February 23

Sad Farewell

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

February 23 Sad farewell Boycott Germany France’s role No guards European oil Inaccurate picture painted Honesty is a relative term Writer didn’t do his homework New travel policy impracticalFebruary 24 ‘Support the Troops’ rallies DODDS’ high quality Wake up and smell coffee Proactive measures Right relationship needed … … but readiness is important Support for troops there … … despite anti-war protests Understanding is elementaryFebruary 25 Schroeder speaks for himself Troops strong, courageous Picture not injustice Project Bold great experience Only speculation Schooled on TV’s inventor News is best public service New vehicles for old venom Rumsfeld should apologize Wives work through worriesFebruary 26 Comments disrespectful Smoking policy Thanks for stories Go home Military might is required France, Germany steer EU Flinn’s offenses were worseFebruary 27 Germans anti-war Germans, government differ Turkey visa prices Not afraid to offer support France preparing to helpFebruary 28 Stay positive Investment prevents wars Do the best we can Oil and revengeMarch 1 Sportsmanship Be strong Troops strong, courageous

A child cried as he clung to his father’s leg. The father, a soldier, was saying goodbye to his family. The mother, a wife, watched as her child and her husband said their goodbyes. Eyes that held unshed tears held tightly to the memory that she was now videotaping. The little boy wore his daddy’s beret and the father held him tightly. He kissed his wife goodbye and boarded a bus headed for the airport. The passengers all began their voyage to the Middle East.

My name is Lorena Lopez, and I’m a military spouse. We’ve been in the Army now for almost six years, and my husband is in a nondeployable unit in Hohenfels, Germany. He’s a combat photographer. This is our first tour overseas. This is where I’ve learned how to be a good military spouse. I’ve learned to accept my husband’s job and to cope with the long hours when he’s gone. I’ve never dealt with war, nor have I ever had to say goodbye. As I watched the soldiers say their farewells, I cried. I cried for the families and I cried for the soldiers.

I never thought that there would be a war that my husband might have to be in. As soldiers, they know that one day they may have to fight, and the time has now arrived. It’s beyond belief the courage that these men and women must have to face the fears of war every day while they’re gone. Yet it’s not only the soldiers who are courageous. The families they leave behind hold together and go on every day waiting for their soldiers to come home.

I’m writing to thank these soldiers for protecting not only their families but mine as well. I tip my hat to the spouses who are at home. My heart and appreciation go out to everyone. My heartfelt respect and thanks also go to all the soldiers and family members who watched the buses pull away on Feb. 11.

I watched as Lt. Col. Cowan saluted the 94th Engineers as each bus drove away. It made me feel proud that we’re all part of this family and that we’re all here for one another. Someone once told me that a team wins when its members all work together, and I know deep down in my heart that this team is strong. This team will win no matter what hardships or knocks it takes. We will succeed and we will be victorious. The soldiers and families should hang in there and be strong. May God bless and protect them all.

Lorena LopezHohenfels, Germany

Boycott Germany

After Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush announced to the world, “Either you’re with us or you’re against us.” Well, it appears that Germany has decided it’s against us. The German government has recently proclaimed that it will not support a possible U.S. war against Iraq.

The goal is to discredit President Bush regardless of the principle of the matter. Unfortunately, German citizens don’t get both sides of the story. All they know is what they’re spoon-fed by the German media. German citizens are being systematically brainwashed. If readers don’t believe me, they should just go talk to some of them. It’s quite entertaining, yet mind-boggling. Now they’re parading around the country on weekends with their anti-Bush banners.

The root of all this anti-Americanism is the extreme left-wing leadership in Germany, which despises Bush only because he’s a right-wing capitalist. Bush is a huge threat to their socialist agenda. This is not about a war in Iraq, or weapons of mass destruction, or U.N. inspectors. It’s all about right vs. left. Or should I say right vs. wrong. If Bill Clinton or Al Gore were president right now, the Germans wouldn’t be behaving this way. The only reason we’re having to deal with this issue now is because Clinton and the United Nations ignored it for eight years and through 16 nonbacked U.N. resolutions.

Thank God we’ve got Bush in the White House now. He’s going to fix this problem once and for all with the 17th and final U.N. resolution. We’re going to sweep across Iraq with 180,000 of the most highly-trained “weapons inspectors” the United Nations has ever seen. We’ll find all the illegal weapons of mass destruction caches, and within a few days we’ll be marching through downtown Baghdad drowning in the cheers of the liberated Iraqi people.

After everything we’ve done for the Germans in the past 60 years, this is the thanks we get. We defeated Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, and then rebuilt postwar Germany. We stood on the front line of the Cold War for more than 45 years protecting West Germany from a Soviet invasion. Ronald Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” And the Berlin Wall came down. Thanks to Reagan and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, we ended the Cold War for the Germans. Now, after a loyal alliance, this is where we’re at.

So it’s with deep regret that I’ve decided to boycott all things German. No more shopping on the economy. No more eating out in German guest houses. No more weekend trips to the Black Forest, Fairy Tale Road, or Mittenwald for skiing with the kids. And the hardest one of all — no more German beer!

We were the ones who were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. We didn’t ask for this to happen. All we’re asking for is a little support from our so-called European allies.

Eric WhiteheadChief Warrant Officer 2Katterbach Army Airfield, Germany

France's role

This is in answer to the letter “Ship sergeant to France” (Feb. 18). The writer urged that a staff sergeant who got put out of the Army for not wanting to go to Kuwait when his reserve unit got called up should go to France. The writer also contended that the French have “managed to cower out of every conflict to protect freedom.”

I wholly agree that those who have chosen to serve should do as they’ve promised and that we might propose to ship those who don’t off somewhere. It would be some bastion of peace demonstrators where they could join the scores of flag burners decrying any military actions whatsoever ad infinitum, ad nauseam. I’m happy the staff sergeant chose to bug out now and not when I truly might have needed him. Good riddance.

As for those “cowardly” Frenchmen, as recently as January French President Jacques Chirac told his troops to prepare for deployment to the Gulf region. Chirac has also hinted at redirecting French forces currently engaged in the Ivory Coast.

During the Gulf War in 1991, 18,000 French troops, 60 combat aircraft, 120 helicopters, 40 tanks, one missile cruiser, three destroyers and four frigates were involved in Desert Storm. I suppose all of them were apparently there with no other intention but to cower in the face of conflict.

It makes it a lot easier for our allies to join us when we are not disparaging them.

Sgt. Mark NicholsMannheim, Germany

No guards

We’re stationed in Giessen, Germany, and our housing area has no guards at the gate, no roaming guards, nothing. Don’t get me wrong. I’d like to think I don’t live in a world of paranoia. But the U.S. government recently felt it necessary to raise the threat level in the States to high. But here the Marshall and Dulles housing areas go unprotected. Yet we have Pond Security guards along with American soldiers and now sometimes German soldiers guarding our post exchange. I guess all those really nice things AAFES sells are worth protecting.

I called our base security recently and it knew nothing. It couldn’t tell me a thing. In fact, I was asked what I’d heard. Isn’t what I hear on the news enough to be concerned? I’ve heard that officials had information regarding a possible act of terrorism against a military installation in Germany. Does our base security watch the same AFN channels I do?

Like I said, I don’t live a paranoid life. I still go out on the economy. But it sure doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy knowing that anyone and everyone can drive onto our housing areas here in Giessen. I guess we spouses and family members don’t have much value.

I know that all the soldiers who are pulling guard duty (everywhere but here) get bored and sick and tired of it. But I can guarantee those soldiers that all the families they are looking after do appreciate them — even those who complain about having their cars searched. I thank all the men and women who stand out in the elements for us.

Joey LaneGiessen, Germany

European oil

The other day in Stars and Stripes, I noticed a comment by a “right-wing” activist in Austria. He was speaking out against a possible war with Iraq on the grounds that the United States is after Iraqi oil. He got the part about the oil right. But he misrepresented whom this involves.

Both Russia and France have extensive oil contracts with Iraq. Russia and France are concerned that these contracts, designed to take effect once the embargo is lifted, will be invalidated by a new regime propped up by the United States. This may well be true. Of course I question how these “allies” were able to formulate deals with a country under such constraint.

