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April 6

Air Force Academy shake-up

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

April 6 Air Force Academy shake-up Gas prices Must remain humble Sometimes war is needed Windber, Pa., backs troops Protesters should be peaceful Arnett’s words aid Saddam Thank one GI, appreciate allApril 7 Worth fighting for Anti-American rhetoricApril 8 Actors against war Fathers and German courts Peter Arnett, repeat offenderApril 9 Anti-war protesters Protesters Apache story appreciated Anti-American talk upsetting Boycott could backfireApril 10 Political affiliations Official photo problem Police stop on autobahn Story headline Salute from veteransApril 11 Nature of support American dads in Germany Protesters display ignoranceApril 12 Battle streamers Editorial cartoon In our thoughts Tank death story

I’m writing to voice my extreme displeasure over the “reassignment” of the vice commandant of cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Col. Bob Eskridge, my father. He has proudly served his country all over the world for nearly 26 years, and now he’s being removed from a job he has held for only three months. To add insult to injury, he’s being replaced by someone who really has only one qualification for the job — she’s a female.

Despite the words of the secretary of the Air Force that it would be unfair to put someone in the job “just because she is a woman,” what other qualifications does she bring to such an important position? The woman selected as my dad’s replacement was just recently promoted to colonel and has never been a group commander, which is generally a prerequisite for this kind of high-ranking job. It’s something my dad has done twice. I also find it funny that she was previously assigned to the academy when many of these alleged sexual assaults occurred. The bottom line is that her only qualifications for the job are that she graduated from the academy (in 1980 with the first class of women) and she’s a woman.

Col. Eskridge has only been the vice commandant since Dec. 23, and has spent most of his time trying to clean up the mess that happened before he ever got to the academy. He doesn’t deserve to be punished for the mistakes of others. He doesn’t deserve to be replaced by someone who is less qualified purely because of the academy’s need to have a woman in a leadership position. Our country has sunk to a new low if we’re now assigning leadership positions based on sex and not qualifications.

My dad is the only person in the Air Force who was an instructor pilot in the A-10, the F-16, the F-117 Stealth fighter, and the F-15E. He flew the Stealth fighter in Desert Storm and has basically spent his whole life serving our country. Any cadet at the academy or anyone else who knows my dad will say that he’s one of the most honest people they’ve ever met and a leader they all want to follow. I resent the extreme disrespect shown to someone who has faithfully served his country for so many years.

Jocelyn Codi EskridgeFort Collins, Colo.

Gas prices

I recently went into my local AAFES gas station to fuel up and overheard a conversation. Another customer said the price of fuel was going up again in Germany on April 1 from 46 cents per liter to 51.6 cents per liter. That’s a jump of more than 25 cents per gallon, raising the cost of one gallon of regular gas to more than $2.34. I’ve read AAFES’s past responses to how it determines prices, so I investigated at the U.S. Department of Energy Web site (www.energy.gov). I figured out that the average price of gas over the last month was approximately $1.806 a gallon. While the average price of fuel did rise in the U.S. over the last month, it didn’t go up 53 cents per gallon, even with a war in the Middle East.

While driving home, I passed by an off-post gas station and noticed that our German neighbors are paying 1.07 euros per liter. So who am I to complain — except that Germans pay more than 75 euro cents per liter in German taxes. If my math is correct in figuring profit — while taking into consideration the euro to dollar conversion rate — AAFES is making approximately 43 cents per gallon in gross profit. I’m sure that’s the same profit the local gas station in Anytown, U.S.A. is also making, right? If that is the case, I need to open a gas station when I retire.

I’m led to believe that AAFES does not pay the German tax on gasoline, nor does it pay U.S. federal or state taxes on the sale of gasoline. So why do we pay so much for fuel? Is it the cost of printing those fuel coupons I bought before the price went up? Maybe it’s paying for the cost of the fuel tankers to deliver fuel from the U.S. to Germany and the Netherlands? Nope. I just saw the ESSO truck roll by.

Where are these profits going? Could it be that AAFES is not making profits on diapers and must make it up on fuel? Come on. AAFES just realizes that it has a “cash cow” at its gas stations. Unfortunately, it’s the military, civilians, and family members who are feeding this tree and receiving the waste product from the “cow.”

Steve ClarkVilseck, Germany

Must remain humble

We must remain humble in these days of war. We should remain modest and discrete. There’s no reason to rub it in anyone’s face that we’re Americans, for we, too, have a terrible past, lest we forget. Let us not forget the time we had slavery on our soil. Before that, we killed as many Indians as possible to get the land we call America. Let us not forget that people from just about every country bled, sweated, and died in building our great country. Let us not forget that without the French, we wouldn’t have the place we call America.

Only one person in Congress has a child in the military. I’m tired of people saying that we’re misusing our freedom of speech. I served my country. Does that mean I can speak out against our government? Have I earned the right? People all over the world are speaking out against the actions of President Bush. They’re not Americans. Are they misusing the freedom of speech that I and many others have served to protect? No? I didn’t think so. That little whine has been played out too many times. People should get over it and get something else to whine about.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

Roosevelt was saying that if we don’t enjoy our right to speak out when we find fault with our elected government, then we’ve failed to uphold a basic American right and have allowed a dictatorship of our own doing to form. If we don’t keep the government in check, who will?

The American government is for the people, by the people. We should never let the government dictate to us, and we should not let it continue to use paranoia as a tool to reinforce things like the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act kills the Bill of Rights, our rights as American people. We’re now the United States of Paranoid People thanks to the media and the situation that our elected government put us in. People shouldn’t be afraid to speak out against our government. We can do that. We can do a lot of things. But we chose to be led around like sheep, and we have chosen to let the government dictate our way of life. Go buy duct tape and plastic wrap? It’s a waste of time, but good for business.

