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January 12

Travel cards

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

January 12 Travel cards General's ribbons Ali rose to challenge PC freedom story Military payJanuary 13 Ex-spouses proposal Osprey criticism won't fly Angel tree thanks Message of farewellJanuary 15 Physical fitness Source of inspiration Grateful auntJanuary 16 COLA doesn't keep up More than a paycheck No logic to war A different approachJanuary 17 Thanks for nothing Troops being clipped Words are hollow

This is in response to the article “Non-payment rate high for DOD travel cards” (Dec. 18). There was only anecdotal evidence of cards being misused. “Some guy who ‘knows’ of sailors who use it to buy beer, fix their cars, gamble, etc.” Punishment in such cases should be swift regardless of rank. I cannot comment on the civilian side of this debate. But I was thoroughly disgusted with the sub headline, “Officials blame delinquency numbers on youth, financial inexperience.”

Readers may have noticed in the accompanying chart that the greatest number of delinquency rates are in ranks E4 through E9. E1s through E3s don’t go on temporary duty as often and therefore don’t find themselves in a position to use these cards frequently. Those who are 01 through 06 go on TDY often but don’t have high delinquency rates. Wait. Aren’t they usually about the same age as E-4s to E9s? So is youth and inexperience really the problem?

Here’s the problem: Soldiers sometimes go away for two or three months on TDY. Balances are to be paid in full at the end of each month. Sometimes the end of a month’s billing cycle comes just days or weeks into a TDY. Soldiers are told they can file where they are. But how much spare time do soldiers really have at most schools? Enlisted people don’t have money to front for the government. So they usually wait until they return to file the paperwork. Then they have to wait a good month, if they’re lucky, to get paid so they can pay off the bill.

Officers are in a better position financially to shell out the bucks and just get reimbursed later. If the finance office is lagging and an E6 calls to complain, how fast do readers think the office will hop to help him out as opposed to an O6? Come on. The attitude some people have that enlisted servicemembers are too stupid to come in out of the rain has got to end.

Ruth RussellHeidelberg, Germany

General's ribbons

Every day on my way home, I stop at the same little blue paper machine. It’s in front of an old building that’s being remodeled. I always think of all the people and leaders who’ve walked in and out of that building and wonder what kind of soldiers they were. Recently, as I put my money in the machine and read the headlines, I had to check the name on the front of the paper. I thought it was one of those National Enquirer types or something like it. Once I got home and finally got to look at my news link to the world, I was very discouraged to see the story “Commandant-to-be chose to remove 3 decorations.”

The story was about Lt. Gen. Michael W. Hagee. It said that in more than 30 years, he had a few ribbons on his uniform that he couldn’t find the documentation for. Here’s a man who’s put his life in harm’s way on many, many occasions. Here’s a Marine who’s been loyal to his country for more than half his life, and the only thing Stars and Stripes can find major news to report on is that his uniform had a discrepancy?

In my opinion, someone needs a class on tact and respect. We should not bust out our leaders and make a mockery of them, nor should we for all servicemembers. I’m not saying that if someone sees a deficiency that he should not correct it. But it should be done with tact. I think Lt. Gen. Hagee has earned that respect many times over.

Tonight on my way home, I’ll stop at the little blue machine to get my Stars and Stripes. I’ll think about all the prior servicemembers who have walked into that old building and wonder what would have happened if their character and integrity was libeled on the front page of Stripes. This is a time to build confidence and trust that we soldiers and Marines should have in our senior leadership. It’s not a time to put it in question.

I can think of a lot more important things for Stripes to report on. Stripes shouldn’t pat itself on the back like it did for this story. Someone should be questioning Stripes’ own loyalty to our country’s servicemembers. If Stripes needs a story, its reporters should get out and see how hard our soldiers are working in the motor pools and report that. If Stripes needs any more story tips, it should let me know.

Michael HaynesChief Warrant Officer 2Baumholder, Germany

Ali rose to challenge

I’d like to respond to the letter “Muhammad Ali” (Dec. 29). It was about Ali being featured in a “To The Troops” segment that was aired on AFN television. I’d like the writer to know that I’m black and by no means playing the “race card.”

