July 13

Mail advice

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

July 13 Mail advice Playboy model inappropriate More than a theory Bush not in Iraq Memorable July Fourth More sources of support exist What about the nonspouses? Conventional wisdom in Cuba Fireworks funds could feed us Iraqi's response unjustifiedJuly 14 Iraq wasn't a threat Someone always has it worse No one forced to see showJuly 15 Armies fight wars U.S. military must catch up Mail important Fix mail system Miller Lite girl Focus on duties, not gripes Camera rule frames mail woes Support for supportersJuly 16 Mail flows, morale improves Thanks for baseball all-stars Ali Baba no bad guy Jessica Lynch is strong Why aren't soldiers home?July 17 Family's soldier Think about good things Release and escape Pains of deployment Morale keeps soldiers alert Just want mail system fixedJuly 18 Iraqi letters response Drastic change Humanitarian story Waiting for mailJuly 19 Broken heart AAFES Quit complaining

I’m writing to give advice to Army personnel currently having problems receiving mail in Iraq and Kuwait. I’m a postal supervisor with a Reserve postal detachment at Camp Bucca, Iraq. We receive a truckload of mail a day at Camp Bucca and we notice that some parcels and letters have insufficient addresses and/or incorrect APO destinations. Units on the move to various camps from Arifjan to Mosel often leave base camps without notifying the post office. It therefore becomes our responsibility to track down units for which we still receive mail.

Unit mail clerks, first sergeants and commanders can avoid unnecessary delays by visiting the post office and filling out DA Form 3955 (change of address). It indicates that a unit wishes to receive its troops’ mail at another location. Individual soldiers can also fill this card out if they are redeploying home. Soldiers’ chains of command must be more proactive in the postal needs of their troops.

As a worker for the military postal service in this area of operation, I also have to wait a long time to receive my mail. I believe that during the war the pieces were not in place for efficient mail service. Most of this had to do with civilian and military transportation efforts rather than military postal personnel not doing their jobs.

Communication within chains of command and postal units is important for our business and for the morale of the troops. Chains of command and servicemembers should fill out DA Form 3955 so we know where they are and where to direct their mail.

Kevin SchumakerCamp Bucca, Iraq

Playboy model inappropriate

The story “USO tour cheers Baghdad” (June 20) reported that Playboy model Leann Tweeden was part of a USO show that recently performed in Baghdad. The inclusion of Tweeden in the USO show was totally inappropriate.

I want to remind the Army that the Playboy organization represents the pornography industry at its worst. Perhaps the people who run the USO shows need to be reminded that pornography has been documented in countless sociological studies to contribute to sexual assault, rape, child molestation, pedophilia and other forms of sexual violence. Why the Army would want to glorify these behaviors by including a Playboy model in a USO show is beyond comprehension. Whoever was responsible for arranging the USO show in question showed incredibly bad judgment and poor taste by including the Playboy theme in it. Pornography is offensive to many military personnel and potentially harmful to all. I believe the Army has a responsibility to make USO shows more acceptable to all soldiers in terms of content.

Staff Sgt. Thomas P. MurtTikrit, Iraq

More than a theory

The article “An evolving challenge” (June 22) stuck a nerve with me. Before being activated for the war in Iraq, I was a hardworking college student and reservist studying physics at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. I could often barely make my way through reading creationist texts because I always became so irate at seeing such distortions of the scientific method. Religion once owned the domains of both the physical and the spiritual. But now religion should accept its role as the fulfiller of spiritual needs and leave physical facts about the world alone. At the least, religion should not pretend to be doing science when it’s making such unjustified statements about the physical world. The verification of a religion is the difference it makes in someone’s life, not the physical evidence. The creationist stumbles into the realm of science by trying to justify his or her claims with physical evidence when there is none.

I also disagree when anyone, creationist or evolutionist, offers rewards to be proven wrong. Such publicity stunts are done by both sides and are deceptive practices. The reason Kent Hovind has only had three “real stupid” attempts to win his challenge money is because if any serious scientist attempted the challenge, he’d only be legitimizing Hovind’s position in the press. Further, since Hovind sets the standards of “proof” for the challenge, a serious scientist’s attempt would surely be rejected and only provide another publicity opportunity for Hovind to claim that a famous scientist had failed his challenge.

The only standards of proof that count are those of the scientific community, and this is conducted through peer-reviewed journals, standards that creationism have long failed. I quote Pope John Paul II: “Evolution is more than just a theory.”

Spc. A.T. FyfeFallujah, Iraq

Bush not in Iraq

It was a no-brainer that President Bush’s reaction to the attacks on our troops in Iraq was “bring them on.” He’s not there. He’s not feeling the day-to-day heat and the stress of being away from home and getting shot at and maybe killed. Bush sure is a tough guy. So tough, in fact, that he was in the National Guard during the Vietnam War flying over Texas, and during part of that time was absent without leave. Nobody seems to remember that. People should do some research. So let’s all rally around Bush and support the Iraqis to “bring them on.” And let’s keep our troops in a dangerous position while our government tries to figure out what its next move will be.

Bush’s daughters are old enough to join the military, right? Why not send them to a recruiting station and “bring them on”? Oh, I forgot. Daddy has money and is running the United States.

And what about the United States’ weapons of mass destruction? Out of every country in the world that has weapons of mass destruction, the United States is the only country that has used them. What if the world wakes up and bands together and comes on over and tries to disarm the United States? What if they want to go door-to-door and take our own personnel weapons?

Saddam Hussein is gone, and for that the world is a better place, even though we haven’t found him or Osama bin Laden yet. What happened to all of that American money that was found over there? While our own government cuts money from such things as education and Social Security to fund the war, the money that was found is doing what? Is our government turning around and putting it right back into Iraq? I don’t know. It hasn’t said. It’s like the American ammunition that was found during the first few days of the war. It was probably left over from when we armed Saddam to fight Iran. Did readers not know that?

One last question: How long are we going to sit around and let our friends, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, aunts and uncles stay in Iraq? What is the magic number of dead American troops that has to be reached before Bush gets tired of telling Iraqis to “bring it on”?

Jason MayfieldHanau, Germany

Memorable July Fourth

This past July Fourth was a particularly memorable one for me. For the first time in my life I entertained the public as a character. I was Uncle Sam. Awkwardly looking through the eyes of the large head, I took my first steps with the aid of a helper. I had to get used to the limited breathing space, which was supported by a little built-in fan at the top of my head. When I almost ran down a small child standing directly in front of me, I realized I had to look through the mouth as well, to access the situation around me.

Once I’d adjusted and was able to focus on people, I recognized the transformation. It was no longer me they were looking at. People were looking at Uncle Sam and smiling at him as if they knew him. They introduced him to their children. Some were frightened and others were curious or friendly. As the day went on and people became accustomed to Uncle Sam walking around, I could hear them calling, “Hi, Uncle Sam!” Some teenagers quite informally greeted me with, “Hi, old man!”

Uncle Sam was hugged and kissed by children, teenagers and even some adults. He posed for pictures with people, children and even held a baby. Two little girls about 5 years old insisted that he watch them go down a slide. As they came down hand in hand, they yelled, “Watch, Uncle Sam!” They gave him a big bear hug and repeated the event twice. A little boy sitting in a stroller was too young to walk but enthusiastically waved his hands and feet and gave his brightest smile. He took charge of Uncle Sam’s hat, which was too small for his head, anyway.