If they’re so concerned about our dealings with Iraq, where is this same rhetoric over North Korea? The United States has continuously stated that the issue of North Korea’s nuclear proliferation must be resolved within the United Nations. These same “allies” disagree and are pushing the issue back at the United States, claiming it’s a matter to be dealt with solely between our two countries.

Why the different position? The reason is obvious. The Korean Peninsula has no oil fields. There is no money to be made by dealing or fighting with North Korea. It’s unprofitable. Europe may desire to be seen as a picture of reason and diplomacy. But it’s shown itself to be a caricature of greed and profit.

Staff Sgt. Christian B. RobertsBamberg, Germany

Inaccurate picture painted

In response to the Feb. 9 letter “No honor or logic in service,” the writer made a few points that I would like to comment on.

His points were servicemembers must be nuts to maintain our undying pledge to serve a country that doesn’t provide for us; how replaceable the Department of Defense feels that we are; and how, while under fire, service to our country is the last thing on our minds.

I have a roof over my head and hot meals when I am hungry.

Everything isn’t five-star in the military, but everything is always good enough, and everything is always improving.

The writer wouldn’t know that, since he is a civilian.

I know our mission is to keep Americans safe and free. I know that in order to do that we must maintain our arsenal of state-of-the-art weapons and weapon systems, so I won’t get to live like a king. Money is spent for the mission first, not for my personal luxury. Military members don’t think of themselves first; we have a sense of duty, a sense of sacrifice. Not everything comes with personal gain.

The writer says we are nuts for not quitting when there isn’t something to gain. Would he also fault the man who risked his life for no reason other than to save a fellow man?

The DOD does not feel we are replaceable. I know this because my re-enlistment bonus is more than most people make in a year — and because of the pay raises, continual improvements on benefits, educational opportunities and better equipment to do our jobs easier, cheaper and more efficiently.

When troops are under fire, they do what they are trained to do — react, fight, survive and kill the enemy. I would not fault someone for doing what he or she is supposed to under fire, and not thinking about the philosophical aspects on why he or she chose to join the military. People like that soon become dead.

I do not fault the writer for having his views. The writer was raised by a draft dodger who spoon-fed him cowardice as intellectualism.

I am in the military. I love it. I joined because I am overcome with pride at the thought that I am a defender of my country and its people and of their rights — even the writer’s right to speak his meaningless banter about my beloved military.

Rob RussoRAF Molesworth, England

Honesty is a relative term

I feel compelled to respond to the somewhat distasteful Feb. 9 letter “No honor or logic in service.” The writer called himself a scholar, but he’s clearly lacking.

The United States has a long anti-militarism tradition, as seen by the significant downsizing of the military after each war. Having a standing military doesn’t mean we embrace militarism, as the writer implied. The draft ended 30 years ago.

The writer also blamed “Uncle Sam” for substandard military housing. If that’s so distasteful to him, he should lobby Congress for more housing money for our soldiers. I bet he hasn’t.

What is “Uncle Sam,” “Uncle Sugar” or the “government”? Is it a single entity or a huge mix of hundreds of politicians? Blame the politicians. But the writer shouldn’t cloud the issue by referring to some nameless entity in the clouds called the “government.”

Since the letter writer is living in Germany, he should remember that it was the U.S. military and its allies that defeated Nazi Germany, which was the true definition of militarism.

When ammunition is headed my direction, I won’t run. Serving his country may mean very little to the writer. Most intellectuals have few coherent thoughts about patriotism. But it means a lot to many men and women. The writer shouldn’t insult my service and that of millions of others by saying we joined to get out of poverty or making light of the reasons we joined. How is it evident to the writer why someone joined to escape his so-called social problems? The writer should thank the government for getting people out of these social problems, not criticize us for it.

It disgusts me too that veterans don’t get their due from the government. But let’s put the blame where it belongs: on Congress for not allocating enough funds to take care of our veterans.

What the writer called honesty, others call cowardice. The writer doesn’t want to feed the government’s propaganda. What makes him think we want to hear his? The writer also called on GIs to drop their weapons and go to jail. Will the writer give them jobs when they get out of jail? Will he house them? Pay for their educations? Or will he show them the contempt he showed the government they work for? The writer talked about honesty, but then called on GIs to break the oath they swore to uphold upon entering the military.

The writer’s insulting of millions of servicemembers was despicable, lowbrow and really unintellectual. His uninformed opinions were from someone who hasn’t worked a real day in his life.

The U.S. military has a long history of humanitarian service that far exceeds any black marks the writer can name. Far from being an intellectual and physical waste, the U.S. military is rich in tradition and deep in honor. It serves a purpose the writer will obviously never understand.

Capt. Son K. LamCamp Doha, Kuwait

Writer didn't do his homework

I’m amazed by the philosophical logic and intellectual conclusions in the Feb. 9 letter “No honor or logic in service.” The actions of the writer’s father seem to be one of the root causes of the writer’s diatribe. But the writer’s father wasn’t the only one to refuse to be drafted.

Yes, it shows the writer’s father was a person of conviction. But votes change government and its direction in our country. Does the writer vote? I was drafted and served during the Vietnam era although I didn’t agree with the war.

The writer also said soldiers “serve a country that does not want to provide for them.” The writer should study history. He’ll see that servicemembers of all nations never expected their governments to provide them a luxurious lifestyle. Uncle Sam has made tremendous strides in trying to provide for soldiers and their families since the 1970s. The military isn’t academia or business. It’s unlike any other profession.

U.S. servicemembers have chosen to be in the military. Military leaders are concerned and try their best to provide for military members and their families. I wonder if civilians ever have the same types of problems with their homes.

The writer, who holds a doctorate, also said: “It is quite evident to me that many servicemembers joined the military to escape economic, racial and social pressures. Also many government civilians stay on the payroll to accumulate high salaries and benefits. I won’t excuse the gouging government contractors who profit from the blood of naive troops.” I’d expect a person who embraces intellectualism not to make such an emotional statement that lacks intellectual research.

First, the writer doesn’t understand those who serve in military or government civilian positions. Thousands serve in the military so they can get educational benefits. Hooray for them. Many join to escape economic, racial and social pressures. Hooray for them. The writer asked those very people to turn their backs on the military, which is providing them the opportunities to escape. That is not an intellectually logical thing for them to do.

The writer also said contractors are gougers who profit from the blood of naive troops. I was one of those naive troops. Has the writer ever been without a hot shower for six or more weeks? Has he lived and worked in mud up to his rear end or lived in a tent during a severe, cold winter? Has he ever had to eat meals from a bag that at best he could get mildly warm during that same long period? I did during the first few months of the Bosnia peacekeeping mission.

Those “gouging” contractors worked in the same terrible conditions to provide for us “naive troops” who were willing to shed our blood to bring peace, hot showers, hot meals and decent working and living conditions to Bosnia. When I took that first hot shower, I said a prayer and thought the contractors deserved every penny they “gouged.”

The letter writer isn’t prepared for class. He should do his homework so he can have an intellectual — rather than an emotional — discussion.

Jesse StacyHeidelberg, Germany

New travel policy impractical

In a global message sent Feb. 4, the assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for transportation policy announced a test program for dependents’ space-available travel within the continental United States.

The message states: “Dependents must travel with their sponsor and will assume their sponsor’s travel priority.”

My first major question, perhaps the most obvious one, is why do they have to have the sponsor? How does that support the DOD mission, to take the sponsor out of his or her duty section, requiring him or her to take leave, for dependents to travel?

This seems counterproductive because it means that if I want my dependents to vacation at the in-laws without me, I have to take leave to get them there, fly both ways, then take leave again for them to come back and fly both ways again. How is this improving my morale?

Additionally, I have to have extra money to fly back commercial (from a place I did not even want to go) in case the Space-A channels cannot get me back before my leave ends.

Since very few people are likely to do this, it seems the “test” program is designed to minimize use by making it as difficult as possible to use.

My second question is, did anyone stop and think about how this is penalizing the families of those who are deployed down range? Certainly if I were not deployed, I would have the option of accompanying my dependents on Space-A travel.

But since I am deployed, this is not even an option. Why, then, would they set up a test program to penalize the families who are already suffering the most?

