June 8

A family apart

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

June 8 A family apart Need support Limit mail Be thankful Don’t like it, don’t read it Touching story Don’t forget we’re still at war Time to exchange poor service

June 9 Carrier-based air power Mail affects battlefield Mail shutdown Media biasJune 10 Quality Assurance Specialists Be grateful Lighten up Marshall CenterJune 11 Letter writer not alone Missing best friend Rude treatment Trust the rescuers’ instincts Supporting units play key role Pulse alone harms no one Serve notice on French fansJune 12 Something positive Couldn’t be there Right to complain Deli/bakery operations Pulse has its placeJune 13 Freedom to choose Don’t like it, don’t read it Modern life FCC vote Words from home can sustain Battlefield strength affected Breakdown now a shutdown Too many parcels a problemJune 14 War’s hard on mail Restless Heart Peace, not protests Caregiver’s letter

I’m writing to seek readers’ opinions. I’m an eight-year military spouse. I was also a military dependent as a child. I’ve always encouraged and supported my husband throughout his military career. When assignments come up, I always encourage him to go the challenging route and do the best for his military career. I’ve never complained about late nights, volunteering for deployments or any of the tasks necessary to be a productive soldier.

When we arrived in Germany he had to deploy right away, leaving me with the move, housing and finding my way in a new country. I looked at it all as an adventure and did quite well. But lately my upbeat and encouraging attitude has changed, and even my efforts to be supportive.

My son was born on April 3 during the conflict in Iraq. I understood that my husband couldn’t be there for the birth. He was at war along with many other fathers whose babies were also being born. I was prepared for this. But what I wasn’t prepared for was having preeclampsia, high blood pressure and an emergency C-section at 3 a.m. I also wasn’t prepared to have to leave the hospital without a full recovery from my incision in order to take care of my other two little boys at home.

At the time I thought, “Wow! I need my husband’s help.” I called the major left behind from my husband’s unit. The major asked me which way my incision was done. I said it was straight across. The major responded that in that case, it wasn’t an emergency.

So three days after my surgery I drove to do necessary errands, lifted my young ones in and out of the bathtub and did all the other necessary day-to-day tasks. My mother-in-law came to help me, but she suffers from leukemia and is very tired most of the time. So I had a very heavy schedule with three boys. I felt terrible. But I still didn’t complain, and I believe I did all right.

But lately I found out that my husband might not be back until after October or maybe even months later than that. That means my son will not meet his father until he is more than eight months old or older. I know I should accept this since this is the military and the soldiers are doing a mission. But my son not knowing his father breaks my heart. It makes me think that a mother meets and loves and holds her infant right away even if she’s a soldier. She shares the love, warmth and smells with that new infant like she should. I’d like my husband to hold his son, to take a picture with him and give him hugs and kisses. I’d like for my son to know his father’s warmth.

Why is it so difficult to send my husband home for one or two weeks at the most for my son to meet his father? What is the military or his unit to take this away from my child? How can I be supportive of a career that obviously puts my family last? Maybe there is something I’m not seeing. I’d love to get readers’ opinions.

Heitza CalzadaGrafenwöhr, Germany

Need support

This is in regard to the letter “Mail complaints” (June 2) about mail being unimportant for deployed troops. While I agree that wars can be fought without mail, it makes it easier for the troops to fight when they’re reminded of who and what they’re fighting for.

As a Navy postal clerk, I’ve seen the tears of joy that a simple letter from home can bring. I’ve seen faces light up from hearing “mail call.” I’ve also seen choked-back tears and disappointed faces when nothing is received.

When it’s dripping-wet hot outside and the wind is blowing sand up a soldier’s nose, or when a sailor’s been running around a ship practicing drills, drills and more drills — always with the thought that anything could happen at any time — reading a letter or receiving a package from a loved one can make a servicemember smile. It can also remind him of normal life at home and the reasons why he does what he does.

While we must always appreciate and honor those who have fallen and made the greatest sacrifice for our country, those of us still standing must continue the fight. Being in the military in a foreign land isn’t easy. We need support from the people who are the reason we’re in the military. For most of us, that support comes in the form of mail. A lot of love is in the shape of boxes and letters. Servicemembers need to feel it. Ask around. What’s most important? Mail is usually in the top three.

