December 8

Budget cuts

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

December 8 Budget cuts Civilian health care Loss of friend Combined mail rooms Soliciting donationsDecember 9 Fearful of cuts Housing security lax Vessels and flagsDecember 10 Soldiers and education AFN infomercialDecember 11 Thanks for care Attacking IraqDecember 12 APO appreciation Cuts detrimental Thanks to dining facilityDecember 13 What's reasoning for cuts? Cuts confusing, upsetting

December 14 Sen. Clinton's e-mails PE teachers

I implore readers to help us. We’re in a state of emergency! The federal government is once again planning major budget cuts to the educational system. There will be budget cuts of $18 million in the Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe. They cut $10.1 million last year. If readers have been wondering why we all have had to dig deeper into our own pockets to help fund our children’s activities, this is a major part of the reason.

These cuts will affect all of us in a major way. They’re talking about taking away many programs for our kids — educational field trips and sports events that are basic to the whole high school experience. They’ve been stripping away at our kids’ education for years. Music and art were among the first to go. Many people thought they weren’t essential. So where are our children’s creative energies going now? Graffiti on walls, buildings, bridges and other public areas. Playing in the streets. The kids are using their creative energies, just not always in constructive ways. Now we’re going to give them even fewer ways of channeling their energies, their voices. Oh, their voices will be heard. We can count on it! We’ll probably see a rise in underage drinking, smoking, etc.

These budget cuts are coming down immediately. This will also affect the various programs that help our children compete with students in the States and around the world. The cuts will have a profound affect on whether our children get into the colleges they want. Colleges look heavily at applicants’ extracurricular activities. Most colleges are very competitive. I think our children have enough hardships without having their fundamental educational resources stripped away. This is an outrage!

I really feel terrible for the seniors of our class of 2003. This is the memory they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives. They won’t be thinking about the prom, the football game, or the great soccer match. Those may be things of the past, or hardly a comparison to what our generation enjoyed. They’ll remember when some politicians decided that their big fat salaries and big fat retirement packages were more important than making sure our students got a decent, full, enriching education experience.

There are some kids who are just hanging in there so they can play a sport or do some other extracurricular activities. Some of these extra programs may be the only things keeping these kids in school.

Typical enlisted soldiers don’t have the option of sending their children to private schools like the politicians who are making these decisions. We’re just average Americans trying to earn a fair living with the hope of sending our children to college. We want a fighting chance to give that to our children without having to beg, scrape and claw for what should be a given in today’s world. Our children’s education should be the top priority of this nation! Do we really want to pay the price of the war on terror by digging into the quality of our children’s education.

Kate RugerWiesbaden, Germany

Civilian health care

Civilian employees have always been short-changed when it comes to receiving quality medical care from military dispensaries overseas. But MEDCOM’s new policy of Outpatient Itemized Billing (OIB) is a clear indication that it does not want to deal with civilians at all. Under the new program, civilians not only have to pay exorbitant prices for itemized doctor visits, but they are now billed a flat fee of $6 for every pharmacy item prescribed plus the full cost of the drug or drugs dispensed.

For many civilians, a routine doctor’s visit could now cost in excess of $500. If they’re lucky, civilians will recoup about half of that amount from their individual insurance carriers. The rest comes out of pocket. Adding insult to injury, MEDCOM has the audacity to spin this new program as a “good thing for civilians.”

At a time of high turnover when managers are experiencing increasing difficulties recruiting the best and brightest to accept overseas assignments, our backward-thinking medical community has just dumped another huge disincentive on any civilian contemplating a foreign tour. Hey MEDCOM, thanks for nothing.

C. Benjamin PendletonSeckenheim, Germany

Loss of friend

It will never be possible to put into words the tremendous loss I feel for the untimely passing of my very best friend and mentor, Glen “Mike” Hawkins Jr. But I want to express the full gratitude of the Hawkins family, my family, and I for the outpouring of respect and love shown for an individual known throughout the Darmstadt/Wiesbaden/Rhein-Main, Germany, community for his helpful and kind manners.

Glen was a friends’ friend because he treated everyone equally. It didn’t matter if it was social or professional, male or female, national or local, black or white. When someone had Glen’s attention, he had his full attention. Glen’s favorite expressions were always from the positive side, like “We have the technology,” “Let’s do this,” or most of all, “Done.” Many may remember his self-effacing statement after being retired for more than 10 years: “I’m just a poor GI eking out a meager existence in a foreign country.” Actually, he was a great success by all standards. In the Air Force he was on the way to becoming “chief” when he had to be medically discharged. As a Defense Logistics Agency employee, his record of excellence will be hard to match.

