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January 19

'Substandard housing'

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

January 19 'Substandard housing' The pain of peer pressure No support for war Another warrior wife Transportation trials Mangled mailJanuary 20 Parking bigger problems Pregnant? No parking for you! A military assetJanuary 21 Hey, champ! Take care of our guards Drug pushers?January 22 Apply rule to everyone It's free, not greatJanuary 23 Teeth cleaning takes a bite Vulgar language Lacking the big picture Stripes is still 'scurrilous'January 24 Honor those who serve troops Where's the COLA Protesters aren't the majority Err on the side of safety 'Annoying' commercialsJanuary 25 Concern over bus antics Freedoms worth fighting for

As part of President Bush’s recent speech to the troops at Fort Hood, Texas, he says that he increased the defense budget so that military families could be provided with the highest possible quality housing. I would very much like to know where this housing is since it definitely isn’t here in Aviano, Italy. At least not for staff sergeants and their families. As a matter of fact, if I had to describe the government housing that I live in, it would be as substandard.

We came to Aviano under the exceptional family members program because we have a handicapped child. This meant that months before arriving, we had to send out a package detailing my daughter’s needs, which then was to be approved by multiple departments at the base. Housing was among them.

We were assured that we would be provided with a house that would meet those needs but were sadly disappointed when we arrived here. Housing refused to give us a single-level house, which our daughter required, because the only ones they had were four-bedroom homes.

As a staff seargant with only two children, my husband is not authorized four bedrooms, “no exceptions.” The economy housing that fit our needs was well above our basic allowance for housing cap and would have bankrupted us. In short, we were forced to accept what was offered, and we had to fight just to get that.

We ended up with a two-story home that is barely large enough for a couple with no children, and that is only the beginning of its faults. There are cracks running all the way up the walls, which I have seen in multiple other houses in this housing area. The shower in the bathroom downstairs is barely large enough for my 6-year-old daughter, so there’s no way that my husband or I could use it. The electrical system is so bad that the breaker pops if you plug in more than two things in one room at a time, and running the washer and dryer at the same time is impossible unless you turn off everything else in the house.

These are just a few of the many problems with the build-to-lease housing at Aviano. I could probably go on for days about the rest.

I would really like to know: If we are supposed to be provided with the best possible housing, then why are we being forced to live like this? I have spent my entire life living on military installations, both as a dependent and as an active duty member, and the housing here is by far the worst I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if it’s that way for everyone here, but I would imagine that it’s pretty close.

Why can’t some of that extra money in the budget go toward having houses built by contractors who aren’t the lowest bidders and don’t cut so many corners? I know that if I were still active duty and among the number of troops being deployed right now, I would feel much better leaving my family in a house where I knew they would be safe and comfortable.

Michelle PrivetteAviano AB, Italy

The pain of peer pressure

As a mother of two teenage girls, I would just like to say thank you for the article “Why do teenagers fall for peer pressure?” (Jan. 12) by Laura Glass. I let my girls read this, and I think it would be wonderful to have this posted in every hallway of the high school they attend here in Naples, Italy, and all across the nation. Peer pressure is so real, and I am not so old that I can’t remember it.

I wouldn’t ever want to do it over again for sure, but through our children we do relive those memories and remember the pain of not belonging, the eyes watching and laughs received with hands over mouths. Sometimes I think gossip hurts much worse when lived through our children, because they have to go though it, the same as their parents did, only the parents wish they could ease the pain just a little bit.

As parents, we must get and stay involved in the lives of our children no matter what their ages, even though they don’t want your involvement. Stay involved through their friends, activities and what music they listen to. Parents are the only ones who can teach their children right from wrong, so when that day does come to let go, parents will feel better knowing they have sent their children into society as a better adult.

I hope many more teens will read the article. I am taking it to the school and asking to get it posted somehow. Thanks again.

Katie SpragginsNaples, Italy

No support for war

Soldiers and sailors: Go to the brig, not to Iraq.

