July 27

Heat casualties

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

July 27 Heat casualties Wasted time Support us! Little support Teach Germany a lesson Why deny access to 1st ID? If one unit gets it, all should In big picture, Iraq not so badJuly 28 Time to send us home Story repulsive Missing items Concentrate on good Officers upsetting Thanks for nothing Energies better spent servingJuly 29 Worry about what matters Kid Rock letter Gas prices letter Donations for injured Thanks and congratulations Questioning leaders over line Where are replacements? Mail simply not to standard Pulse can't act with maliceJuly 30 Send complainers home Freedom of speech Spite and distrust Doesn't trust MWR Check priorities Not speaking same language Stalled mail is upsetting Make suggestions instead Don't underestimate morale Time has no meaningJuly 31 Joining the debate Keep Chiemsee open Should be proud to serve Arrogance and stupidity In a war Hope preferred to laugh Lowered bar for Bronze Star Purple Heart would sufficeAugust 1 Cure for terrorism Kids without parents NAF contractor Tax credit Don't read into entertainmentAugust 2 Hope's patriotism Comments not appreciated Why did Lynch get medal? USO makes it more tolerable

My name is Pfc. John Bendetti. I’m assigned to the 220th Military Police Company with the Colorado Army National Guard. We arrived in Kuwait one month before the war started.

Just before the war ended, we were sent to Iraq. We arrived during the “winter” months. We’ve been living at Tallil Air Base. We’re currently living off Meals, Ready to Eat, T-rations, and junk food from the local post exchange. We’re also currently living without air conditioning. During the day the temperature reaches 127 degrees in the shade.

Due to more attacks on convoys, more items are becoming rare. Two examples are mail and bottled water. Our mail has been reduced to two times a week. Due to a lack of bottled water, each soldier has been limited to two 1.5 liter bottles a day. We’ve had two soldiers drop out due to heat-related injuries.

A person with common sense knows that a normal person can’t survive on three liters of water a day. One would think that the Army could coordinate with the Air Force and have supplies flown in from Kuwait. All I’m saying is that we’ve been “climatized” to the heat, but new troops have not. There will continue to be more heat casualties until something is done.

Hopefully we won’t have to lose someone because of someone’s stupidity. We need to come up with a solution quick!

Pfc. John BendettiTallil, Iraq

Wasted time

This is in regard to the article “Franks: War began before coverage” (June 21). I was pleased to see that Gen. Tommy Franks took credit for the delay of numerous ships in the Mediterranean Sea. Now I have someone to thank for the time that I spent stranded at Ft. Lewis, Wash.

My company was mobilized from the California National Guard in January as part of Task Force Ironhorse with the 4th Infantry Division. When I received my orders that I was to be deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, I was happy to answer the call to duty. But after a few weeks at Ft. Lewis, my happiness turned to concern. I was still in the United States, and Turkey wouldn’t let our ships off-load at their ports. The next logical step would have been to immediately send all of the ships to Kuwait for off-loading. But Gen. Franks used “deception” and held the ships in the Mediterranean Sea.

As National Guard soldiers, we have lives beyond the Army. Our time is very precious. Our families need us. Our jobs need us. I missed a semester of college. This was no ordinary semester. It was my last. I was scheduled to graduate in May. Meanwhile, back at Ft. Lewis in desert camouflage uniforms for two and a half months, I waited, just so Gen. Franks could have his “deception.” And that’s not to mention all the tax dollars it took to hold the ships and all the National Guardsmen and reservists on active duty at mobilization sites around the nation.

We finally left for Kuwait on April 12. All of that time in the States that I could have used in a more constructive manner was wasted. Had I known that we were to be the deception force, I would have been very angry.

Thanks for everything, Gen. Franks. Have a wonderful retirement.

Spc. Anthony B. HutchingsCamp Bucca, Iraq

Support us!

I’m a soldier assigned to the 297th Cargo Transfer Company, 180th Transportation Battalion out of Fort Hood, Texas. I’m currently deployed to Iraq. I’ve been supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom since late March. Whenever there’s an available Stars and Stripes, I read the constant complaints about the mail, about whom the true heroes are, and about what unit did what first. Does it really matter? I don’t have to ponder the question too long to realize that the answer is yes.

As a squad leader, I see the tears of fear, loneliness and worry. I see the worn-down bodies from the soldiers’ hard work. What they don’t do physically, the sun drains the rest. We have soldiers here who merely raised their right hands for college money and instead have M-16s and have been sent to war. I watch them talk. I talk too and encourage them. I try to let them know that they’re helping bring freedom, something that we’d normally take for granted.

They ask all the time, “When are we going home, sergeant?” I say with a smile, “When everyone’s free!” It’s hard to give an answer to something I don’t know. It’s even harder to tell a young mother who just returned from a six-month deployment in Afghanistan and has deployed again that her baby will remember her. Or telling a young man who’s been struggling to make his marriage work that his wife and children will be waiting for him. Or telling a young soldier, fresh from his mother’s grasp, that he’ll be visiting home soon. Or telling other soldiers with tons of bills that their checks will show up in the mail soon. But then again, none of us even knows when we’ll receive a postcard for at least one person in a unit of more than 150 soldiers.

Does all this matter? Receiving mail? Being told that we’re heroes or our families are heroes? Having a story about one’s unit published? Being able to make a phone call or even having access to the Internet? It all matters. Help me get my soldiers back to their safe haven of freedom. But until then, support us!

Sgt. Tresa R. BoydCamp Dogwood, Iraq

Little support

This is in response to the letter “Better each day” (June 22). This is not hate mail. But as I sit here in north-central Iraq and look around at my living conditions, a few questions and concerns come to mind.

1. The writer said post offices here in theater were built from scratch. Is he saying that there were none in place to support the thousands of soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division who have been here for almost a year?

2. What military occupational specialty normally runs a mail distribution center? I just assumed it’s a postal unit.

3. Ten soldiers to process mail? Did anyone really think 10 soldiers would be enough?

4. Weather? On March 25 a four-day sandstorm hit the area. I was on the back of a truck riding to the front lines during the entire storm. Since then, the weather has been mostly clear. Hot, but clear. So I’m curious how clear weather hinders mail delivery.

5. The writer also addressed equipment problems. Does this mean the writer’s unfamiliarity with the equipment? He said that “in the beginning” equipment problems slowed him down. Does that mean he brought broken equipment with him on a deployment to a combat zone where he knew there was going to be hundreds of thousands of troops receiving mail? If that’s the case, who did the maintenance checks on that equipment?

So as I sit here in my room with seven other soldiers and take stock of my situation — no electricity, no running water, no glass in the windows or even a door to the room, no cot to sleep on, no post exchange, no showers, no phone, no e-mail, and no letter mail — I realize a few things. First, I’m not surprised by any of this — almost. It’s unfortunate what I as an infantryman expected. Since March 25 when my unit crossed into Iraq, the dirt-covered floor of a bombed-out, looted building has been my bed, and the oppressive heat my daily companion. And I know now, just as I knew then, that as usual there would be little if any support for us.

Every day there are two highlights for me. One is chow. (How bad can it be if a soldier looks forward to T-rations?) The other is mail. We’ve all heard stories that even during World War II mail rarely took more than a month to arrive. The mail handlers prided themselves on that. Yet here I sit 60 years later with no mail and no reason why other than “there just wasn’t any” and that I should “suck it up.”

I’m extremely proud of what we’ve done here in Iraq and I consider it a privilege to have helped make the world a safer place. We infantrymen have given everything — blood, sweat and tears — and asked for so little in return. Simple things. Hot chow and a letter from home.

Staff Sgt. Mike PageIraq

Teach Germany a lesson

I’m a soldier stationed in Germany but currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I agree 100 percent with the writer of the letter “U.S. troops in Germany” (April 15). Only rather than just move all of our U.S. troops out, I’d take it one step further.

First, I’d close down all American establishments in Germany. After all, why would Germany need McDonald’s or Pizza Hut when Germans can eat bratwurst instead? Next, I’d stop sending Germany any major Hollywood productions. This would not only hurt their movie theaters’ business, it would also force the German movie industry (if there even is one) to create its own motion pictures. Who wants to watch an American movie dubbed in German anyway? I know I wouldn’t watch a German movie dubbed in English.