Rebecca L. TramtePetty Officer 2nd ClassMadrid, Spain

Limit mail

I’ve read all the letters from family members who have loved ones in Iraq, and they’re troubling. I’m a postal employee, and I enjoy my job. We try hard every day to get all the mail we receive out and on its way to soldiers downrange. There’s never a piece of mail that gets left behind. Some personnel work late every night to ensure the mail gets delivered.

But some of the problem is not with postal personnel. It’s with the very customers we serve. We have people who send out five packages every day, and this is tying up the Military Postal System. I’m not saying this is wrong, because I went through the same thing when I was a soldier. But what I’m saying is that people should please try to limit the number of items they send to maybe three or four every other day. I think this would help a little.

I know there will be negative feedback on this. But that’s why our friends and loved ones are in Iraq — to protect our right to freedom of speech. In the meantime, customers should please not give mail clerks a hard time when they ask them to fill out customs forms or wrap a reused priority mail box. We just want to make sure their mail reaches their loved ones in one piece.

Tim StewartWiesbaden, Germany

Be thankful

This is in response to the letter “Downrange mail woes” (May 31). Good for the letter writer, sending all those letters and boxes not only to her spouse, but to others. She shouldn’t stop because of the slow mail.

To answer the writer’s questions, it’s called deployment and war! That’s what happens when the military has other things to worry about, like the safety of our troops and getting food and water to them. All spouses are having the same mail problems. But I’m not going to waste my time complaining about it. Instead of complaining, we should be thankful that our spouses are alive!

Think about how many families lost their loved ones in this war and wish they could send them letters or receive one more letter from them. So they should stop complaining about the little things and be thankful for those letters that they do receive from their spouses.

Let’s stop complaining and stand united for our spouses and our country. We should be proud of the jobs they’re doing and tell them so. I tell my husband that he’s my hero and that I’m so proud of him in every letter that I write to him. And you know what? I don’t care if he receives them or not. I’m just glad that he’s alive! I pray that soon he’ll step off a plane and into my arms again. His safety is foremost in my mind and nothing else!

Miriam HahnWiesbaden, Germany

Don't like it, don't read it

This is in response to the letters condemning Pulse magazine. I’m appalled. The writers obviously have no concept of personal responsibility or awareness of the existence of the majority of Stars and Stripes readers.

It is the obligation of parents to screen the material to which their children are exposed to the best of their abilities. If their children read questionable material, it’s no one’s fault other than the parents.

I personally enjoy the articles in Pulse. I’ve yet to find anything more offensive or explicit than what I see on television every night. Parents should watch the programs their children are watching. They should also know what their kids are reading.

Pulse articles are not surreptitiously hidden in Stripes. Rather, they’re in a special section that’s easy to remove. I’d rather have these articles easily found than having stories portraying gore, violence and sexuality hidden among other articles. How would the writer of the letter “Pulse article disgusting” (May 27) explain previous stories on Pee Wee Herman or former President Clinton?

Many of these letter writers also seem to have forgotten that most of Stripes’ readers fall into the 18- to 25-year-old range. Stripes is often the only source of media for many of these people. Thus, Stripes does a great job of finding material that interests us, such as tattooing and the “Sexplosion” articles.

Overall, I think Stripes does a great job of finding something to suit all audience members. Frankly, I consider sections such as The Mini Page, Stripes Travel and Stripes Sunday magazine as simply wastes of paper that I only use to wash my car windows. But readers don’t hear me calling for these sections to be discontinued. I recognize that there are other readers out there who enjoy that stuff.

My point is, if some readers don’t like Pulse, then they shouldn’t read it. They shouldn’t let their children read it. Nobody said it’s mandatory for readers to read everything in the paper, let alone enjoy it. I and many of my friends enjoy Pulse. I look forward to its proliferation.

Cody SharpNaval Station Rota, Spain

Touching story

I just finished reading the article “Girls tend to graves of forgotten soldiers” (June 1). What a touching story! It brought tears to my eyes, and I found myself thinking, “What amazing girls!” They could have done the minimum requirement for the Girl Scout badge they wanted to earn, but they did much more. Not only did they tend to the graves, but they’ve brought the situation to the attention of people with the means to do something about ongoing care for these fallen soldiers.

My hat is off to Erica Hill, Emily Hernandez Goldstein and Maria Arvelo! In keeping with President Bush, these girls have made sure that we will not forget. I thank these girls for honoring fallen soldiers!