If President Bush declares unilateral war, I will not support our troops.

They will be guilty of unprovoked aggression and the unnecessary killing of tens of thousands of Iraqis. These Iraqis will not be defending Saddam, but defending their homeland, motivated by blind patriotism, just like many of our troops.

Our troops will be fighting to replace Saddam with a new American-puppet warlord, or worse, a neo-colonial governor. God bless America, but forget about an American empire. They will be obeying the orders of a corrupt government, not the wishes of most Americans.

When more than 68 percent of Congress voted for unilateral war, only 37 percent of their constituents supported such a war. By obeying these orders, our troops will be supporting this corruption. Corrupt dollar politics has created corrupt dollar diplomacy.

Our troops should refuse to fight. Aside from the moral basis, there may also be a legal basis to refuse. Our troops have sworn to uphold the Constitution. Congress voted, but it cannot delegate to the president its responsibility to declare war, and how can its vote be considered tantamount to a declaration of war when there was not then and is not now a clearly stated “cause for war?”

America now needs moral courage, not physical courage.

Going to the brig is the single most important duty an American servicemember can now perform for their country.

John F ScanlonSan Diego, Calif.

Another warrior wife

My daughter and I are just back from visiting my reservist husband in England. I read the letter “Military wives” (Dec. 29). I was so happy to see the writer’s letter. The letter was a perfect description of what it is like to be a military wife. I look forward to the return of my husband, so I can go off duty as a warrior wife and just be a wife again.

Pat WoodCortland, N.Y.

Transportation trials

I would like to respond to the writer of “Parking article” (Jan 9). The writer’s response to riding a bike to work is admirable, but perhaps he should visit us in Aviano, Italy.

I have been here for five years, and with the steadily increasing rate of construction on base, I have seen the base population triple and the available parking turn course in the opposite direction.

There is no base housing at Aviano Air Base. There are leased properties in satellite communities scattered about the towns and countryside; several are a 30- to 40-minute drive to the base, depending on which part of the base you are going to.

There are no designated bike lanes here. The roads are narrow, winding, often with no shoulder, and with steep, unguarded ditches running along the side with few lights. Seasonal fog and high-speed driving habits make riding a bike to work a truly risky undertaking.

The bus transportation is not the most accommodating, either. For example, I live in Aviano and my daughter attends school in Sacile, a town 20 minutes away (normally). She rides the local bus for nearly an hour to get to school. I have a student-rate pass for her; the normal ticket for the ride one-way is 4 euro. And this is assuming that you don’t need to change buses.

It would be interesting if the block leaders in their communities got together and found out if there could be a benefit for a community carpool in their area. Perhaps with coordination, a carpool swap could be organized.

With that in mind, I am off to take a walk down the road to the bread shop. It’s only a half-kilometer away.

Amy WellsAviano, Italy

Mangled mail

I have been in Germany for nearly three years and am becoming increasingly disgusted with the condition in which mail arrives from the States in our mailrooms.

I am not sure where this occurs along the way, but often letters and boxes are received damaged, crushed or, on several occasions, even wet.

I understand that the U.S. Postal Service handles large volumes of mail, but they are paid to deliver each and every one, and I believe that one should be able to assume that that means the item should be handled with some consideration. I doubt the postal service will acknowledge a problem because often myself and others I’ve witnessed in the mail lines grumble and carry away the package, hoping that the contents are not too damaged. I have no doubt, though, that many of the readers know what I’m talking about.

The logistics of moving mail are complex, but the transfer of a box from truck to truck is not, and there is no excuse why the mail of U.S. servicemembers and their families could not and should not be handled with more care and consideration.

Dr. Joseph WallLandstuhl, Germany

January 20

Parking bigger problem

On a cold, windy, and rainy German morning, a servicemember’s platoon has just run five miles.

The soldier was released 35 minutes late because of the slow pace, and now is driving home to shower, eat and dress. In less than an hour, he has to be at work.

