must stop Web site honors troopsJune 18 Gen. Jones on transformation Wrong about rights Abolish FCCJune 19 Mail haphazard happenstance Husband gets no mail Ten Commandments CorrectionJune 20 Overweight soldiers Nothing to do Priorities wrong Thanks to Landstuhl University’s policyJune 21 Mail woes: Stop and think Where’s mail going? Friendship and fellowship Parenting at concert

Great things have been justifiably written about the forward deployed troops who are in harm’s way in the Middle East. But what about the soldiers who make up the rear detachments in Germany and elsewhere in the European theater?

Many of us in the rear are not merely sick, lame or lazy. Our chains of command have left deployable soldiers to provide support to families, perform rear detachment duties, and attempt to conduct business as usual. The rear detachment is often the only link between families and deployed soldiers.

Rear detachment leaders handle difficult situations on a daily basis. Suicide attempts, pay problems, drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse and child neglect touch only the tip of the iceberg. Rear detachment leaders are counselors, baby sitters, social workers, police officers and psychologists. The list goes on and on.

People often mistakenly label rear detachment commanders as “acting commanders.” There is no acting involved in this job description. Let’s pay some homage to these unsung heroes.

Lysa FernandezChief Warrant Officer 2Heidelberg, Germany

Loves her dad

Melissa’s dad Scott is in the Army. There is a war going on and her dad might have to go. Melissa hopes he doesn’t have to go. She hates it when her dad goes away for a long time. Melissa thinks about her dad at night. She wonders why the world can’t be peaceful and why there are wars, or why people fight, or why they don’t get along with each other. She loves her dad very much and really, really doesn’t want him to go. If her dad has to go, she’ll know why. This is why her dad is in the Army, and she knows that he has to serve his country. Her dad always says that if he has to go he’s going for a very big reason, serving our country.

Melissa MaynardGelnhausen Elementary SchoolGelnhausen, Germany

Marne patch

I’m a maintenance shop foreman with B Battery, 1/39 Field Artillery (Multiple Launch Rocket System), 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized). I’m currently at Saddam International Airport in Iraq. I couldn’t be more proud to say that I’m about to sew on the Marne patch on my right shoulder. But for a couple of reasons, it’s my opinion that the flag that’s already there should remain where it is. At no time should any other flag or unit colors fly higher than the national colors. Whether Enduring or Iraqi, it’s freedom that we’re fighting for, and as Americans we should represent that at home and on any deployment during peacetime or war.

I can’t think of anything better to place above a combat patch than what’s already there. It just usually takes more than a maintenance staff sergeant to change Army regulations. I’d like to know if my opinion is shared elsewhere.

Staff Sgt. Jason C. JohnsonBaghdad, Iraq

Religious letters

Stars and Stripes recently published the letter “Something positive” (June 12) from a “Christian woman” — only incidentally a U.S. soldier — who urged readers to believe that “God can do amazing things through us and others.” This letter pretty obviously and without subtlety urged its readers to adopt similar Christian beliefs.

The Stripes staff may not like to admit it, but Stars and Stripes is a Department of Defense entity. The paper is produced, published and distributed by the Armed Forces Information Service, a public affairs entity within the Department of Defense.

Why, then, does the state organ that is Stars and Stripes print every letter from every Christian who believes their thoughts and beliefs ought to be the thoughts and beliefs of others? What allows Stripes to spend the U.S. government’s money to promote Christianity?

Capt. Tiernan DolanHeidelberg, Germany

Mail service not good

This is in response to the letter “Mail service good” (May 29). The writer addressed the system that provides mail and support for troops deployed around the world. He said he sees no problem with the mail system. But we soldiers disagree who have been in the military and served in various locations around the world for the past 16 to 19 years and who are currently serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We’d say that this isn’t the best that we’ve seen.

Our unit has been deployed for just more than a month now. We are just now getting mail that was sent out more than two and a half weeks ago, and many soldiers have not yet received mail that was sent out the first week that we deployed, more than 35 days ago.

The mail that we’re currently getting is in very small amounts — an average of two or three packages and a handful of letters — for a company of 150 men. The packages that we are receiving are damaged. There’s a lot of broken items in them due to rough handling. Some letters are unreadable due to broken liquid items in the packages spilling on them. The mail system is one of the biggest keys to maintaining morale. It keeps us in touch with our loved ones when we’re away.

Is this how America’s soldiers should be treated? Should we not expect the best? The Army has a logistical system that can move thousands of pieces of heavy equipment and soldiers the hundreds of miles between Kuwait and Baghdad in a couple of week’s time. Is the letter writer telling us that all is well with the mail back in Baumholder, Germany, because he got a couple of calls and letters from a few people whose mail was not affected by the negligence of mail handlers?

What’s the solution? We find it harder every day to keep the morale of our soldiers at the high level needed to conduct our mission, and we’ve been here less than two months. How is this going to affect soldiers as time continues to pass us by — six months, nine months or even a year? The things that keep us connected to our families and friends should be protected and better cared for. Don’t we deserve it? Anyone involved should treat each package and letter as if it were their own and the only thing that keeps them tied to their families as life goes on.