Sheleen KnowltonBad Nauheim, Germany

Don't forget we're still at war

I’m Christopher Redmond. I’m 19 years old and I just finished my freshman year at Texas Tech University. My father is Senior Master Sgt. Chris Redmond. I’m at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, this summer.

It seems the media in the United States has gotten bored with the ongoing war with Iraq. If a random person in the United States were asked about the war, he’d probably say, “I thought it was over.” That in itself shows just how easily civilians can sometimes forget and move on, resuming their participation in the ever-present, speeding rapids of time. But I think I speak for all military members and dependents when I say that it’s not the same here. Our dedication to our country and its cause can be seen everywhere. Yes, we’re still at war with Iraq. We still have soldiers dying, don’t we? In the news we hear of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters dying in the Middle East.

Yes, we’re still at war. You see it in front of the commissaries, in front of workplaces, in front of the movie theaters and the food courts, at the gates of the bases and even in front of our schools. Readers know what I’m talking about: big, concrete reminders of the looming threat of terrorism, those juggernauts that stand guard in our parking lots and on sidewalks and roads. These barriers and portable walls made of solid stone add safety to our everyday lives.

At the Ramstein Intermediate School and many other schools in the Kaiserslautern military community, these relentless reminders of the seriousness of our situation are turned into works of art reflecting what we’ve been fighting for. Freedom. Freedom of mind, body and soul without the oppression of a tyrannical government. It’s this freedom that’s so beautifully expressed by the children of our community. Whether it’s landscapes painted with their little hands and fingers or mascots drawn by teachers and painted in by students, these expressions of the ideals we fight to uphold show that our community is dedicated to our country, its cause, and all those who protect it.

These works of art also show the beauty of our community and our ability to overcome such solemn reminders of the threats we live under every day. Most importantly, these works of art show that although some Americans may forget, we’ll never forget, and we’ll continue to accept our conditions and thrive underneath them. Yes, there’s still a war going on, and our families are here to support those who do what they have to do to protect the smallest of freedoms — every human being’s right to be beautiful and make the world the same.

I thank those at our schools who allow the defiance of terror and prominence of beauty that’s portrayed in art by the children of our community.

Christopher RedmondRamstein Air Base, Germany

Time to exchange poor service

Soldiers complain. This is a universal fact. Soldiers have much to complain about. Some things that we complain about can’t be helped. We know this. So while we complain, we “suck it up and drive on.” But two complaints that can and should be addressed are a reasonable selection of needed items and the receiving of proper customer service at post exchanges during war or peacetime.

When at war or on a deployment, GIs have one establishment to purchase from — the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. Out here in Iraq, AAFES has no competition. This leaves no motivation for AAFES to strive toward a higher standard of service. For example, soldiers (customers) should not be rationed. Soldiers (customers) should be allowed to purchase as much of whatever they need or desire in accordance with what they can afford.

I spent four hours waiting to make my purchases, only to find that half the items I wanted were not stocked. The items I could purchase were rationed. But there was a case of Tabasco sauce. That was nice. But the fact is that every Meal, Ready to Eat comes with Tabasco sauce. Most merchants pay attention to what their customers need and stock their shelves accordingly.

At the same time, most merchants treat customers with respect. Recently the cashier here addressed my squad leader as “chicka.” My squad leader pointed out that her name is “sergeant,” with her last name followed by the title. The cashier responded, “I don’t recognize rank.”

These situations deserve complaints and warrant some corrective action.

Cpl. Michael WelbornBaghdad, Iraq

June 9

Carrier-based air power

The recent assertion by Charles Pena in the story “Still going: War emphasizes need to keep aircraft carriers” (May 27) that carrier-based air power is becoming less significant demonstrates just how out of touch he is with the realities of modern warfare. For corroboration of carrier air power’s critical and enduring contributions, one need only ask those servicemembers who benefited directly from the timeliness and precision of close-air support by Navy and Marine Corps pilots on the five aircraft carriers (plus amphibious assault ships) in the fight in Iraq. Similar expressions of gratitude from the “boots on the ground” were voiced repeatedly during combat in Afghanistan. I can only wonder what after-action reports Mr. Pena is reading. His allegations bear no resemblance to official accounts of recent conflicts.

