European edition letters for the weekof September 29 - October 5, 2002
Where are 'good guys'?
Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)
September 29 Where are the 'good guys'? Mismanagement Dog problemSeptember 30 Special person Computer teachers Trying to save money Germany's rightsOctober 1 Pray for president Not Dark Ages Security at riskOctober 2 Germany-U.S. relations Bush's remarks Thanks to medical providersOctober 3 'Women in combat' response Prevent suffering Spouses are backbone Germany's militaryOctober 4 Bowling alleys Unaccompanied tours U.S.-Germany flap
October 5 U.S., Germany facts Germany inaccuracies
How is it that we have arrived at where we currently are? Are the compassionate, caring leaders of yesterday gone forever? Why is it that today’s Army is plagued with leaders who only care about the furtherance of their own personal careers?
Gone are the days when the senior leadership actually cared about the goings-on with soldiers, the welfare of families, and the mental and emotional well-being of all concerned. Enter the days of egocentrism and self-fulfillment. Today’s Army leaders, at every level of command, seem to only be concerned with their own personal agendas. The zero-defect mentality is consuming America’s fighting force, and the quest for “above center mass” is driving the train.
Today’s leaders are too afraid to make the tough decisions that their own bosses may not agree with, even if it means that the soldiers will be better off. Today we are overextended, overtasked, underappreciated, and pushed aside. Our Army has too many missions and not enough bodies to adequately perform them. To top it off, there are not too many leaders around who seem willing to step up and make this an issue. They’re terrified that they’ll become known as “nonconformists” and will therefore miss out on that above center mass and the next promotion, because all of their contemporaries are all singing the song that the boss wants to hear.
And why is it that when a unit is facing the possibility of being deactivated that its commanding general is the first to send his/her soldiers to the four corners of the globe? Why do they take on every mission without complaint and volunteer for more? Why are they so eager to grind up those poor soldiers who are unfortunate enough to be in their command for the furtherance of their own private agendas? And why do those few who do have a conscience for their charges sneak away to the comforts of their offices to privately complain to their personal confidants without attempting to “rock the boat?” Why can’t they make a stand for what is right for the soldiers?
They seem to forget that this is a volunteer Army. We are here because we want to be here. We are here to serve our country. We are not here to be abused for the furtherance of the careers of those who only care about themselves. Why is it that deployment after deployment after deployment is never enough? These senior leaders are currently chomping at the bit to jump into a conflict just to say that they have made a difference, just to prove their worth, and to possibly avoid being deactivated. Why is it that they never once take the time to wonder how the soldiers will cope? Is it because they themselves will not have to leave the comfort of their plush offices or step out of their luxurious BMW 750s? God forbid that they might have to sleep on the ground in a 35-year-old sleeping bag under a shelter half that was issued to our great-grandfather in a previous war.
It is truly unfortunate that those who do try to make a difference and who really do care about the welfare of their soldiers are often ground up and left behind because they dare to voice their opinions. They are labeled as “troublemakers” and pushed aside since they do not toe the party line. Oh how I yearn for those days when we had leaders who actually stood up to the system and cared for their troops.
Dale CallenderChief Warrant Officer 2Heidelberg, Germany
The writer of the letter “Overseas tours” (Sept. 20) is living in a utopian dream world. The Army’s consideration of unaccompanied overseas tours in Europe is good for the Army and detrimental to families.
The writer made several points. First, “A lot of money would be saved by the elimination of ‘pork barrel’ family support infrastructure. ...” Pork barrel projects are when a congressman or senator attaches a weaker piece of legislation to stronger legislation in order to achieve passage. The attached legislation subsequently benefits the representative’s home state or district. The European Command doesn’t have a congressman or senator. Family support services aren’t pork. They’re an investment we make in society and in our future generation. Comparing the family support infrastructure to pork barrel only illustrates how the dignity of the American family has been demolished.
Next the writer said, “If a family is established on the firm foundation of traditional family values, and both husband and wife are of good character, then a 6-12 month overseas tour would be of minor inconvenience.” The traditional family that is established in Judeo-Christian doctrine, upon the authority of the Bible, is that the husband is the head of the household and the one who provides for the family. The wife graciously submits to the headship of her husband, guides the home and bears children. The cornerstone of traditional family values is a father who is present and active in rearing his children. The father is the head of the house — not the government, the commander, the first sergeant, the school principal, the school counselor, the social worker, or a family support representative with a family readiness plan in hand. A father can’t be a father if he’s gone half a year, every year of a child’s life, or every other year from a child’s life.
The writer also eluded to dysfunctional families. Many studies prove that the presence of a father in a home is the key to a functional home and peaceful children. The reality of the values debate is that more than 40 percent of marriages end in divorce. The values are no longer abstinence, faithfulness, and until death do us part, but fornication and divorce. The Department of Defense can verbally encourage family values all it wants, but until true conditions are created that support family values, it’s empty rhetoric.