Unfortunately, the soldier lives next to the school, and all of the teachers, mentors, volunteers, and parents have taken the parking spaces available. The soldier must park two buildings away.

After being late for the 9 a.m. formation, the soldier is told to stay until noon. Once finished, the servicemember grabs the beret, runs to the car, and heads home for lunch.

Well, the soldier still lives next to the school, and the lunch hour coincides with all of the moms and dads picking up their children from elementary school.

Not to worry. Just park two buildings down, walk briskly to your apartment, shovel down a nutritious assortment of foods, and run out the door in order to be back at your desk by 1 p.m.

I am writing this letter to agree with the author of “Angry over Parking,” (Dec. 30).

However, this dilemma needs to be viewed as a problem with the housing/school parking system, not parents vs. residents.

Teachers, mentors, volunteers, parents, and residents must voice their difficulties with the area commanders, not with each other.

Scott AndersonWiesbaden, Germany

Pregnant? No parking for you!

My wife and I recently arrived in Germany, and the Landstuhl community so that she can give birth in the Regional Medical Center. After being here for just a few days we took a trip to the local base exchange on Ramstein Air Base.

While looking for a parking spot near the front door to make things easier on my wife — who is 39 weeks pregnant — I drove past no less than 12 reserved parking places for senior military officers and noncommissioned officers.

As we parked at the end of the row, and walked past the many empty reserved spaces, I couldn’t help but notice how ironic that our military leaders had so many spaces reserved for them next to the door, yet there was not a single space available for pregnant women.

As my wife and I have been driving around several military communities, I have seen this same trend over and over.

In addition to watching my wife make this trek from the back of the parking lot, I have seen other women, clearly advanced in their pregnancies, walk past several of these unused parking spots reserved for high-ranking officials.

I would like to challenge the local commands to give up some of their dedicated parking places, and instead reserve them for women late in their pregnancies, at least beyond 36 weeks, if not in third trimester. If anyone can provide one reason why this is not feasible, I’d like to hear it.

Finally, kudos to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for dedicating seven parking spaces for women in their ninth month of pregnancy.

This is the only example of chivalry I have seen in the 10 military communities we’ve visited in the last two weeks.

Sgt. Dylan HrncirLandstuhl, Germany

A military asset

On Jan. 8, my daughter-in law and grandson were at the airport, getting ready to PCS to Florida.

They had the necessary paperwork, but for some reason the ticket had not been paid for by the travel office. Her husband (my son) was to catch another flight he had paid for because he was home on leave.

His plane was going to depart the same time.

When I called him on his cell phone to say good-bye, he was frantic that his wife and infant son had no ticket.

I immediately called TMO at Ramstein and spoke with Sgt. Johnson. I don’t know her first name.

She “jumped through hoops” to ensure that my daughter-in-law and son would get a flight that day.

She went as far as calling my son on his cell to talking to the rude ticket agent at the airport.

Within two hours of the original flight, Sgt. Johnson was able to get Courtney and Mason on a plane.

People like her are appreciated more than she knows. Her persistence and dedication allowed for a family to unite at their new duty station together.

She is truly an asset to the military. Thank you.

Lesley DuppeRamstein Air Base, Germany

January 21

Hey, champ!

I, being a white man — part American Indian but not enough to claim title to being a warrior — would like to respond to the letter “Muhammad Ali” (Dec. 29).

Why? He is an American, that is why.

I personally was introduced to Cassius Clay in 1963 outside a bar, “Joe’s Palm Room,” on 10th and Magazine in Louisville, Ky.

I was very impressed with his charisma, self-discipline and particularly, the size of his hands (so was Joe Frazier) when we exchanged grips. I decided then that this guy will be a great American and a role model for a bunch of people.

Heroes are not all white people. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Isom Dart (Cowboy), Red Cloud, Geronimo, Confucius, Jesus, Mohammad and even Louis Pasteur were all non-Caucasians, and were all heroes and role models.

