April 27

Spouses are heroes

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

April 27 Spouses are heroes Women serving too Kudos for reporter Stop loss situation Fuel prices 100 percent support Freedom defines America Graham can mend his waysApril 28 Voting Mail moving along Protesters ignore social ills Clear picture on photo systemApril 29 Handicapped parking No USO in Baumholder White’s resignation We’ll remember who backed usApril 30 Medical personnel Help the unfortunate Golf letter Privilege abuse is rank Lynch getting the lion’s share Laughing at Mr. JesterMay 1 Cost of fuel Bush should back vets Mail call came for proud dad

May 2 Base privileges Air Force scandal Leave editing to the viewer

As I write this, it’s midnight in Baghdad. I wonder if my husband is asleep now. Is he safe as he crawls into his sleeping bag? Where in Iraq is he? Am I on his mind? The questions could go on forever. The unknown is deep and almost endless for military wives. We’re a different breed of women. We’re every woman, literally. We must do everything now and put up a front of calmness and strength that seems to eventually seep into our psyche. We then become stronger and calmer than we thought possible.

Our mantra is one day at a time. I’m proud of all of us — our spouses and ourselves. Neither could do their jobs without the other. The price we pay is high. But the reward is freedom for us all. It’s an immeasurable reward and maybe unimaginable to us. Our memories have always included freedom.

I live in Vicenza, Italy. My husband has been in the military for almost 12 years. I’ve seen almost everything except what happens when our soldiers go to war. There was always a fear, a threat of my husband going to war. After so many years, I began to believe it would never happen. But now it has. My world became a place unknown to me, and I didn’t like it at all.

Without going into horrid details, I’ll just say that I’d have gone out of my mind if not for the wives here at Camp Ederle. We are a group of women. We’re friends, acquaintances, and strangers who share a bond that no one else could ever comprehend. Rather than crawling under the covers and hiding, we’re out together. We run errands, take trips, commiserate with friends, and pray for the day our husbands come home to us. We share tips, we stand outside our homes and pass on information and support each other, even if it’s only with a smile and a hello. Hanging over our heads 24 hours a day is the threat that we may never see our husbands again. But we go on. We survive, and we thrive on our plans for when they do come back to us.

I’m so proud of us military spouses. We’ll have no glory from battle, no medals or awards. There will be no ceremony in our honor. But we are heroes. We are super women. These women are all exceptional and should be getting medals. One is for working, taking care of the kids, the house, the bills, the yard, and everything in between. Another medal for continuing on even when the pain is almost too much to bear. One for wiping away the tears before the kids get home and putting on a happy face for children who miss their fathers so much. And one for the support they give their husbands who work so hard and sacrifice so much.

I wish nothing but the best for all military spouses. We deserve happiness and peace. And each spouse should just remember that when she starts to feel down, she should think of the moment her husband gets off the plane and she flies into his arms. We may have had to say goodbye, but oh how amazing the hello will be!

Shannon A. JonesVicenza, Italy

Women serving too

I was disturbed and disappointed by the story “Back home, war’s not over till husbands return” (April 22). The writer obviously forgot that there are several thousand women serving our great country both on the home front and on the front lines. The writer obviously forgot that there are husbands and families waiting for their wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts to come home. What about the two POWs, Spc. Shoshana Johnson and Pfc. Jessica Lynch? Did the writer forget about them? I’m sure the families of these two young women waited desperately at home until they were found alive after being taken as prisoners and tortured. The war for them was not over until they knew their beloved women were coming home alive.

I’ve been deployed since early March and had to leave my dear husband and family behind. Others are indeed headed home. But due to my military occupational speciality, I may remain in place or be moved to a different location with no word on when my unit will be headed home.

Furthermore, I’ll miss my first wedding anniversary and other significant events just like many others. This is just as difficult for my husband as it is for the wives who are waiting for their spouses to come home. So for me and the thousands of men and women serving in the armed forces during this conflict, the war will not be over for our families until we all come home!

Tech Sgt. Lianna Garcia-FloresCamp Wolf, Kuwait

Kudos for reporter

I read with interest the letter “Thanks for war coverage” (April 21) written by the mom of a deployed soldier assigned with the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment. She was commenting about the fine job that Stars and Stripes has done covering the war in Iraq. The mom especially enjoyed the articles written by Stripes reporter Steve Liewer.