The writer went on to list several points of consideration. One was, “Have single female soldiers legally ensure that they will practice reproductive responsibility by not getting pregnant while assigned to a deployable unit.” Again, I must assert that this is utopian. Research shows children engaging in sexual activity at younger ages. Moreover, virginity is no longer a societal value, but treated as a badge of shame that young men and women must rid themselves of as soon as possible. The sex experts on staff in government schools are in many regions forbidden by law and the courts from teaching abstinence until marriage. Thus the traditional expectation of abstinence has been degenerated and substituted with the following expectation, “We know you’re going to do it anyway, so here’s a condom.”
The military is a cross section of society, and realism coupled with pragmatism demands we accept the fact that servicemembers are sexually active with other servicemembers and civilians, and signing some statement isn’t going to change anything. If anything, this type of policy would severely retard and relegate women servicemembers to a subclass. Why not also have male servicemembers sign a statement legally ensuring that they will not impregnate any women out of wedlock?
Finally, the writer suggested reducing the number of commitments we make to other countries. Prior to the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military was deployed in the European and Pacific theaters. Since the 1990s the military has deployed to the following locations: Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and most recently, Krygyzstan, Tajikistan, Georgia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. Moreover, if the United States does go to war with Iraq, we’ll have yet another commitment. Open-ended commitments to other countries are the future of the U.S. military, and there’s no light and the end of the tunnel.
I suggest the letter writer read the book “A Republic, Not an Empire” by Pat Buchanan. It historically documents that all great empires eventually crumble because the cost of maintaining the empire status is so great that the citizens of the nation-states grow weary of the cost in resources needed to support the empire. The cost of the American empire has now become the American family.
All U.S. Army and DOD policymakers would do well to reflect on the fact that America’s sons and daughters are on loan to them. They are their temporary stewards, not their permanent owners. If they continue to mismanage America’s most valuable resource, they just might find themselves no longer trusted.
Tom GillardRamstein Air Base, Germany
This is to all dog owners in the Bamberg, Germany, community. We have a serious problem here concerning not cleaning up after dogs that have relieved themselves. The area around Friendship Park is becoming a complete mess. Children play in that field, soldiers have physical training there, and soccer practice is held there, not to mention battalion organizational days. There are even some people who take their dogs into the woods, thinking that they can shirk their responsibility.
Well, let me remind dog owners once again, as Sgt. 1st Class Kellogg has done so many times, about Base Support Battalion Policy 99-50. It states, “All pet owners will clean up ... defecation by their pets in all areas.” Upon first offense, the chain of command is notified. After two complaints against a dog owner, he can lose his dog and/or housing.
This is a health and sanitary issue. The only cases of heartworms that are reported are from those dogs just coming from the States. I don’t want my dog getting sick, and I sure don’t want to walk in someone else’s mess just because some people are too lazy to clean it up. If my husband’s battalion commander can pick up after his dog, then others can do so as well.
Heather HarrisonBamberg, Germany
Every once in a while, one meets a person so special that one’s life is immediately impacted. Such was the case when I met Ms. Beverly Kelly. Ms. Kelly was my daughter’s fourth-grade teacher until her sudden death on Sept. 25.
I hadn’t known Ms. Kelly long. I volunteered for several hours a day for the first week of school to help ready the classroom for the open house. But in that very brief period of time I came to respect and admire Ms. Kelly as a person and a teacher.
I saw children from years past come to her with hugs, pictures and poems. She couldn’t walk from the cafeteria to her classroom without being waylaid many times by former students. One such student loved her so much that when she found out that Ms. Kelly was temporarily using a cane, she came to the classroom every day after school to carry Ms. Kelly’s belongings to her car. Ms. Kelly was loved as much as she loved.
By the end of that first week, I considered my daughter one of the 23 luckiest fourth-graders at the school. I was certain she had one of the best teachers that the Department of Defense Dependents Schools had to offer. Ms. Kelly was a tribute not only to DODDS but to all teachers.
I’m sad for the school’s faculty, who lost one of their own. I’m sad for Ms. Kelly’s daughter and grandchildren who are now beginning to grieve their loss. I’m sad for her students, past and present, who have lost a wonderful teacher. And I’m sad for the students who will never know a woman whose heart was as beautiful as her smile.
God bless Ms. Kelly. She is loved, and she is missed.
Sherry HatcherRamstein Air Base, Germany
From 1990 to 1999, the Department of Defense Dependents Schools proclaimed “Goal 2000” for students to be technologically literate. For several years the program advanced and was most effective. Classroom teachers worked together with computer teachers to develop and augment computer and academic skills that enhanced the capabilities of each child.