First, the writer should understand the racial tension that was present during the 1960s and early 1970s. Ali rose to the challenge as a young and very outspoken world heavyweight boxing champion. He spoke out against the war in Vietnam, which irritated politicians. Since Ali was of draft age, what better way to shut him up and teach the uppity black man a lesson? Consequently, our government drafted Ali into the armed services.

Ali refused to serve. He said he had no quarrel with the North Vietnamese people. They’d done nothing to him. They weren’t the ones who had oppressed his people and treated them as second-class citizens for so many years and yet expected him to go off to a faraway land and confront an enemy that had done nothing to him or his people. The real enemy was in America.

There were those who had political connections and used college deferments to avoid the draft. And there were the financially well-off who just took off to Canada. For the most part, black Americans could barely get out of their home states, let alone get out of the country — unless they were headed to Vietnam.

Ali was more fortunate than most black Americans who served. He was the world’s heavyweight boxing champion. But he paid dearly for refusing to serve. Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title. I’m not condoning his decision one way or the other. But I know that Ali has made his contribution to society, not only in America, but all over the world.

We all hurt for the less fortunate people who had no choice but to fight and die in Vietnam, and for those who came back missing limbs and eyes. As far as returning home to the airport and getting spit on, the letter writer should have tried being a black American and attempting to fit back into society and finding out he was still a second-class citizen after returning from Vietnam. Been there, done that.

The letter writer shouldn’t be surprised when his state’s representatives decide that he needs to be in harm’s way during his tour of military duty. It just so happens that they may be among those who decided to come back from Canada when it was all over.

Command Sgt. Maj. J. Johnson (Ret.)Naples, Italy

PC freedom story

Kudos to Stars and Stripes for publishing the story “‘Trusted computing’ threatens PC freedom” (Jan. 5). Projects like Palladium (Microsoft), LaGrande (Intel), and the more general “trusted computing” initiative claim they will benefit consumers by providing more secure computers. But one must question the true motives of these initiatives.

Large corporations have fed consumers Trojan horses before. For example, the DVD platform in some ways restricts consumers rather than empowers them. The region codes and encryption techniques employed on digital versatile discs benefit the movie studios, not the individuals who pay money for discs. Most users remain ignorant of these subtle restrictions. But to consumers who wish to watch a video only released on DVD in Japan (a different DVD region than the U.S.) or develop DVD-playing software, they can be infuriating. Likewise, trusted computing is poised to help industries like those that produce movies, music, and software while restricting consumers. In fact, “trusted computing” could easily make the restrictions of the DVD format look like child’s play.

Who will deem a piece of software “trusted?” Will small software publishers be able to get the magical “trusted” pixie dust sprinkled on their products, or will those who compete with large vendors get stuck in an endless certification bureaucracy? I develop and distribute software myself. Would a large certification entity be bothered to deem my products “trusted,” full-fledged players in a trusted computing platform? How will a user’s fair use rights be protected? Can the millions of lines of source code that make up today’s proprietary products ever be audited enough to fit into the secure model of trusted computing?

Is trusted computing really about protecting me, the consumer? Or would it be engineered to protect the business model (currently being rendered obsolete by the widespread propagation of high-speed networks and quality compression algorithms) of multinational corporations like Sony and Disney?

Capt. Mike PetulloDarmstadt, Germany

Military pay

“Fighting a war or flipping burgers: Pay’s about the same,” declares a Stars and Stripes front page headline. The headline referred to the story “U.S. troops risk lives for minimum wage” (Jan. 7), which said that a private E-1 makes about $15,480 a year. The story then inferred that this is too little money to be paid to go to war.

A recent Army Times article said that the “2003 Regular Military Compensation” for a private E-1 is $26,896.16. This figure more accurately takes into account such things as medical and dental benefits, the retirement plan, etc. But perhaps the real question is, how much money would make it worthwhile for a servicemember to go to war and risk his life? In May 1967, I went for less than $200 a month. But that was a long time ago.

Chaplain (Col.) James HokeHeidelberg, Germany

January 13

Ex-spouses proposal

I must take issue with some of the recently published views concerning support of ex-spouses. The Department of Defense and Congress have made considerable progress in providing employment support for military spouses. The educational benefits, along with résumé clinics and job fairs, provide ample opportunity for a spouse to maintain a career throughout a military member’s career, therefore negating the need for a military member to share his retirement income.