I feel bad for our troops. Lt. Gen. William Wallace recently upset the White House with some comments about the way the war in Iraq was going. Give me a break. Gen Wallace is there and the folks in the government aren’t. Who has a better view of what’s going on in Iraq? The chair warmers or a general who is there in the mix? I’d have to say the general has really earned the right to use his freedom of speech card. He’s one rank away from having four stars and the White House is upset? What is the White House going to do? Fire him? I wonder if he will get his fourth star now since he spoke out. President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should get over it and drive on.

Jason MayfieldHanau, Germany

Sometimes war is needed

It’s amazing how the war in Iraq has divided the world’s idea of who’s right and who’s wrong. Nobody wants war, but sometimes it’s needed. In the case of Iraq, maybe the picture is a lot bigger than we can see. When there are clouds of politics and economic frustration, and a few nations are diluted with arrogance, it’s forgotten how great a price is paid for freedom. Maybe other countries would remember if it were the blood of their own people that was spilled during World War II. To stand back and take a look at the big picture, we Christians go to God and his word for answers.

Let’s check out the book of Daniel. It seems that the kings of Babylon don’t have a very good track record throughout history, and the present-day king of Babylon is keeping up with the reputation. Is Saddam Hussein one of the kings in Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams? Is it just me, or is Jeremiah, Chapter 51, a mirror image of what is going on right now? Readers will have to decide for themselves. I don’t claim to have any divine inside information. I’m just looking for answers like everyone else.

In the meantime, I choose to support our troops. The orders have been given and the mission is under way. Whether it’s right or wrong is not for me to decide. But I do know this: Our soldiers are willing to die for strangers in a strange land, and they’d do the same for us U.S. citizens whether we support them or not. Jesus said it best: “There is no greater love than one who will lay down his life for someone else’s.”

Our troops deserve all the support they can get. Instead of protesting, I suggest those who don’t like what’s going on petition the Lord with prayer.

Bernie RidallPerwick, Pa.

Windber, Pa., backs troops

Does anyone care that America’s young men and women are fighting for freedom? We want our young servicemembers to know the answer.

Despite threatening black clouds and dropping temperatures, March 29 was a wonderful day in the small western Pennsylvania community of Windber. More than 500 citizens gathered at Windber’s Veterans Park to show their support for our troops. While the park is physically dominated by an M-60 tank, the park’s spirit is evident in the paver stones engraved with the names of Windber area veterans. While the tank, the patriotic music, and the Army and Marine Corps color guards created a distinctive military undertone, the many children present and the red, white and blue colors added a festive flavor to the event.

Coordinators declared that the rally was meant to honor American servicemembers and their families for the sacrifices they’ve made for the freedom cherished by Americans. Windber residents want our troops to know that we care.

“We decided a rally would be a good way to show our military that we are concerned and grateful for their efforts,” Windber Mayor Art Palumbo said. The Windber Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion sponsored the rally.

Susan Gallagher, a Navy veteran with six years of active-duty service, set the rally’s mood with her opening statement. “We are here today to reflect upon the brave men and women serving in the United States armed forces.” Gallagher memorialized Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, a hero of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, who was buried in Windber in March 2002. She also reflected on the sacrifices made by veterans and military family members.

Army veteran and Richland School District Superintendent Sal Marro reminded listeners that anti-war protesters direct precious energy and resources away from our military. He asked that all Americans focus on the sacrifices made by our young servicemembers.

Alexander Bryan, Gray Bryan and Sara Dressick read letters that they wrote to military members. Their letters were part of the Windber Area Elementary School’s “loyalty month.” Each of Windber’s 700 elementary students wrote letters to 45 servicemembers with family or sentimental connections to Windber.

Does anyone care that our young men and women are fighting for our freedom? In this small town in western Pennsylvania, the answer is yes. Windber cares, Pennsylvania cares and America cares!

Michael GallagherWindber, Pa.

Protesters should be peaceful

I’m so grateful for all the luxuries afforded me by the United States. One of those is the right to protest. But I believe that there’s a manner in which all things should be handled. One thing I strongly disagree with is a “peace rally” that’s so out of hand that there are people laying in the streets and disrupting the great American freedom of mobility. I also have a huge problem with a “peace rally” that’s violent. So those who are against the war and want a peaceful outcome should start by being peaceful themselves.

In addition, those who have said they support the troops but not the war have no idea what they are talking about. For starters, there’s no draft and there hasn’t been in many years. So don’t forget that all the troops who are fighting for the world’s freedom are doing so because they chose it as their career. They weren’t forced to take an oath to abide by the decisions of our government. They requested it. Not only did they request it, but some of them have re-enlisted to continue abiding by that oath.

I’m a military spouse, and I hate the thought of losing my husband. But at the same time, I’m proud to say that my husband has chosen a task so large that he’d give his own life to protect our freedoms, including the right to protest. So protesters should please keep in mind that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks happened because the Middle East is out of control. Never forget that the people who perished in those attacks didn’t sign up for a war. They were forced into a life-or-death situation by a group with whom Saddam Hussein has ties. If protesters truly want peace, they’ll support our coalition effort to rid Iraq of the terrorists it has in control.

Ronni M. WrightHohenfels, Germany

Arnett’s words aid Saddam

I’d like to provide my thoughts on war correspondent Peter Arnett’s recent remarks regarding the coalition’s effort in Iraq.

As a member of the U.S. military, I found Mr. Arnett’s opinions repugnant. The very ideals and values that allow him to voice his uninformed and uneducated opinions are what my forefathers and I have fought for over the past 228 years. The biased opinions that Mr. Arnett gave to the repressive Iraqi regime has only prolonged the inevitable defeat of the Iraqi government, it contributed to needless bloodshed and suffering of both Iraqis and Americans. Mr. Arnett’s one-sided view of this fight favored Iraq’s repressive government, which has demonstrated obvious and appalling brutality for more than 20 years. How quickly Mr. Arnett forgot Iraq’s use of chemical weapons on Iranians and Kurds, its Scud attacks on Israel and the World Trade Center attacks. Saddam Hussein’s call for world terrorism by homicide bombers only solidifies America’s determination to remove him from power.