During treacherous weather over Iraq and at sea last April, most Air Force land-based squadrons were grounded one night. Not so the carrier squadrons that braved severe weather to launch when the call for help arrived. They launched and completed their missions successfully despite some of the most appalling night-flying conditions in recent memory.

Beyond the awesome increases in the carrier air wing’s all-weather precision, persistence and lethality during the past decade, Navy and Marine Corps carrier-based squadrons bring a full complement of aerial-warfare capability to the joint fight — be it organic squadrons dedicated to strike, counter-air, early warning, search-and-rescue, aerial-refueling or electronic-warfare missions. Navy-Marine Corps electronic-warfare squadrons — the only units available for this critical mission — escorted all strike missions over Afghanistan and Iraq until command of the airspace was assured.

This is not meant to detract from the equally impressive contributions that Air Force squadrons made to victory in Iraq. As any pilot who launched during the conflict will say, there was more than enough fight for the air arms of every service. Beyond sheer striking power, joint unified combatant commanders want flexibility, utility, versatility and staying power when planning their aviation force mix. A combination of land- and carrier-based air power offers tremendous advantages. And when it proves impossible for the United States to obtain necessary overflight and host-nation basing rights to conduct combat missions overseas, time and again it’s been carrier-based air that pulled the bacon from the fire — aircraft carriers ready on arrival, on station with hundreds of acres of sovereign U.S. territory from which to take the fight to the enemy.

And as the USS Kitty Hawk demonstrated when special operations forces launched from her deck during Operation Enduring Freedom, the carrier can also easily support other sea-based aviation requirements.

Nearly all leading defense analysts known to me predict that, with sovereignty issues becoming an increasingly limiting factor in the combatant commander’s force-planning matrix, carrier-based air power’s utility will only increase in the future. Mr. Pena would be well-served to depart the confines of Washington, D.C., to embark on an aircraft carrier to learn firsthand what truly remarkable fighting machines our nation sends to sea.

Gordon I. PetersonSpringfield, Va.

Mail affects battlefield

This is in response to the letter “Mail complaints” (June 2). The writer made an interesting point about how wars are fought and won. “Bullets, food and fuel are what’s needed to fight and win on the battlefield,” he wrote.

My husband is in Iraq, where food is still scarce. In e-mails or rare phone calls home, he always requests that food be mailed to supplement his rations of one Meals, Ready to Eat every other day. This is of great concern to me. I’m upset when my husband doesn’t receive what’s sent in a timely manner through the mail. A lack of adequate food affects soldiers in the performance of their mission. So in this case, timely mail service is more than just a morale issue. It affects the battlefield.

I pray for comfort for the families of servicemembers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the rest of us. The next time the letter writer reads or hears a complaint about mail service, he should think twice. It very well could be a legitimate concern.

Marla CastroIllesheim, Germany

Mail shutdown

I’m writing this letter on behalf of the majority of the members of my unit still stationed here in Iraq. There is a serious problem going on here that we feel readers should know about.

We’re members of the Army’s premier Digitized Division, whose new trademark is the ability to communicate more efficiently on the move. Our new technology makes for greater communication on the battlefield. But the Army is failing us in a form of communication as old as the Army itself. For some reason, all of our mail is getting backed up in theater — incoming and outgoing — and not being delivered in a timely manner.

I’ve been in the military long enough to know that breakdowns happen. But it’s going on almost two months, and we’ve got GIs who haven’t received any letters from their loved ones. As hard as that is for GIs on the ground to swallow, we can usually deal with that. But now we’ve found that our letters home aren’t even making it.

Like I said, we all expect breakdowns. But this is a shutdown. Morale is slipping. Families are getting overly strained, and a solution is nowhere in site.

I ask readers who live in places where the mail system works to send letters to their government representatives and make this issue known. Their servicemembers will greatly appreciate their help.

Staff Sgt. Dennis GriffeeIraq

Media bias

I’m a freshman at Naples American High School, and recently in our troubled world, I’ve been given great cause for concern. As an American citizen, I’ve been greatly perturbed by the actions of the media. I’m not talking about Al-Jazeera, though it is contemptible, or anything to do with the Middle East. It's much closer to home and therefore more disquieting.

The U.S. news has become so biased in pursuit of profit that “cutthroat” doesn’t cut it. While censoring is technically illegal in the United States, the media CEOs control every bit of information that enters our homes, our offices and thus our minds. This effectively gives them the ability to censor anything they please.