As for the use of e-mail, our infantry company does not have access to such luxuries. Our battalion is trying to get the service set up for us, but when we do get access, it will be severely limited.

We think the writer should have gotten more information on the situation here before making his comments about how good the mail service is. What’s wrong with kicking a little butt if the people deserve it? Someone should be held accountable.

Sgt. 1st Class Steven FlaggBaghdad, Iraq

June 16

Fix the mail!

This letter is for whoever is in charge of the military mail system. The system stinks! We soldiers deployed in Iraq heard that the outgoing “free mail” sent back home is sitting in a connex in Fort Hood, Texas. If this is not true, I sincerely apologize. If it is true, then I hope that whoever is in charge of it is tarred, feathered and fired for making our loved ones worry themselves sick about us.

I can almost understand how we receive letters postdated 35 days apart in theater. But how is outgoing mail screwed up? Whoever is in charge of the mail system — we really don’t care who it is — should just fix the system! Please!

Gregory M. KidwellIraq

Where’s the leadership?

My name is Pfc. Jason Waller. I’m currently a part of Task Force Ironhorse. Our mail has been withheld for the past 30-45 days. We were given this information on May 23. The mail that we receive is dated back from April 1 to April 15. Why would the chain of command fail to give us this information concerning our outgoing mail?

We have also been reduced from three daily bottles of water to two bottles, with temperatures ranging from 90 degrees to 104 degrees. This has also been instructed concerning our Meals, Ready to Eat.

How can a highly-organized, well-disciplined Army fail to supply soldiers with adequate food and water these days? Where is the leadership? Where is the command during these times?

Pfc. Jason WallerIraq

Where’s the cards?

My name is Spc. Frank J. Rimbeck, and I’m serving here in Iraq with the 66th Military Intelligence Company, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. I’m writing in regard to the story “Know when to hold ’em” (May 6) about playing cards of the top Iraqi most wanted. The article was the first information I’ve seen about such playing cards here in theater.

I’ve been in theater since the beginning of April, and I haven’t even seen soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division, or Marines with these cards. Who were they distributed to and how does the average GI get such an item? We possibly could see one of these guys out among the populace and we wouldn’t know.

Spc. Frank J. RimbeckIraq


Censor Stars and Stripes? Censor shows on AFN television? For the last month I’ve sat here wondering what country these letter writers are from. Hello Americans!

Every writer has complained about the content of shows or articles, and not one of them has remembered what it means to be an American. We have the right to choose on our own. Censorship is not our way of life. We’re the home of the free.

Those who don’t like a show should change the channel! If readers have a problem with an article, they shouldn’t read it. They should try throwing it away if they feel it might be inappropriate for their families. These letter writers should stop trying to run the lives of everyone around them. They should worry about what’s good for them and not be the judge and jury for me.

As for shows that portray alternative lifestyles, let’s get over that. They’re for entertainment. They don’t exist to change viewers. If the letter writers are afraid of the shows, perhaps some counseling might help.

Patricia KoningRamstein Air Base, Germany


This is in regard to the letter “Reserve/National Guard” (May 22). When my unit left Camp Virginia, we were told to pack a five-day supply of water and Meals, Ready to Eat. We had to beg, borrow and steal to get the numbers of bottled water and MREs to feed our soldiers. We still came up short because we had no support. Once we crossed the berm, we were on a two MRE, six bottles of water per day ration. Some soldiers and I would use only five bottles a day to stretch out our supply. It’s a good thing we did, because we didn’t get resupplied until day eight.

We did not get our first pieces of mail until the fifth week we were in theater. Mail still is not reliable. Our unit sent two men back to Camp Virginia to guard a connex of ours that could not get pushed forward to us. And that is where those two men found another connex full of mail for our battalion, just sitting there for months. So, letter writer, talk to me about how the infantry would feel if we didn’t get our food, water and mail. We didn’t! Some unit was sitting on its rear instead of pushing forward the things that help morale.

Discipline is not in a support unit’s vocabulary. It takes the smallest amount of discipline to stay in the right uniform. It takes the smallest amount of discipline to maintain security. Discipline is doing the right thing without being told.

I have seen men under fire with their lives in danger. I have been shot at. We’ve taken numerous amounts of mortar rounds and we still held our ground, returned fire and took our objective. That’s discipline — to have soldiers fight and pull security for another 24 hours at 100 percent. That’s discipline.

I don’t consider the letter writer a National Guardsman or reservist because he’s active right now. As a matter of fact, I also served in the Reserve for eight and a half years, and I know the lack of discipline that those units have. But when the writer talked about active duty infantrymen lacking discipline, he crossed the line.

The writer said that civilians were throwing stones. Where was the security? Did the writer not have the discipline to put his people on security if things were that bad?