There were some complaints about taxes, and one fellow definitely patted the small-framed Uncle Sam a little too exuberantly on the back. I don’t think he meant to. One woman needed to check his hair out a little closer and touched it. People loved him, and believe me, he loved them.

About four hours into this event, I suddenly felt a blow to my left side, and the Uncle Sam head I was wearing moved from its proper position. I looked at the attacker and saw a young man older than a teenager laughingly stepping back into a group of other young men. They seemed to enjoy this cruel act. During this moment, there was unfortunately no one I could turn to. I was shocked. But I didn’t want to cause a scene in front of the children and change their vision of Uncle Sam, so I walked on.

The attacker hit Uncle Sam, but he violated me, even if I didn’t suffer any physical injury. My heart was out of it, and I returned to base as the man walked away. This moment ended the day for Uncle Sam and me. Later, as I was watching the fireworks display, I looked back at the day. The overwhelming feelings I encountered and the exchange of tenderness, hugs and kisses made this July Fourth very special even in view of the trace of violence, which simply reflected the very sad truth of its presence in our society.

Christel SantosWiesbaden, Germany

More sources of support exist

Because I have been a Family Readiness Group leader for past two years, I feel compelled to respond to the July 1 letter “‘Support’ in name only.” The writer refers to the lack of assistance her friend received from the family support group when she needed a ride to the airport. I agree that her rear detachment commander should not have agreed to take her if they had no intention of doing so, but I want to address a few points about what an FRG can do.

The writer asks, “What’s the purpose of an FSG?” — which actually is an outdated term, although some people still use it. A few years ago Family Support Group was replaced by Family Readiness Group to emphasize the need for the self-sufficiency and readiness of each family member. The basic purpose is to provide family members with information about the unit and the services available in the community, so they can accomplish a task themselves, not expect the FRG to do it for them. There is no official literature stating that FRGs are required to loan money, provide baby-sitting or pet sitting, pay bills or run a taxi service. In fact, during our numerous training sessions, FRG leaders are encouraged not to do those things. We are here to direct our members to the community resources that can assist them, not to duplicate any of those services.

Of course, some FRGs do more that that. I have happily driven members of my own FRG to the airport, but it is by no means a requirement. Let’s not forget that an FRG is a volunteer-run organization. FRG leaders and volunteers often go above and beyond the normal call of duty to assist family members, sometimes at great personal sacrifice of their time. Although my co-leaders and I always try to work with our family members, I encourage them to foster relationships with their fellow FRG members and neighbors, so that they will have support when they need it. Trading favors with a friend is always preferable to asking the FRG to do everything for you.

If someone feels she is not getting what she wants from her FRG, consider this: Maybe her FRG leader is feeling a little overwhelmed. Sometimes spouses become FRG leaders because they feel like they have to, not because they have the time or the skills. I encourage her to get to know the leader, bring some suggestions to him or her and, most important, volunteer to help see those suggestions through.

Suzanne ForrestHanau, Germany

What about the nonspouses?

I want to say something about the July 3 “FRG is what you make it” about the Family Readiness Group. I’m not a military spouse. I’m engaged to a soldier downrange. We don’t even count for FRG. We get information only if one of the wives lets us know.

So it’s not only what we can do for the FRG. It should count us in, too. We want to be a part of all that. We love our soldiers as much as the wives do and we support them as much as everybody else. But we get no help when we are down, worried and alone because we aren’t military spouses. Somebody should help us, too. The soldiers count on us, but who can we count on?

Yasmin SchollWiesbaden, Germany

Conventional wisdom in Cuba

Growing up as a baby boomer, I heard much about America’s actions in World War II, and also about the actions of our enemies. One thing that was stressed was how we treated our prisoners of war, and how we complied with the terms of the Geneva Conventions. The Japanese treatment of their prisoners was used to show how they were not just our enemies, but also evil.

Now I can hardly stomach the idea of America in violation of these conventions. The prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are prisoners of war and should be granted the rights as human beings under these conventions. I understand that the U.S. mainland was attacked, and that has shocked and frightened many people. They see the mistreatment of these Taliban fighters and terrorist as justified if it keeps us safe.

The Geneva Convention on prisoners of war was created for just this sort of situation — to get people to behave humanely even under the toughest of circumstance. It is not when things are going well that character is shown; it is in times of duress that true character emerges. The British proved theirs during the Blitz. Despite the fact that their homes were being bombed nightly, they treated their German prisoners of war fairly. Even the captured pilots who were doing the bombing were given the rights granted to all human beings under the Geneva Conventions.

It is time for Americans to make it clear what we really stand for. All men are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights. This includes the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Tess CrottyKadena Air Base, Okinawa

Fireworks funds could feed us

I really enjoyed all the 4th of July fireworks display shows on television. Although, at times they became repetitive, especially when the fireworks kept going. One show had so many fireworks going off at one time that the entire sky looked like it was on fire. But what a great display.

While all this was going on, I wondered how many hundreds of millions of dollars we, as a nation, spent for these late-night shows. We live in an era where every other week there’s an article in Star and Stripes, or on American Forces Network, about the U.S. unemployment rate. People are out of work, and we are spending millions of dollars on frivolous fireworks. How many meals could that money have bought for people who are forced to eat garbage? Think of the people needing medical or dental care and what that money would mean to them. How many parents must buy their children’s school supplies because school districts are broke? Do we care that some of our young military folks are on food stamps? Maybe we could have helped their situation.

How about some of the deployed troops whose families cannot pay the bills? What about the older generation who cannot heat their homes in the dead of winter? How would you feel if you did not have the money for medical prescriptions and had to suffer through the pain? And what about those kids who drop out of school to help their families when layoffs devastate their well-being? How may streets have potholes because there is not money to fix them?

The list is inexhaustible, but since the money is not, we need to be wiser in how we establish our priorities.

The United States is a great nation, and has always been ready to help the needy worldwide with money, food, medicine and military assistance. Maybe it is time for us to look a little more inward and help our own. When I looked at the fireworks, listened to the explosions and heard the speeches, I felt proud to be an American. Next year I would be even prouder if I heard one of the sponsoring parties say they were going to forego the fireworks displays because they were going to donate the money to help our fellow Americans.

Our Founding Fathers suffered a lot, all 56 of them, when they signed the Declaration of Independence. Some died, others lost their families, homes and livelihoods. But they gave us a nation, and as a nation we must realize that the 4th of July is more than fireworks. We can show our gratitude, and increase our inner strength, by making the 4th of July a meaningful holiday for all Americans.

Clifton J. JesterKadena Air Base, Okinawa

Iraqi's response unjustified

An Iraqi political scientist, Saad al-Jawaad, speaking about the Iraqi people living in despair, was quoted in a recent story as saying: “He has nothing left to do but carry arms and defy the people who are here occupying his country and doing nothing for him or his family.” For crying out loud. If women are from Venus and men are from Mars, this guy’s from Pluto!