If the writer really looks at it as being a “hero,” it is not limited to folks that fight wars or die in combat, or elect to serve in the military.

Look at President Clinton, no military service, admitted to smoking dope, committed adultery — not by sexual intercourse, of course — and is still a hero and role model to many (not me).

If I remember my history, the colonists (not all) turned their backs to the king, and the flag of Britain.

By doing so, they were disobedient to the ruling government. The act resulted in the right to liberty and established our right to be a nation. I do not recall any portion mentioned in history of a mass return of loyalists to Britain. They all remained in country and became citizens and enjoyed the right to make individual decisions.

Muhammad Ali had every right to deny service in the military and for whatever reason he elected to use, it is his right as an American.

He did not run off and join the Taliban, he did not point a weapon at any American citizen, he did not change his citizenship, he did not cause the death of our prisoners of war. He paid his taxes and represented the American public each time he “danced like a butterfly and stung like a bee.”

Ali was, and still is, the greatest.

I consider as heroes people of any ethnicity, such as Indians, African-Americans, Caucasians, starving Koreans and Africans, and any other branch of the human family that continue to hope, but are being deprived of so much by so few.

America, like Muhammad Ali, is the greatest and will remain so as long as we have citizens such as him demanding to remain free to make individual decisions regarding principle and integrity.

Command Sgt. Maj. William K. Carroll (Ret.)Giessen, Germany

Take care of our guards

Protection and security are some of the major focuses of the military around the world.

Recently, while entering a military installation here in Germany I could not believe my ears.

I was one of the individuals chosen at random to have their auto searched. While stepping out of my car, I overheard two security guards talking about how cold they were because the weather conditions were somewhat nasty.

I will not mention where this location is for fear that they could be fired. The two were discussing, in German, why should they have to walk around in summer boots when the temperature is well below the freezing point. The military has hired this company to help protect our armed forces and their families.

Can someone please tell me why these individuals are not taken care of with the proper cold weather gear (i.e. boots)?

I went maybe a little further than I should have and did my own little investigation on the matter. Here is what I found out: Secutitas receives 34 euro for each employer within the company, but pays the guards 8.72 euro an hour.

So I asked one of the supervisors why his people don’t have the proper gear, and his answer was that the company hasn’t, and probably won’t, buy them.

Granted, some have winter shoes, and the quota is really high. Only 10 percent of the work force has the proper foot gear for cold weather.

How can this happen? Protection and security go hand in hand, but without the proper protection how can the security be safe?

The next time you enter the gate look down at one of the guards’ feet and ask yourself, “would you want to be in his or her shoes?”

Vincent JonesFrankfurt, Germany

Drug pushers?

I read the Jan. 9 article on the use of amphetamines by Air Force pilots. If the “go pills” are so “safe and effective,” why not give them to all pilots all of the time?

If the effects of taking the pills are like “a couple of cans of Coke,” why not remove Coke from the BX and sell “go pills” instead? This would eliminate the need to recycle the empty cans and would save on electricity as the pills would not need to be served cold.

If the use of the “go pills” is entirely voluntary, then why make them available in the first place?

The Air Force is attempting to have its cake and eat it, too. Amphetamines are a controlled substance under federal law.

Commercial truck drivers caught using amphetamines lose their driver’s license and spend some time in jail (at the minimum).

Whatever “spin” the Air Force wants to put on this issue, the bottom line is that they should not be in the business of providing dangerous drugs to their pilots on a “voluntary” basis.

Tillman L. JeffreyManteca, Calif.

January 22

Apply rule to everyone

It amazes me — and at the same time is a joke — how the five-year employment rule in U.S. Army Europe is working.

It upsets me because I have known many friends affected by this rule who wanted to remain in Germany, but because of this rule, many were scrambling to look for work with either NAF or AAFES in order to remain employed in Germany.