We’ve heard about and seen many support units getting lost and putting themselves in bad situations. Tell me more about infantrymen lacking discipline, letter writer. In the more than 4,000 miles that I’ve put on my vehicle doing movement, combat and patrols, all the discipline problems that I’ve mentioned have come from support units. If the writer is in one of the support units that did its job, thanks. Otherwise, the writer has no ground to walk on when talking about discipline in the infantry.

Staff Sgt. Anthony AlvarezBaghdad, Iraq

Calling home

I’m a soldier who’s been deployed since January. We are attached to the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry. The phone calls are few and far between. When I get a chance to use the phone, I call Germany. I have to wait in line, and I hope I get through to Bamberg.

Sometimes I do get through. But there are times when I get through and the operator back in Bamberg doesn’t pick up the phone. It frustrates me that someone on the other end is too lazy to pick up the phone so I can tell my wife that I love her on Mother’s Day. This has happened to other soldiers too. Thanks, operator.

Spc. Quinton HollawayIraq

June 17

3rd ID spearheaded war

I read the story “On the Road to Baghdad,” (March 30) and I’m quite disturbed how the article made the 3rd Infantry Division look. Many times the article mentioned the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment and the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment going ahead of 3rd ID tanks “that were supposed to clear the way.”

Given the time line for the 2-6 Cavalry’s and 6-6 Cavalry’s crossing of the border — “the convoy didn’t cross into Iraq until nightfall,” the story said — it’s highly unlikely that the 2-6 and 6-6 convoy caught up to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd ID which busted down the berm on March 20. Tanks and Bradleys from that unit began to engage targets in Nasiriyah later in the night on March 21 when the 2-6 and 6-6 convoy finally crossed into Iraq.

I’m a crew chief on a command and control Blackhawk supporting a 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment attack battalion. We crossed the border to attack observation posts on the night of March 20. The 1-3 then attacked Nasiriyah on the night of March 21. About four hours into the attack, tanks and Bradleys rolled in and joined the fight. They were the first vehicles to Nasiriyah.

Thanks to my job, I had an interesting view of all the major battles fought on the way to Baghdad, which as I write this is in the hands of the 3rd Infantry Division. The 3rd ID led the war from Kuwait to Baghdad. I’m sure many soldiers of the 3rd ID felt insulted, as I did, by the article’s many comments about how many times 2-6 Cavalry and 6-6 Cavalry found themselves “in front of the warfighters.”

The fighting men should be applauded, not put down, in Stars and Stripes’ articles. The 3rd ID spearheaded this war! So let’s give credit where credit is due.

Sgt. Ryan A. DeanBaghdad International AirportBaghdad, Iraq


This letter is directed to all the active duty component soldiers who must not be very observant. I read the letter “Finishing off the enemy” (May 13). The writer said we should bring in National Guardsmen and reservists to relieve the active duty component. This comment highly agitated us reservists.

I’m at Camp Bucca, Iraq, and have been here since March. At this site it’s rare to find an active duty soldier. We reservists over here are right alongside the active duty people. There are currently about 60,000 Army Reserve soldiers who are activated. What about us? We left our civilian lives, our jobs, our families and schools to come over here. For what? To get no respect from our active duty component? We are no less soldiers than they are. If anything, it’s harder being reservists, trying to maintain our military skills and balance our civilian jobs and lives at the same time. And that’s not to mention putting our lives on hold when we get deployed.

I want to thank my fellow reservists and National Guardsmen for being willing to put their lives on hold when our nation calls.

Spc. Jacklyn KovaschetzCamp Bucca, Iraq

Adult magazines/Pulse

This is in response to the letter “Sex sells” (May 28). I think the writer is in need of professional help. Her warped, puritanical views on sexuality are truly disgusting. In my opinion, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking at, reading or purchasing adult magazines. Adult magazines are not smut. I believe them to be works of art. A lot of this so-called smut reminds many of us of exactly what we’re fighting for: the freedom to appreciate the beauty of our women.

As for Pulse magazine, it is absolutely not smut. There are far worse publications to look at. Stars and Stripes is not providing sexual content for any of us here in Iraq. We’re lucky to get a newspaper that’s a week old about twice a week.

I also think AAFES should be allowed to sell so-called smut in Kuwait and Iraq. It would seriously boost morale around here. AAFES has probably lost quite a bit of money due to the Military Decency Act. AAFES used to have a much better and broader selection of adult reading material. Now it’s just a crying shame.

Staff Sgt. David J. WallachIraq

Complaining must stop

The story “No fun in sun for troops at Camp Virginia” (May 3) was about soldiers having a hard time living at Camp Virginia, Kuwait. They have electricity, running water, a post exchange, drinking water and hot chow. My unit has been maneuvering through Iraq since April 14. My unit is A Troop, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.

We have not received our mail on a regular basis. We have only two complete uniforms. My unit has not had showers or hot chow. We get only two 1.5 liter bottles of water and two Meals, Ready to Eat per day. We have been sitting in the sun 12 hours a day in 112-degree heat in full “battle rattle” and body armor. We don’t have enough water to clean ourselves or our laundry. We are too far forward to get the laundry out to us.