Now, in 2002, the clock has been turned back. It has been learned that technology teachers have been eliminated and are no longer available in the Heidelberg, Germany, elementary schools. Why? Because parents have been told that DODDS cannot afford the manpower for this function, and that current enrollment (more than 900 in some schools) does not warrant computer staffing.
This is utter nonsense. Technological literacy has not been placed on a back burner by DODDS; rather it has been taken completely off the stove, to the detriment of our children. Thousands of dollars were spent on computer labs and equipment, which now just sit unattended.
As a former DODDS teacher, I understand the value of teaching students. Yet why, with the importance placed on computer skills today, have these individuals been reassigned and computer positions left vacant? Did DODDS learn nothing from congressional reductions of millions of dollars, one reason being the failure to fill job positions?
In my opinion, this is not the way to manage a school system and the education of our children. If teachers are not available for the schools, then perhaps the staffing of administrative offices above school level needs to be examined. Perhaps it’s time for a manpower survey to be conducted in all district superintendents’ offices to identify positions available for transfer to school levels. Sadly, it has been rumored that some teachers, whose positions are vouchered to the school, are actually employed in the DSO offices to “assist” administrators with their workloads, thereby shortchanging classroom needs. I would be most disappointed if this is so.
Carlinga LoringOftersheim, Germany
Trying to save money
I just read the letter “Overseas tours” (Sept. 20), and I’m still not quite sure if the writer was really serious. I’m a spouse, and I’m sorry, but to be separated from my husband for six to 12 months would hurt. Sure, spouses know all the pro and cons when they marry soldiers, but nothing can really prepare them. I am glad that we were able to be in Germany to see what my husband sees and to grow even more together.
For me, my family comes first and then my job. If it’s the other way around, one needs to straighten out one’s priorities. One’s family will always be there. The Army is just for a period of time in a soldier’s life. Sure, one needs to take one’s job seriously. But the family is a person’s backbone. I also can see how my husband and children suffer when they are separated. Why try to make it worse?
In the last couple of weeks I’ve read a lot of letters about this issue, and pretty much all of them expressed my feelings about the unaccompanied-tour study. I don’t agree with it at all, and I really do hope that somebody up there will show some character and wipe this proposal off the table. Let’s just face it. Somebody is trying to save some money, and why not start with the little people?
The letter “Overseas tour” is an insult to my intelligence. Nobody is whining or complaining. My husband knows what his job is, and I think he knows how to balance his private and professional lives.
My first reaction was laughter when I read the letter in Stars and Stripes. I didn’t really believe that somebody in our time still thought this way, and even worse, would make his opinion public. We live in the 21st century, not in the dark Middle Ages. I just think that somebody should make the letter writer aware of this.
I’d like to comment on one sentence the writer wrote: “. . . have single female soldiers legally ensure that they will practice reproductive responsibility by not getting pregnant while assigned to a deployable unit.” The last time I checked, we do not live in China, where one needs permission to have children. We’re still talking about humans, not animals.
Gaby M. ThomasGiessen, Germany
How dare the Germans, mainly their chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, have their own opinions, laws and priorities when “Dubya” calls them! A country with its past should do everything the United States demands, right or wrong, because it was U.S. dollars that built Germany up after World War II, right? Wrong.
It helped a lot, but the main reason was through the immense work and effort of the Germans, especially the women, because their husbands were prisoners of war. We rebuilt our country and have a strong economy, mainly when one compares Germany’s size to its wealth. The United States envies it.
We are the only ones who critically face our past and, believe it or not, we have the right to make our own decisions — even if that means not fully supporting a war that we by all means consider wrong. Pressuring and bullying in order to get what one wants is against all values, mainly the always-mentioned American values, right?
Klaudia ValdezNewnan, Ga.
Pray for president
I’m writing in response to the article “Gore denounces Bush” (Sept. 25). I’m a proud American. And although there may be laws or standards I don’t agree with, I’m proud, and even more so after Sept. 11, 2001, and in the days that have followed. We take our freedom for granted. But sometimes, in a tragic way, things have got to be put into perspective. I saw a president who didn’t waste time. In a horrible situation — a situation that should have stopped the quarrels, fighting and crime in the United States but didn’t — President Bush took immediate action with the help of many allies. I’m grateful.
We can sing the famous John Lennon song, “Give Peace a Chance,” which many seemed to do in England in anti-war protests. But let’s hear some ideas on how we can do that. As we sit back and give it a chance, Iraq becomes equipped with higher quantities of deadly weapons than it already has. What do people think Saddam Hussein plans to do with such weapons of mass destruction? And if we are so willing to judge our president for wanting to take action against Iraq now, how much more would he be judged later for not taking action when it’s too late? Even an ally like British Prime Minister Tony Blair sees the importance of action and the seriousness of the situation with Iraq. What’s sad is that even he has been criticized by his own people. How come we have to go to outsiders to receive support?