My husband is deployed in Iraq with the 212th MASH. I started saving articles that were written while he was still at Camp Udairi, Kuwait, to put in a scrapbook. I always enjoyed Mr. Liewer’s well-written articles. They were informative, and he caught readers’ interest within the first several sentences. Mr. Liewer wrote an exceptional article describing the move across the desert during the beginning of the war. He made mention of the 212th MASH. It was the first time that I’d read anything regarding my husband’s unit. I wrote to Mr. Liewer and thanked him for writing such an excellent article and for mentioning the 212th MASH. It was just so great to hear any news about them.

Mr. Liewer wrote me back immediately and said he always tried to mention other units because he knew how important it was to family and friends back home. I replied that if he ever saw the 212th MASH again to tell my husband hello and that I love him. Much to my surprise, Mr. Liewer did just that. He was interviewing a soldier who had been wounded and was sent to the 212th. My husband happened to be treating the patient who Mr. Liewer was interviewing. Mr. Liewer told my husband that I said hello! My husband was so surprised! That one act of kindness meant so much to me. For Mr. Liewer to remember our names and actually relay my message to my husband meant more to me than he will ever understand.

It’s obvious that Mr. Liewer went out of his way for many families. We are all lucky he was traveling with our soldiers. Mr. Liewer not only did a fantastic job of reporting, but he also brought some happiness into our lives during a very stressful time.

Karen SaponariWürzburg, Germany

Stop loss situation

I’m sending this in regard to the stop loss situation in 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry. It’s terribly troubling to me and to some of my fellow soldiers that we’re currently in a stop-loss status. We’re in a stop-loss status but not deployed, and to our knowledge we won’t be deploying anytime soon. I’ve asked my chain of command to please find out why we’re still in a stop-loss status. We could understand if we were deployed or were going to be deployed.

The other morning in squadron formation the squadron commanding officer told us that we’re slotted for gunnery in June and a Combat Maneuver Training Center rotation in August. I was supposed to ETS in the middle of June. Supposedly I’m extended until December. So I’ll go to gunnery and I’ll go to CMTC. I’ll then ETS two months later, if not sooner, if I take terminal leave. I’m only one example. There are many other soldiers in the same predicament. I think it would be a waste of both our time and the Army’s and a waste of the Army’s money.

Back in the beginning of this confrontation with Iraq, we were supposed to deploy to Turkey. I’m asking myself, “What did they do, forget to lift the stop loss on 1-4 CAV?” We’re being forced to put our lives on hold. Sure, we would’ve liked to have supported the war in Iraq. No matter how much we wanted to support the effort in Iraq, the fact is that 1-4 CAV hasn’t gone. They didn’t deploy us, so let us go home!

I wouldn’t be writing this, but it feels as if my chain of command could not care less if we’re forced to stay in the Army past our commitments. I doubt if they’ve even asked why we’re still in a stop-loss status. Many of us have plans, and this is getting in the way. Again, it would be fine if we were deployed. We’re having our plans for the future destroyed by this unjust stop loss.

Hopefully readers can empathize with our situation. I didn’t want to go outside my chain of command. But it feels as if my chain of command only cares about how it will affect them if we leave, such as lower gunnery scores or having to train new gunners, etc.

Cpl. Norman H. YagerSchweinfurt, Germany

Fuel prices

I wonder if AAFES could afford to rob its customers as well as it has if it had competition? I believe some outside agency should investigate what AAFES is doing with the profits it makes from its over-inflated gas prices. Perhaps a separate agency should be in charge of the sale of tax-free fuel, since it’s obvious that AAFES has and will continue to take advantage of us.

How can it be that in Detroit, taxable gas is cheaper than tax-free gas here? The profit margin that AAFES gas stations make should be equal to or less than the profit margin that stateside gas stations make. It should also be available for the public to see so we can see for ourselves if AAFES is being fair. Right now, no one I know believes this to be the truth. If AAFES can’t sell gas at a fair price, then someone else should take over the service.

Daniel YelderMannheim, Germany

100 percent support

Our troops have 100 percent support from my family and me. We’re so proud of all of them. It’s a great sacrifice that they’ve made. We extend our deepest sympathy to the families of our fallen heroes.

We have three sons. At one time all three were in different branches of the service. Fortunately, only two of them were involved in the Gulf War. I used to light a candle for them every day and pray that they’d come back safe and sound. They did.

I pray that this conflict will be over very soon and the troops can get back to their families. I know the families miss them very much. I don’t know the troops, but I miss them.

I also want to thank the troops for the freedom my family and I enjoy. Every night when we go to bed and lay our heads down, we feel safe. The troops shouldn’t believe any of the trash some people are saying about Americans not supporting them. We all do. No matter what our opinions about other things, we are still proud that the troops are doing such a fantastic job. They can be proud of themselves for a job well done.