It wouldn’t stop there. The American music industry should also not sell its CDs to Germans. All American bands should absolutely refuse to tour in Germany. Why should Americans continue to entertain Germans when they are so against what we are doing? The entertainment industry should be more worried about entertaining U.S. and British troops who are liberating the Iraqi people.

When all of this is finished, all U.S. troops stationed in Germany should then load up all of our equipment and head east. We should head to a country that needs us more and that would appreciate us more — perhaps a country like Poland.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Germany is a great country. I just think that it needs to be taught a valuable lesson.

Sgt. Shaun GillespieIraq

Why deny access to 1st ID?

I’m a sergeant currently deployed to Iraq with the 1st Armored Division. In mid-June some of us learned of an MCI Internet center located just minutes away in our sector where soldiers are able to log on for 20 minutes. They can send e-mails to loved ones to say they’re doing fine here in Iraq.

Recently a memorandum from the commander of the facility where the center is located said that only members of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and its attached units are allowed to enter the facility and use the computers. After learning this, some members of my unit and I drove to the center. The soldiers guarding the entrance told us that the base camp is closed to 1st Armored Division soldiers.

I find this appalling. The Internet center is located in the center of the 1st Armored Division’s sector. U.S. taxpayers are the ones who fund these kinds of services. So does it make sense to segregate availability due to one’s unit assignment? Soldiers aren’t the only ones being deprived of this service; the people back home who in one way or another pay for it are being deprived as well.

I realize that many of my fellow soldiers here in Iraq work hard and live with far less than those of us here in Baghdad. I don’t want to take anything away from them in any way by writing this letter. My point is simply that if services such as the Internet center are available, it only makes sense to allow access to them. After all, we’re all on the same side and an Army of One, right?

Staff Sgt. James A. ChecchiaIraq

If one unit gets it, all should

I’m a private first class in the 46th Chemical Company, 2nd Chemical Battalion. My unit is attached to the 4th Infantry Division’s Divarty Tactical Operations Center. We’re here in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In the eight weeks I’ve been deployed, I’ve closely read Stars and Stripes about telephone and e-mail access that has helped thousands of servicemembers stay in touch with loved ones and keep their financial affairs intact. A lot of servicemembers in different areas of Iraq talk about having weekly — and, in some cases, daily — phone access and Internet capabilities. But as of May 30 here at Taji airfield, soldiers have been told that there will not be an AT&T phone center placed here. What makes it even harder to grasp is that soldiers in Desert Storm had weekly phone usage nearly 13 years ago.

To make matters worse, our leadership had been informed that we’d have phones and Internet access to help morale. But now it’s not possible. Not only is mail a major issue, we’re now faced with the obstacle of possibly not speaking with our families for six to eight months.

I’ve been in the Army for 16 months, and until this deployment I was blind. I thought the Army took care of its soldiers. I’ll admit the Army has changed me into a more-disciplined and strong-minded adult. But if the government can spend $80 billion for this war, then it can contribute a portion of tax money to provide phone access and Internet capabilities to every American servicemember deployed anywhere in the world. Not only does that build morale for soldiers, it builds motivation to accomplish the mission at hand. Every soldier I come in contact with feels the same way.

When will we have much-needed morale boosters such as phones and Internet access, and why can these luxuries be put everywhere else in Iraq except here? Who can fix this problem? Who do we point the finger at to get these major morale issues corrected? Every soldier and family member across the globe needs to know that we’re not getting the things we need and deserve. I pray this letter will motivate the people who can make these dreams a reality.

The soldiers here at Taji airfield are not fighting for one another. We’re fighting for the United States. I demand we be treated like Americans. We reserve the right to have much-needed contact with our families and loved ones.

Pfc. Richard StanleyTaji airfield, Iraq

In big picture, Iraq not so bad

I’m the type of person who looks on the positive side of every situation and, after thinking long and hard, I’ve decided life here in Iraq isn’t bad at all. To be a part of history and restore a new life for the Iraqi people takes brave, committed soldiers. I’m one of those soldiers. I also think about the great incentives and entitlements we receive for being here: extra pay, free mail and Meals, Ready to Eat. The smiling faces of Iraqi children make me proud to be an American serving my country.

Sgt. Paul MurphyBaghdad, Iraq

July 28

Time to send us home

As a Florida National Guard soldier attached to the 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, 53rd Infantry Brigade, I need to voice an important issue. It’s definitely time to have us relieved and redeploy back home. We’re currently at a base north of Baghdad conducting security. I believe any soldier on this base can perform “tower and gate guard.” We’re a light infantry company with no infantry mission. We’ve accomplished several missions in Qatar, Kuwait and twice in Iraq. We’ve been mobilized more than seven months, and as citizen-soldiers we need to return to our civilian professions. Many family-related hardships and situations have arisen due to family separations.

Morale is a concern due to unbearable rumors of return dates, false information or the lack thereof. As a 22-year veteran, I believe that taking care of soldiers is something that some have indeed forgotten. Our families and loved ones have endured enough pain and hardships during this extended deployment.

Our unit was partially deployed without our higher staff or headquarters company. Therefore we’ve been tossed around and attached to different units to perform security. It seems that without our higher staff and headquarters unit, we’re helpless. This is my opinion about what I’ve seen and experienced during this deployment. It’s time to send us home.

Sgt. Mario PerezIraq

Story repulsive

I’m writing in regard to the story “Kid Rock, Playboy bunny, NFL stars, Gary Sinise put on show for troops” (June 20). For the most part, it repulsed me.

Some soldiers get to sit back and enjoy big-name superstars and Playboy bunnies. Many other soldiers are forced to live with no air conditioning, and the only shade we have traps heat.

Let’s talk about morale. Our assembly area is the only one on Balad Airfield north of Baghdad with plans to put up concertina wire around our tents. We 4th Infantry Division soldiers haven’t “earned” the right to wear Boonie caps. It makes me wonder if its worth it to wear a combat patch. Did we earn that?

So when Stars and Stripes publishes photos of soldiers in brown T-shirts listening to music and carrying on like they don’t have anything to do, it makes me feel like being here is all for nothing. I believe that if we have time to sit around and do nothing, then we have ample time to pack up and go home. What I’m trying to say is either show me what is really going on or show me nothing at all.

Spc. Gabriel HendricksonIraq

Missing items

I’ve been reading Stars and Stripes since my deployment to Iraq in January. I look forward to every issue I can get my hands on. I’ve noticed there is usually something about the mail. I want to share my own negative experience.

My mother sent me a package nearly two months ago. Today I received it along with a letter. The letter said that the package had been sent back. Not only was it sent back, but it was opened and several items were missing. I’m not upset that it was sent back as much as that there are people out there who actually have the lack of character to steal items from a package sent to a soldier risking his life for his country.

Spc. Stephen HarlanIraq

Concentrate on good

This is in response to the letter “Deployments” (June 30).

I have three soldiers in my section who have been at Fort Riley, Kan., for their first year and a half in the Army. During that time we’ve been deployed for 12 months, including a six-month rotation last year to Kuwait. Although these soldiers are all working outside their military occupational specialties and have no end date for this rotation, they do their jobs every day without complaining.

The writer said he wants to talk about how our leaders treat our soldiers. He’s part of that leadership. As a sergeant first class in the Army, young soldiers look to his actions and attitude every day. I hope in this case they don’t. The Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer says, “I am proud of the Corps of Noncommissioned Officer and will at all times conduct myself so as to bring credit upon the Corps, the military service and my country regardless of the situation in which I find myself.”

The writer had many valid complaints. But rather than waste his energy on those things, he should concentrate on the good he can do for his soldiers and his nation. This is the life the writer chose. Every soldier activated in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom has some sort of issue. But as an NCO, the writer should lead by example and project a positive attitude for the soldiers around him rather than worrying about a divorce that has not materialized.

The writer also said he has no job. He’s welcome to seek employment at the Four Heads Palace in downtown Baghdad as we conduct patrols, checkpoints and stabilization operations. Our soldiers work every day.

Staff Sgt. Scott O’DellBaghdad, Iraq

Officers upsetting

I’m writing to let readers know about people who upset a lot of soldiers: officers. Particularly upsetting is the fact that they’re leaving the job half done. Gen. Tommy Franks has retired. Congratulations to him. But he chose a bad time, don’t readers think? Just inside my brigade alone, I know of officers who’ve left Iraq because they received new jobs and are attending schools.