I may not be the smartest cookie in the jar as far as politics go, but it’s sort of like a marriage: through good times and bad, through sickness and in health. How do people think our country got so great? So powerful? So strong? It wasn’t by sitting back. We paid heavy prices with lives lost. We’ve received a lot of criticism and suffered tragedies, and still do. But the road to this great nation was not always paved and smooth.
Americans should pray for their president. Believe in their president. Support their president. He’s our leader — the leader of a great nation. How can I sit back and judge or criticize him when I should be praying for him to be led by God?
I’m proud of President Bush and proud to be an American.
Sharon BielbyRhein-Main Air Base, Germany
Not Dark Ages
When I read the letter “Women ill-suited for combat” (Sept. 17), I was extremely infuriated and offended. Quite frankly, I second the opinion in the letter “Women in combat” (Sept. 26).
But I’d like to continue on the point of “women not being able to make tough decisions.” If the writer of “Women ill-suited for combat” really believes this, I guess he thinks that all the female colonels and generals need to turn in their birds and stars since they’re unable to make tough decisions. How about all the female platoon leaders and company commanders? They too are required to make difficult decisions for and about their troops’ lives and livelihoods.
As long as we’re at it, let’s take this a little further. How about all the female command sergeants majors, sergeants major, and first sergeants? Remove their stars, diamonds, stripes and chevrons, and they also must make tough decisions about the lives of the men and women they’re in charge of. Oh, wait a minute. I forgot the female team leaders, squad leaders and platoon sergeants. We’ve got to remove them from power as well. According to the letter writer, they can’t handle it.
OK, now let’s look a little deeper — life-and-death decisions. No more female police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, dentists, paramedics, combat medics and mothers. Yes, mothers. Mothers must make decisions about what to feed their children (Is the food poisonous or not?), what their children need to wear for the weather (Swimsuits in a snowstorm? Why not?) and whether the water is too hot or too cold for a child to bathe or drink. Mothers must also decide what to do when their children get hurt and what to do when their children are in danger. Sometimes this means kill or be killed. Many mothers have lost their own lives attempting to save their children’s lives. These too are life-and-death decisions, which according to the letter writer we women are unable to make.
As for this protection thing, oh please. Give me a break. Allow me to quote Dr. Mary E. Walker, a Civil War Medal of Honor recipient: “If it weren’t for men, from whom would we need protecting from?” The letter writer needs to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee. This is no longer the Dark Ages. It’s the 21st century.
Sgt. Tamara PeruzzoVicenza, Italy
Security at risk
Before everyone gets into the “I hate Bush, I hate Blair anti-war spirit,” we should all pause and look very carefully at the forces behind such foolish public displays.
As reported by Reuters News Agency, the Sept. 28 protest in London was organized by the Stop the War Coalition and the Muslim Association of Britain. The “Stop the War Coalition” is comprised mostly of Arab, Muslim, far-left socialist organizations and Green parties. The primary objective of the organization is not preventing war with Iraq. As stated on its Web site, http://www.stopwar.org.uk/, “The aim of the Coalition should be very simple: to stop the war currently declared by the United States and its allies against ‘terrorism.’”
It should also be noted that this organization is actively seeking money. Do readers really believe that the money they raise will go to making banners and organizing marches?
In Rome on the same day, a march was organized by “the hard-left Communist Refoundation Party.” This organization has been a supporter of violent protests against the G8, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in places such as Milan, Seattle and Washington. A primary goal of this organization is to halt capitalism and free market reforms and restore Communist principles in the international community. This organization is also seeking money and has offices in New York City and other major metropolitan areas of the world.
We should all think long and hard about these opposition protesters before we lend any credence or respectability to them. We should know what they are and what their goals are. Our enemies are forever finding new ways to subvert and harm us. They rely on ignorance and increase their support through gullibility.
Flashy headlines such as “Mass Protest in U.K. Against ‘Bombers’ Blair and Bush” (Reuters, Sept. 29) sell newspapers, look great on the Web and make for “good” film on television. But a closer examination shows that they’re far from revealing the truth.
No one wants war, especially the young soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families who will have to conduct such an action. But the fact remains that we are at war! We’re at war with people and regimes who have no respect for human life, even their own. We’re at war with zealots who will never stop in their quest to kill us simply because we’re Americans. We’re at war with the ignorant who fear what they don’t understand. They don’t wish to gain the knowledge and strength that comes from being free and independent people. We’re at war with sadistic madmen such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, who lead by fear and hatred.
If we turn our back now or ever again, it’s our children and their children who will suffer. It’s time we got past thinking about the comfort of the moment. We should start thinking about the dangers of reclining and relaxing our vigilance. The future of our children’s and the world’s security are at risk. What pain would they have to endure before we decided it was time for action?