So when those at Camp Virginia are sitting in their tents or waiting in line at the PX or eating a hot plate of chow with a cold soda, they should just remember that there are soldiers out in Iraq somewhere who are not getting their mail, eating two MREs a day and only getting two 1.5 liter bottles of water a day. We have not been cleaned and have not gotten to do our laundry. We also cut our own hair and sit in the sun all day.

So when those at Camp Virginia are feeling down and out in Kuwait, they should remember us, the spearhead of the 4th Infantry Division, A Troop, 1-10 Cavalry, out front, leaning forward in the saddle and keeping them safe.

Sgt. Mickey AndersonIraq

Web site honors troops

Hello from Iraq. I’m an Army medic, and I’m currently deployed to a location just northeast of Baghdad, Iraq. We are proudly continuing the mission of Operation Iraqi Freedom as one of the battalions of the 4th Infantry Division.

I’m writing in regard to the Web site I’ve created in honor of the men and women who’ve served and are serving our country in uniform. The Web site is It showcases more than 500 celebrities, sports figures, models and actors who support our troops. Some of the favorites are Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Dave Thomas and Hugh Hefner. ( Thomas and Hefner served in the Army at Camp Hood, now Fort Hood, Texas.)

I started the wall of fame on my deployment to Kosovo when I was in the 47th Forward Support Battalion in Baumholder, Germany. The pictures came in slow at first. But pretty soon we had our entire command post wallpapered with signed photos from celebrities. I continued the wall in Germany and started a new one when I PCS’d to Fort Hood. The one at Fort Hood is at the officers’ club. I scan all the photos, watermark them and then upload them to the site.

I have promoted the site on three different radio stations, one TV station, numerous Web sites and in countless outhouses in Kuwait and Iraq. We appreciate Stars and Stripes’ support.

Sgt. Timothy StroudIraq

June 18

Jones on transformation

An open letter to servicemembers, civilians and their families:

As you are aware, the European Command is embarking on a journey to transform from our current post-Cold War force structure and basing environment to one that is positioned to meet the unique challenges of the 21st century.

Hopefully many of you have read reporter Jon Anderson’s four-part series on transforming EUCOM in this week’s Stars and Stripes. This process is not being done in a vacuum, or in isolation, but in the most methodical and inclusive way possible. The Strategy Division of EUCOM’s Plans and Policy Directorate has done outstanding work as our lead staff element. However, the entire EUCOM leadership team has been working at this transformation plan for several months, and there is still much work to be done, both within EUCOM and in Washington.

Our pledge to each of you is we will get this right. We owe you no less than our very best. While some changes will occur quickly, others will take longer. The bottom line is this: We are making these necessary adjustments to meet the 21st century’s challenges, knowing full that we must keep faith with you and your families.

We have witnessed a number of unprecedented events since Sept. 11, 2001: the war on terrorism, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom. It is easy to see our world has changed dramatically. And, as with any change, the U.S. military must adapt to meet the security environment challenges of the 21st century. These are more asymmetrical in nature and do not fit easily into any particular military category.

For this command to remain viable and at the forefront of implementing U.S. foreign policy objectives, it must remain engaged with our tried-and-true allies in Europe, and also must forge new security ties with emerging countries who look to us for development, leadership and friendship.

Along with these new security realities, the possibility exists that we may have to shift some of our forces and basing assets east and south to give us the flexibility, agility and ability to project power in areas where new challenges are emerging. Some of our forces will return to the CONUS and deploy periodically on a rotational basis. Finally, we will make our current basing footprint more efficient.

As we undertake this important work, we will be mindful to do what is in the best interest of our country, our men and women in uniform, DOD civilians and, of course, our families. I encourage you to stay abreast of the issues being considered during this transformation process and to ask questions through your chain of command. It’s important we separate fact from fiction, and that’s why our senior commanders and I have continued to go on the record regarding these bold steps. I look forward to working with each of you as we shape EUCOM’s future together, and I value highly the great contributions each of you makes to the attainment of our national objectives and the enhancement of the NATO Alliance.

James L. JonesGeneral, USMCCommander, U.S. European CommandStuttgart, Germany

Wrong about rights

Once again the defenders of Pulse magazine have badly missed the mark. They feel it’s their right to read anything they want, and if others are “offended” then that’s just too bad. They even distort the First Amendment by claiming that publications like Pulse are protected by freedom of the press, and that to argue against its publication is “censorship.” What rubbish. If Washington, Jefferson and the other founding fathers of our great nation ever knew that the First Amendment would be used to sanction such rot as Pulse, they’d be shocked and astounded. The purpose of the First Amendment is to protect political expression, not to serve as a cover for those who want to promote their social poisons.