When I was in the Persian Gulf in 1990, I didn’t see a single spouse on any ship or in the desert. I don’t see spouses on my ship when we are under way, nor do I see spouses standing midwatches. But I read in Stars and Stripes about how ex-spouses are smacking their lips at concurrent receipt. One ex-spouse actually said she would have fought for this long ago had she known what it implied.

I don’t deny that there are some spouses who dedicated their lives to their loved ones’ military careers and ended up on the short side of divorce settlements. But there are far more who have fallen well short of the “military spouse” definition.

I propose that the federal government set and enforce a minimum time limit of 15 years of marriage, at least half of which should coincide with a military career, before any ex-spouse can be considered for support. The federal government should also bring state and local courts in line with this policy to harness “sympathetic judges” who rule otherwise due to their personal feelings. Making it a law would help. It would help cut out greedy, undeserving ex-spouses while still helping those who truly deserve their fair share.

Stephen JohnsonPetty Officer 1st ClassUSS Emory S LandLa Maddalena, Sardinia

Osprey criticism won't fly

Jack Kelly showed his ignorance in his column “This bird has flown: Osprey not worth risk” (Jan. 6).

The first thing he brought up was vortex ring state. He said vortex ring state is “distinct to tilt-rotors.” As a helicopter pilot in the Marine Corps, I can tell readers that all helicopters are susceptible to vortex ring state. Also, the general flight regime in which vortex ring state occurs is approximately 40 knots and more than 800 feet per minute rate of descent. The V-22 involved in the Arizona accident was descending at more than 2,000 feet per minute, almost 250 percent more than its published limits.

Kelly said that most military helicopters can descend at more than 2,000 feet per minute. But I guarantee if a helicopter pilot is flying under 40 knots, he will risk inducing vortex ring state. Kelly also said that a V-22 can go 40 percent faster than a CH-46. With 12 combat-loaded Marines, I can fly about 120 knots in a CH-46. The V-22 has proven that it can cruise with 24 Marines at more than 240 knots. By my math, that is more than 100 percent faster than a CH-46.

Where did Kelly get the range that a V-22 can fly? A V-22 will almost double the range of a CH-53. Kelly said a CH-46 could lift 10,000 pounds when it was new. As a CH-46 pilot, I’m lucky if I lift more than 3,000 pounds. The equipment on a CH-46 may be rated to lift 10,000 pounds, but the aircraft is not capable of that type of performance. The V-22 is fully capable of lifting more than 10,000 pounds. That’s been proven.

The Marine Corps needs this new aircraft. But, unfortunately, we have people such as Kelly who aren’t capable of critical thinking and regurgitate what they read in newspapers. We’re in the middle of fighting a war, and we need the best equipment available for our troops.

John M. EnnisJacksonville, N.C.

Angel tree thanks

This long overdue letter is to say thanks to the generous members of the community in Mannheim, Germany, for their support and participation in the Mannheim angel tree program. The program would never have occurred without their support. The angel tree program doesn’t have a budget. It depends on the generosity of the community to succeed. This year, the community’s donations far exceeded expectations.

I’d like to thank the following people for their support:

They include the Mannheim Girl Scouts, from the senior troop to the very youngest Daisy. Their wonderful leaders on several occasions met shoppers with candy and an angel at the post exchange and Toyland doors. One could practically see the angels fly from the trees with the Girl Scouts’ help.

Thanks also to Sgt. 1st Class Weekley of the 44th Signal Battalion for hauling more than one truckload of toys. Lisa Lukens of the 277 Military Police company placed angels on the trees. Mr. Nance and the 5th Signal Battalion print shop created wonderful professional posters to announce the angel tree program. Lisa and Simon Mickels, Erin Kane, Vanessa Warren, Tina and Danielle Weekley cut angels and wrote criteria on hundreds of angels. I’d also like to thank Army Family Team Building for hosting the tree program and giving its support to the community.

Thanks also to AAFES, which generously donated the space, trees and wrapping paper to the community wrap. Private organizations also held fund-raisers, and shoppers allowed community children to wrap their gifts and then gave donations for their efforts. I’d also like to thank the parents who supported the children and the community, the generous men and women of the armed forces who donated, and the units and their commanders who provided the names and the soldiers who picked up the gifts and delivered them to the units.