It must be nice for Mr. Arnett to sit in his ivory tower, looking down upon the world and chastising the willing for doing what is morally right and just. Mr. Arnett should remember that one day he, too, must return to reality and face a nation that doesn’t easily forget. Some of us will be able to carry our heads high with pride in our accomplishments. As for others such as Mr. Arnett? I think we know the answer already.

I hope Mr. Arnett is proud of his accomplishments, because I and the majority of Americans are not. I was wondering who would become the next Jane Fonda sitting behind an Iraqi weapon. Now I know it’s Peter Arnett. Iraq uses propaganda as a weapon of war, and Mr. Arnett has played a part in that ploy. I hope Mr. Arnett can sleep at night, because his actions and biased opinions have contributed to a greater evil.

Gregory D. McCrumCamp Monteith, Kosovo

Thank one GI, appreciate all

A soldier recently gave me a pin for my nephew. My nephew’s mother (my sister, Kelly Hallmark,) e-mailed me a letter to thank the soldier. But my sister realized that she really had more to say to the soldier and to every GI who has to be away from home. It’s a simple and beautiful letter that I want to share with all of our soldiers. I think it says so much for all of us who haven’t yet found the words. It is as follows:

“Message for Staff Sgt. Martin: Don’t forget my support for our troops is for all of them everywhere, all the time. Many feel the same way. Those of us over here sometimes get involved so much in what we have to do during the day — mostly in order to deal with our own concerns, fears, and worries — that sometimes we don’t take the time to put into words what is difficult for us to say. Thinking of our soldiers overseas, so far from their loved ones, makes many of us here look at our children with gratitude that we are here with them. It also makes it hard to voice our appreciation with the inevitable lumps in our throats.

“This does not mean that we forget the sacrifices that military men and women everywhere are making. I want you to know that we appreciate and are thankful every day for all of your efforts everywhere you are, even when we cannot express them for whatever reason. Thanks to you and all of your men. — Kelly”

Kim McCrackenMiesau, Germany

April 7

Worth fighting for

I’d like to respond to the letter, “Defenders of your rights” (April 1). I liked reading the letter. I hope my response is encouraging. Like the writer, not so long ago I was 22 years old, married and in the Army. I even deployed once or twice. I’m glad I served. I met some great people and shared experiences with them that I’ll never forget. I saw some interesting places like the recruiting sergeant said I would.

I like Germany. It’s a nice country with people who are a lot like Americans. It also has a strong middle class. Everyone gets enough to eat here. I grew up in a lower-middle class community outside Washington, D.C. When I went to Juarez, Mexico, to build houses for homeless people, and saw the rickety streets, bullet-torn buildings and orphanages in Sarajevo, I realized how privileged I was to be a citizen of the United States at this time in human history. Those experiences in the Army were probably the most rewarding.

Aside from our comparatively great standard of living, we enjoy other things as Americans, like our civil liberties, as the writer mentioned. I’m glad to live in a country that allows us to express our thoughts openly. We can even criticize the government if we don’t like what it’s doing without suffering retribution or efforts to silence our voices through fear and intimidation. We don’t persecute others for disagreeing with us or try to force them to live or think a certain way, unlike the Taliban or the Baath party in Iraq.

Unlike those countries, in the United States the voices of individuals are valued. In the United States a person is judged by what he does, not by who his father is. That’s the American way of life. I think it’s worth fighting for, and Iraqi families should have it if they wish.

I can tie a yellow ribbon, wave a flag, hold a sign or wear an Old Glory lapel for the writer if she likes. But I think the writer and her brothers and sisters in arms are doing what they’re doing for something higher than that. I thank the writer for her service to our country. I’m rooting for her and other servicemembers. I wish them success and want them back home with their families safe and happy as soon as possible.

Sean PatrickFrankfurt, Germany

Anti-American rhetoric

Since the war in Iraq began, I’ve been disconcerted with most of the anti-American rhetoric in much of the European media, especially among former allies. These are countries in which the U.S. has poured billions since World War II. The European media has also given a lot of attention to anti-American demonstrations. They’ve featured communist red flags, U.S. flag burning and hyper-emotionalism minus rational thought. The demonstrations, excluding well-intentioned marchers, give me the impression that they’re often a cover for Maoists, Stalinists, Leninists, free-love advocates, anarchists and fanatics. They come out of the woodwork to spread their hate-America campaign.

During all these so-called “peaceful” protests (which have at times turned violent), I haven’t seen one banner against Saddam Hussein. This made me see the hypocrisy of some of these demonstrations, which at times have become one big hate festival. Yet many of these demonstrators would file lawsuits if hatred were vented against one of their groups.

Who orchestrates these protest marches with such precision and timing? And who makes the rules to not offend anyone except Americans? The result of these hate-filled marches is that the number Americans supporting President Bush has jumped to nearly 70 percent. Americans also are canceling European vacations and boycotting European exports. Hate is counterproductive.

Economically, the present crisis has made Americans reassess their role in the world and made them realize where they truly stand. Millions of dollars have been wasted on the United Nations. The U.N. also has been accused of promoting abortion, forced sterilization and rape in African countries and elsewhere. Sanctimoniously, U.N. members are against war, but not against killing unborn children.

President Bush was correct in saying, “We do not need anyone’s permission to defend our country.” Certain members of the U.N. want to weaken America and rule as a one-world government, claiming dominion over the United States. The constant threat of veto among Security Council members is weakening the U.N. Too often the U.S. is stabbed in the back by so-called “allies.”

European media critics are “disturbed” by President Bush’s belief in God. But it’s hard to see any European leaders who adhere to any belief in God, much less Judeo-Christian values. When this belief is abandoned, there’s a void, and it’s replaced by a socialistic state, hedonism and subjectivism.

In Europe, the media is much more controlled by governments than in the United States. So it’s easier to indoctrinate people with anti-American rhetoric. I think demonstrators would better achieve their purpose of world peace by cleaning out the cobwebs, filling up their empty European churches, and returning to the faith and belief in almighty God that they once had centuries ago.