David A. TurngrenRodelheim, Germany
I have a couple of observations about the letter “Germany’s rights” (Sept. 30).
First, the writer sarcastically argued that Germany shouldn’t have to do everything the U.S. demands. The writer believes the U.S. is bullying Germany. But who has said Germany must do what the U.S. wants? Americans I know are upset at German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, not at Germany. They’re not upset because Germany won’t support the U.S. in its attempt to defang Saddam Hussein. Nor are they upset that the German people could choose to be neutral. What I think bothered most Americans is that Schroeder made the possibility of war with Iraq a campaign issue only so he could win.
Schroeder couldn’t run on his record. (Do envied countries fail to debate systemic unemployment of 10 percent?) He employed a self-serving and cynical campaign tactic, and it worked. It changed the subject from Germany’s domestic difficulties. Saddam has praised Schroeder. That should tell readers how this was perceived outside Germany. Schroeder also even managed to offend many other Europeans with his statement that Germany would go its own way regardless of what the U.N. says. In effect, Germany would act unilaterally, which is apparently not a bad idea when it helps get Schroeder elected.
Germany isn’t, in any significant material or military way, capable of contributing to what Schroeder has labeled “an adventure.” For the most part, Germany has unilaterally disarmed. Schroeder’s threat to pull a handful of vehicles out of Kuwait should have given some sense of just how little has been sent to that danger spot. The U.S. would take more support and be grateful if it were offered and available. But that support is not a sine qua non if the U.S. Congress and President Bush decide to force Saddam to disarm. To think otherwise is to be poorly informed.
Second, the writer commented about U.S. aid (the Marshall Plan, I’d guess) and dismissed that financial assistance and its value toward making Germany a country which the United States “envies.” The real engine of Germany’s economic rise, according to the writer, was tapping into the female work force because so many of Germany’s men were off in prison camps.
I had two cousins who were also in prison camps around that time in Europe. It takes a lot of chutzpah for the writer to bring up the absence of German men when it was due to a war caused by Hitler. I also wonder if the writer ever thought about why the German people even bothered to take that U.S. aid back then. Sure, some Germans were actually hungry. But it should have been self-evident that, through their “immense work and effort,” Germans would soon be the envy of the U.S. I admire Germany and the Germans. But unless one is a crass materialist, one realizes that there’s more to life than being an economic envy. I’m sure most Germans know that, but I’m not sure if the writer does.
Third, the writer said, “We are the only ones who critically face our past ... .” Now there’s a bizarre form of national chauvinism. Everyone else fails to look at their pasts! Only one nation in the whole world, according to the writer, is good enough to do that. But here’s some of the past that was left out of the letter: There’s no mention of the U.S. support given to Germany during the Cold War. No biggie, I guess, that while West Germans lived fairly normal lives thanks to U.S. support for 45 years, East Germans were living a Kafkaesque nightmare under the watchful eyes of the Communist secret police. There’s no mention of the Berlin Airlift that fed starving Germans while Stalin was trying to force Berlin under his control. There’s no mention of the near war the U.S. risked as the Berlin Wall went up. There’s no mention that it was the U.S. which, despite all our envy of Germany’s “economic size to wealth,” supported German reunification. It was support that was against the wishes of nearly every European country. I’m surprised there’s so little memory now of that American cowboy mentality and its penchant for risky adventures in the many years sited above.
If the German people want to sit out any war that may be coming, that’s fine. Germans who wish to can protest the war when the time comes. Germany’s a free country, isn’t it? As if by magic, some must think.
Chuck FowlerSeckenheim, Germany
Was President Bush out of line when he said Senate Democrats are not interested in the security of the American people? You bet he was!
As a Vietnam-era “role model,” Bush rates close to last. His wartime “actions” showed little regard for the security of America when it really counted. His most recent divisive remarks have once again exhibited the same self-serving behavior that kept him out of harm’s way during the Vietnam War.
To me, President Bush’s words are a dagger in the heart of our Constitution and in the hearts of those who fought to preserve it, both Democrats and Republicans alike. And yet Bush seems all too eager to send other Americans where he feared to tread.
Americans have been the big losers in the “war against terrorism.” The true heroes were the victims of Sept. 11, 2001. But since then, we’ve all been victimized by the Bush administration’s whittling away at our constitutional rights. It was these rights that many democracy-loving veterans paid for with the ultimate sacrifice during combat to ensure the security of each and every American.
Bush must be reminded that it wasn’t the bungling of the Constitution that provided the open door for terrorists to enter the U.S. and carry out plans that were well-documented by our beleaguered intelligence agencies before Sept. 11, 2001. It wasn’t the Constitution that granted a visa to a terrorist six months after he died committing the atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001. It wasn’t the Constitution that gave 48 classified documents to accused Sept. 11, 2001, conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
The security of this country became President Bush’s responsibility the day he took office, as well as the responsibility of Vice President Dick Cheney, whom Bush named to head the domestic terrorism organization within the Federal Emergency Management Agency in May of 2001. If Bush wants to cast aspersions regarding the lack of interest in the security of our country, he should concentrate his crusade within the Oval Office.