Since my family is in Germany, where I am stationed, and I am downrange, this would be an outstanding opportunity for them to test this program by going home to the States but, ironically, the test program seems designed to eliminate the possibility of it being used when it would be most useful.

Staff Sgt. Adrian Combe IVRhein-Main Air Base, Frankfurt, Germany

February 24

'Support the troops' rallies

My husband Rod and I are both retired from the Navy, and in recent weeks we’ve been privileged to be part of grass-roots Operation Support the Troops rallies in Washington state. They’ve been held near Camp Murray, McChord Air Force Base, Ft. Lewis, Everett Naval Base, and in Spokane. Another will soon take place in Silverdale.

Others are doing the same thing in various parts of the United States, but they’re not getting the same media attention as the anti-war protesters. So this letter is to tell each and every person serving in the U.S. military that we support them and what they’re doing for our country. I hope they see some positive press soon.

Barbara KagyOlympia, Wash.

DODDS' high quality

After six years in Wiesbaden, Germany, my husband, my two children and I returned to the United States with mixed emotions. We had missed certain aspects of living in the United States, particularly our family and friends. But we appreciated our time spent abroad and returned to the United States with some apprehension.

One concern of utmost importance was transitioning our children from the DODDS system to stateside school systems. Having worked as a guidance counselor, I had confidence in the DODDS system. But the fear and skepticism of so many who I’d come in contact with, both as a parent and a counselor, was somewhat contagious. Had the DODDS curriculum left my children, ages 14 and 9, behind? Were the standards below those of the stateside schools they’d be entering? Would my children have gaps in their skills that would place them at a disadvantage?

I can only speak from my own experience, but the answer to all of these questions is absolutely not. The quality of the formal education my children received in Europe, coupled with the informal education of travel and cultural diversity, prepared my children for the transition and placed them at a distinct advantage.

My middle school daughter was, in some respects, ahead of her peers. She unfortunately was forced to repeat two classes, but was tested and placed directly into all of the honors classes her new school had to offer.

My fourth-grade son had a similar experience. Not only was he prepared for fourth grade, but he, too, has repeated some material he covered in third grade in DODDS. Like his sister, he was also tested and placed in an accelerated program upon entering his new school.

I feel quite confident in saying that the educational experience that my children received in the DODDS system in Wiesbaden was of the utmost quality. I’d like to publicly thank each and every teacher, staff member, volunteer, and administrator who contributed to my children’s education and who continue to touch the lives of so many other children. I salute and thank them for all they do.

Deborah CasperFt. Huachuca, Ariz.

Wake up and smell the coffee

This is in regard to the letter “Drop weapons” (Feb. 7). I don’t always read the letters, but this one caught my eye and turned my vision red.

The writer said a lot of negative things about our military, our country and our soldiers. What’s worse is that the writer expressed his views in a military newspaper. Talk about demoralizing. Undoubtedly the writer, who is a Ph.D., is enjoying a lifestyle protected by those who serve and have served over the last 227 years. He enjoys a comfortable lifestyle — raking in five times the annual income of the average soldier, sailor, Marine or airman — without even thinking about the sacrifices these individuals have made to guarantee his lavish lifestyle. The writer should wake up and smell the coffee! Where does he think his security and peace of mind come from? Why is he able to walk down the street at night without worrying that a mortar round or stray bullet will rip him apart?

I grew up in a small northeast Oregon town with a very religious family of eight. We went to church every week. I’ve been highly disciplined and hard working since I was a young child. I started my adult life with several advantages over a majority of many in society. My parents didn’t make a lot of money, but we were happy. I worked many jobs after high school and even tried college, but I just couldn’t find my niche in life.

Shortly after my 21st birthday, I considered something that I’d earlier refused to consider. I enlisted in the Army to become a soldier and a mechanic. At first it was entirely for my own benefit. I had plans to get out and use my military experience to start a good career in diesel mechanics. In 1999 I got out and tried to pursue that dream.

What did I find out? That civilians are spoiled, overweight, and have no work ethic at all. The ones who complain the most about not making enough money are the same ones who are slacking off instead of working harder in pursuit of a weekly bonus or higher position. But according to the letter writer, I’m an idiot for volunteering to serve my country. Now I’m back in the military and more proud than ever to serve my country. At least as a soldier I know I can trust those I work with.

We all know that we sacrifice a lot more than we’ll ever see in return for our service. Doesn’t the writer realize that this is an all-volunteer military? We chose the military so the writer wouldn’t have to worry about being drafted.

The writer holds his father in high esteem for spending a year in prison because he avoided the draft during the Vietnam War. Maybe the writer and his father should pack their bags and move to Antarctica where they won’t have to worry about fighting for something they don’t believe in. Or better yet, they can sit at home and watch CNN as those who protect the writer and his father give their lives and shed their blood without hesitation while the writer and his father complain about how stupid we servicemembers are.

Sgt. Joseph DavisVicenza, Italy

Proactive measures

I’m writing to commend French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin for his recent statements to the United Nations Security Council. In the story “France firm against war” (Feb. 15), he said, “No one can assert today that the path of war will be shorter than that of the inspections ... for war is always the sanction of failure.” I’m not sure what the French definition of “failure” is, but I know that if I have to take my shoes and socks off to count the number of U.N. resolutions (17 of them) written in regard to Iraq’s weapons and U.N. inspections, then I’d think that would be another United Nations’ failure.

If kids are jumping up and down on the bed, do their parents give them 17 chances before they’re disciplined? No. The kids are taught right from wrong and that there are consequences to their actions. Well, I think Saddam Hussein’s parents may have failed him. But not to worry. If he weathers the storm, Saddam can appear on the “Jerry Springer Show.” He’ll fit right in.

Shame on President Bush. How dare he try to give the United Nations a backbone. Had the United Nations been united, it could have avoided a war. U.N. members publicly opposing U.S. war plans have given Saddam an opportunity to once again defy the world. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks don’t seem to have affected Russia, China, or France, since they’re not targets of a major terrorist organization like al-Qaida.

Nobody wants to send American soldiers to war. But sometimes the leader of a country like Iraq makes it impossible for any other foreseeable solution. We Americans have taken a reactive stance against terrorism for too long. It’s time to take proactive measures against terrorism.

LeRoy R. DeWitt Jr.Giebelstadt, Germany

Right relationship needed ...

I think that it is amazing that the commander in chief of the armed forces, Bill Clinton, could philander and have affairs that were proven and yet not be released of duties, but admirals and high-ranking officers can be disposed of so easily. (“Battle group commander dismissed,” Feb. 15)

However, I think that this is a great decision by the U.S. Navy. As the daughter of a retired admiral, I saw a man who was upstanding and held his head high because his morals and values were intact and strong, and he lived his life and led by example. He continues to do it today. As a leader in the military, you lead by example, you live your life, with eyes on you at all times.

My father has been married to my mother for 32 years; they have a strong relationship and have entertained no outside relationships. This should be the case for all high-ranking military officials, since all eyes are on them.

Sarah E. FrickFairfax Station, Va.

... but readiness is important

It boggles the mind that, on the eve of war, we relieve one of our battle group commanders over something of this nature. We just don’t take war seriously anymore. We will eventually meet up with a worthy opponent, and our mixed-sex military is going to get its head handed to it.

Chris MaloneyNew York

Support for troops there ...

An open letter to U.S. servicemembers:

My name is Randy Limberg and I am writing to let you know that you are not forgotten. You are in my prayers daily and I know how you are feeling. I served in the United States Navy Seabees from 1967 to 1971. I served a tour in Vietnam.

I just wanted you to know that my family and I appreciate you and what you are doing to serve our great country. I know that our military is spread out and there are different areas of operations; my hope is that you are safe and will return to you family ASAP.

May God bless you and please realize that the people back home are supporting you and your fellow servicepeople. Hang tough and take care.

Randall LimbergMaryville, Ill.

... despite anti-war protests

An open letter to U.S. servicemembers:

We will not “go wobbly” on you. The recent protests are of no consequence. You have our love, our support and our prayers. The path is righteous. Stay the course. Our commitment as a nation is being tested to its fullest. Hang in there.

Kevin CoxRaeford, N.C.