The dictator is gone. The country is free. The guy could decide to carry a shovel or a paintbrush instead of an AK-47. He could mount a cement mixer on the back of his Toyota pickup instead of a machine gun. He now has the ability to choose, and he’s not choosing to get together with his neighbors and rebuild. He’s destroying instead and blaming it on someone else. What are we supposed to do? Drop off a refrigerator full of food, a closet full of clothes and a checkbook with a fat balance in it? Heck, I’d like somebody to do that for me.

Instead of thousands of these guys turning out for demonstrations every day, what’s wrong with forming committees and work groups to start putting that place back together the way they want it? If we leave, in a couple of months they’ll be crying in the United Nations and saying, “America deserted us again. Now we have gangsters, warlords and terrorists running the country. We need America to come back and kick them out, too.”

Sooner or later the Iraqis, Palestinians, Israelis, Liberians, Somalis, Congolese, etc., are going to have to grow up and take responsibility for their own destiny. All this crying that “America has to do something …” gets really old to a guy who watches the flag-draped body bags coming off the planes in Delaware. We’ve already done a lot more than the rest of the world combined, and I’d nominate all who have served in this effort for sainthood.

Dennis E. O’NeillNaples, Italy

July 14

Iraq wasn't a threat

In the letter “Attacking Iraq” (Dec. 11, 2002), I said that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that the only reason President Bush wanted a war was so a few of his friends could make a lot of money. I listed people like Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice and others with the oil companies of their past affiliations, Halliburton and Chevron to name a few.

It’s six months later. Halliburton’s Brown & Root got an uncontested, two-year, $9 billion contract in Iraq. And another of President Bush’s biggest campaign contributors, Bechtel Corp., got an even bigger contract involving Iraq.

As I said six months ago, invading Iraq will make a lot of money for a few close business friends of the Bush administration. And what about the rest of us Americans? Well, it’s going to cost us $100 billion to pay for this war, and America is not one bit safer. Oh, and did I mention that no WMDs have been found in Iraq?

I know a lot of readers want to believe that the Bush administration invaded Iraq to protect American lives by securing any WMDs that the Iraqis may have had. But if that was true, then can someone please tell me how U.S. forces managed to secure and guard the Baghdad oil ministry building but left a number of nuclear facilities open to looting? These facilities held tons of radioactive materials, enough to make many radioactive dirty bombs, and were looted.

I don’t blame our GIs. Dumb orders like being told to guard an empty oil ministry building instead of nuclear sites (the main purpose of the war) had to come from the highest level of civilian leadership. Readers know the ones — the ex-oil executives.

I believe the Bush administration lied about WMDs in Iraq. Or at best, it intentionally manipulated or misrepresented intelligence to get Congress to authorize, and the public to support, military action to take control of Iraq. Department of Defense Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz nearly confessed as much in the story “Wolfowitz interview revives WMD furor” (May 31). Even if the reasons cited by Wolfowitz were the real truth behind the war, lying about WMDs, insulting key allies who didn’t support that lie, and letting former business affiliates profit from the effects of the lie have to be impeachable offenses. After all, hundreds of Americans died and thousands of Iraqis are dead. We hung ex-President Clinton out to dry for lying about sex that hurt no one. Don’t the families who lost loved ones deserve an investigation into these allegations?

In the last 10 years, no Iraqis have shot at or killed any Americans who weren’t trying to invade their country or kill them first. Gen. Tommy Franks admitted to using “no-fly zone” planes to attack Iraq at the start of the most recent Iraq war, so they were always fair game. My point is that Iraq was never the threat which the Bush administration has made it out to be.

James A. CarrethersHeidelberg, Germany

Someone always has it worse

I enjoy reading letters from soldiers complaining about not having four sets of desert camouflage uniforms, three hot meals a day, Internet and, of course, mail. But I still haven’t seen a letter written by a soldier in the Spartan Brigade. The Spartans, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, have been deployed now for 10 months. They took Baghdad in hours.

They were supposed to be home by now, but they are in Fallujah because someone had to go. In Fallujah, the Spartans found themselves living in conditions that would make a homeless man shudder, but they worked to make it better with few resources.

These Spartans don’t have all the great facilities as soldiers do in Camp Doha, Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad and the Kuwaiti camps. Instead they deal with heat, dust, dogs, Iraqis and uncertainty.

Several times they’ve been told to “be prepared to deploy” and had it revoked. Do they write letters about not having an extra set of DCUs, USO shows, e-mail or air conditioners? No. They just want to go home.

The men and women who complain about conditions in Kuwait and Iraq need to look at the Spartans and the rest of the 3rd Infantry Division and realize that someone will always have it worse than them.

Capt. Blaine ThorkildsonFallujah, Iraq

No one forced to see show

Obviously the writer of the July 5 letter “Don’t need Kid Rock’s support” had a problem with Kid Rock being on a recent USO tour in Iraq and doesn’t care for Kid Rock or his lyrics. He doesn’t have to. But many servicemembers and I like and come to have a deeper respect for people such as Kid Rock who come to dangerous locations just to entertain us. We love it and really appreciate it.

The writer said, “I’d like to think that both of these professional soldiers committed to Army values were aghast at such trash being spewed by an artist known for this kind of ‘entertainment.’” The writer was referring to Kid Rock saying, “If I was president, I’d turn all the churches into strip clubs,” and his reference to “smoking a joint on Air Force One.”

Come on now. Isn’t this the whole reason we’re over here to begin with? To uphold the Constitution and defend the freedoms that are our God-given right as Americans? Was the writer saying that we should censor what soldiers are listening to now?

No one was forced to go to the USO show. They wanted to. And we all loved it! The writer also said, “Why don’t we just get Eminem to come and ‘entertain’ our troops with ethnic and racial slurs.” Whatever. Ask most soldiers, and they’d love to see Slim Shady come out here.

A heartfelt thanks to all past and future USO entertainers. Thanks so much for coming here to entertain us. We’ll always remember their selflessness.

Sgt. Jennifer E. LyonsCamp Arifjan, Kuwait

July 15

Armies fight wars

This is in response to the letter “All is not well and good” (July 11) and to all the other complaining troops who have sent in letters. I served 20 years and am a veteran from the Vietnam era. What did these young soldiers who complained because they didn’t get their leaves approved or who are hot and tired after serving three whole months in a war zone in Iraq think they were doing when they enlisted in the Army? Obviously none of these soldiers are students of history. Armies fight wars. The U.S. Army sends troops overseas away from their families and friends. These things happen, and I think some of these soldiers should have went to work at Sears rather than joined the military, which mission is to follow the orders and directives of commanders.

I don’t want to belittle the accomplishments and sacrifices that our soldiers are making in Iraq. But my goodness, they should look at what their counterparts have gone through in previous conflicts. There were 12-month tours on search and destroy missions in Vietnam. Cold and deadly tours during the Korean War. Tours of a year or more in World War II freeing Europe from Hitler.

All soldiers have always had an inherent right to complain about their living conditions. But from what I see, the Army and its commanders have never gone further in the history of warfare in looking out for the lives and welfare of our servicemembers.