Jean-Paul PoninskiChievres, Belgium

April 8

Actors against war

I’ve been troubled by actors who’ve come out against America’s war plans and actions in Iraq, but I haven’t been able to put it into words. After thinking about it, I’m finally able to express my thoughts and the depth of hypocrisy I feel.

Actors such as Charlie Sheen, Kim Basinger and Matt Damon have come out publicly against the war. They’re representatives of a powerful entertainment industry. This industry is the same one that, according to A.C. Nielson Co., brings an average of 26 violent acts per hour into our homes each day for entertainment.

So we have corporate representatives (artists) providing the American public with 624 violent acts per day for entertainment standing up in public to condemn the U.S. for conducting a war to free an oppressed people. The cost of the war after two weeks was 46 American dead and 600 Iraqi civilians killed. This is about the same as the daily ration of violence that the entertainment industry willingly projects into our homes.

The differences between the images of the war and those in movies and television shows are indeed stunning. We watch war footage that shows explosions from bombs dropping, bullets and artillery firing and distant explosions. Occasionally we’re shown the horrific results of these deadly weapons. If we change to an entertainment program, we get to see the impact of these events and the “thrill of the kill.” Movies and television place prime importance on the point of impact, so viewers get to see bullets strike victims, dismemberment, blunt trauma and rapes. Comparing the two, war footage is gripping but much cleaner and less traumatizing than TV and movie images.

Two other significant differences exist. Take the annual salaries of the 46 American servicemembers who gave their lives in the Iraq war and add them all together, and it would not come close to being equal to the annual salary of one of these Hollywood hypocrites. What makes this worse is that the young adults in Iraq would, no doubt, rather not go to war. Actors, producers and the media, by in large, seek out opportunities to proliferate violence for a profit.

This isn’t fair. How about the thousands of Iraqi soldiers being killed? According to a 1996 American Medical Association article, “Facts about media violence,” the average child will witness 16,000 murders by age 18. Given an average class size of 30 students, if the overall death toll in Iraq reaches 480,000, the war will have killed as many people as an average school class will see before reaching adulthood.

I sincerely recommend that TV and movie actors first clean up their own shops and then take on other less violent situations like war. That’s what bothers me about actors speaking out against this war.

Jim KottkampAlexandria, Va.

Fathers and German courts

Over the past month or so I’ve seen two letters about fathers who are having trouble seeing their children. I, too, find myself in the same predicament. Why do the German courts hate fathers?

I have a similar problem like those mentioned in the letters. It’s very frustrating to be considered insignificant in the development and life of a child. There appears to be an assumption within the German court system that, no matter what, a child is better off being raised by his or her mother. All that matters is whether or not the mother is competent enough to raise the child. I’m not saying that I agree or disagree with that logic. But to make very important court decisions based on that premise, which effects the lives of children, is wrong.

It is also assumed in the German court system that men are always the aggressors, and that if a mother claims that a father has done something to or against her, then it must be true.

I’ve been successfully kept from seeing my son for almost one and a half years. The last picture I have of my son is when he was six months old. My son turned two the first week of March. Over the last year and a half I’ve repeatedly asked for a new photo. But his mother has refused and the courts will not force her to give me one.

The German courts also don’t seem willing to let me see my son. The entire legal process concerning visitation rights is slow and anti-father. Since seeing the previous letters, I’ve found several other individuals with similar problems.

This letter is not just the ravings of a distraught and disgruntled father. It’s a cry out for help. The military will not or cannot help us. The U.S. embassy cannot help us and the German courts are against us. It’s sad to think that our commanders and government officials are so powerless that they can’t assist us at all.

David JensenRamstein Air Base, Germany

Peter Arnett, repeat offender

When I first saw that NBC/National Geographic Explorer had hired tainted — but for some reason still respected — journalist Peter Arnett, I was very skeptical. Now, following his treasonous interview on Iraqi TV, my skepticism is vindicated. While Mr. Arnett may be an award-winning journalist, it’s clear that he’s repeatedly crossed the line from “reporting” to “creating” news. Moreover, he’s not an expert on warfare, military tactics or military planning. He’s only been portrayed as such by himself and his employers. In doing this interview, Mr. Arnett again attempted to create news, jeopardizing the lives of U.S. and other coalition servicemembers.

As far as I can discern, Mr. Arnett has never participated in any training that would enable him to assume the mantle of “military expert,” and he’s never been requested as an “expert” by any military organization. Even MSNBC’s biography said that Arnett’s chief qualification is that “he was in the right place at the right time when the Gulf War began.”

In the Iraqi TV interview, Arnett said: “The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another war plan. Clearly, the American war planners misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces.” Mr. Arnett also went to great pains to point out that the U.S. merely claims that civilians killed in an explosion at a downtown Baghdad market were the victims of Iraqi missiles, while Iraq had said the missiles were definitely incoming coalition fire. This sounds exactly like it was written by the Iraqi Information Ministry. I can’t believe that any Western journalist, except perhaps Mr. Arnett, would ever state such a thing of his own free will on the enemy’s state-run television.

I remind readers that Mr. Arnett was forced to resign from his previous position at CNN. The reason was a June 15, 1998, CNN/Time story that accused the U.S. military of using nerve gas on its own soldiers. On July 2, 1998, CNN issued a retraction, which stated in part: “CNN’s system of journalistic checks and balances, which has served CNN exceptionally well in the past, failed in this case. The fault lies with the editors, producers, reporters and executives responsible for the report, the program and its contents. We are taking vigorous steps to strengthen our internal procedures to assure that mistakes of this type do not occur in the future.”

Readers should be aware of Mr. Arnett’s record of manipulation. NBC should be ashamed of Mr. Arnett, and NBC’s owners, executives and editors should be ashamed of themselves for allowing the interview. (Mr. Arnett was fired by NBC and National Geographic Explorer and then hired by Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper.)