Again, I thank our troops. God bless them. I’ll keep them in my prayers and in my heart. If they ever need someone to write to, I’d be glad to answer their letters.

Maureen KleinPanama City, Fla.

Freedom defines America

Freedom. It’s not just a word. It’s America in all its beauty. This has been partially taken away from us by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. America has risen above this, and now we seek to give freedom to Iraq. But around the world we are condemned for it.

We still live in the darkness of 9/11. It’s been almost two years since it happened. We need to remember what freedom is. People such as Michael Moore need to remember that they have the freedom to blast America’s leaders, their policies and what we stand for. These people shouldn’t forget that this government’s leadership and policies have given them the right to protest and open their mouths and insert their feet.

All these actors, musicians and war protesters have no idea what this is because it’s never been taken away from them. Why? Because American soldiers have stood in the way of people who desire to take it away from them. And yet these protesters stand at my gates and demonstrate against me!

No one should protest against American soldiers. The soldiers follow orders. They don’t question them. Yes, we have our inner emotions and our own beliefs in what’s right or wrong and, believe me, we know the difference. War is cruel. It always has been and always will be.

The ignorance of people amazes me. Where have they been? Where were they when Saddam Hussein killed his own people, attempted genocide against the Kurdish population, invaded Kuwait and launched chemical attacks on Iranian soldiers? Saddam even abandoned his own people. We’ve seen how Iraqis have greeted coalition troops. We bring them water, food and aid. Yet the protesters condemn us because we give Iraqis what the protesters have — freedom.

Where were the protesters when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and Russia invaded Chechnya, when the Chinese government stamped out freedom protesters, and when the Serbian government committed genocide in the Balkans? Where was America? We were standing with open arms offering these people freedom.

I doubt the protesters even understand the word. They’ve always had their freedom. It’s never been taken away. The protesters were born free with spoons in their mouths. They should first experience the loss of freedom like the Iraqi people have and then open their mouths. The protesters should bite their tongues or seek freedom elsewhere.

I’m a soldier in the U.S. Army. I’m proud of our soldiers and saddened by the protesters’ lack of patriotism. If not for soldiers, protesters wouldn’t have the right to speak as they do.

I’m willing to die for our nation and freedom so that protesters may keep their freedom. When I’m gone, there will be others to replace me so that there will always be freedom.

Sgt. 1st Class David PickardBamberg, Germany

Graham can mend his ways

My fellow Americans, let freedom ring! This Kansan very much regrets the point of view the Rev. Franklin Graham has taken toward the religion of Islam. As the faithful sons and daughters of old Father Abraham, the Jews, Christians and Muslims are closer than almost any other world family.

One need not take the Rev. Graham to task any more than what is already happening, but just encourage him in a real study of the unity of religious ideals, thereby filling in the gaps of his education — rather than the Rev. Graham being drawn into devisive public rhetoric. Certainly his prayer should go on as planned, but a future event that includes Islamic imans and others might be a good choice.

Dean OttingerKansas City, Kan.

April 28


As a registered voter in the town of Lyndeborough, N.H., I think other voters should be aware of the unpatriotic undertones in the municipal government. My husband, Capt. Mark Tromblee, Service Battery Commander, 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery, 1st Armored Division, Germany, has dedicated his life to protect readers and their children from nations and people who would put them in harm’s way and who dislike democracy. He is being deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Whether or not readers agree with the politics behind the war, these soldiers are trained and sent into dangerous places without questioning orders. They’re sent away from their families and loved ones to defend our freedom. Some make the ultimate sacrifice.

On April 16 my husband wanted to question the members of the Board of Selectmen in Lyndeborough on their stance on supporting military families. This was due to a problem that provoked the question. Unbelievably, my husband was hung up on by one of the selectmen. He tried to call back and was never able to reach a selectman. That was the answer my husband received on where the selectmen stood on the issue.

All three selectmen are elected officials. It’s everyone’s right to know where our elected officials stand on issues of military families or paving roads. Lyndeborough is a democratic town. The definition of democratic is, “Of, representing, or carried on by people at large.” The members of my military family are the “people at large.” The “people at large” elect selectmen. Selectmen become social servants to the “people at large.” If the selectmen are willing to hang up on those sworn to protect their freedom from thousands of miles away, what are they willing to do to us without our knowledge?