Douglas StewartBamberg, Germany

U.S. military must catch up

I’m writing in response to the letter “Societal engineering” (July 9). The writer believes “there are sometimes very good reasons to discriminate against someone who has made poor moral choices sexually.” After attacking homosexuals, the writer said, “May God protect our nation from morally errant thinking people in positions of power and influence.” As a U.S. military officer, the writer is presumably in at least a minor position of power and influence, and I find it “morally errant” that such a person would advocate discrimination against anyone. Diversity and freedom are two ideals that contribute to great societies. Discrimination squashes them.

The writer also seems to buy into the myth that some people choose to be homosexual. Just as the writer presumably did not choose to be heterosexual, we do not choose to be homosexual. I say “we” because I’m gay. I did not participate in the “gay parades” to which the writer referred. I was a Boy Scout, graduated from West Point, and served as a U.S. Army officer. I even dated females until I finally realized something I had at least suspected since I was around 13 – that I was gay. Believe me, being gay is not a choice, and it doesn’t revolve around “homosexual acts.” Instead, it involves emotional and physical attractions to certain members of one’s own gender, just as being heterosexual involves similar attractions to certain members of the opposite gender.

While the writer may be surprised, gays and lesbians can be found in all societies, races, ethnic groups, and religions. Some readers may be homosexual and many will be parents, friends, co-workers, or teammates of someone who is gay or lesbian, whether they know it or not. There are many excellent organizations and “coming out groups” in most countries in which Stars and Stripes readers are located, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays ( can assist those who know someone who’s gay.

The writer clearly believes that the U.S. military (and, probably, U.S. society as a whole) should continue to discriminate against homosexuals. The latest edition of Parameters, published by the U.S. Army War College, includes an article by Aaron Belkin entitled, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Is the Gay Ban Based on Military Necessity?” According to the article, “24 nations allow gays and lesbians to serve in their armed forces, and only a few NATO members continue to fire homosexual soldiers. Not a single one of the 104 experts interviewed believed that the Australian, Canadian, Israeli, or British decisions to lift their gay bans undermined military performance, readiness, or cohesion,” wrote Belkin. Fifty years ago, the U.S. military led the way in racial integration. It is now time for the military and U.S. society as a whole to catch up to most.

Robert ScheiderFrankfurt, Germany

Mail important

I’m a soldier currently deployed in Iraq, and I was outraged by the letter “Mail complaints” (June 2). The writer has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. Mail is just as important as anything else needed to win a war. Why? Because if soldiers have no morale, how can they be expected to fight at 100 percent? They can’t. They’ll constantly be thinking and worrying about their families. With no morale, soldiers are as good as dead.

I agree that freedom isn’t free. Those of us out here risking our lives and being kept from our families pay for that freedom. We deal with hardships every day. I think the very least we can ask for is stable mail. Those who can easily call their loved ones have no idea what it feels like to be ripped away from their families.

The writer is living in luxury. We’re living in sand. The writer is the whiner. We appreciate everything the writer takes for granted. The writer should join the infantry. We’ll show him our lives, and I guarantee he’ll retract his letter.

Pfc. Rob RoysdonIraq

Fix mail system

I’m totally disgusted by the comments in the letter “Quit complaining about mail” (July 8). Who does the writer think he is by telling people to stop complaining? The last time I checked, that’s what the military was protecting — our freedom of speech. I know for a fact that the mail has been slow if not stopped. I don’t know what the problem is, but there is one.

I have a brother in Iraq now and a wife who could end up there, so I’m really concerned that the mail system gets straightened out. When soldiers are paying $1 a minute to use a phone because they have no phones to use to call home, then yes, we get a little upset with the mail.

So before the people in the system start pointing fingers and screaming, they should stop complaining. Remember, we are the ones who are waiting by mail boxes, and our spouses are the ones waiting for those packages. We just want the system fixed as soon as possible.

Chris HayesKitzingen, Germany

Miller Lite girl

I’m the Morale, Welfare and Recreation entertainment director for the stabilization force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I’m responding to the letter “Shameful entertainment” (July 8). If the writer only knew what that little pin meant to the unit that presented it to Kitana Baker, the Miller Lite girl. The SFOR-13 deployment pin from Task Force Huskers (Nebraska) has a yellow ribbon, the 1/67 Cavalry unit crest, and the American flag on it. This is a very small token from the troops stationed at that location to all entertainers. A single soldier made the presentation.

If the writer goes back to the States one day, she’ll see what the Miller Lite girls do in their commercials. Here in the Balkans, this was a piece of home for the troops deployed away from their friends and families to keep the peace for the world. I didn’t hear any complaints about “Joe Millionaire” or Bobby Allison coming to KFOR. Statistically, we have more male entertainers than females.

Allen McNeillRecreational SpecialistEagle Base, Bosnia

Focus on duties, not gripes

I’m deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Platoon Scorpions, A Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment. I’ve been in theater for more than eight months. I’m writing this in response to the many letters sent by servicemembers deployed here. I’ve noticed a trend that the people writing have only been here for a couple of months at most and they’re complaining.

I feel a sense of anger when I read these letters. Where do they get off complaining about not seeing their families for a month? How can they complain about not getting the chance to use a satellite phone every few hours? They also complained about how the mail system doesn’t work. My unit is still getting mail dated in March!

They need to stop complaining. They seem to forget that some of us have it worse. As an infantryman, I’m proud of my unit. We don’t complain about what we don’t have, and we’re thankful for what we do have. These servicemembers also need to realize that without us they wouldn’t have anything that they have now. It was our hard work and dedication that made their safety and housing possible.

I was also angered when they talked about morale and coping with stress. In my opinion, they are lacking attention to detail. Do they realize that the recent USO concert was not attended by any of the remaining forward combat teams? Our morale and stress levels are bad. We have been here since the word “go.” Yet we don’t complain. Again, I’m proud of my unit. We only ask for one thing: a day to go home.

We rigorously trained for four months from the moment we landed in Kuwait. We were the spearhead of the assault on Baghdad and performed the immediate peacekeeping for more than a month without reinforcements. With our current mission in Fallujah and surrounding areas as well, we think if anything we’ve earned the right to see our families.

Overall, my message is this: Stop complaining. There is an end down the road. These letter writers are here doing their duty. They should show how much of men or women they are, take what they’ve got and go with it. They should earn the right to be called heroes. The less they complain and the more they focus on their duties, the sooner this will be all over for all of us.

Pfc. Derek SmolosIraq

Camera rule frames mail woes

There has been a problem with the mail in Iraq since Day One. We all know this and we also understand that there will be some problems because of the large number of soldiers coming into Iraq. I’ve been here since March 1, and we are just now getting caught up on incoming mail. The average incoming letter or package takes about 15 days to be delivered, as it did while deployed to Afghanistan. But our outgoing mail takes about 30 days to reach the United States.

To make things worse, we’re no longer allowed to mail home one-time-use cameras. We did this for six months in Afghanistan and again when we first arrived here. It was fine until now. We don’t have a post office nearby, nor do we have time to drive three hours to mail a camera. Why change in the middle of a deployment?

How do we fix this problem? Do we just forget it, since it only affects the soldiers too far from division main? Why can’t we send cameras through the mail?

Master Sgt. Kerrie BlackSinjar, Iraq

Support for supporters

I wish to turn around the words of the people who have written “Messages of Support” in Stars and Stripes and offer them support in return. I’m based at Fort Stewart, Fla., but have been deployed since Sept. 21. While we spent six months in Kuwait, family members sent love and support through simple letters. But once we crossed the border into Iraq on March 20, our whole nation took us under its wing to offer encouragement. The best examples I saw were in Stripes with the messages.