Maj. Marc R. RobinsonSHAPE, Belgium

April 9

Anti-war protesters

We’ve all been listening to anti-war protesters expressing their right to freedom of speech. I also want to take advantage of this right, which my husband and so many other soldiers fight so hard to defend every day.

I’m so sick of hearing protests against the war in Iraq and against President Bush. Where were the protesters on Sept. 11? Were they standing on the streets protesting Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden? All of them are so high and mighty to protest against our government, our president, our soldiers and the decision to go to war. But not one of them are any less eager to take advantage of their God-given right to freedom that our soldiers fight for every day so these selfish people can protest against the war and our president.

If Iraqis even tried to protest against their government, they’d be killed or tortured to death. Protesters talk about peace. Don’t they think the Iraqi people deserve peace as much as Americans do? How can protesters be so selfish and just sit back in their own little corner of the world while others can’t even wake up with peace of mind every day like we Americans can?

Every day we hear about some actor, musician or civilian protesting the war or, even worse, being ashamed of our president. What’s wrong with these people? Don’t they know the enemy feeds off their ignorance? Yes, they’re entitled to their opinions. And as an American, I’m also entitled to mine. I’m so ashamed of the lack of support from a lot of these people. They need to take a step back and look around. They need to be grateful for where they live and what our country has provided for them. If it weren’t for our hard-working soldiers, they wouldn’t be safe or carefree.

Our president wants for Iraq what we Americans have. Don’t these protesters see that? I’m so ashamed. But I’m not ashamed of my country or my president. I’m ashamed of something I have in common with the protesters — our ability to be free. It’s freedom which the protesters are all too eager to take advantage of.

I love my country and my soldiers. Before the war, well more than half of Americans were against it. Now that we’re in Iraq and making a difference, 70 percent of Americans are supporting our country. But I guess that’s their right — the right to change their minds whenever they want. Maybe now that they realize how lucky they are to live in the greatest country in the world, they can stop being so two-faced and confused. These people need to realize that having freedom is the greatest feeling anyone can ever have.

The protesters are so close-minded. Thousands of Americans died on Sept. 11, 2001. American soldiers have been held captive by Saddam and his thugs. They were beaten and tortured while defending protesters’ naive backsides! They should open their eyes! Our people are there now!

Amanda MunseyVilseck, Germany

Protesters

I’m glad that all the young Germans I see blocking the gates at many of our U.S. installations enjoy the right to voice their opinions the same as we do in the United States. I notice that all their signs say “NO WAR, STOP WAR,” etc., etc. A noble cause, I suppose. I saw a picture in Stars and Stripes that read, “Yankee Go Home.” I think that one was in Italy. Fair enough. It seems as though the Italians enjoy a little free speech as well.

Oh yeah, let’s not forget the French, who sold Saddam Hussein his first and last nuclear reactor. Why didn’t these peace advocates protest that? I wonder if they would have such freedom of speech if the United States had not entered World War II. And I wonder what it must be like to live in a country in which a person may have his tongue cut out if he criticizes the dictator who runs it.

Sgt. Ronnie J. GrayMannheim, Germany

Apache story appreciated

I thank Stars and Stripes for the story “Germany-based Apaches fired upon near Baghdad” (April 3). One of the pilots of the Illesheim-based Apaches mentioned in the article is our son-in-law, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tim McCray. We were so happy to read that even though his Apache had been struck, the crew made it home safely. If anyone could make it back in an adverse situation, we knew Tim could. God bless our military and reporters. We’re praying for all of them!

Karen BurrusSebring, Fla.

Anti-American talk upsetting

Since the war in Iraq began, I’ve been disconcerted with most of the anti-American rhetoric in much of the European media, especially among former allies. These are countries into which the United States has poured billions since World War II. The European media have also given a lot of attention to anti-American demonstrations. They’ve featured communist red flags, burning U.S. flags and hyper-emotionalism minus rational thought. The demonstrations, excluding well-intentioned marchers, give me the impression that they’re often a cover for Maoists, Stalinists, Leninists, free-love advocates, anarchists and fanatics. They come out of the woodwork to spread their hate-America campaign.

During all these so-called “peaceful” protests (which have, at times, turned violent), I haven’t seen one banner against Saddam Hussein. This made me see the hypocrisy of some of these demonstrations, which, at times, have become one big hate festival. Yet many of these demonstrators would file lawsuits if hatred were vented against one of their groups.

Who orchestrates these protest marches with such precision and timing? And who makes the rules to not offend anyone except Americans? The result of these hate-filled marches is that the number of Americans supporting President Bush has jumped to nearly 70 percent. Americans also are canceling European vacations and boycotting European exports. Hate is counterproductive.

Economically, the present crisis has made Americans reassess their role in the world and made them realize where they truly stand. Millions of dollars have been wasted on the United Nations. The U.N. also has been accused of promoting abortion, forced sterilization and rape in African countries and elsewhere. Sanctimoniously, U.N. members are against war, but not against killing unborn children.

President Bush was correct in saying, “We do not need anyone’s permission to defend our country.” Certain members of the U.N. want to weaken America and rule as a one-world government, claiming dominion over the United States. The constant threat of veto among Security Council members is weakening the U.N. Too often the United States is stabbed in the back by so-called “allies.”

European media critics are “disturbed” by President Bush’s belief in God. But it’s hard to see any European leaders who adhere to any belief in God, much less Judeo-Christian values. When this belief is abandoned, there’s a void, and it’s replaced by a socialistic state, hedonism and subjectivism.

In Europe, the media are much more controlled by governments than in the United States, so it’s easier to indoctrinate people with anti-American rhetoric. I think demonstrators would better achieve their purpose of world peace by cleaning out the cobwebs, filling up their empty European churches, and returning to the faith and belief in almighty God that they once had centuries ago.

Jean-Paul PoninskiChievres, Belgium

Boycott could backfire

Americans should think twice before they boycott German and French products. It could backfire and cost American businesses considerable losses because these countries could return the favor and boycott American goods. Considering the state of our economy, it doesn’t appear to be a wise move for anyone.