The next time readers vote, they shouldn’t do the convenient thing and vote for someone because his or her name is the only one on the ballot. Readers should make sure they know the candidates’ platforms and intentions. Voters’ ignorance is candidates’ bliss. In the next election, I’ll be sure to find out if the candidates know the true meaning of democracy and that the power which democracy grants our elected officials won’t be abused.

Has democracy just become a throw-away word? It’s certainly not for the soldiers who fight for it. What about the elected selectmen in Lyndeborough? I call Lyndeborough my home, and I’ll fight to see my hometown government remain in a democratic state.

Melissa A. Tromblee RobbinsBaumholder, Germany

Thanks for help

Our organization hosted a dry goods drive for deployed soldiers outside the Ramstein Air Base, Germany, commissary on March 30. We’d like to thank all the generous members of the Kaiserslautern military community who supported the effort. Because of everyone’s big-heartedness, we were able to send 31 giant boxes (more than 800 pounds) jam-packed with snacks, magazines and all the love we could muster for our deployed folks. We’ve received many letters of thanks from servicemembers, but the thanks truly should go to those who opened their hearts to make it happen.

Michele RyanRamstein Air Base, Germany

Mail moving along

My hat is off to Brig. Gen. Sean Byrne, who was quoted in the story “Mail flow improving, general says” (April 22). The mail is moving along. I read the article with interest. I had not heard from my son for six weeks since he deployed to Iraq from Ft. Bragg, N.C. I was wondering if there was a problem with the mail.

But I checked my mail box, and what did I find? A piece of a Meals, Ready to Eat box with a letter written on it, letting me know that everything’s all right. It was postmarked April 4 and I received it April 22.

Eighteen days is not bad considering it came from a combat zone when it was postmarked.

The point I’m trying to make is that the mail is moving and MREs can be used for a number of thing, such as “Mail Ready Envelopes.”

Bobby Carrasquillo Sr.New Orleans, La.

Protesters ignore social ills

It’s really about time someone spoke up. I’ve read magazine and newspaper articles and watched the news about those in Hollywood who are narrow-minded and opinionated. Of course my saying all of those in Hollywood would be wrong. But they know who they are.

A military lifestyle is not for everyone. That’s fine. I don’t recall there being a draft for some time now. We servicemembers all chose this life knowing that war was probable in this day and age.

I’ve served five years in the Air Force. My younger brother served five and a half years in the Navy. We’re very proud of what we do for our country. On the whole, we’re not looking for recognition. None is needed. But support from our fellow Americans is not too much to ask. Or is it?

Many people don’t understand the aspects of war and the decisions that are made for our country by our commander in chief. I honestly don’t always understand them myself. That’s why I’m not making the decisions. But I’ll carry out the orders given to me and put faith in President Bush and, most of all, in God.

It amazed me that after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks there were displays of patriotism in every yard and store window and on vehicles and all over television. It’s a shame it took something so horrific to make people display their patriotism.

Now we’ve had Americans stand up and publicly condemn the United States for our efforts in Iraq. Yet if it wasn’t for war, violence, crime and abuse, what would we watch on TV and at the movies? Our actors don’t seem to think twice about promoting these acts when they put dollars in their pockets. I believe we call that hypocrisy.

My intention is not to offend anyone, but to open people’s eyes to our world’s realities. We all have the right to freedom of speech. Remember, we live in the land of the free because of the brave. People should speak their minds freely. But before they speak, they should understand what they’re speaking out against. Ignorance is no excuse for Hollywood actors or anyone else.

Instead of bashing our effort in Iraq, which is helping to liberate an oppressed people, the critics should speak out about child abuse, drugs in schools, our children’s lack of values and morals, and taking God out of anything and everything because one person finds it offensive.

Senior Airman Holly MaserIncirlik Air Base, Turkey

Clear picture on photo system

I’m the U.S. Army Europe visual information manager. I’m responsible for visual information policy and guidance for the command. Since the Department of the Army Photo Management Information System falls under my purview, I’d like to respond to the April 14 letter “Photo not picture perfect.” The letter writer had a problem with a DAPMIS-scanned hard-copy photo overwriting a current digital photo. I contacted the Department of the Army functional proponent to verify the writer’s claim and to gather information to provide an answer.

The findings indicate that there was in fact a small problem with DAPMIS caused by the software. The Department of the Army Photo Functional Policy Proponent, Kenneth Washington, said that the DA is aware of the technical problem that has led to scanned hard-copy photos overwriting a very small percentage of more-current, electronically uploaded DAPMIS photos. Mr. Washington also said that appropriate modifications have been designed to correct this systemic shortfall.