Thanks also to Army Community Services for its support and all of the other volunteers who so generously donated their time, money and good will. Without them, none of this would ever have been possible. And most importantly, thanks to all the people who purchased the gifts to make the dreams of many children come true on Christmas morning. I thank everyone for their support. They’ve shown the true generous spirit of the Mannheim military community.

Connie L. WeekleyMannheim, Germany

Message of farewell

I want to personally send a message of farewell. I’ll be ETSing in the coming days. It’s been an honor and privilege being a part of the U.S. Army, especially serving as battalion chaplain for the 5-158th Aviation Regiment. It’s been an interesting, challenging and enlightening experience being a part of the chaplaincy. I’ll always treasure the opportunity.

I’ve been a part of the Army family for almost six years. I’ve witnessed the dedication and fortitude of soldiers in the face of many obstacles. There’s something deep inside of each soldier that says, “You can make it, and you will survive.” Soldiers help soldiers along the way. That’s the attitude that makes the Army great.

It’s in this spirit that I pray for soldiers’ continued strength and foresight. We don’t know what the future holds. Each day is a new beginning, a new opportunity for growth and a new day of hope. Life is like a field to be plowed. The ox takes one plodding step after another until finally the job is done. And so it is with us, one foot in front of the other. There’s no telling how far we can go and how much we can eventually accomplish.

We all have a responsibility to leave the world a better place than the way we found it. We’re living during complex and uncertain times. Soldiers play a very important role in providing security for our great nation. Armed with faith and belief, they can conquer all. My prayers are for their continued safety and well-being.

My wife and I wish soldiers and their families a happy and healthy New Year. May the Lord continue to shed his light upon them and protect them each and every step of the way.

Yonaton PronmanGiebelstadt, Germany

January 15

Physical fitness

After reading a letter titled “What is physical fitness?” (Dec 16), I felt compelled to research this heated topic and add my insight. I am a DODDS Hanau American High School senior and would like to affirm my support for the person who wrote the original letter, “Physical Fitness” (Dec 7) that sparked this whole debate.

One writer wrote that physical fitness is “the condition of the heart and circulatory system, the respiratory system, muscular system, degree of flexibility and body fat content,” something we hear and see often on AFN infomercials and that we should all agree on. I failed, however to comprehend how this supported the writer’s point. Yes you shouldn’t “judge a book by its cover,” but I would be amazed if any of those teachers could demonstrate excellence in each of these areas.

In my “old age,” I have learned two things: There are different body types in this world (including pears, inverted pear, apples, and bananas), and if a person looks fat, they usually are fat, and therefore, unable to meet fitness requirements.

Being built and being fat are different.

True, there are such problems as eating disorders, but I am certain that all those teachers did not have such a disorder. Also, I am not questioning character or teaching ability, rather I am questioning the teacher’s abilities to be role models and leaders into a healthier tomorrow.

Teaching is about the students, not the teachers. If the students perceive a teacher as not being a credible model of what is instructed, then the students will feel free not to believe the teacher. In the end, the students lose out.

Students understand that no one is perfect; yet they admire adults who accept their faults and failures and still give it the “old college try.” We need more teachers that “practice what they preach.”

The teachers and instructors on the front page photo of Stars and Stripes did not appear to do this, and I am certain that 90 percent of teenage students would agree with me. The problem here is that those against the original letter writer do not want to accept the physical problems of the physical fitness teachers.

The first step to resolution is recognizing and accepting the problem. The one who needs to apologize isn’t the original writer, but rather all the people who opposed her. Perhaps we should all simply stop sitting down and typing letters to the editor on this subject, and start working out.

Jorge “J Ren” RenjifoHanau, Germany

Source of inspiration

I’d like to address the writer of the letter “Muhammad Ali” (Jan 6). The writer seems to believe that the only heroes worthy of notice by our servicemembers are the ones who served in uniform.

I take exception with this.

Muhammad Ali was, and still is, a source of inspiration for many American minorities.