So now that we’re remaining vigilant in Baghdad, I offer hope and strength to families with soldiers waiting to come home — some of whom will return now and some later. I hope that all of them can keep the faith. I thank them for everything. They should know that we do what we do because of our love for America and its people.

Best of all, I have great admiration for those who wrote words of encouragement to all the soldiers. Most of us saw only one or two papers, and for that matter still do. But it kept me going to know that at any time I could open to a page that praised what we were doing when there was doubt. Thanks for being our rock while the troops made Operation Iraqi Freedom a success.

Spc. Jennifer NelsonIraq

July 16

Mail flows, morale improves

I’m writing in reference to the letter “Quit complaining about mail” (July 8) from a specialist who works for the Joint Military Mail Terminal in Kuwait. The writer stated his case well that the JMMT in theater is caught up. He and his co-workers should be proud. But his letter reflected a negative attitude toward his fellow servicemembers. If the writer wasn’t in the rear and had to wait for long periods of time for a letter or package that he knew was due a month ago, the writer would also be complaining.

The writer should imagine himself living in a dust bowl with no morale-enhancing features and no other means of communicating with his home. Better yet, the writer should consider living under these conditions plus being denied access to an AAFES post exchange because someone whined about having to wait in line because people from other areas used “their” PX. Is the writer getting the picture about how easily morale can be destroyed?

While taken personally, the complaints are general in nature and are a way of saying to the upper chains of command, “Hey, can we come up with a field expedient method to expedite the mail?” Here’s an example from my chain of command. We offered our services to the supporting mail point. We help them unload trucks, sort mail, inspect packages, etc. The postmaster is happy we’re here to help. I suggest locations in Iraq, Germany or wherever problems may lie should ask for support of this nature. I know hindsight is 20/20, but it’s obvious that no one properly prepared for the overload that would be placed on the military mail system at the buildup stage.

The mail is flowing better and morale is improving. But self-righteousness from JMMT personnel doesn’t help. We all appreciate the hard work being done by the people in the JMMTs. I know it doesn’t always appear that way, but they should put themselves in the shoes of those who are forward. The JMMT personnel may find some compassion for them.

I thank the mail folks for their efforts. As for the PX situation in Baghdad, I suggest a theaterwide boycott of AAFES until those situations are resolved. Let’s face it: AAFES is a monopoly that has gotten too big for its britches. Local commanders don’t help either.

Sgt. Lawrence TaylorKuwait

Thanks for baseball all-stars

I want to thank all of the people who made it possible for the 98th Area Support Group to have an all-star team for boys bantam baseball, ages 11-12. Parents were patient during the four-hour tryout on Father’s Day. Practices began on Mondays and Wednesdays in Giebelstadt, Germany, to prepare the team for a Little League district tournament at Ramstein Air Base that Friday.

Coach Tom Platteborze came up with a brilliant idea to host an overnight baseball camp for two days. The boys stayed in government billets. This was coordinated by Tom’s wife, Carla. Tom arranged for all meals and the mess hall was used for breakfast. Coach Bill Harrison chaperoned and assisted Tom. The camp allowed the boys to bond together and become an excellent team.

The coaches traveled from Bamberg, Schweinfurt, Würzburg and Kitzingen to assist in developing the team at their Giebelstadt practices. Special thanks to those coaches, such as John Logsdon, James Morelos, Dave Faulkner, James Hall and Lt. Col. Dave Hubner. Special thanks also to Coach Adam Selsemeyer, who developed the idea for an all-star team. Adam coordinated getting the team chartered into Little League and registered in the Ramstein district tournament. He and his wife, Bridgette, gathered all the paperwork the kids needed to register for the tournament.

Bridgette also coordinated getting the families lodged in Kusel because no lodging was available at Ramstein. A special thanks also goes to First Command Financial Planning and agent Rich Steely for donating money for the cost of the lodging. Another big thanks goes to Vince Scuito, the 417th Base Support Battalion’s sports director, who did what he could to support the all-star team. His hands were severely tied by Youth Services, which did not want any YS involvement in the all-star program.

It’s a terrible shame that Youth Services has stopped its involvement in chartering and developing an all-star program. These programs afford kids overseas an opportunity to compete each year in a district tournament that is the prelude to the prestigious Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Youth Services should learn from this year’s experience and fully support these all-star programs. The kids experienced something they’ll always remember.

A lot of kids want tougher competition and a chance to play at an advanced level and not just play in the abbreviated, short-season Youth Services programs. As these kids get older they’ll participate in many sports competitions. Now they’ve experienced their first taste of advanced competition.

Our kids were at a disadvantage to begin with because the other all-star teams had been practicing for two or more weeks while this team was assembled in less than a week. To the kids’ credit, they played hard and with a lot of emotion. They nearly won the first game after being down 8-0 in the last inning.

A big thanks to the parents who supported their kids, allowed them to attend the camp and made the drive to Ramstein to share a lifetime experience with their sons. A special thanks also to all 14 of our baseball players who gave it their all in the tournament.

Don BurchKitzingen, Germany

Ali Baba no bad guy

I’m responding to a July 4 promotion for a story in Stars and Stripes’ July 6 newspaper which said “On watch for ‘Ali Baba’ and other bad guys.” The statement, “Ali Baba and other bad guys” is false and can lead to the impression that the U.S. and British forces in Baghdad cannot differentiate between the good guys and the evil guys.

The old Arabian collection of fairy tales, also called “Thousand and One Nights,” has many tales that were told by a wise young woman named Scheherezade to the cruel King Shahryar in order to change his cruel mind from evil to good.

One of the many tales told by the young, but very wise Scheherezade is the story of “Ali Baba and the 40 Robbers.” In this story, Ali Baba is a poor worker who earns his living by cutting and selling firewood in the local forests. While at work in a forest he must hide when a group of horsemen, the 40 robbers, arrive. He then becomes witness to the secret code word “sesam,” which opens the gate of a cave that hides all their stolen fortunes. This story describes an upright and honest man named Ali Baba who tries to stay right when the robbers kill his brother and later try to murder him.

I recommend that all Stars and Stripes readers read this wonderful tale of life and death which can give an insight into oriental thinking, fighting and living.

Karl MeierNeustadt, Germany

Jessica Lynch is strong

My name is Spc. David A. Wright. I’m with the 190th Military Police Company from Kennesaw, Ga. We’re stationed at Camp Bucca, Iraq.

The reason I’m writing is because of the Jessica Lynch stories that I’ve read. She is a strong woman. My prayers and hopes are with her. If she wants a new friend, she has one at the 190th MP Co.

Spc. David WrightCamp Bucca, Iraq

Why aren't soldiers home?

I have just finished reading Stars and Stripes for the first time. I am among the thousands of family members who are trying to understand all of the things that are not being done to bring our troops home, even though President Bush declared the war over in mid May.

The fighting in Middle Eastern countries will never be over, regardless of whether we find Saddam Hussein, because the people there have been fighting since the beginning of time (if we go back to stories in the Bible of Cain and Abel). Yes, the president said we should go in and free the people of Iraq; but there will always be a group of terrorists that will want to take over to show they will take up where their ruler left off.