I’d like to emphasize that the DA has not yet started using digital photos from the DAPMIS repository for centralized selection boards. The Enlisted Records and Evaluation Center anticipates using this system later this year after the Army Selection Board System and DAPMIS are fully automated. Personnel Command and EREC are currently still using a soldier’s most current hard-copy photo submitted by each soldier for centralized promotion boards. In the letter writer’s case, his most recent hard-copy photo on file is dated Dec. 12, 2002. That photo was in the soldier’s promotion consideration file and was reviewed by the respective selection board panel.

Future concerns with DAPMIS may be addressed through our office.

Sgt. Maj. Javier OteroHeidelberg, Germany

April 29

Handicapped parking

I have a disorder called fibromyalgia. I’m in moderate to severe pain for most of the day. The pain can move throughout my body and affect different parts. Now it’s in my knees and feet. Because of this disorder, I’ve been given a handicapped parking decal. I only use handicapped parking spaces when I’m in pain and not able to tolerate walking through a parking lot or up the steps from the lower level. If I can find a space close to a business, I’ll use that one and leave the handicapped space for others.

On April 22 my daughter and I were shopping at Patch Commissary in Stuttgart, Germany. I was in quite a bit of pain and had been unable to take any pain medication because I was driving. As we were coming out of a store, a man and woman made loud comments about me parking in the handicapped spot. The man had the nerve to say, “I wish I were handicapped like that so I could park there.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve been talked to about using these spaces. Just because I wasn’t using my crutches, which were in the trunk of my car, or using my wheelchair doesn’t entitle people to express their ignorant views by yelling in public places. I don’t need to explain myself to anyone about my medical conditions. Some people choose to open their mouths first without thinking how their outbursts will affect me.

I’m sure I’m not the only one this has happened to. If our conditions are severe enough to be given a decal, it means we have a legal right to park in handicapped spaces. It just amazes me that people have so much time in their lives that they need to be so rude to other people who they don’t even know. If members of the general public have questions, they should ask me about my condition. I’ll be happy to educate them. They don’t need to chastise me or give me dirty looks for something about which they know nothing.

Instead of complaining about those who use handicapped parking spaces, people should be thankful that they don’t need them. I’d give anything not to have to use them.

Terri FitzgeraldStuttgart, Germany

No USO in Baumholder

The USO Kabel magazine in Kaiserslautern, Germany, boldly states that it represents the Kaiserslautern and Baumholder communities, as does the Kaiserslautern USO Web site. Serving and representing according to the USO means, under their general programs and services, to include newcomer briefings, family-oriented picnics and cookouts, children’s programs, telephone and Internet services, and providing a relaxing, homey and wholesome alternative to daily stress.

Unfortunately, for the past year members of the Baumholder community have not had the pleasure of enjoying any of the USO programs or services mentioned. Under the premise of “renovations,” the USO in Baumholder closed and promised to reopen “soon.” Until USO Baumholder reopens, the Kaiserslautern USO says those of us in Baumholder can drive to Kaiserslautern if we want to use its facility. This is a 45-minute to one-hour drive on the autobahn each way. I guess if people can get in a car and take a two-hour autobahn trip, they wouldn’t need the USO to begin with.

There are more than 13,000 military and family members stationed in Baumholder. It’s obvious that the USO Kaiserslautern embraces the concept of serving the Baumholder community when it comes to receiving Baumholder’s share of charitable tax-free dollars. But in reality it left our community almost a year ago without a facility or any realistic venue to enjoy the programs and services offered to everyone everywhere else.

Virginia KeenanBaumholder, Germany

White's resignation

Army Secretary Thomas White’s resignation on April 25 was a good thing. We don’t need retired generals in any capacity, including as “experts” for the media, questioning the authority of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

If White had any character at all, he’d have resigned at the height of the scandal at Enron, where he’d been at the helm of Enron Energy Services. I hope the millions White made back then will be enough to keep him at home and off our TV screens.

David R. JonesHanau, Germany

We'll remember who backed us

The war’s over. Saddam Hussein was overthrown. Freedom has returned to Iraq. But in the triumphant aftermath, I urge Americans to remember the utterly repulsive behavior of the obstructionists leading up to Iraq’s liberation. As we bask in the air of victory, let’s not forget the appalling actions of the few who attempted to prevent Iraq’s long-awaited liberation.

The nations that made up the “coalition of the willing” are too numerous to list. There were more than 30. Those in opposition were but a handful. I hope Americans never forget the deplorable actions of Germany, France, Austria and Belgium before the war. The selfish reasons why these few nations opposed the war are now public knowledge. The only explanations for their mind-boggling behavior are their fear of America’s status as the world’s lone superpower and their fear of losing financial deals with Saddam and other terrorist regimes.