I noted with great pride the accuracy with which Stars and Stripes reported his demise in the story “Retired senior master sergeant dies at home” (Nov. 16) and again in “Funeral services set” (Nov. 19).

I’d certainly be remiss if I didn’t give recognition to the Air Force honor guard from Ramstein Air Base which assisted in giving Glen a full-honor military burial. He received complete honors, including a 21-gun salute and final taps. The authorization for the 21-gun salute was willingly given by officials of the city of Weiterstadt, who recognized Glen as one of their model citizens.

Thanks also go to Chaplin (Maj.) Vu from Ramstein AB, who agreed to participate in a joint German/American ceremony. Sincere gratitude goes to the complete staff and command of Defense Supply Center Philadelphia-Europe for everyone’s show of love for Glen. Special thanks to Mike Duday and Ralph Lohmann, who worked endless hours to ensure that everything went off perfectly. They said that was the way Glen was and that would be the way he wanted it.

For those who knew Glen and were there to say goodbye, I’m sure they’d agree that he got exactly what he deserved — the very best.

Once again, on behalf of Glen, his family, my family and I, thanks for making me proud to be an American eking out a meager existence in a foreign country.

Tommy KellyMainz-Kastel, Germany

Combined mail rooms

I’d like to know who in the 221st Base Support Battalion came up with the brilliant idea of moving and combining the two consolidated mail rooms at the height of the Christmas mailing season? Today was the first day we were to retrieve our mail at the new location. There is no way that packages and mail are not being misplaced and lost. The building is not even finished. There are no mailboxes in sight, only bags of concrete and garbage. After waiting in a line outside in the freezing cold, a customer goes in and gives someone her box number. The worker then attempts to find the customer’s mail in bins on the floor.

Was it such an extreme emergency that this be done now? It couldn’t have waited until after Christmas? Why didn’t they at least wait until the mail room was finished before making us use it? This is not taking care of soldiers and their families. I have kids in school and can go get the mail without them. But there were many moms with little kids and strollers standing in the cold today.

Everyone knows that a large majority of people do their Christmas shopping online and through mail order catalogs. There were people who said they had package slips in their boxes at the previous location and wanted to know why the packages weren’t in their mail now. They were told, “We don’t know. Sorry.” I have several packages that are long overdue. Judging from what I saw, I have very little confidence that I’ll get them anytime soon.

Lori CarrollWiesbaden Army Airfield, Germany

Soliciting donations

I realize that the holiday season is meant for giving, and I attempt to help all who are in a situation of real need. But I just don’t understand why the Armed Forces Network in Kaiserslautern, Germany, has been authorized to stop traffic in the middle of Vogelweh every year in its quest to assist needy soldiers and their partners in the Kaiserslautern Military Community.

I’ve seen ads on AFN announcing the planned traffic stops and asked myself why AFN is authorized to stop traffic in the middle of one of the busiest streets. It causes work delays and mission slowdown. They could do it in front of the base exchange.

I’ve had to deal with this for the past two years. This is the worst time of year to stand in the middle of the road and solicit donations. It’s the busiest time of year. The days are short and the stores are crowded. The last thing we need is to sit in traffic because AFN wants to get face time doing a good deed. Whoever approved this donation drive should consider having AFN go to the exchange area to conduct its goodwill gesture.

Chuck WeberLandstuhl, Germany

December 9

Fearful of cuts

I’m a student at Naples American High School in Naples, Italy. I’m a senior, and I plan to attend college. Throughout my high school career, I’ve participated in many extracurricular activities. I play sports, such as volleyball, and I’m a member of the show choir and dance team. The Department of Defense Dependents Schools budget cuts could have a devastating effect on me. If money is taken from extracurricular activities to compensate for the lost $18 million, I will no longer be able to do the things I love. A lot of my scholarship opportunities rely on my participation in extracurricular activities. These activities prepare me for future careers. This is something I will not be able to replace.

I’m sure all the students in Europe feel the way I do. Extracurricular activities are an integral part of student life. They foster teamwork and leadership abilities as well as teaching social and ethical values. I believe that a balanced education includes not only academics but also well-expended extramural time. This is the source of a successful secondary or post-secondary career.