Understanding is elementary

I just wanted to share a comment made by my 6-year-old son about the situation of deploying soldiers overseas. When he learned that a family friend is about to be deployed he said: “I don’t like it, but that’s what soldier buddies do.”

That is so true: We don’t always like it, but as Americans we appreciate the sacrifice of our soldiers overseas and on home soil. We would not be the great country we are without them. Even a child realizes that.

Teresa AguilarGreenville, Texas

February 25

Schroeder speaks for himself

My name is Tanja Katharina Taeuber. I’m a 44-year-old German citizen, and I work for the Defense Commissary Agency Europe. I don’t like wars and violence at all, but I absolutely agree with President Bush’s thoughts about fixing the Iraq problem as soon as possible. Ninety-nine percent of all my German friends think the same way. Germany should not lose any more time with sweet-talking. I’m sure Saddam Hussein is smiling about German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s “actions.”

I’m sick and tired of finding out that more and more Americans believe that all Germans are wimps. This is definitely not today’s reality. The fact is, Schroeder speaks for himself and his political goals, not for me and a lot of other German citizens. Many older Germans know why Americans are in Germany. The reason for action is not always “just the oil.”

If readers talk to Germans about Iraq, they’ll find out that Germans have more gumption than they think. I’m not against the Iraqi people at all. But I don’t want to live in fear. It’s a shame what Schroeder’s words and actions are doing to my country. Sad, sad, sad.

Tanja TaeuberKaiserslautern, Germany

Troops strong, courageous

As a military spouse, I’m appalled that anyone associated with the military would express the ignorance in the letters “No support for war” (Jan. 19) and “Leave Iraq alone” (Feb. 3). Soldiers, civilians, contractors, spouses and family members are serving their country and have a duty to be patriotic and supportive of our armed forces, even if they don’t fully agree with the circumstances of the mission.

The writer of “No support for war” said, “I will not support our troops.” How can the writer not support the armed forces who are fighting every single day for the writer’s right to have an opinion and be able to voice it? How can the writer not support the troops who make sacrifices every day so the writer can write a letter saying he won’t support them? How can the writer not support troops who are willing to volunteer for their country and fight for what we all believe makes America so wonderful? Those things are freedom, safety, going to sleep at night knowing we’ll wake up the next day and having a safe place for the next generation to call their own. This is what our armed forces fight for and defend every single day.

The writer of “Leave Iraq alone” said, “Not all of us care about Sept. 11, 2001.” Has the writer forgotten that thousands of innocent people died that day? The writer said she lost a friend on Sept. 11 but it doesn’t bother her anymore. What if the writer’s mother or father or husband or son or daughter had died that day? Would the writer care then? The potential war with Iraq has nothing to do with revenge and everything to do with making the world a safer place to live for everyone. I’m sure that President Bush is not “war hungry.” I’m sure he doesn’t wish to see our armed forces die on foreign soil just for revenge. Bush and our country’s other leaders are making informed choices that they’ve all been elected to make. Bush will not allow the American armed forces to enter into a conflict just because he’s “war hungry.” Nor does Bush “care more about other countries than his own.”

As a military spouse, patriotism is something I feel very strongly. I couldn’t be more proud of my spouse for his choice to join the U.S. Army. Some Americans lack patriotism and loyalty to their country. I hope this only makes our armed forces stronger rather than discouraged.

I thank all members of our armed forces and the military communities. They have some of the most difficult jobs in the world, and they’re jobs that not all people are capable of doing. Their courage and strength are admirable to say the least. I will always support our armed forces.

Amy J. MasonHeidelberg, Germany

Picture not injustice

This is in regard to the letter “Safety issue” (Feb. 10). It commented on the picture “A military tradition: Hurry up and wait” (Feb. 4) which showed several servicemembers resting next to a military vehicle.

The picture did not do an injustice to any servicemember. When in a “ready to deploy” or “deploy” status, servicemembers catch any time to sleep wherever they can, regardless of where it might be. Apparently the letter writer has never been deployed or on a field exercise, because if he had, he never would have written his letter. Granted, servicemembers don’t try to catch 40 winks when they’re on patrol or on duty. But if they’re in a wait mode, what’s the harm in catching a little shut-eye on or in a vehicle, on a Humvee or on a pallet full of supplies?

Our servicemembers are being deployed to a region to preserve peace. If they need their rest and choose to get it in oddball places, kudos to them. When the fight starts, they’ll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to defend our freedom.

Keith JohnsonHeidelberg, Germany

Project Bold great experience

I’m a senior at Kaiserslautern High School in Germany who attended Project Bold during the summer of 2001. I took physical education since it was required when I was a freshman. I passed with B’s, and I was happy I didn’t have to do mandatory running or anything physical again. My physical education teacher also happened to be my seventh-grade science teacher and has remained a mentor throughout my high school years. He kept pushing me at the end of my sophomore year to fill out the application for Project Bold. I did it to stop his nagging and turned it in on the last day of school.

A few days into my summer break he phoned and said, “Pack your bags. You’re going!” I had about three days to gather clothes and my wits to go on the three-week adventure. I had to leave my portable curling iron and deodorant at home and prepare for a new, not-so-ideal place to spend my summer. That’s how I used to see it.

After having successfully completed every task put in front of me during those 21 days, I felt so completely different about everything in general. Food, clothes, bathing and life took on a new outlook. I would never have had or will again have the opportunities offered by the Hinterbrand Lodge and everything it encompasses. I met kids my age from Bahrain to Spain. I ran 10 kilometers, ran and “dipped” in freezing water, and even spent a whole 48 hours on my own. I made my own tent and survived with only about three apples and some cheese. The self-confidence and spiritual renewal that I left Berchtesgaden with have stayed with me to this day. Those experiences should never be denied to any future students.

Lara GuntherKaiserslautern, Germany

Only speculation

Can someone please tell me why the letter “Trouble at fitness center” (Feb. 18) was printed in Stars and Stripes? Is hearsay now the standard that gets letters printed?

The writer was only speculating as to why he didn’t get to keep his fitness center job. I was expecting to learn why he didn’t get to extend. But what I got was the writer’s cop-out. Did the sports director say the writer couldn’t stay because the writer is white and the director wanted an all-black fitness center staff? No, the director didn’t. The writer instead threw in what he heard from “whoever.”

That’s shameful if he believes that to be true. I was always taught that if someone says something about you, go to the source. Unfortunately, the writer didn’t ask if what he heard was true.

Everett NicholsonIncirlik, Turkey

Schooled on TV's inventor

I must disagree with a detail written into the Feb. 19 article about Lanham Elementary students and black inventors (“Lanham Elementary pupils discover black inventors”).

A student made a cardboard television to honor “that television was invented in 1923 by Charles Jenkins.” This is totally inaccurate, as I was born and raised about 30 miles from Rigby, Idaho, where Philo Taylor Farnsworth, a Mormon from Utah, first began his quest to invent the first electronic television.

Charles Jenkins did, in fact, invent what was called the “radiovision”; however, this invention was mechanical rather than electrical. It also had little impact, other than theory, on the invention of the future-built television.

Being a native of Idaho — where potatoes are our only known fame — I must remind everyone that the television belongs to a man from my neck of the woods.

Jason F. EldredgeTaegu, South Korea

News is best public service

The past weeks brought numerous warnings of possible terrorist action. Last week, our Kadena Post Office was closed and cordoned off — reasons undisclosed.

In the midst, the American Forces Network pumps in dire warnings of “death by soda machine” and “stop, drop and roll,” and “the nightmare of teen sex.”

The serious observer is caught wondering: “Are the same people bringing us both types of warnings, and when should I take the former more seriously than the latter?”

Steve CurtisKadena Air Base, Okinawa

New vehicles for old venom

This is in response to the never-ending tirade of racist and prejudiced articles and letters that continue to surface in newspapers such as Stars and Stripes.

The writer of the Jan. 16 letter “Change tactics in terror war” said the United States should strip all dual nationals of Middle Eastern countries of U.S. citizenship and ban immigration from Middle Eastern countries. Is it not obvious that these letters and “foreign policy proposals” are racist?