If the war was declared over, why hasn’t the United States sent some replacements over? U.S. servicemembers in Iraq are truthful when they say they are bearing each day the heat, conditions and the most important thing — not knowing for sure when they will come home. I try not even to watch the news, for it upsets me to know that our troops are in danger more then when we first went into Baghdad. We all have to try and put ourselves in the position of each and every servicemember in Iraq; they don’t know when they will have a time set to come home, and now our president wants to send so many into Africa, which is another mess.

When is the U.S. government going to wake up? We don’t need to try and fix other countries’ problems when they don’t want our help — and our country, to me, has no right to tell another person to get out or else. We will keep helping countries, but if you look at the countries that were there to support us in Iraq, it was upsetting. I was taught when the United Nations was formed that is what the word stood for: “united” together. It was upsetting to know that the countries that we were there for backed down; that tells me “United Nations” is a misnomer.

I don’t care to hear that people are opposed to the statement “In God we trust” because we had better. As a concerned grandmother who has a grandson in the National Guard, I am proud of all the military units that are still in Iraq, but it is time to bring them home and to give them all a fixed date.

Rose Marie JuedenYankton, S.D.

July 17

Family's soldier

I write this letter in the hope of inspiring all military personnel to constantly express appreciation for their spouses and family members when they’re deployed. Throughout my 17-year career my family has had to live through numerous separations and difficult times directly due to my military commitment. Just in the past year I’ve been away from my family for more than 180 days due to training, TDYs and deployments. The most difficult thing to deal with is being away from my loving wife of 16 years and our precious daughter. I believe that many of us fail to express our true appreciation for what our spouses do for us when we’re away.

I consider my wife to be our family’s soldier. She is the one who keeps our hearts together no matter if I’m next to her or 4,000 miles away, as I am now. She’s the personal taxi service for my daughter for school, swimming lessons, tumbling classes, doctor’s appointments and birthday parties. She’s our spiritual leader, ensuring that our faith will never falter. As our personal accountant, she makes sure our debts are paid and our family needs are met, and also ensures that there’s funds for supporting our church. She’s also our unpaid lawn service, housekeeper, cook, tutor and nurse.

My family and I have dreams no different than any other American. We dream of owning our own home, a simple retirement, putting our daughter through college and enjoying our freedom. Most of what I read in the media is that soldiers guarantee our dreams of freedom. Personally, I know that I couldn’t do what I do as a soldier if it weren’t for my family’s soldier back home.

Our jobs demand that we stay focused and stand ready to do our duties without hesitation of thought and commitment. We can only do this by knowing that everything at home is being taken care of while we’re away. I think every person who is deployed, whether military or civilian, should constantly express to their spouses how much they mean to them and that they are proud of them for what they do. Their commitment to our country and our families is no less important than our own. When we’re in deployment mode, so are they. When we need our spirits lifted, they are always on 24-hour call.

No good soldiers can do their jobs 24 hours a day, seven days a week without appreciation for what they do. Every one of us is trained to appreciate the soldiers we lead. We must never forget about the silent soldiers who serve our families while we’re away. I’m proud of everything that my wife Darlene is doing for us. I love her and want her to know that I couldn’t do what I do without her.

Master Sgt. Randall CaswellAl Udeid Air Base, Qatar

Think about good things

My name is Sgt. 1st Class George Gomez, 77th Maintenance Company, 485th Corps Support Battalion, based out of Babenhausen, Germany. I’m currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I just want to share a few things with my fellow readers.

I get tired of reading over and over about the mail problems. I arrived in Kuwait way back on Feb. 3. When the mail starting flowing to us, we were receiving it from Germany and the States in a week or sometimes less. Incredible! But as the tempo started increasing, of course we saw our mail start to flow slower and slower as expected.

I’ve moved three times since February, from Camp Udairi to Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait to Convoy Support Center Cedar to logistics support area Dogwood in Iraq. I’ve seen my mail flow come to almost a complete stop. But not once did I ever doubt that the mail handlers were providing the best possible service. Case in point: On July 5 I received a package mailed from Germany on March 7. It had a total of four APOs lined through it. But somehow it made it to my location. How’s that for service? Now that we’re stationary here, our mail is coming in from the States and Germany in 10 days or less. I think that’s incredible!

The bottom line is that all the complainers should stop whining and think about all the good things, like going home and seeing their families soon.

Sgt. 1st Class George A. GomezIraq

Release and escape

I’m writing in response to the letter “Aghast at Kid Rock trash” (July 2). Aghast at Kid Rock? Trash? I appreciate the response and I’m happy to see that others are taking advantage of their freedom of speech. After all, it’s that freedom and many others that are given to all of us. We have these freedoms thanks to our Constitution and the thousands of soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors who have died to uphold them.

In regard to the letter, I and many others who were at the USO event did not necessarily enjoy the chance to hear Kid Rock sing about being president. Instead, it was the simple chance to see, meet and welcome entertainers from the United States. These are entertainers who volunteered to be here to show their support and appreciation to thousands of coalition forces. It says a lot about these entertainers. They could be selfish and give a world concert tour at $50 a ticket. NFL and NBA players could make endorsement deals. Actors could read scripts for another big hit movie or attend a photo shoot. Instead, they took time out of their lives and realized that without us here — dedicated to our mission to uphold our freedoms — they wouldn’t be who they are or where they are.

I don’t condone religious intolerance or advocate illegal substance abuse. Yet I realize that the American people have many different views and can live their lives with many different freedoms that others cannot. It was our release and our escape. It was a release and escape from flying bullets, rocket-propelled grenades, snipers and ambushes, along with the loneliness of being away from our friends and loved ones.

I hope that soon we can all realize and appreciate the fact that we are U.S. citizens and our country has reaped the benefits of troops who have died in combat, survived near death and dealt with everyday combat fatigue. The letter writer shouldn’t hate us for trying to enjoy one day of entertainment when he can enjoy his freedom with his family and friends and has the everyday opportunity to go to a movie or sporting event and live his live as he pleases.

Sgt. David WhippBaghdad, Iraq

Pains of deploying

Quite frequently I see letters in Stars and Stripes attributed to senior noncommissioned officers that contain little, if any, beneficial content. Most complain about the operations tempo and how many times they’ve been deployed lately. A case in point is the letter “Deployments” (June 30). The writer complained because he isn’t school trained to do a job. I’d expect this type of input from a lower enlisted soldier, not a seasoned warrior.

I have yet to read about anyone’s displeasure in receiving hazardous duty pay, family separation pay, save pay, tax exempt leave days, federal tax free status, etc. The bottom line is that we are at war, and war requires discipline and sacrifice, especially from the leaders entrusted to direct, motivate and give purpose to America’s sons and daughters in uniform.

Attitudes determine attitudes. So the letter writers should cheer up and fly high, because we aren’t going home any time soon. If the writer of “Deployment” can’t become semi-proficient in a new job on his own, he should see his command sergeant major. I’m sure his CSM can place him in a job that he can perform to standard, such as sergeant of the guard, police call NCOIC, escort duties, etc.

We are all feeling the pains of deploying. The letter writers should make the most of it, because it could be a whole lot worse.