Not all Germans or French people feel their governments have taken the right path. Recently I was at a wine tasting in France. When I asked to taste a particular wine, the woman helping me asked if I was an American. When I said yes, she said, “I’m French and I’m sorry and ashamed.” I asked her if she felt the French should have joined the United States in the war against Iraq. She said yes. Stars and Stripes has published similar letters from Germans.

My experiences in both Germany and France have been that the people of those countries have mostly warm and friendly feelings toward Americans. We must be able to separate the people from their governments.

Leonard FrankKaiserslautern, Germany

April 10

Political affiliations

I’m writing in response to the letter “Prayers for troops” (April 5). The line, “There’s a name for those people: Democrats” bothered me a bit. Well, more than a bit. My husband, an Air Force retiree, has had to listen to how much it bothered me since the letter appeared. His ears fell off, so I’m writing this letter.

My brother is missing a knee. He lost it during his second tour in Vietnam. My uncle is fighting colon cancer, possibly related to his repeated exposure to Agent Orange during his four tours in Vietnam. He’s also a World War II and Korean War veteran. Both are retired U.S. Marines.

My dad is deceased. He suffered from diabetes and oat cell cancer, possibly from his exposure to radiation and Agent Orange. He pulled two tours of duty in Vietnam and retired after 26 years in the Air Force. (He went in when it was the U.S. Army Air Corp.) Upon retirement from the Air Force, my dad became a veterans’ representative for Veterans Affairs. He fought for the rights of those who served their country in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War and the first Gulf War.

They are and were Democrats. They would and did put their lives on the line for the letter writer’s right to be a Republican.

I was home in Texas last summer to visit with other Democrats (mostly “Yellow Dog” Democrats) and some Republicans. Why, heck, I even know some libertarians. I usually call all of them family and friends. It was an America where more than one political party is allowed. I’m hoping it’s still allowed when I go home to visit this June, too.

My prayers are with the troops and their families — whatever their political affiliations might be.

Marsha Rainbolt ViltHockenheim, Germany

Official photo problem

I recently had a problem with my official photo on the Department of the Army Photo Management Information System Web site.

In December 2002, I had my photo taken at the Roman Hill photo lab. The photographer did an excellent job and processed the photo properly. An electronic version was sent to DAPMIS and a hard copy was sent to the Personnel Services Battalion. I was able to review and approve my photo online at DAPMIS within three or four hours. I had no previous photo in the DAPMIS system.

Thinking everything was OK, I didn’t bother to check my photo again until last weekend. Much to my chagrin, my photo that was taken and approved in December 2002, with my current rank insignia was replaced by a scanned copy of my official photo. It was taken in April 1998, with a staff sergeant rank. A check of my Personnel Data Snapshot in the Interactive Web Response System reflects Dec. 12, 2002, as the date of my last official photo, not April 1998. I don’t know why this was done. But I may not be the only one.

According to the Current Year-2003 Message Board Announcement, paragraph 13, “EREC (Enlisted Records and Evaluation Center) will conduct a test of the automated selection board system and online promotion file review as a part of this board with a select portion of those eligible for consideration.” So I can only guess that my record was one of those included in this “test,” and I’m sure there are others.

It’s well known that having a current photo is important for a promotion board. According to the EREC Web site, it’s recommended that a photo not be more than one year old and must be in the current grade. A picture tells more than a thousand words, and although an official photograph is not the sole basis for selection (or lack thereof), it does carry a lot of weight.

Unfortunately, Army Regulation 600-8-19 section 4-14 h.(6) says outdated photographs are not grounds for consideration by a Standby Advisory Board.

Sgt. 1st Class Thomas B. AlbasiniWürzburg, Germany

Police stop on autobahn

On a recent evening, I was driving on Autobahn 73. I had just passed the city limits of Erlangen. I was traveling behind a dark-colored van. The van moved to the left lane, and so did I. We both passed a German police vehicle. I remained in the left lane while the van in front of me speeded up. I maintained my speed because I did not want to get stopped for speeding. The police vehicle moved into the left lane behind me. I maintained my speed. The police vehicle then pulled closer behind me before flashing its high beam lights. I moved to allow the police vehicle to pass. It passed me but then turned on a sign and lights for me to stop. I pulled off to the side, but the officers motioned for me to follow them to a rest area, which I did.

The police vehicle’s driver got out with his hand on his weapon and told me to turn off my vehicle. His partner opened my vehicle’s left front passenger door. He also had his hand on his weapon. He shined his flashlight in my vehicle.

The officers then went back to their vehicle. When they returned they asked me to get out of my vehicle and had me take a Breathalyzer. It was negative. I was then told that I could go.

I then asked for the officers’ names. The driver said I could have their names, but that I couldn’t say they stopped me because I’m black, because that wasn’t the reason. So I asked them why they stopped me. Was it because I’m an American? I wasn’t driving erratically, and there weren’t any defects on my vehicle.

The driver of the police vehicle hesitated. Then he said, “Mr. Richardson, your government, your Pentagon, sent our authorities a message saying that 78 percent of all Americans and soldiers do some type of drugs — marijuana, hash — or they drink and drive.” It seemed as if the driver of the police vehicle was trying to justify his actions.

I don’t know if what the officer said is true or not. If it is, then all Americans have been placed in the ugly arms of harassment. All motorists — Americans and Germans alike — should be treated in the same respectful manner while traveling the highways of Germany or anywhere else in Europe.

Charlie RichardsonBamberg, Germany

Story headline

I must take exception to the headline “Non-combat soldier is tops in AUSA contest” (April 7). The story was about Spc. Justin Brown, the Association of the United States Army’s Soldier of the Year for 2002. As evidenced by the events of the past weeks, all U.S. Army soldiers are combat soldiers, even if their occupational specialties are not in the combat arms arena.