I agree wholeheartedly with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta’s opposition to racial profiling, which many people seem to think is justified because of the magnitude of the latest terrorist acts. What makes Middle Easterners more of a threat to our national security than those of other nations? Their brown skin or the predominantly Muslim makeup of the Middle East?

Have we forgotten that one of the biggest terrorist attacks that the United States faced before Sept. 11, 2001, was from a home-grown terrorist, Timothy McVeigh?

What the people who favor racial profiling need is a quick reality check. They need to look into their hearts to see the seeds of racism that have flourished into uncontrolled weeds. After Sept. 11, 2001, many Americans seemed to forget that the freedom we stand for is compromised by reactions such as this. I don’t believe that intelligent people truly feel our security will be strengthened by targeting people of Middle Eastern descent. This is just a subterfuge to divert attention from the fact that in reality their racist views are simply able to be expressed in a different way.

Many have also felt justified in their racism and bigotry because of these unthinkable acts. To assume that a whole race of people should be treated as a “threat” because a diseased few have committed ungodly acts is, quite frankly, racist and bigoted. Expressing those ideas is not at all helping to preserve security in the United States. Any thought to the contrary is a delusion.

Let’s also not forget that many of us who are targeted because of our background and/or skin color are involved in the security and protection of our nation. It makes it that much harder to live in an environment where we “serve and protect” and yet are viewed by many as a threat.

Capt. Jalal MalikHeidelberg, Germany

Rumsfeld should apologize

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld must show remorse for his comparison of Germany with the dictatorial and tyrannical regimes of Cuba and Libya. His previous defamation was saying that Germany belongs to old Europe. Underlying this is Rumsfeld’s attitude that if a country does not dance to the U.S. fiddle, then it is against the United States and the United States does not accept that country’s neutrality.

German television and other European news media have depicted Rumsfeld as anti-German. Such aspersions negatively affect America’s worldwide image at a time when we seek all the support we can get.

Obviously Rumsfeld, an ex-junior naval officer and I assume a gentleman, never learned to act like one. Rumsfeld is a politician who has absolutely no idea about either political science or geopolitics. I voted Republican thinking that George W. Bush would be better. What I got was a warmonger in the White House. Bush has given up on finding Osama bin Laden and has tried to coerce me into believing that Saddam Hussein is more of a threat to the United States.

Eddy CollinsMehlingen, Germany

Wives work through worries

I’m a stay-at-home mom of three kids and the wife of an Army soldier who recently has been deployed to the desert. When President Bush’s orders came down for the deployment of almost all the soldiers on our post, we wives were sad and scared for our husbands. But we were also given what feels like orders ourselves. They are orders to be left behind and be single parents while our husbands are gone.

We’re left alone to take care of our homes, children and daily challenges with only minimal support from our families back in the States because we can’t leave our homes.

One thing most civilians don’t know is that spouses of soldiers who are being deployed from overseas aren’t able to move from the country where they’re stationed. This is not only because the military will only allow us to move at our own expense, but also because these are our homes. We have children who can’t be moved from school simply because their fathers are going off to fight a possible war.

In the midst of this fear and sadness, we prevail. Many of us are mothers for the first time or have small babies. We stand up to the challenge so the rest of our countrymen can enjoy their freedoms. We do this gladly, although we are also sad. We realize that we enlisted with our husbands to serve our nation through hard duty in foreign lands.

Most of us believe in our country and the good intentions of our leaders. Let’s not forget that we elected them. As has been said in the past, if good men don’t stand up to evil, it will only get worse until evil takes over. This is why our husbands enlisted. It’s a choice we as families made together — to sacrifice our own wants and comforts to support our country’s rights.

When our husbands left, we weren’t even told how long they’d be gone. That’s the hardest part right now. The only ties we have to our country now are TV and newspapers. They’ve become part of our daily survival mode. We need to hear what people have to say. Many days it’s what keeps me and the other spouses going.

So please don’t forget us, the wives of GIs left behind in foreign lands. Money will never compensate us for our losses. We wish that maybe for a moment someone could do something to make our children and us happy again. We’ve all been so sad since our soldiers have been gone, and no amount of money can change that.

Esther VargasIllesheim, Germany

February 26

Comments disrespectful

As the wife of a disabled veteran, I found the letter “Drop weapons” (Feb. 7) to be disrespectful. It was also an indication that the writer, a Ph.D., got his degree only through the blood and sweat of others rather than his own. I found disgusting the writer’s pride in his father having done jail time for not serving his country during the Vietnam War. I think the writer’s father should have served more than a year in jail. But I don’t write the laws or set jail terms. I’m just an ordinary citizen of a great nation.

I’m an ordinary citizen of a great nation that ensured the country the writer expressed his views from is free today to allow the writer to express those views. It’s a great nation that supplied many men to ensure the writer has the right to express his views. Similarly, this also gives me the right to tell the writer what I think of his views.

While the writer sits in his warm little office condemning them, the servicemembers of this country are saying goodbye to their families and loved ones. They will again go out there and fight for the writer’s right to live and condemn them.

The writer is not honorable or moral. He couldn’t care less about the conditions American soldiers face. So he shouldn’t try to convince those of us who are honorable, do have morals and really care that he does, too. If the writer were concerned about soldiers rather than condemning them for doing what they believe in, he’d be living in the United States and using his degree — bought with others’ blood — to make things better for soldiers.

As I write this letter, my husband is watching the news and praying for his military brothers and sisters. He wishes with all his heart that he could be by their side serving his country with them.

My husband was not in the military to escape social, economic or racial problems, nor does he wish he could be back in the military now to escape any of these things. He was in the military because he believes in what this nation stands for: the right to freedom for all. My husband doesn’t possess a Ph.D. like the writer claims to hold. But even as a disabled veteran, he’s an educated, productive member of our society.

May God forgive the writer for condemning those who fight for his right to free speech, liberty and equality for all.

Diane L. GunstCleveland, Miss.

Smoking policy

“We want to provide smoke-free facilities across the Department of Defense,” said Sherri Goodman, deputy undersecretary of defense for environmental security. “We want to make sure that people who are using any DOD facilities have an opportunity to do so in a smoke-free environment.”

Source: 20000420/7.html.

Morale, Welfare and Recreation went smoke-free on Dec. 7, 2002, more or less. So when I submitted a comment card to the 221st Base Support Battalion asking why almost all of Cappuccino Casino’s slot machines are now in one room — a smoking room — the response I received was, “… the Army Recreational Machine Program (ARMP) has the statistics to back up their decision to place the majority of their machines in a smoking environment.” What statistics are these? Secondhand smoke statistics? No. “Their statistics show a considerable edge in revenues in these machines compared to machines placed in nonsmoking areas.”

Oh, well then, that’s OK! As long as we’re making money, why do we need such silly things as executive orders or Department of Defense regulations? These statistics indicate that as long as smokers can enjoy the “benefits” of smoking while playing slots, then more money is generated for MWR. Forget the health concerns or the fact that there are twice as many nonsmokers as smokers. The Cappuccino Casino’s manager said it clearly: “May I recommend one of our four nonsmoking facilities to better serve you: Kastel Klub, Amelia Earhart, McCully or the bowling center.” No. If I, as an authorized patron of a DOD facility, decide that I want to play a particular machine, then I have the right to play it. The manager doesn’t have the right to discriminate against me because I don’t wish to wear clothes that smell of smoke or put my hand into a cash till that someone’s used as an ashtray.

I actually tried it when the three (count ’em, three) machines in the nonsmoking area were in use. I decided to brave the smoke so I could play on one of the 30 machines in the smoking area. As soon as I opened the door — which is about as airtight as a saloon door — the clammy smell of stale smoke overwhelmed me and I had to flee back into the nonsmoking area. It didn’t matter that no one was actually smoking in the doorway. The smell is pervasive and clings to everything it touches. I can only imagine what a body must look like after 20 years of exposure to this poison.

The intent behind the smoking ban is also clear. (If not, then please read this letter’s first paragraph again). It isn’t based on personal preference or “the bottom line,” and it shouldn’t be implemented or ignored by those only interested in making a buck.

Curt PiperWiesbaden, Germany

Thanks for stories

The 2-6 Cavalry Squadron of the 11th Aviation Regiment has been the subject of several articles in Stars and Stripes recently. I’m writing from the home base of Illesheim, Germany, to thank the staff of Stars and Stripes for this generous support.