During the 1960s, when blacks were routinely denied their Constitutional right to vote, they were still expected to fight and die for a country that didn't respect them as human beings. They were lynched, bombed, sometimes burned alive, and if they were “lucky,” jailed.

Ali exercised his Constitutional right to refuse induction on religious grounds for which he was unfairly convicted. Ali represented “black pride” when many in America wanted blacks to “stay in their place.”

The writer doesn’t seem to have a problem with people such as our president and many members of Congress who found various ways to avoid the war in Vietnam, but who are now in positions of power to send our sons and daughters off to war. I guess it’s OK if someone else defends “freedom” as long as their children don’t have to die for those beliefs.

As an American and retired servicemember, I will defend the Constitution so all Americans can have the freedom to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Some Americans seem to believe that if they don’t share similar opinions, then he or she can’t be a true American.

A truly free society isn’t afraid of ideas counter to its own. Muhammad Ali stood for what he believed in, and for that he’ll always remain a hero — an American hero always.

David McGhee Jr.Rhein-Main AB, Germany

Grateful aunt

I would like to thank Stars and Stripes for putting the story and pictures of the boxers at Camp New York, Kuwait, in the newspaper (Jan 6).

My niece was one of the two women boxers. I have not seen my niece for a year and a half. She looks happy and fit. I know that she and all the other soldiers are working hard to help protect our country.

From a civilian point of view, I am glad to know that they can enjoy some rest and relaxation. Thank you for your articles, letters, information, and pictures that the Stars and Stripes puts on the Internet to keep us informed.

Cathy BruceVine Grove, Ky.

January 16

COLA doesn't keep up

To the COLA man or woman: I noticed that the euro is at a three-year low. How come it hasn’t been noticed?

Checking today’s Stars and Stripes, the exchange rate is .9203 — by far the lowest euro rate ever. I can remember the euro being 1.12. I received no cost-of-living allowance then, so how come I barely get a COLA now?

All we get is chump change of $57 per pay period, the lowest COLA rate that we can possibly get.

Don’t the people who set COLA read the news? Haven’t they noticed that not only is the euro at its lowest rate ever, but that also many German merchants used the conversion from the Deutsche mark to euro to jack up prices? Do the COLA calculators live in Europe? If so, then why are we getting so little?

When I was in San Antonio, Texas — where the cost of living is much lower than in Kaiserslautern, Germany — I got an extra 8.6 percent, or $206, every pay period for locality pay. Our expenses are compared with Washington, D.C., one of the most expensive places in the States, so our government can keep the COLA as low as possible. But the folks working in Washington get a really big locality pay; I think it’s at least 12 percent. So if I were putting up with Washington expenses, I would get $288 extra each pay period and the $288 would count as earnings toward my pension.

Here in Germany, I get $57, which doesn’t apply to my pension, and I never see any realistic increase in my housing allowance, even though I have to pay my rent in euros. That $57 is 2.3 percent of my base salary. Thanks again, COLA person.

Jeff WeberKaiserslautern, Germany

More than a paycheck

The story “U.S. troops risk lives for minimum wage pay” by Robert Sisk of the New York Daily News (Jan. 7) should have had a realistic analysis alongside it. Some readers in uniform and their families might just take Sisk’s report as fully accurate.

First, he got the base pay rates wrong. Correct are: private first class — $1,357, not $1,290; squad leader (staff sergeant) — $2,200, not $1,733 (an E-5 with two years); and second lieutenant $2,183 — he got that right.

That is not all that soldiers, sailors and airmen get paid. They get paid housing and subsistence allowances (or they get free housing and meals). They also get free medical care (free medical insurance); a clothing allowance; “free” retirement contributions made by the government; cost savings by shopping in the exchanges and commissaries; “free” basic legal help; low rates for government life insurance; and so on. Their allowances are not taxed as income; thus, that’s a pay advantage, too.

During my 20 years in uniform (starting base pay at $230.10 per month), I never felt underpaid — occasionally underappreciated, but never underpaid.

Today’s servicemembers do not have to worry about company downsizing, bankruptcy or surprise pink slips for Christmas, all of which civilians may endure.

Military and civilian pay are not equivalent, and the work environment isn’t equivalent, either. There’s no doubt in my mind that almost all in military uniform earn more than they are paid. If that is fixable, it may have to be at the voting booth and from communications from fully informed citizens/soldiers to their representatives in Congress — and not via misinformation like Sisk’s.