Transportation is part of student activities. Without this, the benefits mentioned above cannot be achieved. For example, when one succeeds at the local district level in athletics, the next stage is to continue at the European level, which is held in a seasonally-specified location in Germany. This venture is the focal point of the entire season. If this expedition is excluded from students’ athletic experiences, then the benefits that would have been gained from participation on that level are shot. The lessons learned at that level are continually used throughout life, and their lasting memories stay with us forever.

Students’ high school experience is crippled without the option of participating in extracurricular activities and bringing their goals in these activities to their fullest fruition. I realize that completely eradicating school-sponsored free time activities would be nothing short of cruel. I hope readers feel this way, too. But I believe that cutting out transportation and advanced competition is also unnecessary.

I don’t want to merely complain. My suggestions are that the money DODDS doesn’t have can be made up by obligating traveling team members to pay their own way, getting outside team sponsorships (i.e. local organizations and clubs), using less expensive means of transportation (for instance, not sending Model U.S. Senate participants to Germany in first-class seats), and traveling without unnecessary personnel.

I believe I represent the views of many DODDS students, not only those at my school in Naples but all over Europe. On behalf of all of us, I thank DODDS officials for taking our point of view into consideration when making these difficult and trying decisions. I hope that this situation can be resolved successfully, and I trust that with compromise and fair judgment, it indeed can be done.

Joel Banjo-JohnsonNaples, Italy

Housing security lax

I live in Mark Twain Village in Heidelberg, Germany, and I have concerns about our housing area. I have voiced these concerns to my chain of command and to the 411th Base Support Battalion about the lack of security in our housing area. We have no fence around our housing area and are extremely vulnerable to potential terrorist attacks. The only buffer that protects us from the outside is a waist-high bush. Every other housing area that I know of has a fence around it and roving security guards too. I don’t feel safe living in my own home anymore.

I work on Campbell Barracks where additional cement barricades are being added on the sidewalks to protect the post. This is in addition to the 12-foot-high fence with razor wire, the cameras, highly-trained guards with submachine guns (our guards are reservists with M-16s), and whatever other high-tech gadgets they use to guard the upper echelons of U.S. Army Europe’s leadership.

Do they really need to add additional cement barricades? All they do is make the sidewalks shorter for pedestrians. If those barricades cost $50 each and the Army paid for 100 of them, then the Army just wasted $5,000 for nothing. Why not take that money, along with a chunk of the $29 million that the Morale, Welfare and Recreation activity is spending to renovate our bowling alleys, and build a fence around the Mark Twain Village housing area?

Sgt. Cliff OliverHeidelberg, Germany

Vessels and flags

This is a point of interest for the writer of the letter “Chinese flag on U.S. ship” (Nov. 30), who got his underwear in a knot over the U.S. ship that flew the Chinese flag in a Chinese port.

In foreign ports, all Mercantile Marine and naval vessels fly the flag of the country being visited as a sign of respect. This is the case throughout the world. It’s been going on for a few centuries. So the writer shouldn’t panic. His ship wasn’t being taken over by the Chinese.

Hamilton LindsayKaiserslautern, Germany

December 10

Soldiers and education

Do leaders know that their soldiers who are flagged for various reasons can attend civilian schooling without their consent? Soldiers using the GI Bill (Veterans Affairs benefits) don’t have to seek approval from their commanders to use tax dollars for continued civilian education.

So are educational benefits an entitlement or a benefit? That depends on who’s asking the question and to whom it’s asked. If GIs choose to use tuition assistance for continuing civilian education at any of our Army Continuing Education System accepted universities, DA form 2171-E must be completed by the institution and approved by the unit commander or authorized representative. This makes perfect sense since the commander is responsible for enforcing standards and the health and welfare of his soldiers.

Since TA is defined as a benefit, it can be denied for obvious and legitimate reasons. Examples are operations tempo, deployment tempo, contingency operations, and soldiers flagged for failing an Army physical fitness test. Others include not complying with height and weight standards and a pending investigation.