Edwin ThornburgWürzburg, Germany
Thanks to medical providers
As a German medical student who just finished three months of training rotations at the U.S. Army Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany, and its outlying Mannheim Clinic, I’d like to thank all the people I interacted with in the local U.S. military community.
During my time at these Army medical establishments, I met many health care providers and personnel. Not once was I treated with anything less than the utmost respect, consideration and thoughtfulness. As a foreign medical student, I was not part of the “normal” routine of the hospital, and was therefore dependent on the guidance and help of others. I can only say that I have rarely met a health care team that on all levels presented itself in such a professional and caring manner.
Most of my time was spent with the doctors and physician assistants in internal medicine, family practice and the eye clinic. Many of these providers are already stretched to the limits with their daily work activities, but they always had time in the middle of their busy schedules to stop and teach important medical points. None of these people gets extra time or payment for this work, and many were going home to their families hours later in the evening because they took the time to teach and demonstrate to the students.
In addition, the patients I interacted with were always generous in sharing with us medical students. They taught us more about medicine than anyone else. Thanks again to everyone. They should be proud to work with such a team.
Michael Stephan, fourth-year medical studentUniversity of Heidelberg, Germany
'Women in combat' response
I’m responding to the letter “Women in combat” (Sept. 20). I’ll make my statements on the Army because that’s the service I’m in. I’m not wise enough to comment on another service’s combat jobs and the skills needed to fill them.
This is a sensitive issue, but some things need to be brought out of the closet. I won’t speak about a woman’s mental or emotional standing, because even the bravest of men could break down and start to cry in a real world combat situation.
In the Army we’re supposed to be an “Army of one.” But this isn’t the case. There are different physical standards for men and women. But for physical performance, Army personnel train at least four times a week. But when it comes time to test that training, men and women are not equally graded. The training is the same, but not the final outcome.
When it comes to combat, the Army has many different jobs that would be considered combat positions, such as my job. I’m an Abrams Tank mechanic. The training would be the same, but the job performance would be different. That’s not to say a woman couldn’t do my job, because I’ve seen some very capable female mechanics. But to be honest, the majority of the parts are heavy, and there are some women who couldn’t do my job, regardless of training, due to their physical standing.
If the Army were to let women into combat, it might turn out like the movie “G.I. Jane.” If the women measure up to the men, they get the jobs.
My opinion is that if a woman can do my job, kudos with all the cool points. I apologize to anyone who might be offended by my thoughts on the subject.
Spc. Gary ReaganSkopje, Macedonia
As I sat on a recent night unable to sleep, my mind considered the ramifications of potential and ongoing military actions and economic sanctions. As a disabled warrior with combat experience in Vietnam and Desert Storm, I can only hope and pray that the outcomes of these actions do not leave another trail of adverse health and environmental problems. I’ve concluded that we must unite in a concerted effort to prevent additional suffering.
Throughout world history, those who have made a commitment to peace have endured isolation and retaliation when they challenged the individuals and governments seeking economic and political advantage. A vision of peace in which all nations can live together for the common good is an ideal dream, but it may be unrealistic. War is the ultimate weapon a nation or leaders can use to control the allocation and use of food, water, terrain, shelter and mineral resources. War occurs when nations or individuals fail to reach a satisfactory compromise on sharing these limited resources.
Today we are reaching another crossroads in history when we must decide which road to follow. We can select peace or go to war. One means life and the other death. The prevalent modus operandi of those seeking power and control is currently to threaten economic sanctions or military attacks in order to achieve their goals and objectives. This is unacceptable. We must act with a unified and strong voice to prevent nations and leaders from imposing their demands on others. At the same time, we must also make sure that those nations and leaders who pose a viable threat to peace are checkmated. But that doesn’t mean that we should resort to military force. There are many options, but only wise people are willing to discuss and mutually select the option most beneficial to all.
Today, information control is used to prevent discussion and debate. If people don’t have adequate and validated information, they’re unable to contribute to the resolution of serious problems. We should ensure the complete dissemination of information, even if that information reveals illegal or disturbing actions by our own or any other nation. These ways to achieve peace would require a commitment of time, financial resources, knowledge, attitudes, life, liberty and a willingness to endure isolation and retaliation by any person who wishes to contribute toward the resolution of local, state, national or international problems.
The choice is ours. We can select a life as a mushroom or we can decide to act. I select action, for if peace is to be achieved, then I must let peace begin with me.
Dr. Doug RokkeRantoul, Ill.