Most of these people were not high-ranked GS employees receiving housing allowances and other benefits. They just wanted to stay in Germany.

I know many people who have been here for longer than five years and continue to receive housing and other entitlements. This category includes both CONUS and OCONUS hires.

I believe if the five-year rule is to be enforced, then it should be applied to everyone.

Some people have been here so long and receiving housing that it is almost illegal. In many cases, these employees have financial ties to Germany.

And in many cases, these same supervisors and managers are the ones who have the power to approve or disapprove an extension for someone who wants to stay in Germany, but is approaching the five-year limit. Yet, it seems these supervisors and managers continually manage to receive extensions and draw the housing allowance themselves.

USAREUR should be ashamed of this practice. Everyone in USAREUR is replaceable.

Dorsey MitchellHeidelberg, Germany

It's free, not great

This is in response to the letter, “More than a paycheck,” (Jan. 16 ).

I was very upset when I read what the writer wrote. For the writer to state that soldiers receive free medical insurance, I just want to say, yes we get it free but honestly, it is not that great. I guess that is what you expect when the service is free.

I am pretty sure there are many people here that would agree with me that they wouldn’t mind paying for better service if we could over here in Europe.

The writer then stated we don’t pay for our housing. Has the writer honestly taken a look at the quarters some soldiers are living in? They are not kept up to standard, so they are in poor condition.

Tenants can hear their neighbor’s whole conversations and every move. But the writer would state, why complain when they are free?

However, the writer is correct stating that soldiers don’t have to worry about pink slips or layoffs.

He needs to look at the fact that soldiers have to worry about much worse things like if they are going to be able to make it home at night, if they will be able to spend the holidays with their family, or will they be hundreds of miles away, fighting a war for this great nation that we live in.

But the writer believes soldiers are overpaid.

Tracy DavisHanau, Germany

January 23

Teeth cleaning takes a bite

I recently read a letter from a writer who felt she had been overcharged for services received at a military medical treatment facility. I was surprised at the amount the writer was charged under the new billing procedure, which applies only to pay patients. The new plan charges for each service provided instead of the old plan’s flat fee. I believe she said under the new system her cost had quadrupled.

I now know what she felt when receiving her itemized bill. And the term she used, “sticker shock,” is putting it mildly. It appears that the Department of Defense is planning to fund its entire medical program through this.

I recently went to the Büdingen Dental Clinic to get my teeth cleaned. I came out with clean teeth — and my bank account cleaned out as well. I could get my teeth cleaned for around $60 in the States, and I was expecting a comparable price here because the article I read said that the new billing system was to be comparable to prices charged in the civilian world.

My clean teeth nearly fell out of my mouth when I received the bill. For a simple cleaning, I was charged $534. The bill was reduced after I told them the dental hygienist did not give me a brief demonstration on how to properly brush my teeth. That service would have cost an additional $20.

I do not want to imply that I did not get excellent service at the clinic. The staff is very professional and everyone was courteous and sympathetic. I realize that the billing procedure is being driven from “on high” and that they are merely the messengers. It just seems to me that something is terribly wrong with this new system.

I do not mind paying a fair price, but $534 is ridiculous for a simple cleaning. My dentist in the States just called it a cleaning. In the military dental clinic, they divide your mouth into quadrants and charge for each. The entire process lasted a little over an hour, which is about the same amount of time it took in the States. My cleaning in the States cost about $15 per quadrant ($60). The Büdingen cleaning cost roughly $133.50 per quadrant. I hope something can be done about this new payment plan and get charges in line with the civilian counterpart. I have the option of at least mailing one quadrant of my teeth to the States for cleaning, but I feel for anyone who still has all four quadrants fully in place.

Robert PinionHanau, Germany

Vulgar language

There is within us a desire to express ourselves, and the manner in which we relay our thoughts to others reflects our personality. I find that many Americans resort to the use of vulgar language to share their opinions, and I venture to insist that the friends of perverse lack sophistication and cultivation.