Operation Iraqi Freedom boasted numerous achievements. Two of them are detested by the nations who opposed the war. First, the United States solidified its status as the world’s lone superpower. Second, we terminated billions of dollars in commerce (proclaimed illegal by the U.N. embargo) between countries opposed to the war and the Saddam regime. The United States is now the world’s lone superpower. But we don’t aim to conquer or colonize any nation. Our only goal is to protect freedom and liberty. The lone agency that the world can consistently depend on to ensure world peace and stability is not the U.N., but the U.S. Department of Defense.

The actions of the countries against the war also accomplished something very significant. Their obstructionism caused the unnecessary deaths of many coalition troops and innocent Iraqi citizens. If these nations would have stood up against Saddam and showed their support by joining the coalition, it would have sent a crystal-clear message to Saddam that the world was adamantly against him. He then most likely would have relinquished his weapons of mass destruction to U.N. inspectors and stepped down as Iraq’s president, thus preventing the war.

Shame on German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac! The blood of coalition soldiers and thousands of innocent Iraqis is on their hands. Several Germans have told me that the views of the German populace do not match those of the German government. I tell them that maybe the German people should do something at the voting booth about the politicians who represent them and ultimately make abject fools of them.

I strongly urge Americans stationed in Europe to carefully choose where they spend their money. I believe we should reward coalition nations such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. My future vacations will be in these nations. I won’t spend any money in Germany, France, Belgium or Austria until these nations make formal, public apologies to President Bush, the American people and the Iraqi people for their despicable and inexcusable behavior. Only then will I forgive. But I will never forget.

Eric WhiteheadChief Warrant Officer 2Ansbach, Germany

April 30

Medical personnel

Who would have thought. I get deployed all the way to Turkey just to have the pleasure of working with the Navy. I’m a soldier in the Army. I’m in the medical department with the 701st Main Support Battalion. I was able to get a glimpse of how the Navy’s medics work. And let me say that no matter what branch one serves in, all medical personnel really pull together in crunch time.

I would just like to thank the Army medics and all the Seabees for showing great hospitality and for doing a great job.

Spc. Shirley WilliamsMardin, Turkey

Help the unfortunate

While our troops and their loved ones are lauding military success, many of us close our thoughts and hearts to the unfortunate within our borders — those who are fighting the battle for survival. Financially, ours is a wealthy country. But the souls of many have become glazed with the patina of an inner insolvency, with an indifference toward the plight of the downtrodden. There is such a strong focus on nationalistic hero worship and lachrymose pride in being a military wife or husband that we willingly ignore the grief of the destitute in our homeland.

Our current version of democracy has hatched the “Me Generation” in which millions of disciples of the pronouns “I,” “me” and “mine” disregard the needs of the poor. The “Me Generation” mingles with its own in order to benefit from one another, excluding those who are in great need of compassion. Fortunately, democracy allows and encourages improvement, but our ideology must definitely include the best for every law-abiding American.

It saddens me to know that many of our citizens have to visit soup kitchens, wait in food lines and sleep outdoors, while recipients of regular paychecks would rather become engrossed with the trivial problems featured in soap operas or banal movies than help those who could benefit from attention. Let’s not forget to assist those among our citizens who are warring with near or established hopelessness.

Duchan CaudillDarmstadt, Germany

Golf letter

This is in response to the letter “Teed off at Masters” (April 24). It was about women being allowed to play golf as members at the private course where the Master’s tournament is held. All I can say is, “Bravo!” With all the problems going on in the world, it’s about time someone returned our focus to the monumentally important issue of whether or not rich white Southern women should be allowed to join a private organization and hit a ball around with sticks.

Tech. Sgt. James KingRamstein Air Base, Germany

Privilege abuse is rank

Military history is filled with stories about loot taken from the enemy, the captured spoils of war and seized treasure by force or power. Any gain, prize or gift is booty. Now that the definition is clear, why is it still happening on our military bases today? That’s right, and guess who are the offenders?

Modern men of position and power in leadership are still taking the booty. Even worse than that, they give the booty that they take from their subordinates to their wives and children. Basically, they take from their own people. Yes, military officers and NCOs who carve out parking places at the exchanges, commissaries and clubs are taking for themselves the booty.