Spouses are backbone
I recently opened my Stars and Stripes and read the letter “Overseas tours” (Sept. 20). It upset me. Speaking as a former soldier and now a dependent, I can’t believe that Stripes would print this garbage.
Anyone who’s a true soldier knows that the backbone of the Army is the soldier’s spouse. Spouses are counselors, nurses and cooks. Who does the letter writer think soldiers go home to and tell about their day and the problems they’re having at work? Who does the writer think motivates soldiers when the Army has screwed them around? When things are good or bad, it’s the Army spouses who are always dedicated to the soldiers, not the Army. When I was active duty, the Army always told me it didn’t give me a family. So that let me know that my only support was my family.
Today’s Army speaks of taking care of family members, but soldiers suffer added stress and discomfort when they’re away from their families. Drugs use would not decrease if there were not family members around. Drug users and traffickers would still continue with or without family members being with soldiers. And domestic violence would increase because of the promiscuous activities that occur when soldiers are away from their families.
The letter writer obviously didn’t have a supportive wife and family. Soldiers already have South Korea as a nonaccompanied tour. They don’t need any more. The divorce rate is already high in the Army. It would increase enormously with unaccompanied tours in Europe.
Rubina HammondLandstuhl, Germany
I must take exception with one remark made in the letter “Germany-U.S. relations” (Oct. 2). The writer said that, “For the most part, Germany has unilaterally disarmed” and that “Germany isn’t in any significant material or military way capable of contributing to (the war on terrorism).” This is simply not true and reflects ignorance on the part of most Americans about the role played by Germany and our other NATO allies in this endeavor. (This ignorance is no doubt caused by the American media’s consistent provincialism).
The fact is that Germany has forces in Afghanistan, including special operations troops, and is due to soon take over the leadership of the stabilization force there. Germany also has naval forces deployed to the Middle East, which are prepared to play their part in this international effort. And of course the Bundeswehr plays a very significant role in the Balkans, both for SFOR and KFOR. In addition, Germany has placed military transportation and medical evacuation assets at the disposal of the U.S. and assisted in the specialized treatment of U.S. soldiers injured in combat. The list could go on.
There is certainly a strong pacifist element in German politics, one that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder no doubt played on to achieve his recent narrow election victory. But let us not forget that we really have little to complain about, since the creation of an economically strong yet pacifist Germany was the exact goal of U.S. policy in the years after World War II. And by the way, what U.S. politician doesn’t play the same game as Mr. Schroeder to get votes, telling each audience what it wants to hear?
Robert JordanStuttgart, Germany
As an Army retiree, I wasn’t at all surprised to read the story “Right up your alley” (Oct. 1) which said that Morale, Welfare and Recreation is sinking $29 million into bowling alleys across Europe. After all, that’s where all the high-ranking people go to relax and “exercise,” isn’t it?
Everywhere I’ve been stationed, I’ve noticed the same trend again and again. Whatever the command enjoys doing, that’s where the money goes. I’ve been in different places where the new post commander was into sports, so the gyms got face-lifts. And where there was no money for gym equipment, suddenly the gym was full. In other places where the senior-ranking people were into softball or golf, wouldn’t you know it, new facilities happened there, too.
I wonder what kind of people took part in the survey? A new bowling alley would have been the last thing on my list. All I need is to take my kids to a bowling alley where the next lane over drunk GIs are cursing and dependents are spending their hard-earned money in the slot machines. This is a place where beer flows freely and it always smells of cigarettes, even though no smoking is permitted.
I have a valid solution. Why don’t we invest the money in indoor swimming pools? Swimming is great exercise. It’s low impact on the joints and benefits the whole body. It can be used for physical fitness year-round. Pools could be built with retractable tops so they could be used in the summer as well. The whole family could use facilities with multiple pools such as a kids’ pool, diving pool and lap pool.
The $29 million is just an estimate. We all know it’s going to end up being more like $32 million or more once civilian contractors have to install and reinstall things they don’t get right the first time. I find the fact that families chose bowling over swimming hard to believe. I bet swimming wasn’t on the list as an option. But I can understand wanting to renovate to make a place more appealing to those who go there. Everyone should feel better going to a nice, clean establishment. So I don’t blame those who will benefit from this money for being happy. But don’t we have enough bowling alleys as it is?
Keith OswaldFrankfurt, Germany
I want to respond to the letter “Overseas tours” (Sept. 20). First the writer said that he and his wife hope the unaccompanied tours in Europe study will be brief and that the proposed policy change is implemented quickly. Is his wife with him? The writer also said this would be just a minor inconvenience in order for the Army to save money. Why not get rid of more minor enjoyments such as enlistment/re-enlistment bonuses, pay raises, allowances for food, lodging and travel, tuition assistance for education, and retirement benefits, etc.? I’m sure true GIs would still proudly join, stay and serve, and the Army could save lots of money. I wonder if the letter writer enjoys any of these benefits?