So in essence, a soldier who is flagged is denied his benefits. But what if this same flagged soldier chooses to use his GI Bill for continuing education? What are the checks and balances for commanders at this stage of the game? None! Since the GI Bill is considered by law an entitlement and not a benefit, soldiers can pay for a course up front and get reimbursed the total cost, minus books, from the VA. A great deal? For a flagged soldier, yes. But not for a commander attempting to enforce the same standard for all soldiers. The fact that there are no systematic procedures to assist a commander in this quandary puts into question the legitimized authority that all commanders possess.

It’s great that our political leaders added educational benefits as an entitlement for servicemembers. But while they are serving in the military, entitlements are benefits that are judiciously rendered when a commander and unit mission can afford it. Case in point: We’re all entitled to 30 days of annual leave. But we can’t necessarily take leave when we want to unless our commander approves the absence.

The mission of the Army Continuing Education system is to provide education and training support, thereby enhancing the combat readiness of the Army. They are also key elements in the Army’s Leader Development Program. Until the ACES executive steering committee and Army G1 challenge the policies, laws and bylaws as they apply to the use of VA benefits for active duty servicemembers, we will be forced to live with double standards created by systems that are separate in mission and funding. If AR 621-5 is written to support leader development programs as defined in the mission statement, we must develop procedures to work with and not in contrast to good law and order that all commanders are responsible to enforce.

Command Sgt. Maj. David A. EddyGrafenwöhr, Germany

AFN infomercial

Those of us who have been in Europe for awhile have all seen that infomercial with the TV producer talking about AFRTS programming. A cop bungles getting his pistol out of his holster, a director yells “cut,” and then a preppy dude in Dockers emerges. He’s walking through the set and lot explaining how happy he, the Directors Guild, the Screen Actors Guild, the prop department guild, the gaffer guild, and all the other guilds are to support those of us overseas by providing top-quality programs at affordable costs. He also says that showing just one stateside commercial could “eat up the AFRTS programming budget for a whole year.”

Here’s my question: What channel was this stateside commercial on? Why weren’t we informed so we could set our VCRs to tape it? (Another AFRTS infomercial for us shift workers?) Why am I asking all these questions?

Apparently, the AFRTS budget has been smoked if it’s airing shows and “films” like “The Facts of Life Reunion” and another season of “The Bachelor.” No offense to the “Facts of Life” fans out there, but I really didn’t need to be reminded of that show. I just recently was released from the ward after convincing the doctors that I’ve completely gotten over the theme song. (Uh oh. Maybe I haven’t).

As for my crush on Mindy, well, we won’t go into that. Then there’s the second season of “The Bachelor,” every man’s fantasy show. But male viewers get mad because it isn’t them in that bungalow.

Thanks for letting me vent. It’s time to get back to “Battlebots.”

Wally SchutzCamp Darby, Italy

December 11

Attacking Iraq

Americans are by nature a very patriotic people. In a time of war, we’ll come together to support our government with no questions asked. The vast majority of Americans believe that we should attack Iraq. They believe that in attacking Iraq the United States would be responding to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. This isn’t true. The two have nothing to do with each other, and our government knows it.

Our government’s politicians are saying that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, but I have issues with this. Let’s be real. America has the greatest intelligence gathering capability in the world. This was evident by our masterful discovery of North Korea’s plans to build nuclear weapons. North Korea is a closed country with the most heavily-guarded borders in the world. That’s why the intelligence coup was so masterful. On the other hand, Iraq is a wide-open country. Our planes fly over Iraq daily. Iraqi dissidents spy for us, and our agents are in Baghdad masquerading as news reporters and U.N. food agency workers. There’s nothing happening in Iraq that we don’t know about.

For 10 years, we’ve bombed Iraq monthly — every time a radar switch has been turned on. So how can any American believe that we wouldn’t have already made dust particles out of any known WMD site? Why hasn’t our government shown the United Nations any evidence that Iraq has WMD? We went to South Korea and Japan with evidence of North Korea’s nuclear plans, and we showed the United Nations evidence of al-Qaida’s part in the Sept. 11 attacks. The point is very clear: we’d have destroyed any WMD sites we knew about, and no U.S. president is going to kill thousands of people, Iraqis included, on just a hunch.

If there’s no terrorist connection and no WMD, then why invade? There must be a hidden reason. There is, and it’s time for Americans to realize the truth. It’s about making money for a few individuals.