These people seem to have no sense of justice. A perfect example is the current Laci Peterson case. I don’t know whether Scott Peterson killed his wife or not. But I do know that under the U.S. Constitution, he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. But without a single piece of evidence having been presented in a court of law, the media has already decided that he is indeed guilty. Unless the state of California can find enough people with absolutely no means of accessing the media, (TV, radio, etc.), then it has also destroyed Mr. Peterson’s Sixth Amendment right to a trial by an impartial jury. Media members have crucified Scott Peterson for the American public, and we’ve loved them for it.

In addition, TV reporters have shown a blatant disregard for objective journalism. (I thank the newspaper industry for keeping its opinions where they belong!) TV reporters are supposed to report fact, but have instead resorted to flagrant editorializing. The truth has been mauled to the point that it’s beyond recognition, and we must try to pick what few facts there are out of the waves of opinionated rhetoric.

As an American who may be at any time wrongly accused and thrown into this exact situation, I’m very concerned about media bias in the world today. I’m also concerned about the world’s future and that of the American justice system. I hope more Americans will become aware of this problem in our society and strive to correct it.

Brendan O’CallaghanNaples, Italy

June 10

Quality Assurance Specialists

I’d like to recognize the contribution that a group of civilians is making to Operation Iraqi Freedom. These civilians are Quality Assurance Specialists (Ammunition Surveillance). They seem to sometimes fall through the cracks of media coverage. They are some of the many people who do their jobs without the public ever knowing their names. There are more than 470 QASAS who support the military both in the continental United States and outside the United States, as well as deploying with troops to TDY locations. There are more than 40 assigned just to Europe.

My husband is a QASAS. His sacrifice and the depth of his commitment to God and country were important in support of the war. He’s not a GI. He retired from the Army with 20 years of service and spent many years as an explosive ordnance disposal team member.

He joined the civilian side of the house and became a QASAS in 1991. As a QASAS, he has many responsibilities in many places. He’s performed his duties all across the United States, in Germany, Kosovo, Poland and now in Iraq. He “crossed the berm” with the 24th Ordnance Company on March 20 after arriving in Kuwait on Feb. 4. The “very” basic, troops-on-the- move lifestyle might be too much to ask of some civilians, but not of my husband.

He’s using both his current job description as well as his explosive ordnance disposal experience to help troops whenever and wherever he can. Currently he’s at Forward Logistics Base Dogwood, where he set up the ammunition supply point and issued and received ammunition. He continues to inspect U.S. ammunition and makes decisions on unsafe Iraqi munitions. He then follows through with disposal instructions. It’s all in order to help keep the troops and Iraqi citizens safe. Is it dangerous? Sure. Is it hard being away from family and home? Yes. But he wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

My husband is part of making freedom a reality for the Iraqis, and he’s helping keep freedom a way of life for our children and grandchildren. He’s just that kind of man. I’m very proud of him. Who is he? My husband, Harlan E. Carlson.

Tina CarlsonVilseck, Germany

Be grateful

During the afterglow of a rare and much-needed mail drop to my company, I was reading Stars and Stripes and came across the letter “Camp conditions” (April 20). The writer whined about conditions at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. She wrote about waiting in lines for the post exchange, mail getting to her slowly, a lack of computers to access e-mail, not enough phone lines, her wallet getting stolen, and the PX having trouble stocking soda and cameras.

I’m absolutely appalled. I’m an infantryman assigned to C Company, 1-502nd Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). My peers and I have gone a month or so without a shower and hot food (besides Meals, Ready to Eat with heaters), and the writer’s the one complaining. None of us have the opportunity to stand in a long line for phones or a PX or to live in a tent with a cot.

Mail is a pretty rare occurrence. When we do receive letters or packages, we’re overjoyed, no matter how late the mail is. Our worries tend to revolve around things such as getting shot by some thug or remnant of Saddam Hussein’s forces.

The writer should be grateful for what she has, because there are many of us who have next to nothing.

Spc. David ThompsonIraq

Lighten up

I’m writing in response to the three letters in the May 27 edition of Stars and Stripes that called for Pulse magazine to be discontinued. The writers should lighten up.