Basically, these misguided folks seem to think that whatever anyone wants to express in a public forum is OK because they have “rights” to air whatever they want. They also advance the argument that if someone doesn’t like it, well, just turn it off, throw it out or don’t read it. I wonder how these same people would feel if an auto manufacturer wanted to sell cars with no smog controls, but with increased power and performance. After all, shouldn’t we as potential buyers have a “right” to buy such a car? Why should I not be allowed to buy that kind of car if I want to? If others don’t like my smog-belching street machine, too bad. Don’t buy it. Ah, but they’d say the car’s noxious fumes are affecting the whole environment, the air that everyone must breathe. And that’s the point!

I object to publications like Pulse because they’re social pollution, just as much as smog is air pollution. We’re all affected by the values and standards that Pulse promotes. Do we really want a society in which physical intimacy is cheapened, in which women and men are sexually exploited and not seen as whole persons, in which titillation passes as “entertainment,” in which instant gratification and pleasure rule the day? Do we really want a whole generation of children to grow up living their lives based on values promoted by Pulse? Would the defenders of Pulse really want a child of their own to grow up living a Pulse lifestyle? I think or would at least hope not.

It’s bad enough that so much of contemporary “entertainment” promotes values that weaken and destroy individual human dignity, family values, and ultimately society at large. It’s worse when a publication funded by tax dollars and sanctioned by an arm of the United States government does so. Shame on Stars and Stripes.

Don MorrisWiesbaden, Germany

Abolish FCC

The letter “FCC vote” (June 13) said the FCC should not deregulate media consolidation. I disagree. I feel that not only should we deregulate more media consolidation laws, we should also take it one step further. I’d like to see the FCC completely disassembled and done away with. I find it highly ironic that we have a Bill of Rights in our Constitution that guarantee our Congress shall make no law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” and a federal government that authorizes a Federal Communications Commission. That’s along the lines of having a Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms while our Second Amendment guarantees us freedom of infringement on our right to “keep and bear arms.”

I find it interesting and morally questionable that I’m forced to pay almost half of my earnings to support a government that squanders away my very hard-earned money on frivolous federal organizations that are involved in taking away my freedoms. Why am I paying taxes for an organization to infringe upon the free-trade practices of private corporations? I’ll take this even one step further to its outer extreme: Who would be worse off were the FCC to go away tomorrow?

A true free market economy would dictate that firms would only survive with fair and ethical practices anyway. I’d rather have to pay fewer taxes (maybe even eventually no taxes) and have to worry about buying a tuner that would receive the newest digital signals than pay taxes to an organization that feels the need to regulate commerce which keeps radio stations from commercially transmitting digital signals.

Do readers know that there are 135 federal agencies and commissions that are all funded with money they’re earning? Everything from the “Ginnie Mae” organization that does … er … something with my money, to the White House Commission On Remembrance. I’d much rather be able to keep my hard-earned money for myself and try to survive without a United Nations Information Center (also a federal administration)

I find it even more interesting that we’ve been conditioned for so long to argue the nuances of the authority of these commissions, like the writer did, when we really should be concerned with why we even have these commissions in the first place.

Michael WolskeKaiserslautern, Germany

June 19

Hard to find hope

I’m an American fighting soldier in Iraq. I’ve been deployed since mid-January. I’m a husband and a father. I haven’t seen my son since weeks before I left. I was denied leave for Christmas. A few months before, because of the rapid deployment status and high intensity training level with the National Training Center rotation, I was denied Thanksgiving with my family and any time thereafter. I’ve served four years honorably as a first-term soldier, all in the 3rd Infantry Division. It’s because of stop loss that I can’t separate from the Army.

We have all fought honorably in the war, but we’re being kept here for reasons not yet made clear to us. No one really knows when we’re supposed to go home. There are units here with us that didn’t fight in the war and got here two months ago that are leaving before us. We’re weary of the place, and morale plummets further daily. We were told that as long as we fought the war, we’d go home as soon as it was done. Yet we’re still here. We survived a war only to be shot at, and some of us killed, when there’s no army to fight. We feel forgotten about. The Marines and sailors who fought by our side are long gone.

I’m afraid my son doesn’t know who his daddy is and that he may never find out. Our marriages and our lives are falling apart and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Our mission here in Iraq is so minimal that they are constantly trying to find new missions for us. Our unit has given us two redeployment dates that have already come and passed. They’ve shut down and reopened mail twice, and we’ve already received a redeployment brief, only to find out it might be months before we could “possibly” go home. I look at my soldiers constantly, and it’s hard to look at the expressions of depression, anxiety, and even bordem on their faces. It’s hard to find hope here.

I realize there are others who have it worse, and their stories need to be told too. All of us have loved ones and families, and some have wives and children who are struggling without us. My wife struggles to tell my son, who just turned 1, who his daddy is and why he’s not there. Thanks for all the support.

Sgt. J. FisherIraq

Mail haphazard happenstance

I’d like to respond to the letter “Mail service good” (May 29). It took several days to finally peruse an old copy of Stars and Stripes in which this hilarious letter was found. In the time that my company, C Company of the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, also of Baumholder, Germany, has been in Iraq, mail has been a rather haphazard happenstance. Before departing Germany on March 18, we were given the first of numerous addresses to which our mail would be sent. (We were to change to a V Corps address just a few scant days later, for starters.)