After one look at the main players and their past affiliations, anyone should be able to see why the whole world questions their motives. President Bush and Harken Oil. Vice President Dick Cheney and Halliburton. National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and Chevron. Army Secretary Thomas White and Enron. Secretary of Commerce Don Evans and Denver Oil & Gas. Secretary of Treasury Paul O’Neill, who resigned Dec. 6, and Alcoa. Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Unocal. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and British Petroleum.

I’m all for our war against terrorism. I joined the Army in 1970 during the Vietnam War. For 22 years, I have helped transform a defeated, racially-divided, drug- and alcoholic-infested Army into the finest fighting force the world has ever seen. Just ask Saddam. So I’ve earned the right to speak out against anyone who’d try to abuse or misuse our great Army.

James A. CarrethersHeidelberg, Germany

Thanks for care

My wife Connie and I would like to say thanks from the bottom of our hearts for the warm, loving and extremely professional care we received at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

On July 26 my wife complained of a severe headache. She became very confused and could not put together a coherent sentence. I took her to the LRMC emergency room. From the moment of our arrival, we were treated to the most wonderful care and concern we’ve ever had from a medical facility. The staff immediately put Connie in a room, started an I.V., hooked up a catheter and started urine and blood samples. They also had her in the CT-Scan.

The doctor on call reassured me they were doing everything they could but couldn’t find anything wrong. It was then decided that Connie would be taken to ICU and be monitored 24 hours a day. The staff provided a recliner so I could stay at her side throughout the ordeal.

The next day, several doctors checked out Connie. They were Dr. Monihan and Dr. Christopher from internal medicine, Dr. Hinds from neurology, and Dr. Irvin from rheumatology. Tests showed that Connie probably did not have a stroke. I was relieved. A stroke was what I had suspected from the beginning, and I was very relieved to hear that from Dr. Hinds. All the doctors, nurses and staff provided a lot of extra concern and care in her treatment.

Once Connie was stable, she was taken to the nurses’ ward in 14 C and D. Again we were treated royally. Connie was monitored 24 hours a day. Next, Connie was to have an MRI. She is claustrophobic and the procedure is intimidating. So I held Connie’s hand while she prayed. With the Lord’s help, she made it through.

Next there was more blood work to be done. Finding a vein was quite a chore, but it went well and fast. Connie’s blood pressure medicine also was changed and her blood pressure began returning to normal.

One doctor said Connie had seen more doctors and staff than the Queen of Jordan when she came there for a visit. That’s just another example of how special we felt.

Connie was discharged after six days, but the memory of those who assisted us will remain for years to come. It was only through their dedication and care that Connie is still with us today. Please let this letter be our way of thanking all the wonderful people at LRMC.

Don OwensBaumholder, Germany

December 12

APO appreciation

With the busy holiday season approaching for the workers at APOs throughout Europe, I’d like to share my appreciation and gratitude for the men and women who work at the Grafenwöhr APO in Germany. Being retired, my services are limited. But the courtesy and friendliness I receive when I walk through the APO door is the finest I’ve seen in more than 20 years in Germany. Their professionalism sets an example for all customer support facilities to emulate. I thank them and wish them all a joyous holiday.

Ronald “Steve” GlossinChief Warrant Officer 3 (Ret.)Grafenwöhr, Germany

Cuts detrimental

I’m concerned about the intended $18 million budget cuts by the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe. According to recent Stars and Stripes reports, DODDS will announce the specific programs to be affected at the first of the year. But preliminary indications point to extracurricular activities and sports as the primary targets.

Needless to say, if the cuts materialize as predicted, they would be devastating and detrimental to our children. Sports and extracurricular activities enhance academics and allow kids to learn by doing. Mr. Frank O’Gara, spokesman for DODDS-Europe, was quoted as saying in the story “Ax poised over DODDS’ activities” (Dec. 3), “We have to maintain the core mission” and that “(This) is a belt-tightening just like at any school district in the United States.” I disagree. If this is belt-tightening like in some U.S. districts, then give we parents and the kids an opportunity to raise the funds necessary to make up some of the difference. I came from a school district in California where the school booster club funded the entire school athletic program. This shouldn’t have been dropped on us in the middle of the school year.

Rumors are rampant as to how this happened with little warning, and that DODDS in the Pacific does not have this problem. If true, I suspect foul play. No matter what the truth is, DODDS has not done a very good job of communicating to the community with snippets of information in Stars and Stripes. How is it that we wake up one day and need to cut $18 million in the middle of the school year? Someone is accountable for this mess, and the children are the ones who will suffer. Some children have voiced their opinions to parents and teachers that the money cut from DODDS will go to fight the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. In any event, please start with my annual cost-of-living raise by taking it back. Don’t make the kids pay.