I work in retail. Owing to my Christian views, I am endowed with an equanimity that enables me to cope with encounters with rudeness and selfishness.

However, it is so discouraging to have to witness an outpouring of gutter vocabulary, especially when children are present. Swearing does not make one interesting. Rather, it suggests that one is without a certain refinement that would make his or her company pleasant.

Duchan CaudillDarmstadt, Germany

Lacking the big picture

In response to the letter “No logic to war” (Jan. 16), in one way the writer is right. There is no turning back that there will be a war. We have committed our troops and strength too far to stop now. It is in the hands of Iraq now. For more than 10 years, Saddam Hussein has killed his own people, his most loyal leaders, and his own son who disobeyed him.

He has defied the whole world, the United Nations and his Muslim neighbors. But they protect him by saying they will not promote war against him because of their faith. But when their country is under aggression, they look toward the United States for help. I don’t understand why the writer can’t understand that if Saddam can hide for more than 10 years, he still can manipulate the world with his deceptive ways. The writer still hasn’t seen the big picture.

The United Nations is inspecting Saddam now, and he should be complying, yet he still shoots at NATO aircraft. Saddam is not stupid, he is very smart. However, he is as insane as Hitler. It is not about whether our leaders served in war. Poor people serve in the military, rich people’s children go to college — or join the National Guard or Reserves. However, many National guardsmen and reservists have honorably served our country during times of war.

I have been in combat. My parents didn’t have money to keep me out of Vietnam, or in college. I served during Vietnam and Desert Storm, and retired after 20 years. My son is now serving his country in Kosovo, with the possibility of finishing in Iraq what we didn’t do the first time. However, I will never degrade any servicemember serving their country, and will stand behind them all the way. I will gladly rejoin them if I am allowed to — even though I retired at the age of 49.

I am a war veteran, and I agree with what is being waged against Iraq. The letter writer must not have been a war veteran since the comments reflect no knowledge of those who have. Again, I pray that this situation ends peacefully. However, as a sensible human being, and as a war veteran, I doubt it very seriously.

My worst fear is not a war, but once we quickly demolish Saddam’s military might, we will have to put ground troops into Bagdad to search house to house to find and hopefully kill this tyrant.

The United States and its allies will lose thousands of young soldiers. We will win, but there will be losses.

Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Kenneth A. CoxBöblingen, Germany

Stripes is still 'scurrilous'

Why in the world would Stars and Stripes print the mindless drivel of “No Support for war” (Jan. 19)? Is the newspaper not aware that its audience is predominantly military? Is it intentionally wanting to undermine the mission and morale of those soldiers who may have to deploy?

The writer has a right to submit a letter, but the editors should practice some common sense discretion.

I trust the elected leaders of our country, who say that they have evidence to support their actions. Is the writer privilege to that information? I think not, and, therefore, the writer is in an uneducated position.

Our system demands that the president make the case to the American people, and this he will do should it come down to war. I notice that the writer made no reference to having ever served in the military. He espouses a view that will cost him nothing, but he exhorts our brave soldiers to go to the brig in his stead. Contemptuous.

During World War II, Gen. George Patton described the Stars and Stripes as “scurrilous” for undermining good order and discipline. Some things never change.

Chaplain (Maj.) Robert F. LandBaumholder, Germany

January 24

Honor those who serve troops

I just retired Jan. 1 from the Air Force after 22 years. My family members who supported me for all those years are now possibly in harm’s way.

I’ve heard so many individuals quoted in the media about America’s sons and daughters who made the choice to join the military and now are deployed in the Persian Gulf region. The media really eat that up and print as much as they can for our folks who have been sent over there involuntarily.

Very rarely does the media print or say anything about those like my wife who volunteer their services and possibly their lives in support of those who are serving. My wife is a civilian who works for AAFES, and she volunteered to deploy for six months to an undisclosed location in Kuwait to help run a store that will supply our troops.