As we trekked from Kuwait to Baghdad, the most mail we saw was in our nightly dreams (interrupted by rocket propelled grenade attacks, of course).

As for the e-mail that the letter writer fondly spoke of, I’m quite sure that there were some great T-3 connected, Pentium 4 powered computers in the dust hovels of Fallujah, Karbala, Najaf, Ramadi, and numerous other lovely locales that C Co 2-6 has had the pleasure of visiting. I think a fairly necessary prerequisite to e-mailing is power and running water! Oh, I’m sorry. I do get some mail -- my bills. But they’d find me if I were on an Arctic polar expedition.

Here’s an example of the timeliness of our mailing system. On April 15 I spoke to my mother and was informed that, just that day, several packages and letters were mailed. I haven’t seen an iota of them. That was also the last time I called home. But that’s another issue to be covered another day.

On the flip side of things, mail that we send out seems to stumble and crawl to our recipients. Pfc. Melvin Clark told me that it takes a month for his mail to get home, and the last time he received mail from his wife it was dated April 20.

Pfc. Anthony MackIraq

Husband gets no mail

I’m writing in response to the Military Postal System mail going to and from Army Post Offices. My husband has been deployed for four months now. He’s been writing to me, and I haven’t gotten one thing. He’s just now getting mail from me dated February. But family members in the States who go through the regular mail seem to be getting things to and from Kuwait. During the first Gulf War, the mail took a few weeks, not several months. They need to get it straightened out for the morale of both soldiers and families. I’m a very frustrated wife.

Terri OsbornMannheim, Germany

Ten Commandments

America’s been great because it was founded on Judeo-Christian principles based on the Ten Commandments. If we get rid of these principles, what do we have to rely on? What new ideology awaits us? What do we want our kids to believe in? These are questions to ponder after a photo in Stars and Stripes on June 11 showed a monument to the Ten Commandments being taken from outside of West Union High School in West Union, Ohio.

The Ten Commandments don’t stand for one single religion or denomination, but rather for principles shared by the majority of Americans. They don’t violate the First Amendment. In fact, a judge’s decision to move the monument violated the constitutional right to free exercise of religion. There shouldn’t be shame in saying that our founding fathers were Christians and that Christian principles exist in the Declaration of Independence.

What does the judge want future high school students to believe in? Do everything they want as long as they don’t get caught? Pure relativism. If that’s the case, we don’t need a Wannsee Conference to reduce the world’s population. We have abortion, euthanasia, and sexual selection and preference. We have films that constantly show us how to kill, cheat, injure, play mind games, etc.

What happens to civilizations when the Ten Commandments are thrown out and people have no moral vision other than to just follow the dictates of state ideology and their own whims? The French Revolution started with not just liberty and fraternity but the persecution of religion. That led to idolatry, the execution of thousands, the slaughter of the Vendeans, a reign of terror, the dictatorship of Napoleon, the death of millions in a war, etc.

On the other hand, whatever negative events happen in history, the Ten Commandments will always remain and come back into the lives of people and national governments, even after the most horrendous wars and killings. Unlike Europe, where the people accept nearly anything offered to them by their ruling powers and the far left press, Americans are considered rugged individuals who will fight for their rights as well as their religious rights. We hear that Americans are always criticized for trying to be so moral. The reason is that the huge majority of Americans believe in God, the Ten Commandments and the Bible. What happens when people abandon these beliefs? Auschwitz! Gulag! Anarchy!

Jean-Paul PoninskiChievres, Belgium


Due to an editing error, the letter “FCC vote” (June 13) contained an incorrect dollar amount for cuts in veterans’ benefits and health care voted for by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 20. The House voted to cut $28 billion in veterans’ benefits and health care.

June 20

Overweight soldiers

I’ve been “weighing” whether this letter “fits” into the category of relevance for Stars and Stripes’ readers, and I decided it bears some “weight” if taken in the kindly manner intended.

As a treat, my family recently attended the NATO Music Festival hosted in Kaiserslautern, Germany. We applauded the diverse music corps from the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Poland, Austria and the United States. Although we enjoyed all the outstanding groups, as patriotic Americans we especially favored the U.S. band’s performance.

Unfortunately, we noticed that when all the bands marched onto the field for a grand finale that some Germans sitting next to us were pointing out the American band and laughing. They remarked that some of the American soldiers appeared overweight. They made comments about Americans having obesity problems. Incidentally, when the German band marched in, they noted some of their soldiers also looked hefty.

Whether it’s fair or not, people do tend to judge us on our weight. Especially when members of a military unit are above average weight, they are deemed unfit, sloppy or without discipline. I’m not one to throw stones. I realize people may have reasons for their weight. It may be due to thyroid problems, stressful times or just all the great European food available. Sadly, my European friends have said that if they see an overweight person, they’ll tend to think that person is an American.