My daughter is a senior at Naples American High School in Italy. She has been very active in soccer, drama and other after-school activities. She, like many seniors and other students, give their time and energy to better themselves and their school and to promote their standing in applying to colleges. These cuts will impact the core mission of teaching because they will impact our kids’ futures.

I submit that we can find a way to fund these programs that are very important to these children, their parents and our country. These children are the sons and daughters of U.S. military and Department of Defense civilians serving overseas. Good luck getting military members and DOD civilians with school-age children to willingly transfer to Europe. This situation does not reflect well on the quality of life in the military. It also does not reflect well on the Bush administration, which has touted education reform and that “no child will be left behind.” This needs to be fixed.

Don ThompsonNaples, Italy

Thanks to dining facility

On Thanksgiving Day, my family had the pleasure of enjoying a bountiful dinner at the 44th Signal Battalion Dining Facility on Sullivan Barracks in Mannheim, Germany. The food was delicious and painstakingly prepared. It was little wonder that the DFAC crew worked all through the night Wednesday and into Thursday.

It came as a surprise when I heard that the 44th DFAC operates seven days a week, 365 days a year. When dining facilities close on weekends at Coleman, Turley, Spinelli, and Taylor barracks, the 44th crew feeds all soldiers serving in Mannheim. These men and women, under the capable leadership of Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Johnson, give service with a smile anytime customers enter their facility.

I thank the 44th DFAC personnel for sacrificing their Thanksgiving Day to make the rest of us feel a little closer to home. They are outstanding.

Adrianne GriggsMannheim, Germany

December 13

What's reasoning for cuts?

I’m writing in response to the article “Ax poised over DODDS’ activities” (Dec. 3). It gave brief information on upcoming budget cuts by the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe. As a junior at H.H. Arnold High School in Wiesbaden, Germany, I’m personally affected by the cuts and feel very strongly about them.

Although the article gave some important information, it lacked any information about why the budget cuts are being made in the first place. I understand that funding adjustments need to be made. But why punish the offspring of our men and women in uniform? Taking away money for school sports and other extracurricular activities fails to give these students the same benefits as students in the United States would receive.

It troubles me that American society says “today’s youths are the promise for a better tomorrow” while the government, which leads our society, is taking away from our education. Programs such as Model United Nations lead successful students into tremendous fields of work and give promise for better future leaders. I personally know many students who have participated in these programs and have gone off to attend great colleges.

The Stripes story also said, “Any planned cuts will take effect during the second semester of the school year.” If that’s so, then why did the story also say that, “Already, some sports events have been canceled to save money”? Due to the cuts, the H.H. Arnold High School cheerleaders were not allowed to travel to a game on Dec. 7. Is that not a cut? The entire month of December is in the first semester of school. So this would make the above quote about the second semester false.

Taking away after-school activities and programs which build military communities hurts kids. Military communities often look for things to keep their kids from causing trouble or getting into trouble. If these sports trips and school programs that are occupying and educating kids are going to be taken away, why not provide communities with accurate information on the ordeal and tell them why it’s being done in the first place?

I do not feel that these budget cuts will have a positive affect on military communities. I also believe the communities should have some say in this ordeal. The reasoning for these large budget cuts should be revealed as well.

Terra CoxGeneral H.H. Arnold High SchoolWiesbaden, Germany

Cuts confusing, upsetting

My name is Laura Thompson and I’m a senior at Naples American High School in Italy. Recently I was informed of the $18 million budget cuts within the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe. Needless to say, I was very confused and upset. I have involved myself in a number of extracurricular activities in trying to develop myself into a well-rounded student that I’m told every day to become.

Frank O’Gara, spokesman for DODDS-Europe, was quoted as saying in the story “Ax poised over DODDS’ activities” (Dec. 3), “We have to maintain the core mission.” The story also said the central mission of teaching the children will not feel any impact from the cuts. I highly disagree. I’ve been on the varsity soccer team at my school for three years now, and I’ve been educated in ways that I could not be in a classroom. Not only did my fellow teammates and I get plenty of exercise, but playing soccer taught us to be leaders, to learn from our mistakes, to feel pride in our wins and to accept our losses. We competed with other teams in a mature way and had coaches who really became our mentors and are people we can look up to. I learned a lot of life’s lessons from them.