My question is simple: Why are officers allowed to return home or leave the country when noncommissioned officers can’t for reasons like the Advanced Noncommissioned Officers’ Course, the Noncommissioned Officers’ Course, the Basic Noncommissioned Officers’ Course, retirement, etc.? This raises eyebrows among my peers and causes lower enlisted soldiers to ask questions we don’t have answers for.

Sgt. Michael S. DavisIraq

Thanks for nothing

I recently read the letter “Lack of help in time of need” (July 9). The writer, a senior airman, said he was denied leave after his wife had a miscarriage. He said the Air Force chain of command had no compassion for him. Well, the writer is not alone.

I’ve been deployed for three months in Iraq. I’m an enlisted noncommissioned Army officer. This past June, my wife’s father died. He was my wife’s only living parent, because when I was deployed to Kosovo in 2001 her mother died. I explained my situation to my immediate chain after receiving a Red Cross message that also said a cousin of mine had passed on as well. The next day both leave requests were denied. I was told that I’d only be allowed leave if a member of my immediate family passed on.

It’s real comforting to know that my wife or kids would have to die in order for someone to use some common sense. Since it was my wife’s father who died and not mine, I had no choice but to leave my wife to deal with our loss on her own. She had to make the trip from Germany to the States herself with three small children.

Where’s the family values there? After all, isn’t my wife’s immediate family mine as well? If not, what about compassion for a soldier and his family? I guess since compassion, understanding and common sense aren’t listed on our dog tags, they don’t exist.

So on behalf of all the soldiers and noncommissioned officers who have been screwed by clueless Army leaders, I’d like to say thanks for nothing.

Staff Sgt. Allen CarterIraq

Energies better spent serving

I occasionally find newspaper articles bad-mouthing our government and leaders. Someone always has something to say. I rarely agree with what these people have to say, but I usually make no rebuttal. My opinion is, “If you don’t like what the they are doing, tell them. If they don’t fix it, fire them and hire someone else. If you can’t find anyone else to do it right, do it yourself.” It’s the best way to ensure things get accomplished in the manner you desire. If you don’t think you do it any better, and you don’t have any suggestions for improvement, keep your mouth shut and quit whining, because your only making things worse.

I take comfort in the fact that anyone has the right to speak publicly without fear of reprisal. I enjoy the First Amendment, which affords all Americans the freedom of speech. This, and the other constitutional freedoms, I will defend openly and passionately until I draw my last breath.

However, this right is limited by not infringing on the rights of others. One manner of infringing upon another’s rights is to speak for them without permission. Recently, I read a column in which the author, Bonnie Erbe, stated how the U.S. military was tired of President Bush (“Signs showed Bush would jilt military folks,” July 23). She wrote of the unraveling of “the unmerited devotion military families lavish on him” and also of 3rd Infantry Division soldiers who spoke outwardly against President Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq. As her column recalls, one servicemember went so far as to suggest the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. This is an interesting point that she has made but I have a few questions.

First, why doesn’t President Bush deserve our support? His job is the most difficult in the world. The decisions he handles, combined with the publicity he deals with, why would we not support him and encourage him to make the best possible decision? Second, where — and from whom — did Ms. Erbe get this information (or should I say misinformation). I was not aware that the U.S. military family was so willing to abandon ship. A few may be weary, but the family as a whole is strong.

When I refer to us as a singular family, that is what I see the U.S. military as: united. When I step back from my day-to-day problems and look at the big picture, I see interservice training of armed forces. I see families bonding together for strength while loved ones are deployed. I see race and ethnicity lines blur until they are indistinguishable because of teamwork. I see servicemembers standing in line for an opportunity to deploy to all parts of the globe to fight terror.

Not long ago, my platoon was advised that it had to “sacrifice” one of its three sergeants to deploy to Iraq. I say the word “sacrifice” with some sense of humor because we all begged for the opportunity to deploy. Selecting the sergeant who did not have any children made the final decision.

This brings me to my next point. Those soldiers who chose to discredit themselves by publicly announcing their disapproval for the president and defense secretary should be ashamed of themselves. Despite their personal feelings, it is inappropriate, and illegal, for them to publicly speak out against their superiors in such a manner. The Uniform Code of Military Justice governs what a servicemember may say. If they don’t receive courts-martial for their insubordinate actions, they should count themselves lucky. To speak in such a manner not only shows their lack of tact, but also their lack of commitment to finish.

No one serving in the military today had a gun held to his or her head as they signed the contract. Everyone knew exactly what was expected when they gave an oath to serve. I am not saying that I always agree with the decisions of the president; I am saying that I swore an oath to protect my country and to follow lawful orders. This war we are fighting is just that. It is a war to protect us against those who would take away our freedom. My wife and I have discussed what would happen if I am deployed, or if I didn’t come home. We do not look forward to it, but we are willing and able. My wife would tell my children they live free because others and I were ready and willing to fight for freedom.

Freedom is not free. It has so high a price that it cannot be paid by cash, check or credit. Freedom’s price can be paid only with blood that is shed by men and women willing to sacrifice their lives because they would rather die on their feet than live on their knees.

To whom this may concern, be it communists, terrorists or spies: Although there are a few individuals who are weary and tired, the U.S. armed forces and its families as a whole stand behind the commander in chief, and we stand very ready. We are ready to defend our country and our way of life. And we are ready to die for our children’s future. Don’t come knocking on our door, unless you want us to answer it.

Daniel M. SurrencyFutenma Marine Corps Air Station, Okinawa

July 29

Worry about what matters

This is in response to the article “‘It’s amazing what a Coke and a bag of chips can do for morale’” (July 2). Are there future plans to open a post exchange in Baghdad? There are a couple of PXs in my sector, if that’s what one would call them. The selection is very limited and there’s a “one per item limit” policy. A case of Coke? Forget it.

It seems that soldiers nowadays are more concerned about comforts than the mission. What did 3rd Infantry Division soldiers have in the six months before the war and during the war? Nothing. They sucked it up.

Instead of talking about ice cream parlors or a bigger PX, let’s talk about communicating back home. Where are the morale phones? What about the Internet? We got our Internet connection turned on the other day; I’m asking for everyone who doesn’t have it. I’m sure there are some soldiers who haven’t called home yet. Let’s concentrate on that first.

Why is Sgt. Morocco Cornett worried about how big the PX is or if there’s an ice cream parlor? Does he not see the constant flow of injured or dead soldiers coming into Baghdad International Airport? He should worry about what matters — his fellow soldiers. He should worry about real bullets flying and soldiers dying every day. In case Cornett forgot, we’re in a combat zone, not Club Med.

Ah, Burger King. What I’d do for a Double Whopper with all the fixings, fries and an ice cold soda right now. Oh, I forgot. I have to drive for 30 minutes and risk getting shot at just to eat that Whopper. We soldiers stationed inside the city don’t have luxuries like that. The only real luxury we have is that all of our soldiers and officers come home from their patrols every night and day alive.

Both the reporter and Cornett should have been more careful with their questions and answers. It’s too early in the game to worry about the size of the PX. Cornett should be happy that he at least has one. He should enjoy what he has.

Sgt. Andrew DonagiBaghdad, Iraq

Kid Rock letter

This is in response to the letter “Aghast at Kid Rock trash” (July 2). I want to thank the writer for his concern about what kind of entertainment he thinks is appropriate for the troops here in Baghdad. After all, we are thousands of miles away from our loved ones to defend freedom, including the writer’s freedom of speech.

I attended the concert and had a blast. I doubt that the writer was even there, so how could he make such absurd comments against the concert attendees? I especially didn’t appreciate the way the writer singled out Sgt. David Whipp, who happens to be a very good friend of mine, for describing the concert as “our release and our escape.” It most certainly was “our release and our escape” from all the daily routines here in Baghdad. It wasn’t to “condone religious intolerance and advocate illegal substance abuse” as the writer claimed.

The kind of music we choose to listen to and the USO-sponsored concerts we choose to attend have absolutely nothing to do with our professionalism as soldiers or Army values. That’s my personal answer to the writer’s question as to whether “anyone can justify this as promoting Army values.” I think the writer can figure out the rest. Otherwise, I suggest he share his personal issues related to “our way of relaxation” with someone who cares. The writer shouldn’t confuse personal ideology with entertainment. The writer wishes to deny the rights which he spoke so firmly about protecting from the very people defending them.