In the meantime, our uniformed military can add their stalwartness, fellowship and variety of experience to their dollar compensation.

Robert D. DolemanLandstuhl, Germany

No logic to war

It looks like we are going to war. The logic of it escapes me, so maybe there is someone who can give me better insight. As of now, there seems to be no turning back from the fact that there will be a war.

The administration says war is the last option. Very simply, they say, all that needs to happen is the president of Iraq leave his office or destroy all weapons of mass destruction (WMD). We know from many years of experience that Saddam Hussein will not leave his office. To date, no WMDs have been announced as being found. Therefore, war is inevitable.

I wonder why we are supposed to believe that war is not inevitable and is the last option? Have I missed some logic here? The next question is: Why? It started in the summer when the Big 4, in the administration, started beating the war drums with, “We will go to war alone if no one will join us.” But those people have never spent time in a wartime situation. Condoleeza Rice, National Security Agency chief, and Vice President Dick Cheney, for example, have not had the privilege of being in a military situation.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was in a non-wartime situation. President Bush avoided the draft by getting in the elite National Guard so that he would not need to go into a combat situation. Why were these people for a war before taking their case to the United Nations?

Why have we not been given a logical reason to enter this war?

Those against the war, originally, included a long list of people who had been in combat situations. This list included some well-known, high-ranking military people such as Colin Powell and Norman Schwartzkopf.

Their vocal opposition seemed quite odd as they had been strong advocates for this administration, until the talk of war began. What did the experienced combat veterans not know about the “need” to go to war that the non-combat veterans did? Somehow, there must have been a gap in the information. As a result, the logical conclusions formed by the veterans and citizens of the United States have been nonexistent. The information needed to form a strong conclusion has been less than adequate.

The overall conclusion seems to be that history repeats itself. Those who have no experience in war create the war. The fighting in the war is done by citizens, without the information needed to reach a logical conclusion.

Bill HatchettNauheim, Germany

A different approach

This letter is concerning “Stop-loss” (Dec. 31) about a woman’s husband who was involuntarily extended in the Army. My husband was active duty for eight years. Then, he joined the National Guard to do the “one weekend a month” drill.

This past July, he was activated along with the 28th Infantry Division based out of Pennsylvania as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The orders were for a minimum of six months with a possibility of extension of up to a year.

We certainly were shocked, surprised and even angry at times. But this attitude would not be conducive to my, or my children’s, well-being. We didn’t ask for this deployment, but I have learned how to be thankful to be living in a country that is willing to fight for continued freedom, protect our way of life as we know it, and view the importance of protecting U.S. military families stationed overseas.

I have taught my children that my husband and the other soldiers are protecting other families. Instead of being depressed at not seeing their dad for six months or more, they are proud of him and what he is doing for our country. I am proud to be part of a family support group that has adopted the same attitude and philosophy toward this deployment.

I understand your anger and so do many other spouses, but I also think that there is a different approach you could make to your situation that would benefit you and your children. Be grateful he has a job in a country where layoffs are daily news. Be thankful we live in a country that cares about our freedom and the safety of our citizens. Be proud of your husband. He is part of this great and powerful military — the best in the world.

Maureen FritzYork, Pa.

January 17

Thanks for nothing

I arrived in Germany nine months ago as a tourist.

I came here to start a new life. I had lived here as a soldier throughout most of the 1980s, and during that period I thoroughly enjoyed Germany.

Therefore, I returned to Germany after not living here for more than 10 years.

I am African-American. I graduated from a public university prior to enlisting into the military. I have a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in management and a minor in education.

I am also a former assistant teacher/education paraprofessional. I am more than qualified to hold jobs beyond the menial labor-oriented job offered through nonappropriated funds and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.

But I am convinced that African-American tourists in Germany are filling most of the menial labor positions offered by these organizations, as well as those with appropriated fund activities.

As for working for an American defense contractor, forget it.

When it comes to hiring U.S. citizens for nontechnical positions, many contractors in Germany are restricted by labor laws and other Status of Forces Agreement guidelines.