Master Sgt. Shaun TrescottIraq

Morale keeps soldiers alert

I’m a soldier currently deployed in Iraq, and I was outraged by the June 6 letter “‘Bullets, food snd fuel’ first.” The writer has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. Mail is just as important as anything else needed to win a war. Why? Because if soldiers have no morale, how can they be expected to fight at 100 percent? They can’t. They’ll constantly be thinking and worrying about their families. With no morale, soldiers are as good as dead.

I agree that freedom isn’t free. Those of us out here risking our lives and being kept from our families pay for that freedom. We deal with hardships every day. I think the very least we can ask for is stable mail. Those who can easily call their loved ones have no idea what it feels like to be ripped away from their families.

The writer is living in luxury. We’re living in sand. The writer is the whiner. We appreciate everything the writer takes for granted. The writer should join the infantry. We’ll show him our lives, and I guarantee he’ll retract his letter.

Pfc. Rob RoysdonIraq

Just want mail system fixed

I’m totally disgusted by the comments in the July 10 letter “Quit complaining about mail.” Who does the writer think he is by telling people to stop complaining? The last time I checked, that’s what the military was protecting — our freedom of speech. I know for a fact that the mail has been slow, if not stopped. I don’t know what the problem is, but there is one.

I have a brother in Iraq now and a wife who could end up there, so I’m really concerned that the mail system gets straightened out. When soldiers are paying $1 a minute to use a phone because they have no phones to use to call home, then yes, we get a little upset with the mail.

So before the people in the system start pointing fingers and screaming, they should stop complaining. Remember, we are the ones who are waiting by mail boxes, and our spouses are the ones waiting for those packages. We just want the system fixed as soon as possible.

Chris HayesKitzingen, Germany

July 18

Iraq letters response

This is in response to the letters “Dying in vain,” “Tired combat veterans,” “Mail system poor,” and “Anger and frustration.” They were all published on July 3.

“Dying in vain” — Every GI signed a contract to serve. We’re at war. Dying is part of war. Is it needless? Ask the Iraqi people who no longer have to live in fear of a brutal dictator. As for slain soldiers being missed by their families, maybe those families can find honor in what the soldiers accomplished in this faraway land.

How many lives must be wasted in vain? Well, let’s just pull out now so our sons and daughters can come back in another 10 years and start “dying in vain” again. It’s sad to lose soldiers, but they are soldiers, and dying comes with wearing the uniform. When we swore our oath, we all agreed that freedom was worth dying for.

“Tired combat veterans” — Try fighting in real combat for three or four years like in World War I and II instead of a few months. I’m not taking anything away from the units that fought in this most recent Iraq war. Everyone did a superb job. So why are these troops still in Iraq? Because the job isn’t done. Major combat is over, but the war is not. No one has declared the war over. There are groups of people who want to sabotage our efforts in Iraq. That’s why troops are still in Iraq.

My condolences to the writer’s family. But the writer’s a soldier, and sometimes that means he’s away from home for extended periods.

“Mail system poor” — I agree that soldiers need mail. It’s the most powerful of all morale boosters. But for the writer to accuse his leadership of holding his mail or not doing anything about his mail is juvenile. These “lame missions” that he’s doing are part of a bigger scheme of things — like the stabilization of Iraq.

The main goal of leaders is to accomplish the mission. Sometimes there has to be a balance between GIs’ needs and the mission. We’re still at war, and I believe that most times “mission first” should win.

How does the writer know that there were no mail problems during the first Gulf War? Was he there? During the blitzkrieg race to Baghdad, supply lines were severely stretched. To this day the effects of that unprecedented offensive maneuver are still being felt. The writer is a noncommissioned officer. I hope he didn’t voice these concerns to his soldiers and set a bad example. Not getting mail is disheartening. But complaining about it the way the writer did is more disheartening. The writer also assumed people are getting mail due to rank. What is he thinking? The mail’s slow. Deal with it.

“Anger and frustration” — The writer signed a contract for one weekend a month and two weeks a year. But the fine print says that he’s a soldier and the president can call him for active duty at any time. That means the writer is a soldier 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Sgt. 1st Class Jason WagonerKirkuk, Iraq

Drastic change

I’m a GI who served in both Gulf wars. I’ve seen a drastic change in the Army. In the first Gulf War, we were a more self-contained Army. We did the mission ourselves, no matter what it was, and we did it without always having civilians in the middle of things. It’s a shame when I hear GIs say they can’t do something because civilians do that job now. The Army spends a lot of money training us to do any job that a civilian does. It’s time we give noncommissioned officers their jobs back and make soldiers do the jobs they’re trained to do and quit depending on civilians.

I arrived in the Gulf for the second time on March 27 and couldn’t believe the disarray I saw as I went from camp to camp. Each one looked like a junkyard. There was equipment everywhere. No one knew where anyone was located. In 1991, everything had its place. It just seemed to me that no one cared this time around.

When I got to the theater in 1991, it was time to work. It wasn’t time to ask where the post exchange was or where the Internet was located. It wasn’t time to make a beeline to the mess hall or go back to the tent and go to sleep. There was mail to be sorted, water to be palletized and supplies to be moved forward.

Where is the highest-ranking officer in charge of this camp? Oh yeah, that’s right. He or she is in the PX line or on noncommissioned officer business while the camp is on autopilot.

Sgt. Tyray DanielsBaghdad, Iraq

Humanitarian story

Here’s a humanitarian letter for Stars and Stripes readers.

My name is Sgt. Robert Spettel. I’m the senior medic for B Company, 3rd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment out of Pensacola, Fla. We’re stationed in Baghdad. Besides our daily road patrols and show of force on the streets, we’re guarding buildings and seizing weapons. We’ve done a lot of humanitarian work with families who have lost their homes and just need a little help to get started again.

We have one of many Iraqi personnel working for us, doing whatever we need or would like done in our compound to just make a living. On a recent Thursday afternoon after work, he was catching a taxi home and was struck in the back of the neck by a bouncing bullet. Unsure of what had happened, the victim walked into my office the following morning with an X-ray and another person to take his place since he couldn’t work. The X-ray showed a small-caliber bullet in the soft tissue of his neck. It just missed his spine. We put together another patrol, headed by Staff Sgt. Tankersley, and took the victim back to the hospital to get the bullet removed.

But this was to no avail. The doctor wouldn’t be in until Tuesday. But they did a CAT scan and brought me more X-rays. I’m thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Then I took him over to see what my higher-ups wanted to do. They were like, “We can’t touch this” and said to leave it alone. And I was like, “No way,” risking my stripes to an officer. We finally got back to our compound late. The victim received some aspirin for the pain and went home.

The victim showed back up Saturday with more X-rays. The bullet had dropped an inch. We asked other workers about available doctors, and one ran off to check. The worker returned with a doctor who looked at the victim. The doctor said to bring him in to his hospital at 10 p.m. and he’d remove the bullet. The doctor said he’d pay half the bill if we paid the other half.