Sgt. Philip D. GilchristBaghdad, Iraq

Gas prices letter

I’ve got a couple of questions concerning the letter “AAFES” (July 19). The letter was written by AAFES commander, Maj. Gen. Kathryn G. Frost, and concerned gas prices. The letter had me scratching my head. Frost said it perplexes her that we complain about gas prices here in Germany because of the big price difference between on-base and off-base gas. If I read her letter correctly, Frost said AAFES buys its gas on the economy. If that’s true, then we should all give AAFES a big, wet kiss, because last time I checked, normal unleaded gas cost more than four euros a gallon in Landstuhl, Germany. How can AAFES buy gas for that price and sell it for around $2?

Frost also said we receive Cost of Living Allowances, which is true. But aren’t COLAs supposed to cover the cost of buying things on the local economy? I wasn’t aware they’re for buying gas on base.

My guess is that servicemembers here in Germany want to know a simple, but apparently highly-guarded secret: How much does AAFES pay for the $2 gallons of gas that we pump into our autos? They don’t care what a person in Kansas City is paying, and honestly I can’t understand why we should be paying the average stateside price for gas here in Germany. U.S. and state gasoline taxes don’t apply here in Germany, right? So what does gas pricing on stateside bases have to do with Germany? Apples and oranges, folks.

Apparently AAFES thinks we should be happy to be paying the equivalent of federal and state taxes on our gas purchases. So much for tax-free shopping at the base exchange.

Master Sgt. Burl A. StubblefieldRamstein Air Base, Germany

Donations for injured

Early in May, the Hanau Neighborhood Girl Scouts in Germany conducted a drive at the Wolfgang Post Exchange to solicit donations for injured servicemembers who are medically evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. We received an overwhelming response. Donations of socks, T-shirts, underwear and toiletry items filled the six boxes packed by the girls. Monetary donations totaled more than $200. The money was used to purchase Burger King coupons, shower shoes and backpacks as requested by the newly arrived patients. We want to thank members of the Hanau community for their generosity and continuing support.

Donations are still being delivered by the Landstuhl Neighborhood Girl Scouts and the chaplain’s office in Landstuhl.

Girl Scouts is an organization that promotes community service, so I want to tip my hat to the Landstuhl Cadettes for organizing this wonderful project and thank all the communities that participated.

Tina M. GreavesHanau, Germany

Thanks and congratulations

I’m a 1st Armored Division spouse. My husband deployed almost three month ago. It was really hard for me. There were weeks with no contact. Our son was born in June, and there were some medical problems. There were lots of tears.

During this time I got lots of help and understanding from our rear detachment commander, Capt. Welch. He spent hours talking with me and tried hard to help me with this difficult situation. Now Welch and his wife have had a baby, and I want to send my congratulations. He should enjoy his 10 days of leave and his family.

I also want to thank our Family Readiness Group leader, Nicki, and everybody from the Büdingen health clinic in Germany. They helped me so much. I can’t thank them enough. Our soldiers downrange should hang in there. The Büdingen women miss them a lot.

Melanie Roth-KennedyGelnhausen, Germany

Questioning leaders over line

For many weeks now we’ve heard complaints from spouses and servicemembers serving in Iraq. Sorry folks, you’re in the military: You do not speak out about your leaders, period!

Yes, we fight for freedom of speech, but since when was the military a democracy? Do we all vote to see if we go to war? Do we vote to elect our (military) leaders? No. The military has to be run in the manner of a dictatorship or there wouldn’t be any discipline.

Yes, I do gripe, but I do not go public with my words against command or country. I dare any one of the complainers to go speak to a veteran from any world war, Korea, Vietnam or the Gulf. I, for one, will tell you all to grow up and do the job you — and you alone — committed yourself to do when you signed the enlistment papers. As some letter writers have said, keep your comments to yourself. It only empowers the enemy to hear complaints. Need proof that protesting hurts — Vietnam!

If the Iraqis who are fighting us believe we do not have support from our own people, they will not stop, and more will die. If they see we are committed to our mission, they will eventually give up for lack of hope.

Come on, people: Support your leaders, do the job, and home will eventually be there. If you do not like the fact that you cannot complain about your leaders, then do not re-enlist. Get out, be your own boss.

Until then, do the job you promised to do.

Stephen J. SaucierYokosuka Naval Base, Japan

Where are replacements?

This letter is about the way the military is handling the distribution of GIs in Operation Iraqi Freedom. What’s going on? Units with completed missions are being called on for extra duty when they should have been replaced with fresh troops months ago. The 3rd Infantry Division is a prime example of this mismanagement. It took Baghdad so quickly that Saddam Hussein never knew what hit him. It did a marvelous job, and look what the soldiers got. They’re now policing the streets of Iraq while many qualified units in the States are enjoying the summer months. There are other units sitting at various camps without any mission at all and getting paid for absolutely nothing. What a waste!

Motivation and morale are at an all-time low because of all this. Think of what this does to the families back home waiting for their loved ones. These same family members have heard about this kind of mismanagement. I’m surprised their members of Congress can even function with all the phone calls and mail they’ve received.

The system needs to be revamped. That’s apparent. If a measly enlisted soldier like me sees this, why can’t the higher-ups? Where are the replacements for the units that have done their missions and time? Soldiers who have been here are tired and morale is waning. An unmotivated soldier is an unsafe soldier, and that isn’t good in a country like Iraq with its inherent dangers. Anyway, what do I know?

Cpl. Daniel Von KanelKuwait

Mail simply not to standard

I have yet one more complaint to make about the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Army’s postal system. The complaint can be summed up in five words: They are not to standard.

I recently received a package from my wife. It included some things I needed that I’d specifically requested. I was absolutely consumed with anger when I received it. It was handed to me in a plastic garbage bag. I was a little surprised but thought that the wonderful people in the postal system had done this to keep from losing the contents because maybe the package had been damaged. It was damaged all right. The package was drenched with what I hope was only water. The box was completely soaked through to the point of falling apart. All the contents were destroyed. A letter from my wife that was inside was illegible. The pictures my wife sent had been affected by the liquid so much that the ink used on the photographic paper had been almost entirely washed away. The ink in turn had been smeared all over the letter from my wife.

This is absolutely unacceptable. I’ve been in Kuwait and Iraq for three months, and I’ve yet to see any rain. So what happened? 1) My package was forced to swim from New York to Kuwait. 2) Air transportation was provided, but someone decided to get some fresh air by opening a cargo door and lost my package in the Mediterranean Sea. 3) My package arrived in Kuwait just fine, but my package was forced to swim up the Tigris River from Basra.

Barring these possibilities, my package must have been a “talker.” It must have made so much noise en route to Baghdad that some overworked soldier had no choice but to hold my package under water until it shut up.

These possibilities are comical but so outrageous that they can’t be true — I hope. So I can only conclude that gross negligence was involved. With our Army lacking enough water to give soldiers more than two bottles a day, I can only guess that our mail is being sorted in a shower or at a water-purifying facility.

I wasn’t notified that my package had been damaged and that I could make a claim against the contents. I was told that since it didn’t include such a notice, it was most likely damaged by the Army. I can only imagine what other horror stories are out there about mishandled mail.

This must be corrected. Instances such as these are federal crimes in the civilian world and they’re punishable by the Uniform Code of Military Justice in the military. Soldiers deserve better. We combat troops are asked to give 100 percent in Iraq. So it seems like whoever is handling our mail could give us 100 percent too. After all, the mail isn’t shooting back.

2nd Lt. Philip E. CrabtreeBaghdad, Iraq

Pulse can't act without malice

I’m in Iraq and just read the June 22 letter “Pulse cannot be defended.” The opinion was laughable at best.

The writer said the defenders of Pulse magazine distort the First Amendment by saying that Pulse is protected by freedom of the press. He further argued that the First Amendment is solely for protection of political expression. He asked if readers want a generation of children with the values that Pulse promotes.

The writer inspired me to help him clarify a couple of issues. First is his clouded view of the First Amendment. I wonder if the writer has ever read the First Amendment. It says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” This is directly from our Constitution. It should be very enlightening.

The writer also asked if we want a generation of children forming their values from those promoted by a magazine. The answer is certainly not. But then again, I don’t leave television to baby-sit children. To think any publication can destroy society is ludicrous. Pulse magazine can’t weaken family values if parents fulfill their responsibilities.