Our oldest child is a Marine currently deployed somewhere in Kuwait as well. Our oldest daughter is in the Air Force, stationed in Alaska, and our youngest daughter is married to an airman who may be deployed. So, you see, my entire family is involved in this endeavor and the media doesn’t print things like that, only about the troops.

We need to take some time to also honor those who serve our troops abroad, not just the troops who were ordered there. My wife volunteered to put herself in harm’s way. A pure volunteer. Let’s honor them, too.

Master Sgt. (Ret) Jack OverbeckTrenton, Ill.

Where's the COLA

I just read the article “Dollar’s fall fuels rise in COLA” (Jan, 19). It was very good, except for one thing: Where is the COLA for nonappropriated funds employees?

I have been working in the nonappropriated funds system in Germany since October 1990. I first worked under Army NAF, where I received COLA. In November 1993, I transferred to Air Force NAF. I was shocked when I received my first paycheck and noticed that the amount was less than before — at the same pay grade and time in NAF. It was then I realized that I was no longer receiving COLA. When I inquired, I was told that the Air Force NAF did not issue COLA.

What was the justification? I thought that NAF, regardless of Army or Air Force, is still NAF.

Now that the dollar is at an all-time low against the euro, isn’t it about time to compensate us NAF employees? After all, are we not part of the armed forces?

Otto WilkenKaiserslautern, Germany

Protesters aren't the majority

America is a great country. Freedom of speech is our right. It is a right that I took for granted until 22 years ago while serving in the U.S. Army in Europe. My physical security assignment protecting nuclear weapons was challenging. It was not made any easier by the terrorist threat then or the numerous large anti-nuclear and anti-war demonstrations.

While it was the protesters’ right to protest, their exercise of freedom of speech did not make me or my fellow soldiers feel appreciated. Although I knew their actions did not represent the views of the majority of citizens, I welcomed my return to the States after 30 months in Germany.

Since the end of the Cold War, I have often wondered what the demonstrators felt when NATO’s collective efforts saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union. Did they believe that their protests helped end the Cold War in our favor? I hope not.

Now, as we pursue the War on Terrorism, we face action once more with Iraq.

In response, the anti-war demonstrations have begun back home. I think of our servicemembers proudly serving, and I am ashamed to see these demonstrators.

Like the demonstrators during the Cold War, I believe that most of them think they are helping somehow. I would like to reassure those who serve in uniform that the majority of citizens support them full-heartedly, and the publicity given to the demonstrators is as hard for us to watch as it is for you.

Freedom is what makes us great. Thank you for your efforts in keeping us safe and free. Our prayers are with you all.

Jeff G. MackElgin, Ill.

Err on the side of safety

On Jan. 13, Würzburg, Germany, received massive amounts of snow, and the weather was projected to get worse. Freezing rain was predicted to follow before close of business that day. The 417th BSB commander’s representative was called to ascertain whether Würzburg School Complex was going to be released early due to bad road conditions. At that time, it was determined that no one in the BSB had even been considering the schools and the impact that road conditions might have on them.

At approximately 12:45 p.m., the Schweinfurt students were released from Würzburg High School because the 280th BSB commander had closed the Schweinfurt schools. Even after repeated calls to the 417th BSB, no Würzburg schools were closed. At approximately 1 p.m., the announcement to release all nonessential personnel was made over the radio. It was not until after normal close of business that Würzburg School’s staff members were released.

By this time, the road conditions had changed from amber to red. We were then released to drive home under the most dangerous conditions possible. When I asked why, I was told that parents had no place to put their children. (This is just hearsay.) Is that what we are viewed as, free baby-sitters? It is my understanding that all parents are supposed to have an emergency plan already in place for the care of their children. Why would that not be implemented?

I would ask every commander who has the authority to make the decision whether to release personnel due to road or weather conditions to please err on the side of safety. By the time road conditions are red, they are too dangerous to navigate and folks should be looking for places to get off the roads.