Sgt. Robert SpettelBaghdad, Iraq

Waiting for mail

I’m a soldier stationed in Iraq between the Kuwait border and Baghdad. I, too, wait every day for a letter or package from home. I’ve received one letter and my family has received one postcard from me that I wrote when I first got into the country. I have sent T-shirts and rugs and little things from the post exchange back home for my family. The post office said it would take two weeks. I also got a chance to use the morale phone, which is a 3-mile drive away, to see if my family members had received my packages. They haven’t. It’s been almost 30 days now.

I run missions constantly. I’m gone for three to four days before I get back to my camp, and it’s disappointing to come back after a mission and find that my letters have still not gotten here. My son turned 4 last month, and there was a death in my family that I found out about 30 days later. My son has still not received his gift.

The morale phones are nice, but the operators running the military station closest to my house don’t work weekends. If I’m gone on a mission all week, I still can’t call. It’s an 8-hour difference from here to home, so I have to try to call at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. to reach my family.

It would be really nice if someone could help with the mail. It really feels good to hear from back home.

Spc. Dennis LogueIraq

July 19

Broken heart

This is being written with a broken heart. I lost my husband on May 11 in a motorcycle accident. It was his longtime dream to own a Harley-Davidson. The day he was killed, he’d had the bike for 11 days. It’s strange to say he loved his bike so much that he had to die on it. My 5-year-old says he’s in heaven riding it. Kids have such a different grasp on death and heaven, whereas I’m feeling angry, scared and alone without my husband.

Losing my husband is like losing the other part of me. The outreach and kindness I received from the family here in Hohenfels, Germany, was overwhelming. The condolences and donations, the kind words, the support, and all the hugs will never be forgotten. I was never left alone. My parents have also been a great help.

I also wrote the letter “Sad farewell” (Feb. 23) which talked about military pride and family and how I wasn’t used to it. Well, when Anthony died, my parents came as fast as they could. But my immediate family grew tenfold. There are so many people I’d like to give my deepest thanks.

First are Ronni and Tim Wright. They were my backbone. Master Sgt. David Robinson took the crying and yelling and held my hand. The Viper family lost their noncommissioned officer and friend. The wives brought food and they all came by to check on me and Raven. The sergeants called me all the time and came by daily. They also prepared a beautiful memorial video. Without them, I don’t think I’d have been able to stand up straight at the memorial.

Spc. Rice and Sgt. Roff also accompanied me to the States to help with the funeral. They’re great people. The chain of command was supportive and kind.

My colleagues from DCA, my supervisors and friends from Lane 17 Bowling Center, the CAC, and the Hohenfels Library helped with books to explain to my child where her daddy went. Raven’s Sure Start teachers were great and supportive. Hohenfels Elementary School Principal Dennis Conkright held me while I cried when I brought Raven back to school.

There are so many people who’ve been there for Raven and I that I can’t name them all. I don’t think Anthony ever imagined how many people cared for him and how he affected so many lives here in Germany. He loved his job and his soldiers. He was always there for them, and now they’ve all been there for me.

I can see Anthony smiling about how beautiful the memorial was and how many people came to pay their respects. I loved my husband and will forever. His short life with Raven and I was blessed and filled with happiness and love. The Army was my husband’s life, and he served his country with all his heart and soul.

All the donations I’ve received have helped us get through the tough days in the beginning. Now that we’re slowly figuring our way through the military paperwork, I’d like to donate all that money back to two organizations that my husband believed in, the Fisher House and the USO.

I thank everyone who helped us. Now I’d like to help others. Remember my husband and that family is important. Remember that life may be short. Thanks again. May God bless and protect everyone.

Lorena LopezHohenfels, Germany


As the commander of AAFES, I’d like to set the record straight in response to the letter “Facts on fuel prices” (July 1). The writer purported to give intricate details regarding fuel pricing in Germany. Unfortunately, the “facts” presented were not entirely true. While the account was partially correct, the statements regarding dispensing costs were incomplete. AAFES adds only the incremental difference between AAFES Germany dispensing costs and AAFES continental United States dispensing costs to the Department of Energy sell price.

The writer also said that AAFES doesn’t pay for fuel coupons. AAFES pays for fuel coupons. In fact, AAFES spent nearly $250,000 printing the coupons in the first six months of this year! Likewise, AAFES bears full responsibility for costs associated with managing and selling the coupons. As the writer pointed out, AAFES is working to develop a gas card program to help offset these costs. The action has been submitted to the German government for approval. We cannot implement a program without host nation approval. AAFES is monitoring progress on the action. AAFES will bear all costs associated with the development of the automated system to support the gas card.

The letter further provided factual errors by stating that AAFES doesn’t pay for freight on fuel deliveries, AAFES enjoys the benefit of supplier price promotions and that AAFES receives free delivery on bulk heating oil. I can say with confidence that absolutely none of the above is true. If any of it were, our customers would be the first to know and to benefit with lower prices. It is our objective to pass on the maximum amount of savings and convenience to every customer.

With this said, I must remind all readers that AAFES exists for two purposes: to provide low-cost goods and services and to contribute financial support to Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs. AAFES’ mission is not to break even. It is to fund MWR services that are available to every servicemember and their families.

AAFES will continue to keep a close eye on fuel prices to ensure that U.S. military members pay the lowest possible price while still being able to enjoy the maximum amount of service and support wherever they are called to serve.

Finally, as a customer of AAFES for more than 30 years and a customer of AAFES-Europe during three different tours, I’m perplexed at the reaction to AAFES gas prices in Europe. Unlike post exchange merchandise, which is shipped from the States and is sold at the same prices as in PXs here, we must purchase gasoline on the local economy. In comparison to German gasoline stations, AAFES provides a significant price reduction. In the States, AAFES must charge the same price as the lowest competitor outside the gate. We cannot charge less. There is a significant benefit in the AAFES gas price in Europe that I think should be appreciated.

I understand that prices are higher in Germany than in the States. The dollar is significantly lower, German gasoline prices are higher, and our customers living in Germany get a cost-of-living allowance to offset some of these higher prices.

I don’t want anyone to forget that the commander of AAFES is an Army officer. The commander of AAFES-Europe is an Army officer. The last thing in the world we would want to do is be unfair to soldiers or airmen. I’ve been where they are. I know how important U.S. products and services are to those in Germany. I know how important price is as well. I was impressed when I lived in Holland and Germany that AAFES was able to deliver all of that a long way from home. I remain impressed today that AAFES continues to pass on value, service and support to Americans assigned overseas. We will be fair on pricing. But remember, we must pay our cost, still make a profit for MWR, and still serve Army and Air Force members wherever they go.

Maj. Gen. Kathryn G. FrostAAFES commanderDallas, Texas

Quit complaining

I’m writing in response to the letter “Disproportionate luxuries” (July 10). The writer, an Army E-4 who isn’t in Iraq, feels it’s her mission to berate the Air Force for having morale-boosting items such as ice cream and air conditioning. If she’s so upset about how good the Air Force has it, then maybe she should do something about it besides whine. Maybe she should have considered a different career choice.

The Air Force takes care of its own the way it sees fit. Likewise for the Army. We do our mission better than any Air Force in the world, even when we’re on a “real hardship tour.” The writer should walk a mile in our shoes before she passes judgment. I have nothing against the Army or those who like to complain or point fingers. My message to the writer is to quit complaining and grow up!

Tech. Sgt. Jack WertzRamstein Air Base, Germany

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