This makes me extremely sad. I’m proud of my country and admire our soldiers in uniform. Anytime we’re criticized, I take notice. Like it or not, our presence overseas reflects on our country and its reputation. Perhaps those of us who weigh too much may need to consider exercising at the nearest gym or enlisting the help of a nutritionist. From personal experience, I know my local base fitness center has been extremely helpful in providing tips for me to get into shape. Servicemembers should do this for themselves, their military units and their country so we can “strut our stuff” with pride!

Melanie SalavaStrassen, Luxembourg

Nothing to do

My name is Caitlin Connolly. My father is in the Air Force. We are stationed at the Geilenkirchen, Germany, NATO base. We are faced with two major issues.

First, my family and other American families are forced to shop at the support base Schinnen. There isn’t a big selection of anything. There aren’t sizes for everyone, and it isn’t very fair. The base doesn’t have large enough shoe sizes or clothing sizes for me and others. Compared to Ramstein Air Base, we have nothing. We have to drive three hours to find decent food and clothing. It’s frustrating and makes us feel less important than those with good facilities.

Second, I’m also concerned about the lack of things to do in the part of Germany where I live. Ramstein has a beautiful movie theater, roller rink, bowling center, youth center and more. We have none of these things. We do have a little place that people call the youth center where we can hang out from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, but that’s about it. We feel we deserve better facilities with activities for teens to keep us out of trouble and away from boredom. We get the choice of sitting at home on a Friday night or going to a movie theater that has seats which cause one’s bottom to become numb.

I think it’s a great experience to live in Europe. But it would be a lot easier for us teens if we had a selection of things to do on weekends. It’s not very fair that some people get better facilities than others when we’re all here in Europe, far away from our home country. I miss my home in the States, and I wish I could have a substitute for it here.

Caitlin ConnollyGeilenkirchen, Germany

Priorities wrong

I just read the letter “Mail Complaints” (June 2). It appalled me. I realize that every man is entitled to his opinion, but the writer was way off.

I don’t know the writer, but he’s probably some mail clerk who has never been deployed. As a soldier currently deployed to Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom, being able to communicate with my loved ones who are 6,000 miles away is important to me and my soldiers in Iraq. How would the writer feel if he were called on to fight a war in a foreign land and was not able to communicate with people at home? How could the writer say soldiers have their priorities wrong? I think the writer has his priorities wrong.

Spc. Gearry SookbirsinghNorthern Iraq

Thanks to Landstuhl

I recently had surgery at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the operating room staff, the nurses and the medical technicians of ward 14CD and the staff of the urology clinic, especially surgeons Dr. Stackhouse and Dr. Davis. I was treated with compassion and professionalism at all times by everyone.

I’ve recently read letters to the editor about what makes a hero. In my opinion, LRMC is staffed with a multitude of behind-the-scenes heroes who do their best to keep us healthy while continuing their mission of repairing war-damaged troops. My hat’s off to these dedicated people. They should keep up the good work. America is proud of them.

Bob CrockettMainz, Germany

University’s policy

As a student of University of Maryland University College since 2001, my parents have spent well more than $10,000 for me to attend both the campus in Mannheim, Germany, and separate classes offered on post at different educational centers. I appreciate UMUC in Europe for helping me further my education. But I’ve lost that appreciation and no longer wish to attend classes through this college.

I reviewed an upcoming Math 107 course and signed up for it, thinking I was in the right place. Anyone who’s attended college knows that sometimes a class is not right for a student, and the student may need to switch to a higher or lower level. Most students will sign up for a class, experience a couple of days of it and realize it’s not right for them for whatever reason.

At the first class of Math 107, before the teacher even introduced herself or explained how she’d present the course material, a UMUC representative entered the room. The person said that upon students saying “here” to their names, we’d forfeit canceling out of the course and would only receive 75 percent of the money back. Now 75 percent is still for the most part good. But losing 25 percent of more than $400 makes no sense. Students need to experience at least a day of class to get a solid idea of what to expect in any course. Maybe it’s the course work, syllabus, teacher or a personal reason. But I hardly think this policy is fair in the least.

UMUC has its policies. And after all, after spending more than $10,000 with it, where do I have room to talk? So how about just switching to a different class and putting the prepaid money toward that new class? No. This is not possible. The student would still lose 25 percent. If a student wants to get into a new course, she should get ready to sign a new check. Again, this makes no sense!

Fortunately, I have the option of finding a new class, writing a new check and not having to wait weeks to get reimbursed. But what about students who don’t have this luxury? Or soldiers who spend money on college courses and get ripped off? Where is my 25 percent going to for this amazing one day in class? I’m sure there are more students like me feeling ripped off.

Stephanie FoxWürzburg, Germany

June 21

Mail woes: Stop and think

I’m writing in response to the numerous letters posted on a daily basis that blame Army Post Offices for loved ones not receiving their mail downrange. First, it’s illegal for post offices to hold customers’ mail. I’m a Military Postal Service employee, and we’re required to process the mail within a set time frame. Of course mail delivery in a combat zone will be different for security reasons and customs concerns.