Staff Sgt. Chris KeeneyIraq

July 30

Send complainers home

My name is Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan T. Renaud. I’m with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, and I’m writing in reference to the article “The consequence of comments” (July 22) about soldiers voicing their opinions to the news media. I’m also serving in Iraq in probably the hottest, dirtiest, nastiest prison camp in the country. I just about fell out of my chair when I read the article. I was absolutely disgusted to hear soldiers whining about going home and not having high morale. Why would any news organization quote a spouse about the morale of troops unless she’s here serving with them?

I’m one of about 10 active-duty soldiers in my camp serving with Reserve military police. Although they’re hot, tired and ready to go home, these people are highly motivated and the most professional soldiers I’ve ever worked with. It kills me when I hear active-duty soldiers who willingly signed up and want their paychecks in the bank at the end of every month crying about having to earn those same paychecks. If anyone should be upset, it should be the reservists who were pulled from their jobs and lives to come over here and serve. But all I read about is the 3rd Infantry Division crying about going home.

I think these unqualified opinions about our leaders should not be published and the soldiers who make them should be removed from my Army. I’ve served in the Army for 14 years and I’ve had to be away from my family on several occasions. But never in a million years would I bad-mouth my president and my elected leaders just because I was unhappy.

I think these soldiers need to be sent home immediately and discharged from the Army. Their services are not needed and their attitudes are not wanted. Further, Stars and Stripes should stop interviewing these spouses and putting their ridiculous comments in the paper. When the spouses enlist and come to Iraq and do their share, then they’ll see what morale is all about and will be able to comment on it.

Jonathan T. RenaudChief Warrant Officer 2Camp Bucca, Iraq

Freedom of speech

This is in regard to the story “The consequence of comments” (July 22). What a sad day this is. This is a travesty to the American way of life. I find it incredibly sad that the men and women who go to a foreign nation and give life and limb to defend freedom cannot enjoy even the most basic rights. It shouldn’t matter what occupation they have or what uniform they wear. This right is irrevocable.

All American citizens are supposed to be guaranteed this right regardless of race, creed, color or any other factor. Yet this seems to be an exception in the military. Servicemembers, especially those in Iraq, are being slapped in the face when they’re told they can’t enjoy the rights upon which the United States was built. If anything, the people willing to pay the ultimate price have, if it’s possible, even more of a right to speak their minds and feelings.

Don’t get me wrong. Respect is important. But the rights that the Constitution guarantees supersede all others, and one of those rights is the right to freedom of speech. It’s true that “loose lips sink ships,” and to violate that does cost lives. But stating one’s opinion about a political leader doesn’t kill anyone. It doesn’t hurt or wound or destroy. It’s a right, and it’s sad that the men and women who give themselves to their nation cannot enjoy this supposedly irrevocable right.

Curtis RollerSophomore, Giessen High SchoolGiessen, Germany

Spite and distrust

I want to commend Stars and Stripes on the outstanding and timely article “The consequence of comments” (July 22) regarding the consequences of free speech in the military. In light of the war in Iraq and the mounting casualties each day, I have to say the article was done with no small amount of courage.

Free speech is a sensitive topic with the military, and quite often it can be a double-edged sword. Consider this: One of the characteristics of “Be, Know, Do,” the tenets of leadership in the Army, is candor. It’s considered a professional trait. Candor is defined in the dictionary as “frankness, outspokenness.” The caveat is that soldiers should express their grievances with tact and professionalism. I certainly agree. But there are those who respond to criticism, tactful or not, as a sign of disrespect and a challenge to their authority. Here we have soldiers dying with a certain frequency in Iraq every day. Let us address the ethical responsibilities our civilian leadership has to those who face certain death.

Soldiers appreciate praise and platitudes. But what soldiers really value above all is candidness and transparency. A few soldiers in Iraq have pointedly voiced their feelings of betrayal to the press, but I’m willing to bet that their opinions are shared by legions. My belief is that those who are making the decisions about the war should have in the back of their minds what their actions are doing to those who are affected by them. They alone are responsible for the spite and distrust that permeates the ranks, and they alone can create and implement the desperately needed relief.

Sgt. Howie HuForward Operating Base ConnorBosnia and Herzegovina

Don't trust MWR

I’m a deployed soldier in Iraq, so I’m a bit behind. We just got the July 8 edition of Stars and Stripes. I was very pleased to see that Stripes had the goodness to publish the letter “Shameful entertainment” (July 8) about Morale, Welfare and Recreation entertainment. I was even more pleased that the writer had the courage to make her statement.

Some of us troops completely avoid MWR activities because we don’t trust those activities to be completely appropriate. We choose not to dictate our morals to those who choose not to meet our standards of fidelity to loved ones who are performing their home front, wartime mission — taking care of our families. But we do feel that MWR’s programming is discriminating and unfair to those of us who feel that our moral values and families at home are important.

I hope that the planners of MWR entertainment will pay attention to the letter writer’s observations and others like hers and accommodate those of us who want values-based entertainment at least once. But I’m afraid that MWR planners will think that they know best. So I plan to finish my deployment by feeling excluded at having never participated in any MWR event.

Maj. Samuel D. LeFevreBalad Air Base, Iraq

Check priorities

During the few hours of slack time when our troops aren’t actively looking for Saddam Hussein, perhaps we can get a telephone and Internet connection for the writer of the letter “No phones, Internet” (June 23) who demanded that he and his fellow soldiers be “treated like Americans.” After all, the writer said he’s been in the Army for 16 months, and on top of asking him to do his job, his bosses had the nerve to send him to Iraq without issuing him the appropriate gadgets that would enable him to chitchat with the folks back home.

Some of our troops went to Iraq and returned in flag-draped boxes. Maybe the letter writer ought to check his priorities.

Tony CarrilloKaiserslautern, Germany

Not speaking same language

It’s no wonder why there’s been an increase of attacks on coalition personnel in Iraq. We’re here to help Iraqis gain their freedom from Saddam Hussein. In that effort, coalition forces set up checkpoints in random places throughout Iraq to stop and deter the sale or transportation of weapons. Enforcement of an 11 p.m. curfew is for Iraqis’ protection. Soldiers are trained to respect citizens and not treat them all as criminals.

But as we pass by some unit checkpoints, we see that civilians are being screamed at to get out of their vehicles. Some soldiers forget that when they don’t use interpreters, the civilians just sit there with no clue of what they’re being told. Plus there are weapons in the citizens’ faces. So now not only do the citizens not understand what to do, they’re also scared to death. Why do they feel this way? Because when military forces came around under Saddam they were treated the same way, just in a more violent manner.

We soldiers have been trained how to have our weapons at the ready — ready to engage hostile targets as they appear. We shouldn’t place our safety second. But it isn’t necessary to demoralize and threaten every citizen who’s stopped. The people who we’re stopping and scaring to death might have agreed with the coalition at one point. But after their families have been threatened and scared to death, these individuals have now more than likely changed their minds about us. Hence the increased number of attacks on coalition personnel.

What it boils down to is that Iraqis are starting to get fed up with the coalition. They’re sick of being mistreated and are starting to take matters into their own hands. We can still maintain a secure posture while treating Iraqis with the same respect that we expect for ourselves. Then maybe we can all go home peacefully and alive.

Staff Sgt. William E. AdkinsBaghdad, Iraq

Stalled mail is upsetting

How can I possibly belittle Army mail handlers? They handle my mail with less dignity than a sack of potatoes as I watch them fling bags of mail from their trucks to the ground five feet below. How dare I provoke malicious conversations with these mail handlers when none of them can explain why we continue to receive boxes already opened and emptied out? Perhaps I should just accept the fact that one letter might reach me more than a month prior to a previous letter mailed by the same person.

I wouldn’t dare pass judgment on those who write letters from the States defending the mail service to Iraq. Not when they surely would be the first to complain if they couldn’t receive their tax returns or electricity or water bills and lost vital services.

Nor would I make any critical remarks to the Combat Service Support personnel in Baghdad who tell us that there are alternate means of communicating (i.e. phones and the Internet) with our loved ones. Not while they’re sitting in their air conditioned buildings with enough time in their days to wait hours on end to use the post exchange or go to Burger King. Oh, by the way, congratulations on getting ice cream, too, especially when many of my combat brethren are staged at facilities that don’t even have power.