The 2-6 deployed to Kuwait back in October. Some even left at the end of September. At that time, there were accounts of snipers shooting American soldiers and other fearsome reports. There was so much uncertainty about how all this would play out. Since our soldiers have been gone, there have been holidays missed, babies born and more uncertainty. It’s been a tough season.

The reports from the field have served to encourage us and remind us that we’re not forgotten and we’re appreciated. We are so grateful for the support, encouragement and honor that Stars and Stripes has paid to our soldiers, their families and the rear-detachment staff. In effect, Stars and Stripes is serving with us.

Debra MillerIllesheim, Germany

Go home

I’m a British citizen (Scottish) and have lived and worked in Germany for more than 30 years. During the last 15 years, I’ve worked for the U.S. Army in Frankfurt and Hanau, Germany. It’s with sadness that I noted the hysterical ravings in the letter “Boycott Germany” (Feb. 23).

The average German citizen is much more politically aware than the average American, especially concerning foreign policies. The German press is so varied in both quality and political perspectives that it puts the largely conservative U.S. press to shame. Germany’s citizens are not brainwashed. They just don’t believe in the Bush administration’s cause, along with most other governments and citizens in the world.

If the letter writer wishes to isolate himself with on-post activities — which I suspect he has pretty much done since he’s been in Germany — good luck to him. The U.S. Army doesn’t need this kind of person representing U.S. interests abroad. I feel sorry for all the good friends I’ve met during my time working for the U.S. Army — many of whom are married to German nationals — who don’t share this kind of narrow mindedness.

The letter writer should go home and not bother coming back. I sincerely hope his projection of the oncoming events in Iraq don’t literally blow up in his face.

William D. GilliesHanau, Germany

Military might is required

Since the U.N. Security Council claims to have a say in what happens when a crisis arises, why do its member states not provide an equal amount of military manpower and equipment? The obvious answer is that some potential Security Council members may not even have much of a military to provide any meaningful assistance.

If a member state has no military in the event of a crisis, what gives it the right to serve on the Security Council? I certainly don’t see the fairness in a country with no force to contribute to a decision to send or not send soldiers of another country into harm’s way. If we need soldiers to perform a military task, it would be fair to divide it equally among the Security Council members. If all U.N. member states at some point get to serve on the Security Council and they have no military, they simply shouldn’t get a vote.

This brings me to NATO. Most members have a military or at least somewhat of a military. Of the many missions that NATO has either undertaken or is currently involved in, what is the nationality breakdown of the total force committed? If we talk about operations Southern and Northern Watch, it’s basically American and British forces. As for the many other operations, I bet the American contingent is the largest.

The main reason the Americans and British are in such large numbers is their ability to get the job done. But it sure would be nice to see some other NATO countries step up to the plate and take a swing. Whenever there’s a crisis that involves either NATO or the United Nations, who’s called? America. And our soldiers proudly leave their families and homes to try and make the world a better place. Then they’re told to get out until they’re needed again, but to leave their dollars.

Then America comes under attack by a band of cowardly terrorists. We lose thousands of innocent civilians, not soldiers. We lose the World Trade Center and a civilian airliner is flown into the Pentagon. People worldwide waved the U.S. flag, denounced terrorists and banded together. That was obviously the “in” thing to do at the time, because now what do we see? Demonstrations. We’re called ugly Americans, warmongers and world-conquerors.

The Americans who so freely demonstrate against a possible armed conflict that one day may save the lives of their families should remember that they can do so because of the Stars and Stripes and those sworn to defend it. If they feel so strongly against U.S. conflict with hostile nations, then by all means they should disregard State Department warnings and go to places such as Iraq and North Korea and demand that the Iraqis and North Koreans cease and desist. But when they go, they shouldn’t expect me to support sending soldiers in for prisoner or hostage rescues.

The rest of the world should just think what would happen if the United States withdrew its GIs from Europe and Asia to focus on a new alliance with fewer countries and homeland security.

Dan UngerLandstuhl, Germany

France, Germany steer EU

There was a perfectly good reason behind France and Germany’s initial blocking of the NATO plan to defend Turkey against possible Iraqi aggression. These two “Old Europe” countries don’t want the United States leading any foreign policy decision-making anywhere in the world. They’re too busy posturing to build their own “United States of Europe.” This became clear when they showed their annoyance toward England for “going behind their backs” and signing up other European countries to support the U.S. stance on Iraq.

NATO? What NATO? In a few years, the European Union — i.e., France and Germany — will kick the Americans off its soil. (This is ironic, now that the Russians are no longer a threat.) Then France and Germany will egotistically lead an undemocratic “super state,” complete with faux military.

The world is a safer place because of the United States of America. Who will defend Europe when we are no longer here?

Paul DesJardinsRAF Mildenhall, England

Flinn's offenses were worse

This is in regard to the Feb. 15 story “Recent sexual misconduct cases in military.” It compared the sexual misconduct cases of 1st Lt. Kelly Flinn and Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston. The article implied that there were different punishments for similar offenses for these two individuals. This impression was given by this sentence: “Critics had complained Ralston was not being punished to the same extent for similar offenses.”

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Flinn not only was actively committing adultery, but also lied to investigators and intentionally disobeyed a direct order from a superior investigating the case to avoid any further contact with the individual in question. In contrast, Ralston was revealed to have had an affair that had ended 13 years before. Two very different cases.

Although it is true that critics had complained about Ralston, critics also complained about the preferential treatment given to Flinn. In fact, other male soldiers who had committed similar offenses to Flinn (adultery, lying and disobeying direct orders related to an investigation) received courts-martial and were imprisoned.

It’s interesting how some reporters pretend to be objective but promulgate a liberal message in their news reports. The recent book “Bias,” by Bernard Goldberg, gives a fascinating look at the media and its inherent liberal bias.

Glenn ReidWiesbaden, Germany

February 27

Germans anti-war

I’d like to respond to the letter “Boycott Germany” (Feb. 23). The majority of German people are not anti-President Bush or anti-American. But largely due to Germany’s history, its people are anti-war. I understand and respect that.

I was a member of the U.S. Army for more than 12 years before I got out in 1994. I stood ready to go to war if called, and I served my country with great pride. I was ready to fight against oppression and dictators who callously tried to deny basic human rights to their own people. That includes the right to state their beliefs, whether I agreed with them or not.

As for Sept. 11, 2001, the German people had nothing to do with the attacks. They also didn’t ask for them to happen. Yes, President Clinton did ignore the Iraq problem. But that also wasn’t the choice of the German people.

Yes, former President Ronald Reagan did support Germany and help it reunite. But former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl also had a “small” part in the historic fall of the Berlin Wall.

Germans and Americans have stood hand in hand for almost 50 years, helping and supporting each other. Unfortunately, the writer seems to be ready to sever all U.S.-Germany relations and flush all the work we’ve done down the toilet due to a moral choice by Germans.

The writer has obviously not had any dealings with Germans whatsoever and believes all his actions have to affect an entire country. I’m sure that although the writer’s “German boycott” will bring Europe to its knees, it will still be able to trudge along without his support.

Maybe the writer should rethink his career choice. It appears to me he’s been “spoon-fed” and “brainwashed” by too much AFN. His comments smack of racism. As far as I can remember, that’s not one of the things that the writer is supposed to be fighting for.

Robert GreshamLauda, Germany

Germans, government differ

“Rhetoric” is the most simple word to reply to the letter “Boycott Germany” (Feb. 23). It’s yet again a case of someone confusing a country’s government with the will of its people.

The writer wants to boycott German beer. The majority of Germans at the pub where I drank my German beer on a recent evening had a different opinion than what their elected party has concerning a possible war with Iraq. Maybe that’s because German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had only a 22 percent approval rating as of the last elections, when he lost his home state. Prior to that, Schroeder had an approval rating of more than 40 percent, which is much less than our commander in chief.

The writer had such a great flair for making it sound like every German is to blame for Germany’s stance in the U.N. and NATO, which has been faltering lately. I have little faith in the U.N. after the botched-up mess in Bosnia in the early 1990s. I’m hoping with the latest agreements on Turkey that NATO will hold true to what it was founded upon.