Each school district already has bad weather days programmed into the school year. A few more hours in the classroom are not worth one life or one disabled person.

Archie L. TuckerPresident of the Würzburg Educators’ AssociationWürzburg, Germany

'Annoying' commercials

As a soldier in Germany, I think the Department of Defense does us a great service by providing American Forces Network radio and television. American shows, sports and news make the time away from home more bearable and really lessen the culture shock.

However, I think AFN could improve in one area: commercials. The commercials shown are often depressing and usually rather annoying. Self-help stores. Shoplifting. PCS advice. Tax advice, etc. While the information can be useful at times, those spots are few and far between. Mostly, they just make me want to turn off the television.

I don’t watch that much TV, but when I do, I’d rather not suffer through “USAREUR policy” commercials.

AFN could do so much more with the time, such as weather reports (which it does sometimes and I say, “Way to go!”), a blank screen, maybe some nice elevator music.

AFN could cut commercials completely during sitcoms and show 33 percent more material. I guess I’m reaching a little. I suppose asking to see the American commercials during the Super Bowl would be way over the edge.

With all the hardships and seriousness in the world these days, let’s cut down on the things that make life just a little worse.

Roman IzzoBaumholder, Germany

January 25

Concern over bus antics

I have a major concern as a parent of a child attending the DODDS school at Panzer Kaserne in Stuttgart, Germany. Approximately a month ago, a child was subjected to an assault on one of the school buses. The bus driver failed to report this assault.

The child allegedly responsible was suspended from the bus for one week. Not long before that, a first-grader, encouraged by the atmosphere created by other students on the route, decided to show his underwear; he was given a warning that he would no longer be allowed to ride the bus if he made a similar bad choice in the future.

Where is the justice? More importantly, where is the administration’s head? Obviously, stuck in the sand.

Daniella GriggsStuttgart, Germany

Freedom worth fighting for

A recent letter writer said that in no way had our judicial system “taken God out of America,” but it has. The writer also denies that our judicial system was ever based on one God, but it is.

The original colonists were trying to escape to a new world to rid themselves of the British crown. They sought to practice their Christian faiths in a place where they would be free of forced religions.

Therefore, their goal was religious freedom as well as freedom from British rule and taxation. Their Christian faith did allow for only one Almighty God, but in their search for religious freedom, people have the freedom to practice their religion — whatever it may be.

Christians of different faiths do stand up for people’s freedom of speech and religion. If others could not practice their religion, we could not practice ours. At one time in our country, we were allowed religious freedoms in our schools, such as reciting the The Lord’s Prayer. I can remember in elementary school teachers praying before class and even reading biblical stories which were not mandatory to listen to. A student was not ostracized for refusing to listen, as long as the student was not disruptive to those who were listening. This, by the way, was a public school.

Religion was never forced and teachers tried to communicate values such as sharing with others at school, giving to the needy or being respectful of others, which every religion should promote or teach through its doctrine or beliefs.

Many Christian influences can be seen today and yet Christianity is not a government-established religion. Our money has the motto “In God We Trust” on our dollar bills. Our Pledge of Allegiance has the phrase “one nation under God …,” which is under attack by a federal court. When people are on the witness stand during a courtroom trial, they are sworn in with one hand on a Bible. Our datelines are even based on events that happened in Christian history.

I know I have stepped on some unholy ground and will undoubtedly stir up controversy, but this is what the United States was founded upon.

If all of us of different religions agree to no other thing, it should be that we are united in our right to keep our freedom of religion.

A famous president once stated that a country divided against itself will not stand. In these times when we are under attack, we need to maintain many things we have in common. Such as a love for our country and a belief in our freedoms as long as they do not violate others’ freedoms. This is the greatest country and in no other place would others enjoy the same freedoms as we do in America. This is why I believe in fighting for it, as all those before me have and hopefully those serving now will as well.

Sgt. Carl M. WeimerGiebelstadt, Germany

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