It is a distasteful scene here among the various Department of Defense employment activities. White males and females are often in supervisory and managerial slots, even if a black is more qualified.

What is so sad for me to grasp is that very few blacks here in Germany are willing to address racism in an organized way. I have tried relentlessly to gather a petition of names from African-American civilians who feel they have been discriminated against by the Department of Defense.

After talking to more than 100 blacks and asking them to sign a petition of discrimination, only three were willing to sign.

Do not assume I am seeking an armed rebellion — I am a nonviolent man.

After serving in the military, I am convinced that being a pacifist makes it easier for me to sleep at night as opposed to having the mindset of a universal soldier.

I have written my state and congressional representatives about the racism within the federal government employment structure in Germany.

I will return to the States very soon because I have concluded that I am wasting my time here seeking work with DOD and its entities.

The American military and U.S. government scene here is that of an antebellum plantation. NAF and AAFES offer “slave wages” and many — if not a prevailing majority — of their nonmanagerial positions are filled by blacks, Latinos and Asians, which I will deem the “slaves.”

The appropriated fund managerial and nonmanagerial slots are filled by a convincing majority of whites, who are the “masters” here in Germany.

So there you have it — racism stamped and approved by the U.S. government.

If I were a black, Latino or Asian servicemember, I would put down my weapons, turn in the government issues, and tell the military to take a long hike and never look back. It is apparent that no matter what a minority does while serving in the U.S. military, it basically equates to squat when he or she seeks government employment in Germany because the “master” is still in charge.

Simply put, I did not come over here to work as a soda jerk, burger flipper, laborer, fish and chips man or any other menial labor position.

If I wanted to “flip the beef,” tend to the lawn, and clean and move equipment, then I would have stayed in the States. This black man is fed up and it is time for me to do a “stage right.”

Thanks for nothing, U.S. government Europe.

By the way, receiving logistical support is the bait offered by NAF, AAFES and the appropriated fund activities; that bait is tainted.

Marcus Otis TowersFrankfurt, Germany

Troops being clipped

Inflation takes it toll on everything, including haircuts.

The constant rise in the cost of getting a haircut is taking a toll. This is because as soldiers, we are required to conform with the regulations. So, we are forced to get a haircut at least twice a month, if not more.

This comes out to an average of about $16 (tip included) a month.

While this amount does not seem high, compared with a civilian, the price continues to rise. If a servicemember is stationed in Germany, they have probably been subjected to even higher costs, along with poor service (waiting time vs. quality).

Something needs to be done.

While we may not get the best barber — how hard can a high-and-tight be? — the cost will soon run into what I give in tips.

I suggest the stamp card method: Buy 10 haircuts, get one free.

Capt. Daniel J. MeyersFort Leonard Wood, Mo.

Words are hollow

I would like to express my concern over the increasing lack of caring and concern relating to soldiers and their families.

The catch-phrases “family of families” and “Army of One” are often heard, but seldom practiced.

Family Support Groups were created with the best of intentions; however, they often seem to consist of nothing more than coffee groups and bake sales. I can remember when leaders were honestly concerned about soldiers. This also seems to be in decline.

I was recently hospitalized twice in the United States for approximately 40 days during November and December. My family was required to remain in Germany.

During this time, not one member of my unit, soldier or Family Readiness Group contact took the time to call and check on my family.

In addition, I was never contacted while away as to the status of my medical condition. Ironically, the civilians at the Bamberg library asked if they could be of assistance on several occasions. Their sincerity is greatly appreciated.

Fortunately, my wife is a former soldier and is used to the lack of support and concern. We have learned to depend on each other throughout the past 14 years.

No, we do not make the wives’ coffees and bowling trips. That is not what family support means to us. A memorable example of family support during my career was bringing home a young soldier and his infant daughter following a domestic disturbance.

Even at 2 a.m., my wife unselfishly provided assistance during this unfortunate situation.

My intention of writing this letter is to remind leaders that pretty words and phrases are hollow if there is no genuine concern. The holidays are often stressful for many families, not to mention the probability of future conflict in the Middle East.

Leaders, please do not show a lack of integrity or patronize soldiers and families by creating an illusion of caring, and by telling them what you think they want to hear.

Sgt. 1st Class Donald J. McCumberBamberg, Germany

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