As far as Germany’s “spoon-fed media,” when is the last time the writer saw a topless women on the front page of the most popular paper in the United States? Lest the writer forget, the majority of newspapers in the U.S. (minus our faithful Stars and Stripes) are owned by individuals who are currently not part of our elected party.

The writer must have also missed the newspapers and TV news that reported his fellow Americans protesting the possible war. Maybe the writer should stop drinking American beer or eating at McDonald’s. Maybe some of those American protesters work there or even own them.

For those who might judge me, I spent more than seven months with Operation Northern Watch keeping an eye on Saddam Hussein last year. I’m more willing than most to topple his regime once and for all. Sept. 11, 2001, has little to do with this. This is something that should have been finished in 1991 before President Clinton even took office.

It’s the will of the people on the other side that took down the Berlin Wall and ended the Cold War. I don’t remember seeing a picture of President Reagan or British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with a sledgehammer in their hands. It was the people. As for a boycott by one person, I don’t think Germany will notice.

Staff Sgt. Stacey NassHanau, Germany

Turkey visa prices

I’ve read at least two letters concerning the price of visas for Americans visiting Turkey. My husband is in the U.S. Army and is half Turkish. We visited Turkey last September. I was told before the trip that the visa charge was $45 per person. We were shocked upon arriving in Istanbul that the price was $65. Now I understand that it’s gone up to $100. The Russian woman in front of me paid $10.

The Turkish people I’ve met in Germany and Turkey are some of the most hospitable and friendly people I’ve ever met. In Turkey, I was treated with nothing but respect. I never felt unwanted or disliked. Most of the waiters and business owners spoke English well and did not resent that I don’t speak Turkish. (I wish Germany was half as hospitable).

I bought four excellent quality leather coats in Turkey for the price I would have paid for one in the United States. That’s only one of the many things that were very cheap. So the way I look at it, yes, it costs a lot to get into Turkey. But compared to the deals I got when I went shopping and the fun I had, I hardly missed the $130 we paid for visas.

Before everyone starts assuming that I’m biased because I’m married to a Turk, let me also express my negative feelings. I don’t know why Turkey charges such an outrageous fee for Americans. Given that Turkey has asked for U.N. protection — which, of course, will be provided by the United States — I feel that Turkey should be grateful enough to Americans to at least lower the cost of visas. Unfortunately, the Turkish shop and restaurant owners who are so appreciative of Americans and the money we spend are not the ones setting the prices for visas. The prices may be so high because of politics. Or it may be because people around the world consider Americans rich. Compared to how most people live in Turkey, I am rich. But I was taught a long time ago not to bite the hand that feeds me. How can Turkey ask for U.S. protection and billions of dollars in U.S. aid and then turn around and charge Americans up to 10 times the amount it charges other nationals for visas? I don’t know the answer to that question.

The bottom line is that we can’t change it. I don’t agree with it, but it won’t stop me from visiting Turkey. I can go to France for free, excluding the tolls every five kilometers. But in France I’ve never experienced the hospitality, beauty and bargains that I found in Turkey. I plan to continue visiting Turkey, even if the visa price increases. I’ve found visiting Turkey well worth the cost to get in. It’s a personal choice. Those who don’t agree shouldn’t go to Turkey. Any foreign national who goes to the United States must pay $100.

Debbie RayHohenfels, Germany

Not afraid to offer support

Dear American soldiers,

I’m an American citizen. You don’t know me, yet you choose to protect me.

You have fought in the cold heart of Europe, the waters of the South Pacific, the rice paddies of Southeast Asia and the deserts of the Middle East.

You, American soldier, are our only hope and our greatest strength.

I know sometimes you must be afraid. In these times, I’m afraid, too — for you, our country, and our world.

American soldier, fear not, for liberty will prevail. And as you do battle against sand and sea, we will continue to give you all of our support, as we pray for a final end to terrorism. You, American soldier, are among those few who truly let freedom ring. Thank you and Godspeed.

Susan I. AndrewsGulfport, Miss.

France preparing to help

This is in answer to the Feb. 21 letter “Ship sergeant to France.” The writer said that a staff sergeant who got put out of the U.S. Army for not wanting to go to Kuwait when his Reserve unit got called up should go to France. The writer also contended that the French have “managed to cower out of every conflict to protect freedom.”

I wholly agree that those who have chosen to serve should do as they’ve promised and that we might propose to ship those who don’t off somewhere. It would be some bastion of peace demonstrators where they could join the scores of flag-burners decrying any military actions whatsoever ad infinitum, ad nauseam. I’m happy the staff sergeant chose to bug out now and not when I truly might have needed him. Good riddance.

As for those “cowardly” Frenchmen, as recently as last month French President Jacques Chirac told his troops to prepare for deployment to the Persian Gulf region. Chirac has also hinted at redirecting French forces currently engaged in the Ivory Coast.

During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, 18,000 French troops, 60 combat aircraft, 120 helicopters, 40 tanks, one missile cruiser, three destroyers and four frigates were involved in Operation Desert Storm. I suppose all of them were apparently there with no other intention but to cower in the face of conflict.

It makes it a lot easier for our allies to join us when we are not disparaging them.

Sgt. Mark NicholsMannheim, Germany

February 28

Stay positive

No wives go unforgotten. We’re truly unsung heroes when it comes to managing the home front. We’re a unique and elite group of spouses that stands out from our civilian counterparts. We’re stronger, more flexible and wiser in our ways when it comes to giving and understanding.

A deployment order knows not discrimination, but only the mission at hand. A deployment order doesn’t exclude those with kids, those with expecting wives at home, or spouses who are just frightened and sad at the thought of being alone.

When my husband left in October in support of Task Force 2-6, I didn’t look at it as if he were leaving our three children and me behind at home. I tell my children, “Daddy is just on a small trip and will return soon.” I didn’t feel like I was getting a coinciding order that said I was to be left behind to be a single parent. If anything, it should be one that says to continue giving positive support to my deployed spouse, to reassure him that all is well on the home front, and to drive on with patience and understanding.

For more than four months, I’ve made sure that every time my husband hears my voice or reads my letters that it’s positive. Many days have been emotionally challenging, but there are some things he doesn’t need to be concerned with. How is he supposed to focus on the mission if all he’s worried about is how I’m dealing with the daily drama of life?

We have our friends, our Family Readiness Groups and family. These luxuries are not as accessible to our soldiers downrange. But they’re expected to cope with separation and loneliness and still get the task done. Our spouses downrange are sleeping on cots, living in tents in the desert and missing home-cooked meals. What do we have to complain about?

I want people to see I’m strong. I don’t want pity. I want them to be proud. Isn’t that what being an American is about?

Since the deployment orders, I’ve found inner strength that I didn’t know I had. I’ve found friends willing to support me in my dark hours. And most of all, I’ve found the opportunity to return that support. I’ve been told of my husband’s living conditions, working environment, etc. I get somewhat regular e-mails and phone calls. This was unheard of in past conflicts.

The writer of the letter “Don’t forget wives” (Feb. 21) shouldn’t forget that deployed soldiers read Stars and Stripes. I don’t need to worry about my husband worrying about me and my family. I don’t feel it was appropriate for the writer to speak for all the wives here. Everyone knows deployments are difficult, no matter the duration or location. The emotions that come with deployments are obvious. They don’t need to be made public. Again, I’ve spent more than four months keeping communications between my husband and me positive. I don’t need a letter in Stars and Stripes to add any doubts.

Sunisa C. BridgforthBurgbernheim, Germany

Investment prevents wars

This is in regard to the letter “United Nations/NATO” (Feb. 22). The writer said that countries unable (meaning too small) to provide the same amount of military aid as the United States in the event of a crisis should not have a vote in the United Nations or NATO. With this the writer denounced as unfair the very design of America’s democratic voting system, the electoral college, which protects small states from being ignored.

The writer also overlooked that many of these small countries pay extra money for contingency operations which they are unable to militarily support. I agree that one cannot weigh in money the risk that soldiers take, but small countries just cannot produce soldiers by a miracle. For example, Germany is the most populous country in the European Union with 81 million inhabitants. The United States has around 271 million.