I have also been part of the choral group and I’m currently a member of the International Thespian Society. To most students, these extracurricular activities are our escape. In a foreign environment and a stressful school atmosphere, we sometimes need to just let go and do what makes us feel good, whether it’s singing, acting or sports. These hobbies and interests make us grow into better people.

How can it be that sports and extracurricular activities are the primary targets for these cuts? A popular slogan says, “Kids are our future.” Then how is it that the kids are being made to pay for adults’ mistakes? The way these cuts are being administered and the possible motives behind them really disturb me. According to Stars and Stripes, it’s been known for quite some time that these cuts would have to be made. Why wasn’t this brought forward sooner?

There’s also been speculation that the government has been trying to find a way to make overseas tours solely for servicemembers and not for dependents. As usual, the reason is to save money. Doesn’t taking away sports and extracurricular activities seem like a way to make overseas tours unappealing for dependents?

Surely there is another way to accumulate this money. This situation does not make the military, the government or DODDS look like organized, resourceful organizations. Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done now.

Laura ThompsonNaples, Italy

December 14

Sen. Clinton's e-mails

My name is James Dickinson II. I’m a 17-year-old senior at Naples American High School in Italy. I have an issue that I’d like to bring to the attention of Stars and Stripes readers.

I recently wrote an e-mail to Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York concerning the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe budget cuts. My e-mail was very sincere. It expressed my feelings on this action and asked for her opinion.

The response I received made absolutely no sense. In my e-mail I said that I’m a resident of New York state and that she was the senator to whom I chose to write. Well, Sen. Clinton sent back some off-subject response saying that I should write to my senator, and that she didn’t have time to respond to out-of-state residents.

I took the matter pretty seriously and showed the response to my government teacher. Then I wrote back to Sen. Clinton and said I’d vote Republican to get her attention. As it turned out, I received the exact same e-mail from Sen. Clinton again. Two of my teachers and I concluded that the e-mails were being sent by an electronic device of some sort.

I think something should be done about this because I’m sure many people are getting answers to their e-mails that don’t please them. My main concern is to bring this to the attention of everyone so that they know what’s going on out there. I find this ridiculous and very upsetting.

James Dickinson IINaples, Italy

PE teachers

This is concerning the letter “Physical fitness” (Dec. 7). It was wrong for the writer to judge these fine people who are trying to further our children’s physical education though dance because she considers them overweight and unhealthy. In the writer’s horn blowing of being a former aerobics instructor, not once did she say anything about her degree in medicine to diagnose any of these people as being unhealthy. The writer labeled them as obese, but from what I’ve seen they are doing a marvelous job.

I’m wondering if there may be a slight case of jealousy by the writer. If women are not a size 4 or 6, 1people like the writer determine that they’re obese and shouldn’t teach physical education. The writer asked what kind of example those teachers are setting by doing what they seem to love and enjoy doing for the good of children. The writer should look in a mirror. What example is she setting by being so negative about something so positive?

I can only imagine the pain the writer caused those teachers with her rude and distasteful comments. But does the writer know what kind of harm she could be doing to our young women of tomorrow? People like the writer are the reason our teen-age girls feel they need to starve themselves and end up suffering from anorexia and bulimia.

I hope the writer’s time in Germany took her to some of its beautiful castles. Did she look at the paintings of the kings and queens? During those times the writer would have been a minority, because it was more popular to be curvy than to be a stick figure of perfection.

Those overweight teachers’ mixed signals to our children are that people can accomplish anything in life, and they don’t have to be a size 4 or 6 to do it. The teachers are teaching students high self-esteem and the fun of dance. They are teaching them to be nonjudgmental. Those who give children mixed signals are people like the writer and magazines and movies that portray only thin people as being beautiful instead of realizing that we’re not all alike. What one person calls a beautiful, healthy, perfect person may not be what his neighbor thinks.

The teachers in the Nov. 22 Stars and Stripes photos looked great and were a picture perfect image of beauty in my eyes and probably a lot of others. They should keep up their high self-esteem. They are all doing wonderful jobs, and I just hope that my 6-year-old will get a chance to experience dance in her PE class from one of them.

Debbie StollHohenfels, Germany

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