As a veteran, I find this offensive. In Cuba, the Gitmo base commander had his own beach. It is my understanding that modern military leaders lead by example. This booty example tells the true character of modern military leadership today. Officers and their families come first. They come first on MAC flights and they come first wherever they can take advantage of the military situation. This is the wrong example to make for modern military personnel. I challenge all real commanders to end this hypocrisy. “Rank has its privilege” only means that we don’t have as modern a military as we are lead to believe.

I challenge all base commanders with signs of entitlement to booty to be removed from the parking lots. The challenge is to set the best modern military leadership example to subordinates without taking the booty. Real leaders don’t need to take booty; they have honor. They have earned respect; they did not take it.

Meanwhile, the rest of us will protest by tapping our horns three times in the parking lot every time poor leadership is caught taking booty. Perhaps military leadership will move from “Take all they can take” to “Be all they can be.”

My supervisor leads by example. He gets the best parking spot because he gets to work early. There are no designated parking spots at our work place other than for the disabled. My boss is the best!

Mark ErtzCamp McTureous, Okinawa

Lynch getting the lion's share

I just wanted to voice my opinion, as a military wife, about the entire Pfc. Jessica Lynch thing. Why is the media making it all to be about her? And on our American Forces Network, there is a special coming on talking about all of the prisoners of war from this war. But the name is “Saving Private Lynch.”

I know, as a military wife, that if my husband was one of the POWs, I would be a little upset. Pfc. Lynch is no more special than any one of the other POWs of this war. Some of them may have even gone through more than she did. What about the people who died over there for our country and the ones who weren’t rescued? Is AFN going to do shows for all of them? Are their families going to get sponsors and money for college, etc?

Our military is unified. It is a family of one: No one person in the military is more important than the other. So why is it portrayed that way?

Jennifer RoweGhedi Air Base, Italy

Laughing at Mr. Jester

Does letter writer Clifton J. Jester know how to read “Teed off at Masters ‘meanness,’” April 26)? Augusta National Golf Club does not prohibit women from playing the course or from the Masters if they qualify. This issue is about the right of private clubs to be private and the right of association. There are more “women’s only” clubs in the United States than there are clubs that limit men.

Mr. Jester should check your facts before he goes off half-cocked.

Frank ParkerSeoul

May 1

Cost of fuel

Over the past several weeks, a number of writers have criticized AAFES for its fuel prices. But one can’t compare apples to oranges. Stateside prices are a reflection of the U.S. wholesale market. AAFES-Europe obtains its fuel from the local wholesale market. Would customers rather buy fuel on the economy? I think not!

As far as AAFES fuel contracts and differing customer pump prices, people should just ask AAFES for the details. A copy of this information can be requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Maybe someone should obtain a copy and publish the facts so we can end this thread.

Doug DorrerPirmasens, Germany

Bush should back vets

President Bush has repeatedly claimed that he supports our troops in Iraq, but does he really? I couldn’t believe what the president said in an April 24 interview. Bush said that “looting and vandalism, particularly in hospitals and museums,” was the absolute worst part of an otherwise successful military campaign. “It’s like uncorking a bottle of frustration,” Bush said. How soon the president has forgotten the more than 120 American lives lost, the lost lives of our coalition partners, and the countless number of Iraqi lives lost. The loss of life is the absolute worst part.

I’m not voicing my opinion as to whether or not the war was justified. I’m just outraged that the president would believe looting and vandalism are “a bottle of frustration.” The real “bottle of frustration” is Bush’s lack of support for our military veterans. During his campaign, Bush repeatedly said that “promises [to veterans] made will be promises kept.” Our military veterans are still waiting for Bush to keep even one promise.

Where is the promised lifetime health care? The vets are so tired of waiting that they have a class action lawsuit pending to restore this promised health care.

Where is our promised retirement pay? Veterans who retire from military service and have a service-connected disability don’t have their retirement checks and disability checks. Every retired veteran who is approved for disability payments by Veterans Affairs must give up dollar-for-dollar their retirement pension equal to the amount of disability payments. No other government workers must forfeit any of their retirement pay if they draw any VA disability payments.

How many of the troops who Bush “supports” will come marching home to a hero’s welcome? I hope it will be every one of them. How many will require assistance from the VA because of injuries or more cases of Gulf War Syndrome? I can’t even guess the number of new claims.

How does the Bush administration support these war veterans? By proposing massive budget cuts for all VA programs and preventing a very willing Congress from correcting the discrimination against military retired and disabled veterans.

I’m a 24-year Navy veteran and 100 percent disabled. I understand firsthand the real “bottle of frustration.” Congress has overwhelmingly supported allowing retired veterans to draw both their retirement and disability pay. But Congress has buckled to pressure that Bush has placed on them concerning this issue.