The possible argument that even Great Britain is providing around 40,000 soldiers for the possible war in Iraq leads me to the fact that other countries spend a much higher percentage of their gross domestic product on Third World economic and social development. This is the best preventive action and defense a nation can take against extremism, terrorism and hatred. It’s surely cheaper than a war. In Iraq, just a war itself could potentially cost $100 billion. But the best plan for development cannot work if it’s not carried out with strength, effectiveness and an attitude that failure is not an option. So far other countries have only achieved a drop in the bucket, and I think it will take the United States to do the job here as well.

Maybe it’s too late to avoid military intervention in Iraq. But it would be desirable if from now on countries would unite to invest more money and spend it more effectively on civil-military and psychological operations. These would be activities that encourage democratic reform for governments as well as building schools in which moderate religion, agronomy and technical education could be taught. Spending $100 billion in this way would provide a tremendous bang for the buck. We can all be sure that where this aim is not achieved is where the next wars will take place: North Korea, Iran, the Philippines, Nigeria, Sudan, etc.

Brigitte SteinbergHeidelberg, Germany

Do the best we can

Wonder why people join the service? For a career, places to go and people to see? Or is it the money?

We hear stories of people joining because it’s their civic duty, their right to protect and serve their country. Some join on a short-term basis for college or on a longterm basis. Some join and then decide they don’t like it. They don’t like their superiors, can’t handle it or don’t want to do it. But they joined the service. They have jobs to do for the time that they’re in. If they don’t like it, then they should do us all a favor and get out.

We all start from the bottom and work our way up. Those who work hard to be at a certain level deserve it. They are the ones who are accomplishing their goals. They have passion and heart and drive for their jobs.

As a spouse, I’m not one to join anything because I have to or I’m supposed to or because I want to feel as high ranked as my husband and let everyone else know about it. If I join anything, it’s because I want to help try to make things better and easier for soldiers, their families and anyone else who might need someone to talk to.

I’m also not one to go calling my husband’s superiors because he’s coming home too late or being treated unfairly. If a soldier is doing what he’s supposed to be doing, there shouldn’t be any issues. We all have rotten days. But like anything else, we do the best we can and deal with them the best we know how.

I cherish the soldier who works really hard at the task at hand and the next soldier who helps accomplish that task.

Irene BensonKitzingen, Germany

Oil and revenge

I think the letter “Boycott Germany” (Feb. 23) wasn’t right, because after Sept. 11, 2001, we started the war against terrorism and the target was Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. Now the United States may start a war in Iraq for oil and revenge.

There have been a lot of anti-war protesters all over the world, not just in Germany. There were a million protesters in the United States, too. If the writer goes back in history, he’ll see that it wasn’t Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher who tore down the Berlin Wall. It was John F. Kennedy and Willy Brandt.

The only reason for war against Iraq is revenge. President Bush will be stronger than his father, and Secretary of State Colin Powell will finish his battle, which started in Desert Storm. If Bush needs help for war against bin Laden, the Germans are there.

Willi MüllerHanau, Germany

March 1


On a recent weekend I attended the final two days of the European Division I and Division II basketball championships in Mannheim, Germany. The tournament was well run, the games were exciting and everything surrounding the tournament was super. Indeed, this was a tremendous event and I was glad for the opportunity to once again witness high school sports at their finest. But there was one notable exception, and that exception is my reason for writing.

One of the games I attended was the boys Division II championship game, which pitted SHAPE High School, Belgium, against Mannheim High School. SHAPE entered the game as an underdog, having been twice previously defeated by Mannheim. But in sports, as in many aspects of life, it’s not what happened in the previous contests that determines who emerges victorious in subsequent contests. Rather, it’s how the teams perform in each contest that determines who wins and who loses. In this contest, SHAPE was the better team and earned the tournament crown for Division II. Its 22-point victory left no doubt in anyone’s mind which team performed better on that day. But it wasn’t what happened during the game that caught my attention. It was what didn’t happen afterward that caused me to write.

At the buzzer, the SHAPE players, cheerleaders and fans quite naturally savored the moment. They expressed their joy by cheering, hugging each other, exchanging high fives and other expressions of elation. The Mannheim team, with the exception of a couple of players and coaches, immediately headed toward their locker room. They didn’t hesitate for the few moments it took for the SHAPE players to gather themselves and come by the Mannheim bench to shake their hands and offer them congratulations for a well-played game.

I understand the Mannheim players’ disappointment, but I don’t accept their unsportsmanlike conduct. SHAPE was in four close games prior to the championship game. The previous evening, PATCH was one tick of the clock away from beating SHAPE. Yet when PATCH lost in an emotional turn of events, its members reacted like gentlemen and offered their congratulations to the SHAPE team. Indeed, I can’t recall witnessing a high school athletic event at any time in which the teams did not take a moment to acknowledge each other’s efforts by winners and losers congratulating each other at game’s end.

There’s no place in high school sports for unsportsmanlike conduct. Players and teams should win with grace and lose with dignity. Mannheim’s head coach should apologize to the SHAPE team for his team’s conduct after the game, and he should meet with his team to impress upon them that the failure to congratulate a victor is more significant than losing on the field of play.

Lt. Col. Jerris CummingsSHAPE, Belgium

Be strong

This is in response to the letter “Don’t forget wives” (Feb. 21). I, too, am a stay-at-home mom and the wife of a deployed soldier. (It was to an unknown place for an unknown amount of time.)

I guess it’s all in the way that we look at our situations that either make us or break us. The writer made it seem like she’s somewhere on the North Pole with nothing but ice and snow. There’s a whole world out there that extends beyond the gates of the post that she lives on. OK, so it’s not the United States. But she should make the best of what she has.

We all miss our spouses. But the writer really needs to stop her self-pity act of the poor wife who was left behind with the children in a “foreign land.” The writer is now the backbone of her family. She should be strong for her spouse and her children. The writer holds the key to her own happiness and that of her children. Does the writer have any idea what her outward attitude does to the morale of deployed soldiers? If not, she should.

Christine GenslerKaiserslautern, Germany

Troops strong, courageous

As a military spouse, I’m appalled that anyone associated with the military would express the ignorance in the letters “No support for war” (Jan. 21) and “Approach to Iraq hypocritical” (Feb. 5). Soldiers, civilians, contractors, spouses and family members are serving their country and have a duty to be patriotic and supportive of our armed forces, even if they don’t fully agree with the circumstances of the mission.

The writer of “No support for war” said: “I will not support our troops.” How can the writer not support the members of the armed forces, who are fighting every single day for the writer’s right to have an opinion and be able to voice it? How can the writer not support the troops who make sacrifices every day so the writer can write a letter saying he won’t support them? How can the writer not support troops who are willing to volunteer for their country and fight for what we all believe makes America so wonderful? Those things are freedom, safety, going to sleep at night knowing we’ll wake up the next day and having a safe place for the members of the next generation to call their own. This is what our armed forces fight for and defend every single day.

The writer of “Approach to Iraq hypocritical” said: “Not all of us care about Sept. 11, 2001.” Has the writer forgotten that thousands of innocent people died that day?

The writer said she lost a friend on Sept. 11 but it doesn’t bother her anymore. What if the writer’s mother or father or husband or son or daughter had died that day? Would the writer care then? The potential war with Iraq has nothing to do with revenge and everything to do with making the world a safer place to live for everyone. I’m sure that President Bush is not “war hungry.” I’m sure he doesn’t wish to see our armed forces die on foreign soil just for revenge. Bush and our country’s other leaders are making informed choices that they’ve all been elected to make. Bush will not allow the American armed forces to enter into a conflict just because he’s “war hungry.” Nor does Bush “care more about other countries than his own.”

As a military spouse, patriotism is something about which I feel very strongly. I couldn’t be more proud of my spouse for his choice to join the U.S. Army. Some Americans lack patriotism and loyalty to their country. I hope this only makes our armed forces stronger rather than discouraged.

I thank all members of our armed forces and the military communities. They have some of the most difficult jobs in the world, and they’re jobs that not all people are capable of doing. Their courage and strength are admirable to say the least. I will always support our armed forces.

Amy J. MasonHeidelberg, Germany

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