David UnderwoodRamstein Air Base, Germany
I’m very unhappy with the way Germany-U.S. relations are being described every day in Stars and Stripes. Yes, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder does not support an attack on Iraq. But the same is true of Congress and many American people. Why does Stripes keep throwing it out to its readers every day how Schroeder is so unsupportive and has “poisoned” German-American relations?
Of course the comment by the German minister of justice just made the whole situation worse. It has been written over and over again how she compared President Bush to Hitler. That’s not true. She didn’t directly compare Bush to Hitler, and Germans didn’t think that was a good thing. She was fired because she acted very unprofessionally, and I think that should be the end of the whole issue.
I know the American people are very proud, and the headlines lately do not exactly help German-American relations. I think it’s being exaggerated way too much, and I also think that since Sept. 11, 2001, a lot has been done by Germany and other countries to support the American people and their government. Germans under Schroeder are not turning their backs on the United States. They just have a different opinion about certain issues. It would be sad if inappropriate pride and exaggeration poisoned the German-American relationship, which has been very strong for a long time.
Daniela StephensWürzburg, Germany
U.S., Germany facts
I read the letter “Germany’s rights” (Sept. 30) and was immediately compelled to write in with a few facts which were lacking. The writer began sarcastically by making fun of Americans’ opinion that ministry heads of foreign nations shouldn’t compare President Bush to Adolf Hitler. I don’t understand why we shouldn’t be upset.
I also found it laughable that someone would say America “envies” the German economy. Here are the facts, according to The World Almanac, 2002: The German unemployment rate is 12.6 percent. The American unemployment rate is 4.9 percent. Germany’s unemployment is currently at a post-war high. The letter said, “We rebuilt our country and have a strong economy, mainly when one compares Germany’s size to its wealth.” Again, the facts: The German Gross Domestic Product per capita is $22,700. The American GDP per capita is $33,900. Nope, Germans aren’t wealthy when compared to their country’s size. More facts: The German GDP is $1.864 trillion. The American GDP is $9.255 trillion. The American GDP exceeds that of the entire European Union.
Germans don’t trust their stock market. They invest $122.8 billion per year in the American market, while Americans invest only $53.6 billion in the German “Borse.” America is wealthy, especially when compared to its size. Here’s some sarcasm: The puny American economy pales in comparison to the bustling bull market of Germany.
The letter’s final paragraph was the most disturbing. To say that Germans are “the only ones who critically face their past” is ridiculous. Face this part of German history: American occupation, when American soldiers stayed on in Germany to defend the same people who wanted to kill them. They stared Russian tanks down and executed the airlift that saved West Berlin.
Maybe Germans need to critically face their past and realize that their debt to America goes beyond Aug. 31, 1994, the day that American, French, British and Soviet troops left Berlin. They should carry it over to today. Germany finally has the chance to show America that it is an ally and appreciate what has been done for its people.
It’s sad that Germans have already forgotten the sacrifice that Americans have made for them. Helping the United States now would be perhaps the most honorable thing that the German government has done since unification in 1871 and the best way to critically face Germany’s past.
Jeffrey M. WoodsWiesbaden, Germany
I’m writing in reply to the letter “Germany’s rights” (Sept. 30), which said Americans are jealous of the German economy and have no reason to expect Germany’s support in our fight against terrorism. I’ve lived and worked in Germany for eight of my 16 years in the military and have found much to admire about this great nation. But the letter’s glaring inaccuracies must be addressed.
I can think of few American economists who would be jealous of near 15 percent national unemployment or 40 percent income taxes. The German economy is shouldering more than its share of the new European Union. And while the euro is strong, who can say Germans haven’t noticed the marked inflation of all items on the economy since the conversion.
The letter writer also remarked on how successful Germany was in rebuilding its economy after World War II. The writer made it sound like it was a totally internal recovery. When World War II ended, there was no nation on earth, victor or defeated, except the United States which had the resources to effectively reconstruct a devastated, war-torn Germany. We poured billions into the infrastructure and economic development of Germany for decades until it could once again stand alone as an economic power. The loss of this historic fact and the seeming ingratitude of the letter writer made me so angry that my first response was that the Germans are lucky we still let them speak German.
There is much that Americans should admire about Germany. It has a low violent crime rate, the best roads and public transportation system in the world, clean streets and citizens who are environmentally conscious. And let’s not forget about the beer. Germany has great beer.
The United States doesn’t expect every nation to always agree with us or bow to our will. President Bush has made it crystal clear that when it comes to terrorism, other countries are either with us or against us. I believe most Germans are with us, and they realize that when they needed us, we were there.
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew KeenanBaumholder, Germany