What the Army considers morale features, we call luxuries — primarily cool water and mail. As we conduct our escort missions, traffic control points, searches for explosives and courtesy patrols, water at less than 100 degrees is a precious thing. And finishing these long days by reading mail from our loved ones truly makes it quite tolerable.

I want to ask my fellow soldiers who take pride in completing their missions successfully to keep their eyes open. If by chance they see mail addressed to H Troop, 1st Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, my comrades here would appreciate it if they’d forward it to us. It seems that someone has dropped the ball, or, I mean, the bag.

Staff Sgt. Joseph DirksIraq

Make suggestions instead

I’ve been deployed to the Baghdad, Iraq, region since March 4 and participated in the overthrow of the Baathist regime. Whenever I get to read Stars and Stripes, I often find myself perusing the letters to the editor section first. Above all, I notice how many of the letters are from soldiers who feel compelled to voice their opinions on the mail system and how it isn’t working.

I ask these soldiers, regardless of rank or position, to put themselves in the boots of other soldiers who are tasked with handling the mail for thousands of our comrades. Indeed, it’s my perception that this isn’t an easy task. It’s my firm belief that a vast majority of these letters offer myriad complaints and far too few suggestions on how to improve the mail system.

Most everyone will say that receiving letters and packages from home is the greatest morale boost we could ask for. I’m not trying to thwart anybody’s freedom of speech or point a finger of blame at anyone. I believe that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. My only suggestion is that readers who complain about a lack of mail should file their suggestions on how to improve the mail system. If the mail system is as bad as some claim, then I’m fairly certain that absolutely nobody over here would get a single piece of mail.

Sgt. Joseph A. ComfortBaghdad, Iraq

Don't underestimate morale

I totally disagree with the June 6 letter “‘Bullets, food and fuel’ first.” War must be fought with bullets, food and fuel. But behind all this is one main thing called morale. What soldiers do is weaken the enemy by diminishing morale. But in order to fight and win, our soldiers’ morale must be maintained at the highest level. A lack of communication between soldiers and family members or friends is enough to weaken any soldier’s morale.

The writer’s comment about bullets, food and fuel being needed to win a war was vague. Who would send soldiers to war without bullets, food and fuel? What is the writer’s concept of war?

We all know there’s a price to pay for freedom. President Bush said this to millions of Americans on national TV. So even before the war in Iraq started, every soldier knew that such a price was inevitable. We share our condolences with the families and friends who have lost loved ones. We were here together. We, too, know the loss. But that doesn’t stop the thousands of soldiers who are looking forward to mail call. We care about family members and friends, just as we care about winning this war. This can only be shown through mail. So don’t confuse complaint with genuine concern.

Staff Sgt. Karl StephensMosul, Iraq

Time has no meaning

I just want to add another letter to what I’m sure must be a mountain regarding the abysmal level of mail service in Iraq.

Note the date on this letter (May 27). When did Stars and Stripes receive it? (Editor’s note: It was received on July 18.) The latest letter in Stripes that I’ve read was “Mail is servicemembers’ lifeline” (May 26). The writer is experiencing the same confusion we all are as to why letters mailed as many as 54 days later are delivered before those mailed previously.

I’m with the 1208th Quartermaster Corps at Tallil air base, Iraq. We’re with the Alabama National Guard. We have families and occupations in Alabama that we’re trying to hold together while serving half a world away. There is no “Army family” there to take care of things. We must do as best we can from this remote spot. There is no telephone service other than the usual hit-or-miss WMR system. The mail is the one system we should be able to count on. I’d like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to explain why we can’t.

Sgt. Thomas R. LongTallil Air Base, Iraq

July 31

Joining the debate

The military’s job is to protect and foster U.S. interests as collectively defined through the political process. This requires accurate knowledge of organizational dynamics within the military, including how one’s perspectives are shaped by direct experience and by where one is located within the vast organizational structure. Discipline (especially in wartime) is no doubt crucial. But so is the free flow of information within the military and between the military and both political leaders and the general public.

Our current “knowledge” of the situation in Iraq comes mainly from public relations people (known as “spokespersons”) and from anonymous sources speaking “off the record.” During the war itself, it came from embedded reporters. Their access to information and their ability to convey such information was tightly controlled by the military. They also understandably identified psychologically with those with whom they were embedded. Besides, only one of the hundreds of U.S. reporters covering the war apparently knew Arabic. Most no doubt were lucky if they didn’t confuse the Tigris River (in Iraq) with the Tiber (in Italy).

Lt. Col. Nick Balice, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, was quoted in the story “The consequence of comments” (July 22) as saying that servicemembers are free to “speak about issues that fall under their cognizance or level of expertise.” Cognizance, I presume, refers to things directly observed and experienced. The unit commander’s cognizance obviously differs from the cognizance of those under his or her command. How then can the commander be the source of all data, let alone wisdom? Observations, opinions, and even criticisms surely cannot be equated with the “contemptuous” words forbidden by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

There are inherently conflicting interests and principles at stake here. Discipline, security and the military’s image on the one hand and free speech, public access to accurate information, and an unbiased flow of information within the military on the other. Joining the debate can’t be dismissed as insubordination or, even worse, as aiding “the enemy.”

Stan MorseNaples, Italy

Keep Chiemsee open

I recently visited Chiemsee, Germany, and was surprised to learn that the AFRC Chiemsee Resort is scheduled for permanent closing on Sept. 1. I remember reading about this in connection with the brand new mega resort being built in Garmisch, but somehow thought it would be open much longer. Now I’ve been told that although the new, modern resort continues to be built, it’s behind schedule and won’t open until 2004 or perhaps later.

Chiemsee has always been my preferred vacation spot for a number of reasons. Few places can boast such a gorgeous location in the Bavarian Alps and on a beautiful lake. The scenery is breathtaking. One can also easily visit the many historical sites in the area. It’s also in proximity to Vienna, Salzburg and Munich.

For families with children, Chiemsee has much more to offer than Garmisch. Children and adults can play in the well-equipped playground, go swimming in the lake, rent a paddle boat or play miniature golf. Chiemsee’s campground and hotels are all in the same area. The hotels are modern and many have beautiful lake views.

Finally, Garmisch may offer many recreational activities, but only Chiemsee can offer windsurfing, scuba diving and sailing, paragliding, hiking, mountain climbing, white-water rafting, tours and more. It’s truly a vacation paradise for everybody in a family.

In light of the news about an imminent drawdown of U.S. troops in Europe and major concerns about security, it doesn’t seem prudent to continue with plans for a mega conference hotel. With fewer bases in Germany, it would make more sense to keep the smaller hotels that we have now.

I urge readers to e-mail their local hotline (mine is, local newspaper (the Kaiserslautern American is and/or e-mail the general managers of AFRC to request that this fabulous and historical vacation site be maintained for continued use. Readers can e-mail the following AFRC managers: or to express their concern about the closing of the Chiemsee resort.

Barbara MolinaKaiserslautern, Germany

Should be proud to serve

This is in regard to the letter “Wasted time” (July 27) written by a specialist in the California National Guard. I’m a Marine currently stationed in Kuwait. Is the writer out of his mind? Who does he think he is that he deserves the right to question retiring Gen. Tommy Franks, a four-star general in the U.S. military? That might be OK in the Army, which I hope is not true. But in the Marine Corps, guys like the writer would get taken care of for opening their mouths.

The writer, an E-4 in the Army, dares to question Gen. Franks, who was the commander of the U.S. Central Command? What exactly does the writer know about strategy and tactics? I’m sure the writer had a better plan in mind. What exactly did the writer know about the whole picture? When I was in Iraq, we barely even knew what was happening in the next town. So since the writer didn’t have a solution to the problem, he should stop being whiny and realize that this isn’t about him.

We’ve all been through things that we wish were different. The writer is not the only one with a family. His civilian job doesn’t depend on him as much as he’d like to think. They were doing good before the writer started and they’ll do fine after he’s fired. And who really cares whether or not the writer missed his last semester of college?

The writer should think about all the soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. He should think about the family members who won’t be celebrating the holidays with their young sons or daughters. He should think about those who died who will never have the chance to go to college. Our leaders have to deal with stuff like this on a daily basis.