I’m sure there’s a problem with the length of time it takes loved ones to get the things sent to them. But before letter writers start blaming postal employees, they should ask themselves a few questions. Did they put the correct mailing addresses on their items? Did they place customs forms on the items? Are any of the items listed on the customs forms on the list of prohibited items? Those who don’t have a list should contact their Family Support Group leader for more information.

The mail problem is real. No one can doubt that. But the problem is not with the hard-working postal employees here in Europe. We process tons of mail every day and we take great pride in the jobs we do. Most postal employees are family members whose loved ones are deployed right alongside customers’ loved ones. The workers want the mail to reach servicemembers just as much as the customers do. But we all have to understand that it’s not like sending mail to the States. The mail is being sent to a war zone, and certain measures must be taken to ensure that the mail is not or has not been tampered with.

Some people reading this will think it’s easy for me to say these things because they don’t affect me. But they’re wrong. I was in Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Operation Positive Force, which allowed for the rebuilding of Kuwait. We had problems sending and receiving mail then, too, but we didn’t make it into a national crisis. We had other things to worry about that were just a bit more important, like taking care of each other. That was the main issue of our day. We have friends deployed who we care about, and we’d never do anything that would keep those brave men and women of our military from receiving their mail. So letter writers should please stop and think and have good information before they start pointing fingers.

Patrick W. MayBaumholder, Germany

Where’s mail going?

This is in regard to the letter “Mail service not good” (June 15). I stand and applaud the writer for telling the real story about so-called good mail service while deployed in Iraq.

I was recently blessed with the opportunity to talk to my husband on the phone. One of my questions was, “Have you received any mail from us yet?” I knew his answer before he said anything. He had not received any mail in the past seven days, let alone anything from us here in Wiesbaden, Germany. But on June 19 I spoke to him again, and he finally received a couple of things on day 46 since his deployment began. I write my husband every day. That means he should have mail every day. But no. Until June 19, he had absolutely nothing.

I have asked the post office about mail service to Iraq and am always given the same answer: “Everything goes out.” Great. But where to? The mail was not getting to my husband or to the soldiers with him. My husband was deployed for 41 days and received nothing from us here in Germany.

My husband knows that I’m in for the long haul and that I’ll be there for him when he comes home. But what about the young soldiers who aren’t so self-assured and don’t have a support system already established and in place? What about the men and women who need to hear from family and friends back home in Germany so they can escape Iraq for just a brief moment?

Over the years I’ve heard the statement, “If family was important to the military, they would have been issued to the soldier.” Should this statement be revised to read “family and mail support”?

Jennifer ParrisWiesbaden, Germany

Friendship and fellowship

As I prepare to leave my post in Heidelberg, Germany, I must thank my colleagues with whom I have worked on a daily basis. A bond of friendship and good fellowship has grown between us.

I cannot find the words to express my gratitude and publicly thank U.S. Army Europe, our true sponsor, which committed 100 percent for my family’s welfare and mine. I must also thank the Department of Defense Dependents Schools, AAFES, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, the University of Maryland University College, the Defense Commissary Agency, the medical facilities and AFN, which all provided us with unquestioned services and support.

I must also thank USAREUR for its patience and trust in selecting me to be part of the great USAREUR team to which the civilian work force makes a major contribution. I must also thank our great American soldiers and the German guards who have protected us day and night from danger. I must also thank everyone who has helped us to make this dream a reality.

USAREUR is great in taking care of its people.

Mike KhayatHeidelberg, Germany

Parenting at concert

I’ve read several letters to the editor going back and forth about parenting and Family Child Care providers. FCC providers are not responsible for raising other people’s children. But while a child is in its care, FCC is charged with the health and welfare of said child. It should also help teach the child some good behaviors and habits.

I know that everyone has their own opinions when it comes to what’s good parenting and what’s bad parenting. It’s a learned behavior from one’s own parents. And I’d have to say that in my opinion I saw a lot of bad parenting at the recent Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. I’m not blaming anyone who was working the concert or with the band for these people’s bad choices.

My wife and I were about 70 feet from the stage and a wall of speakers. Our son was with a friend at her house, safe from the very good, ultraloud music. In front of us were a few FCC providers from Darmstadt, Germany, with their babies, and other people with their very small children. All I could think was, “Those poor children and their hearing.” Not only that, but people in the crowd also had small babies. This was a concert at which people were drinking and bunched up. One child got stepped on when military police had to take a drunken fan out of the crowd. The child’s parents were busy watching the concert.

So to end this little rant, I want to push what I always push — the use of common sense. If parents want to go to a certain place or see a certain movie and can’t find child care, then guess what? They should suck it up, stay home and be parents. Parents shouldn’t put their children in bad or unhealthy situations by being selfish.

I just hope the damage done to those poor kids’ eardrums is not going to last. As for me, I want to make sure my son hears me when I jump his case when he’s doing something he shouldn’t.

Jason MayfieldHanau, Germany

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