Although the distinction was made in the body of the article, the headline was completely inaccurate, as well as what was listed as Spc. Brown’s unit. Spc. Brown is assigned to the Wiesbaden Detachment of 95th Maintenance Company (TMDE) in Germany. To my knowledge, there is no “Company D, 95th Maintenance Battalion” assigned to the 1st Armored Division.

Considering Spc. Brown’s accomplishments, he deserved a much more accurate article. As his detachment’s noncommissioned officer in charge, I contend that he, as well as all the soldiers of this small unit, are combat soldiers.

Sgt. 1st Class Ricky SoileauWiesbaden, Germany

Salute from veterans

An open letter to the women and men of Operation Iraqi Freedom from the Veterans of Three Wars Association’s board of directors:

We, individually and as a group, extend our heartfelt gratitude for your service and your sacrifices.

We accept you, our comrades in arms, as equals, and acknowledge that your professionalism exceeds what was ours.

With full confidence that you will get the job done soon, we pray for everyone’s safe return.

We, the veterans of three wars (World War II, Korea and Vietnam), salute you.

Frank DurbinHalf Moon Bay, Calif.

April 11

Nature of support

U.S. polls recently showed that Americans support the soldiers in Iraq. I want to thank Americans for their support. But do Americans support us troops personally, or do they support our purpose? Clarity seems lacking. It’s not enough for me to know that the people back home support me. I also want to know that my cause here in Kuwait is needed, necessary and just.

People aren’t meant to be held under an oppressive government. They should be free to pursue all that is good and virtuous, to live free without fear from their government. We Americans have enjoyed the liberties that our independence purchased for us in 1776, and we’ve been faithful stewards of that liberty. What about Iraq? Can we find a clear moral vision for our mission in Iraq? And how do we answer those who ask us why we’re there?

One only has to visit the CIA’s official Web site to read of Iraq’s confirmed uses of VX, mustard gas and other agents against Iranians and its own citizens, especially the Kurds. Tens of thousands have been killed. On the Web there is a picture of dead children lying in the streets after being gassed by Saddam’s government.

Do we owe it to the people of Iraq to free them from this oppression? No more than we owed the Jews of the 1940s, and no more than the Northern states owed the slaves of the South in the 1860s. Life and liberty are never to be taken for granted and are always to be cherished and defended.

As a Christian, I’m also concerned about the religious issues surrounding war. Many assume that a godly person would never want war under any circumstances and that God must prohibit war outright. But in fact, God commands his people to go into battle on numerous occasions in the Scriptures. A commonly known verse of Scripture that sums up the Ten Commandments is, “You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If I love God with all of my heart, mind and soul, then I love all that he loves and hate what he hates. I hate injustice. I hate murder against innocents. Instead, I love compassion, freedom from fear, and righteousness.

Why is the United States in Iraq? As Americans, we’ve been given the greatest gifts available to man: security, opportunity and freedom. These gifts aren’t ours to own. We have a calling before God and man to reach out and show mercy and compassion to anyone who is oppressed and afflicted and to liberate them from their oppressors. This is what it means to be an American. This is what it means to be free.

Chaplain Michael CannonCamp Arifjan, Kuwait

American dads in Germany

Recently I read another letter pertaining to American fathers having problems with the German courts in regard to their children. I was in the same situation, so I went to the German Jungenamt (children’s office). I was not going to let the German court system stop me from seeing my children, as described in the other letters I read. It sounded like those writers stopped fighting to see their children.

I suggest that all fathers with this problem in the past or in the future stop by their local Jungenamt for assistance. It’s a long battle. But if they love their children as much as I love mine, then they shouldn’t stop.

We have no support here. It takes all of us to get together and complain to the German legal system, because 90 percent of the time the mothers get custody. I suggest that all of these fathers do their homework.

Santo AlvaradoKaiserslautern, Germany

Protesters display ignorance

We’ve all been listening to anti-war protesters expressing their right to freedom of speech. I also want to take advantage of this right, which my husband and so many other soldiers fight so hard to defend every day.

I’m so sick of hearing protests against the war in Iraq and against President Bush. Where were the protesters on Sept. 11? Were they standing on the streets protesting Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden? All of them are so high and mighty to protest against our government, our president, our soldiers and the decision to go to war. But not one of them is any less eager to take advantage of his or her God-given right to freedom that our soldiers fight for every day so these selfish people can protest against the war and our president.

If Iraqis even tried to protest against their government, they’d be killed — or tortured, then killed. Protesters talk about peace. Don’t they think the Iraqi people deserve peace as much as Americans do? How can protesters be so selfish and just sit back in their own little corner of the world while others can’t even wake up with peace of mind every day like we Americans can?

Every day we hear about some actor, musician or civilian protesting the war or, even worse, being ashamed of our president. What’s wrong with these people? Don’t they know the enemy feeds off their ignorance? Yes, they’re entitled to their opinions. And as an American, I’m also entitled to mine. I’m so ashamed of the lack of support from a lot of these people. They need to take a step back and look around. They need to be grateful for where they live and what our country has provided for them. If it weren’t for our hard-working soldiers, they wouldn’t be safe or carefree.

Our president wants for Iraq what we Americans have. Don’t these protesters see that? I’m so ashamed. But I’m not ashamed of my country or my president. I’m ashamed of something I have in common with the protesters — our ability to be free. It’s freedom that the protesters are all too eager to take advantage of.

I love my country and my soldiers. Before the war, well more than half of Americans were against it. Now that we’re in Iraq and making a difference, 70 percent of Americans are supporting our country. But I guess that’s their right — the right to change their minds whenever they want. Maybe now that they realize how lucky they are to live in the greatest country in the world, they can stop being so two-faced and confused. These people need to realize that having freedom is the greatest feeling anyone can ever have.

The protesters are so close-minded. Thousands of Americans died on Sept. 11, 2001. American soldiers have been held captive by Saddam and his thugs. They were beaten and tortured while defending protesters’ naive backsides. They should open their eyes. Our people are there now.