So what if the writer was used as part of a “deception.” It served the greater good, and the writer should be proud to serve for his country. The writer’s family will be there when he returns, and his college will be open one more semester so that he can finish.

Staff Sgt. Daniel J. FowlerKuwait City International AirportKuwait

Arrogance and stupidity

This is in regard to the letter “Teach Germany a lesson” (July 27). Yes, the writer is right. We don’t need McDonald’s or Pizza Hut. Not having them would save our children from becoming overweight. Nor do we need other influences from the United States to show our children how to kill other children in school or how to throw rocks from bridges and murder innocent people.

The next time the writer goes out and eats a hamburger, he should use his brain. I’m fed up with such arrogance and stupidity and how certain people act and think. If the writer doesn’t like living in Germany, nobody will hold him here!

Bernd SeippDarmstadt, Germany

In a war

We Americans are proud of what U.S. troops are doing for the Iraqi people and for America. But those who are constantly writing whiny letters about food, slow mail service (do they really think the military is purposely holding up the mail?), rotations and God knows what else need to realize that they’re in a war. They should get a grip and read about World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Then tell us they have it so bad.

Don ThompsonKaiserslautern, Germany

Hope preferred to laugh

I can’t express the admiration that I — and millions of Americans — had for Bob Hope. What I can do is ask that we not weep for him. I suspect that Mr. Hope would rather we all watch some of his old movies and laugh again or share a favorite Bob Hope story with another veteran or family member who remembers his way of making us laugh at the simple things.

Mr. Hope did it all. He never seemed to be out of energy or compassion for the average “Joe.” He conquered Vaudeville, radio, movies, television, real estate, baseball and the hearts of America. My own favorites of his were not the Bob Hope comic books I read as a boy or his Christmas specials we watched as a family. It was the very well made road movies he and Bing Crosby gave us to enjoy. I know that now at this moment heaven is gearing up for a major production: Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and a cast of thousands in “Road to Eternity” — what a great movie this will be. And to think of all those who he entertained in all those wars getting to see him perform again. I guess he would go anywhere for his average “Joes.” Thanks Bob. Thanks for the memories.

Steven R. TuckerOsan Air Base, South Korea

Lowered bar for Bronze Star

I hope that someone at Stars and Stripes will write an editorial asking what Pfc. Jessica Lynch did to deserve a Bronze Star. To give someone a Bronze Star for getting into a wreck after getting lost, then being rescued by Special Forces? Who deserves the Bronze Star, Ms. Lynch or the Special Forces who went in to get her?

When the Army awarded Ms. Lynch the Bronze Star, it is a slap in the face for those who served heroically and with valor — in Operation Desert Storm; Mogadishu, Somalia; Vietnam and all other conflicts — who received nothing for their efforts.

Bob KingSpokane, Wash.

Purple Heart would suffice

I have to agree with letter writer Lawrence D. Stone (“DOD act devalues Bronze Star,” July 26): What was the Department of Defense thinking anyway? This time they really screwed up.

Who thinks Pfc. Jessica Lynch deserved the Bronze Star? I don’t. What were they thinking when they give this soldier a Bronze Star? She did absolutely nothing to deserve this award.

How do you think this makes all the other hard-working servicemembers in Iraq feel? I feel the true meaning of the award of this medal was degraded. What did she do anyway? She was captured (POW Medal justified) and injured (Purple Heart justified). She was the only one who survived out of the group in the Humvee. Why? She sure as hell didn’t save anyone. Only she knows the true story about what happened and no one else can verify what happened or what didn’t happen. Meritorious Service in Combat conditions? I think not! If she is a true soldier, she would return the Bronze Star because she knows she doesn’t deserve it.

Jolene Yazzie-OehringKadena Air Base, Okinawa

August 1

Cure for terrorism

Two weeks ago, British Prime Minister Tony Blair met with President Bush and told a joint session of Congress that “terrorism is a virus.” By leaching onto innocent people, terrorism has become a virus. And aided by technology, it is dangerous.

The United States, Great Britain and coalition partners are leading efforts throughout the world to find and remove this virus from benign populations.

In Afghanistan, we toppled the Taliban. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s regime is no more. From the Philippines to the Horn of Africa to our own streets, the terrorism virus is an endangered species.

But the key to eradicating this virus is to find a cure. And Prime Minister Blair gave this cure a name — freedom. Freedom is more than an idea. It is an engine that emboldens personal dignity and creativity. And it is the key to growth and prosperity.

President Bush realized the importance of freedom in the war on terrorism. This is why in the National Security Strategy published last year, he stated that the war on terrorism required “every tool in [our] arsenal.” The tools of our military extend beyond our weaponry. They include humanitarian aid, hammers and hard work building trust in societies hardened by skepticism.

In Iraq, we and our allies are working extremely hard to foster freedom. We conduct patrols to increase the security of Iraqi citizens and coalition forces. We repair roofs and water systems so that countless children can return to schools formerly used as terrorist hideouts. We repair roads so that Iraqis can return to their workplaces and electrical services so they can be productive when they arrive there. From medical services to social services, we are working with nearly every aspect of Iraqi life to ease their burden and ease the transition to democracy.

The process of forming a society based in liberty is a difficult one. Heat and hazards accompany all that we do. But this is not the first time that we have faced difficulty. More than two centuries ago, as America struggled to form a government based upon “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Thomas Jefferson noted, “The ground of liberty is to be gained by inches, and we must be contented to secure what we can get from time to time and eternally press forward for what is yet to get. It takes time to persuade men to do even what is for their own good.”

Every day we secure more freedom for the people of Iraq. In Afghanistan and around the world, we continue to press forward. And inch by inch, block by block, town by town, we will help secure the freedom of all who suffer under the burden of terrorism.

Ours is a difficult task, but as Prime Minister Blair said, “this task is [ours] to do.” And we will do this task together. Soldiers and sailors. Airmen and Marines. Americans and Europeans. Africans and Asians. Through our daily dedication, we will all shine a light of freedom that no terrorist will ever extinguish.

Our nation is extremely proud of every one of you serving in uniform and serving those in uniform. For you not only protect our nation and our way of life, you serve and sacrifice so that others may be free. Thank you for your dedication.

Hansford T. JohnsonActing Secretary of the NavyWashington, D.C.

Kids without parents

I’m writing on behalf of all single and dual military soldiers who are now deployed overseas. My unit has been told that we’ll be here in Iraq for at least a total of 365 days if not longer. I see many parents in my unit who have had to leave infants and young children with family and friends until they’re able to return home. I’m aware that these soldiers volunteered to support and defend the United States. But they didn’t volunteer for their children to grow up without them.

By regulation, these parents won’t get favorable treatment. But four months with a newborn baby is not nearly enough bonding time for a mother and child. I don’t have children yet, but I see the pain it causes many soldiers to be away from their children — especially mothers. The first year of a child’s life is by far the most important. The teenage years are also very important. They are the formative periods in a person’s life. I’m quite aware of the importance of sustaining world peace, but to separate a mother and child for an undetermined period of time is morally wrong by any common logic.

I think the regulations should be changed. Six months should be the maximum time away per deployment for soldiers in that category. It’s extremely unfair to force soldiers to choose between spending quality time with their children and being able to provide for them financially.

Spc. Vanessa MaciasMosul, Iraq

NAF contractor

I’m a nonappropriated fund contractor with a very successful massage program for Morale, Welfare and Recreation out of Grafenwöhr, Germany.

I waited from April to June for April invoice pay. The contract stated 10 days. Ninety days is not equal to 10. I had also waited 90 days to receive my first paycheck from my actual start date of Dec. 17 to mid-April. In six months of work, I had been paid for two.

A delay of three months is considered “normal” for the start of NAF contract pay. This is not acceptable. Why should contractors not expect to depend on their contracts to be followed in word and deed by the Army if the contractor is doing the same? Does the Army expect to make use of more contractors in the future? Will this succeed if its reputation for nonpayment is known? Has anyone considered the importance of NAF contractors to the much-vaunted “quality of life” so put forward by the Army? How many possible needs and service opportunities are currently not met because of the reputation (that is hopefully changing) for haphazard payment?

Why not use the same system to pay contractors as regular employees? The Defense Finance and Accounting Service is in place and functions. The contract pay system relies on an archaic paper trail. Why isn’t it electronic? Why is direct deposit not available? Why can’t invoices be transmitted electronically?