Now Bush is concerned with the economy and stimulating economic growth. What better way to increase spending by Americans than to give 600,000 disabled and retired vets their retirement pay. This would go to people who are scraping by on a daily basis, not as a tax cut that would mainly benefit the rich.

Bush should understand that it’s his responsibility as commander in chief to take care of his troops.

Thom MatheyYoungstown, Fla.

Mail call came from proud dad

My hat is off to Brig. Gen. Sean Byrne, who was quoted in the April 23 story “General: Mail flow improving.” The mail is moving along. I read the article with interest. I had not heard from my son for six weeks since he deployed to Iraq from Fort Bragg, N.C. I was wondering if there was a problem with the mail.

But I checked my mailbox, and what did I find? A piece of a Meals, Ready to Eat box with a letter written on it, letting me know that everything’s all right. It was postmarked April 4 and I received it April 22.

Eighteen days is not bad considering it came from a combat zone when it was postmarked.

The point I’m trying to make is that the mail is moving and MREs can be used for a number of things, such as “Mail-Ready Envelopes.”

Bobby Carrasquillo Sr.New Orleans

May 2

Base privileges

I retired after 22 years in the U.S. Air Force, followed by 20 years as a mission essential civil service employee with the Air Force here in Europe. Guess who cannot use the base exchange or commissary?

Guess who can use these facilities? German military guards who are guarding about 60 military posts in Germany. This agreement is between the U.S. military and the Germans. A letter from Germany’s finance minister lifted the restrictions on the Bundeswehr guards. “This is not a political thing,” said a spokesman for the Army Installation Management Agency in Europe. “It’s simply a gesture recognizing that these guys are here helping us, and we’re trying to make their lives a little easier.”

Now let’s see if this balances out. An eight-hour shift by a German military guard is greater than 42 years of service. And the icing on the cake? “The bottom line is, we serve coalition partners everywhere,” the AAFES Europe spokesman said. I didn’t know that Germany was a coalition partner.

Miscarriages of justice are common to servicemembers. Going back in history, one will find Gulf War Syndrome, Agent Orange in Vietnam and Korea’s “medical health for life.” Politicians promised it, but it wasn’t written down on paper, so it doesn’t count.

How do they get away with this? Have readers ever noticed that most politicians are lawyers, and only about 30 percent of them have done any type of military service? To combat this, I urge every servicemember to join a veterans-connected organization such as the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the Officers/Enlisted Service Organization to ensure that their rights, promised by Washington, are kept. Although they may not benefit from the fruits of their labors today, future servicemembers will.

Marion A. CleetonMalaga, Spain

Air Force scandal

Shame, shame, shame! Fifty-six accusations of rape at the Air Force Academy, the Air Force’s most hallowed institution.

Our airmen put their lives on the line to stop ethnic rape in the Balkans, Kuwait and Iraq, as well as during World War II’s “comfort” raping all over Asia. Now our young cadets and so-called future leaders have been accused of raping our future female leaders at an Air Force sanctuary.

Now Air Force leaders have “reinstated rules.” How naive of me to have thought that Air Force cadets were of such high moral caliber that they didn’t need rules against rape. How did such people get admitted? With pull from “politically correct” politicians?

And our leaders have covered this up! I’m tempted to turn in my Air Force stripes, the last one earned at Da Nang, Vietnam. Shame, shame, shame.

Helmut A. ReichelAviano, Italy

Leave editing to the viewer

We live off base in Misawa, Japan, and do not receive Channel 66, which is American Forces Network. So, knowing that the satellite service I have does not broadcast the Academy Awards, I asked a friend who does receive it to tape the program for me. I love Steve Martin and wanted to see him host. I also wanted to hear the speeches against the war about which I had read.

I only recently had the time to sit down and watch it. I watched the entire broadcast only to realize that something had been cut out. The comments made during acceptance by the “Bowling for Columbine” producer against the war in Iraq and against President Bush were not there! This is not acceptable. And it cannot be justified by claiming the show was edited due to time because any one performance of the songs nominated could have been cut.

Michael Moore has the right to say what he feels just as I have the right to chose to listen or not listen to him. But I was denied my choice when AFN decided to cut that portion of the show. I also have to wonder just what else AFN edited. We are in the military to uphold the Constitution so that all of us may continue to exercise our freedoms, which are promised. AFN should allow us the opportunity to hear what all sides have to say. Shame on AFN for their actions.

Julie FreinMisawa, Japan

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