Amanda MunseyVilseck, Germany

April 12

Battle streamers

They are thin strips of simple cloth, brightly colored, and each has an embroidered name. A casual observer could mistake the meaning of these cloth strips as mere place names in the paths of great battles. American battle streamers do symbolize battles, but battles fought in the cause of freedom and justice.

Two of our American formations that will add battle streamers stand out, especially to a person whose father worked with one and who personally served in another. These are the First Marine Division and the Third Infantry Division.

Among the places on Marine streamers are Guadalcanal, Peleliu, and the Chosin. On battlefields ranging from steaming jungles to Arctic frost, the First Marine Division distinguished itself in combat. Readers who are Marines will know the names “Manila John” Basilone, “Red Mike” Edson, and Chesty Puller. The actions on the Tenaru, Bloody Nose Ridge, and at the Reservoir earned for the Division the right to hang those streamers on their battle flags. These Marines helped save a troubled world from subjugation by tyrants.

When another world power sought, in a last desperate attack, to break and subjugate its neighbor, it sent its army to attack toward a river called the Marne. The Third Infantry Division got there first. The Third Infantry Division would not be moved or defeated. Anyone who is a Marneman knows that action is why our Division is called the “Rock of the Marne.”

A quarter of a century later, our Division was back in Europe, fighting the forces of an evil dictator. A Marneman will remember the name Audie Murphy, a Texas sharecropper’s son who was awarded every combat decoration the United States can bestow. A Marneman will also remember the sons and daughters of an entire generation of Americans who, as part of the Marne Division, stood in front of the Fulda Gap and told another series of dictators, “No entry.” The Marne Division has streamers for all these actions, and like the Marines, the streamers mean that America’s best have given all.

In the past three weeks, The First Marine Division and the Third Infantry Division have once again helped defeat the forces of evil. They will be able to add streamers with the names of Basra and Baghdad. They have helped a subjugated people return to freedom’s road. Their brave deeds are bringing justice to a country that has for a generation only known oppression and fear.

When soldiers and Marines salute their battle flags, they should know that all the responsible citizens of the world understand and applaud that their battle streamers do mean freedom and justice.

Dave TheisGen. H.H. Arnold High SchoolWiesbaden, Germany

Editorial cartoon

I really object to the idea presented in an April 5 editorial cartoon. It portrayed a “suit” intended to look like Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld skating toward Baghdad on two tanks.

Secretary Rumsfeld isn’t in Iraq. He isn’t in uniform. He isn’t in the war. He can’t drive a tank. He’s not in the fight. He’s not risking his life. He’s not a soldier. We see enough of these Pentagon “suits” being called “leaders” on AFN’s one- and two-minute replacements for commercials. To suggest that they are in the battle for Iraq and being brave at the front is an affront to those who are.

Robert D. DolemanLandstuhl, Germany

In our thoughts

I live in the United States. I have a brother-in-law in the U.S. Army and a few friends too. My son was in the Marines and he has many friends overseas fighting for the U.S. This war hits home for me. I watch the news often to keep up.

I want to send my prayers and love to our military. God bless all the men and women who are putting their lives on the line for the United States. All of them are in our thoughts every minute of the day. My heart goes out to those who lost their lives and families, and also to our prisoners of war and those missing in action. Our heros will never be forgotten, nor will the wives, husbands and children who have family members overseas.

Linda AustinReisterstown, Maryland

Tank death story

I read with interest the story “Procedures, gear cited in Grafenwöhr death” (April 8). It’s a great tragedy that a soldier died because his tank couldn’t be recovered from that hole.

I’m in Grafenwöhr, Germany, as part of the team that fielded those tanks to 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment. Our team has also been responsible for fielding the other vehicle in the article, the M88A2 Hercules recovery vehicle in the U.S. I’m retired from the U.S. Army and served as a recovery team chief many times.

In almost any unit, the M88A1 is the most neglected piece of equipment in the motor pool. The mechanics spend so much time working on M1A1 tanks and M2A2 Bradleys that they’re rarely left time to work on their own vehicle, the M88A1. It usually gets worked on sitting on the side of the road, broken down.

But even the most well-maintained recovery vehicle is useless without a crew that knows how to use it properly. I wasn’t at the recovery action in the story, but I did see some pictures of it. I was astounded. The M88A1 were not properly set up (spades down and locked back) to hold themselves during such a recovery effort. There were personnel within the danger zone of the live lines (cables under tension) during the recovery operation. If a cable or some other part of the recovery gear had given way, these personnel could have been killed or injured. And although the M88A1 has a main winch capable of 45 tons of straight line pull (90 tons with a 2-to-1 ratio), this is only possible with one layer of cable left on the winch drum. With each successive layer of cable, the winch capacity is reduced as the diameter of the winch drum grows.

The M88A1s involved in the recovery effort appeared to be too close to the tank being recovered. As their winches were rigged for a 2-to-1 ratio, they would have had approximately 60 feet of the 100 feet of main winch cable extended. This would have left approximately 40 feet left wrapped around the drum (at least two layers of cable). As such, I seriously doubt that the main winches were exerting their full pulling force.

The technical manual recommends leaving about five wraps of cable on the bare drum to achieve the maximum amount of recovery effort (45 tons of winch pull) from the main winch. At a 2-to-1 ratio, that equals 90 tons of pull from one M88A1. There were at least two M88A1s rigged to recover the tank in the pictures I saw. At full winch force, they should have been able to exert 180 tons of recovery effort, at least for a short period. The tank was mired at least at turret depth, which would make the recovery resistance three times the vehicle weight of 68 tons (204 tons).

The recovery resistance (204 tons) was more that the available force (180 tons). So there was probably little more that they could do. There are a lot of “what if’s” that will probably never be answered and will not bring the soldier back anyway.

The bottom line is that we don’t train our recovery vehicle operators well enough for them to react to a situation properly.

Thomas LangstonSite ChiefMateriel Fielding Team Europe


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