Here is a Web resource for those having problems with NAF pay in Europe:

For other pay, go to the DFAS Web site at: If anyone is unhelpful or reticent with information, go above them. Go as high as needed until someone is responsive. If this means going to U.S. Army Europe or walking into Gen. B.B. Bell’s office, do so. (I was willing to walk into Gen. Bell’s office, but fortunately I had to only go to my local public affairs office for contact information.) If this means visiting the inspector general, do so. Working the chain of command worked well for me.

Col. Troller at 266th Finance was most helpful with my pay problem, and Ms. Kane has not only resolved it, but made sure that I and others receive our pay on time. I thank them.

A contract is a mutual promise of service. Those under such contracts should expect them to be honored and demand it if they must. But they shouldn’t have to.

E.D. GordonContractorGrafenwöhr Massage ProgramGrafenwöhr, Germany

Tax credit

I’m writing in response to the story “Child tax credit a cause for concern” (July 28). I’m tired of lower-income families complaining about not getting the rebate. I’m sure they weren’t complaining about receiving the earned income credit that most families which receive the child tax rebate don’t get.

An earlier article said that families that don’t qualify for the child tax credit can claim it on this year’s tax return to get a bigger refund. I say suck it up and wait until February.

Jennifer CoverdellGiebelstadt, Germany

Don't read into entertainment

This is in response to the July 5 letter “Don’t need Kid Rock’s support.” I want to thank the writer for his concern about what kind of entertainment he thinks is appropriate for the troops here in Baghdad. After all, we are thousands of miles away from our loved ones to defend freedom, including the writer’s freedom of speech.

I attended the concert and had a blast. I doubt that the writer was even there, so how could he make such absurd comments against the concert attendees? I especially didn’t appreciate the way the writer singled out Sgt. David Whipp, who happens to be a very good friend of mine, for describing the concert as “our release and our escape.” It most certainly was “our release and our escape” from all the daily routines here in Baghdad. It wasn’t to “condone religious intolerance and advocate illegal substance abuse” as the writer claimed.

The kind of music we choose to listen to and the USO-sponsored concerts we choose to attend have absolutely nothing to do with our professionalism as soldiers or Army values. That’s my answer to the writer’s question as to whether “anyone can justify this as promoting Army values.” I think the writer can figure out the rest. Otherwise, I suggest he share his personal issues related to “our way of relaxation” with someone who cares. The writer shouldn’t confuse personal ideology with entertainment. The writer wishes to deny the rights about which he spoke so firmly protecting from the very people defending them.

Sgt. Philip D. GilchristBaghdad, Iraq

August 2

Hope's patriotism

It never ceases to amaze me how people rage and debate over what is patriotic. Of course we all recognize what our men and women in uniform are doing, and the veterans all over the world. But for the ones who have never worn the uniform, the debate might be a little more intense, if not complicated.

Patriotism is unwavering support for one’s country. Many Americans both in and out of uniform have displayed this type of support. But only one person, who was not even born in America, displayed as much (if not more) love and respect for the United States as did our founding fathers. That man is Bob Hope.

In his 100 years, Hope devoted most of that time to making the lives of servicemembers all over the world better, even in Vietnam. Hope showed courage and commitment that are rare in today’s world.

It’s a shame that entertainers in this day and age feel the need to be the voice of dissidence. Such entertainers as Martin Sheen, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon affect our feelings because they are icons and their views are widely publicized. Fortunately, we’re not discouraged by their remarks, just hurt because we admire them and their work.

Bob Hope will always be remembered as a great entertainer and a great American. The others will just be remembered for their individual works and fade from memory. God bless Bob Hope, who truly did something with his life.

Mike BormannSasebo Naval Base, Japan

Comments not appreciated

This is in response to the letter “Teach Germany a lesson” (July 27). I respect the writer’s opinion, but maybe it would have been better if he hadn’t voiced it so loudly. Freedom of speech is sometimes taken a little too far. I hope the letter writer thought of the many people he might offend. A lot of soldiers are married to German and European nationals. I’m sure there are a few who didn’t appreciate his comments.

I’m not German, but I was born and raised in Germany and consider it one of my many homes. While reading the letter it came to my mind that the writer was a little cynical and spiteful. I understand if the writer didn’t appreciate the German government’s opinion on the Iraq war. That’s his right. But it’s the German government’s right to disagree. The writer can’t expect people to agree with everything the United States does.

What is the rest of the world? Mindless uneducated puppets who have to follow the writer’s every move and decision? Governments and different people from different backgrounds have always had different opinions. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes it can turn ugly, like what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. The German government didn’t turn its back on the United States when it came time to bring down Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Germans died that day, too. I guess the writer has forgotten that German troops have been involved, and they’ve also died. The writer offended them and the German soldiers guarding U.S. installations.

But that’s OK. Let’s shut down everything that’s “American” here in Germany. Germany has a movie industry. It’s a pretty good one. But the writer wouldn’t know that because he’s so narrow-minded. Germany has its own music industry, too. (Yes, we are that advanced.) Of course Poland or any other country would “appreciate” the United States more. America would bring some jobs and a boost to the economy. But what if Poland has the audacity to have a different opinion? Will America move to the next place?

Marija ZilkaMiesau, Germany

Why did Lynch get medal?

I’m writing in reply to the story “Jessica Lynch: ‘It’s great to be home’” (July 23).

I saw the TV press conference in which Pfc. Lynch was praised by her hometown for being a “hero.” I have mixed feelings about all the attention placed on Lynch. I’m sorry she was injured and taken prisoner. She suffered and fought to survive with her injuries. But I have mixed feelings.

Initial reports were that Lynch was wounded in a fierce gunfight and that she emptied all of her weapon’s ammunition into hostile Iraqi soldiers. Later accounts said her convoy became lost and the vehicles broke down. Lynch was then forced to ride in another vehicle that was ambushed and got into an accident. It was in this accident that she reportedly sustained her injuries, passed out and awoke in an Iraqi hospital.

I mention this because Lynch was awarded the Bronze Star medal, which is awarded for meritorious combat service. If Lynch was unconscious during the gunfight that took the lives of 11 of her fellow soldiers, how did she qualify for the medal? And what makes Lynch a hero? The fact that she survived? Nothing is mentioned of her 11 dead comrades who paid the ultimate sacrifice or the soldiers who continue to die at a rate of one a day.

I feel the media is exploiting Lynch in an attempt to gain public sympathy for the war effort. An AFN story said Lynch will remain at home during her rehabilitation while on active duty and collect a paycheck while awaiting discharge from the Army. Is this option offered to every soldier, sailor or Marine who remains in a hospital room while completing rehabilitation?

I’m a Gulf War veteran with more than 13 years of active duty. I also sustained injuries during the first Gulf War that I deal with on a daily basis. I also recently underwent cancer surgery that has permanently changed my life due to something that I feel I was exposed to while assigned to that region. But that’s another story. I’m happy for the Lynch family, but I mourn for those who have died and will die.

Guy A. PizzuloChief Warrant Officer 2Hanau, Germany

USO makes it more tolerable

This is in response to the letter “Playboy model inappropriate” (July 13). It said that Leann Tweeden’s visit with a USO show was in some way wrong. I believe that any celebrity is a welcome sight. It’s truly awesome to have anyone who graces our lives in film, music or art to meet with servicemembers. Just because Tweeden posed for Playboy doesn’t make her a bad person. And quite frankly, Playboy is a very classy magazine. Tweeden came in out of the goodness of her heart to boost our troops’ morale. The visit from Tweeden was most welcomed by most, if not all.

If one person doesn’t enjoy Metallica, does that mean we should cancel their live concert? Just because one person is offended by a beautiful woman does not by any means give that person the right to dictate who can support the troops. The USO bases its choices on a consensus of who wants to be seen the most by the many. The Army is a mass of people with different tastes and styles. That’s why we have the gift of free will. If the writer doesn’t approve, he shouldn’t stop others from having fun if no one’s getting hurt. He should just go somewhere else for the time being.

We’re in a war environment. Stress is high and people are on edge. To deprive them of such a beautiful site amidst all the destruction would hinder instead of help us. I congratulate the USO for putting on such a show. Every USO event here in the Middle East has been outstanding. The USO makes it a little more tolerable for soldiers to live, work and fight for their country when they can see that their country is fighting for them.

Spc. Michael BrewerKuwait

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