I’m stunned by the puritanical backlash against Pulse. I like Pulse. I also thoroughly enjoy the fact that Europeans are far less uptight about sex. I deeply resent the implication that to “protect family values” we must again submit to the censorship of self-appointed defenders of virtue. My family values are in no danger from Pulse magazine, nor I suspect are anyone else’s.

Parents who don’t wish to have Pulse magazine should follow three easy steps: 1. Open Stripes. 2. Discard Pulse magazine. 3. Read the now-sanitized, safe, family-friendly version of Stripes.

Keep Pulse magazine in Stripes!

James KluteStuttgart, Germany

Marshall Center

The U.S.-German George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch has reached its 10th anniversary. It’s trained thousands of officers and civilian officials from the former Warsaw Pact countries and assisted dozens of nations on the path to democracy. Today, most of the ex-communist countries are maturing democracies and either aspire to join NATO or are already part of it. Is there still a need for the Marshall Center to continue, or does the 10th milestone also signal the approaching end of the road? In reality, the center has reached an important crossroad. A new direction should be seen and taken without hesitation.

Recent events have called into question the stability of NATO. Whatever the alliance’s future, it won’t resemble the past. Linked together under a larger security umbrella, facing a different kind of threat, the allied governments of “old” Europe, “new” Europe and North America are likely to interpret their national interests and obligations with less cohesion than before. Such turmoil is likely to affect ties among traditional western allies and with our new eastern partners. If the Euro-Atlantic tie is to remain strong and effective, then the emerging challenges must be recognized, analyzed and dealt with openly. There will be different views on responding to terrorism or on the use of force. But effort is essential, and success is more likely in a creative and collegial environment.

The Marshall Center is uniquely well-positioned, organized and staffed to take on the task. The center should assume a leading role in bringing together representatives from all the NATO and partner countries, with the goal of developing new, inclusive and effective security concepts. A near-term, top priority might be to facilitate discussions on the transformation process that’s needed to guide NATO and EU members in their adoption and integration of emerging security concepts and advanced military capabilities.

The Marshall Center was founded in 1993 to provide immediate assistance to countries that were politically unstable and economically in shambles. The center is a success, a strong foundation upon which to build. While continuing what it does now, the Marshall Center, a top-level educational institution, could also become an active research center and international think tank. To support necessary transformation, it would need to seek a balanced mix of participants (students, faculty, fellows, researchers) from all countries, not just the East. This would require an adjustment of mission, focus, and command relationships.

An increase in funding and staffing might be required. The center’s new approach could call for closer coordination with NATO and the new Allied Command for Transformation. New mechanisms would enable a degree of management participation by other countries.

All this can be done, and the record of 10 years shows that the center can do it well. Teaching democracy may no longer be the center’s sole contribution, although it’s important and will continue to be important. But Garmisch should also become the place where Americans, Canadians, Europeans and Eurasians come to learn from each other as equals, to raise hard questions and explore forthrightly and jointly the new challenges of a new century. The Marshall Center’s 10th anniversary can be more than a milestone. It should be a turning point.

Walter L. ChristmanGeneva, Switzerland

(Mr. Christman was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Meritorious Civilian Service in 1993 for his leadership in establishing the Marshall Center. The views are the writer’s and do not reflect the position of any organization.)

June 11

Letter writer not alone

This is a heartfelt response to the letter “Poor support” (May 26). The writer is the wife of a soldier who in May attended a noncommissioned officers class in Grafenwöhr, Germany. The soldier became ill and appears to have been neglected by his chain of command.

The writer has every right to expect that her command sergeant major or unit first sergeant should have been on top of this situation. I will not attempt to second guess these top leaders. But I’d like to enlist the writer’s patience to see if we can perk up the system a bit.

A few years ago while I was on active duty as the CSM of a major command in Frankfurt, I’d visit Frankfurt’s airport at least once a week to monitor dependent arrivals. To my surprise, many dependents with children would arrive only to find no unit sponsor. When I first saw this, I couldn’t wait to get on the phone with the battalion or brigade CSM. As time went by, I finally realized that the commands, like good soldiers, need training and training and training — some more than others. The writer’s letter will serve as a good training reminder.

The writer’s husband is a special soldier, or he wouldn’t have been selected for the noncommissioned officers course. This will probably not be the writer’s last “bad” experience if her husband decides to continue his military career. But the writer, myself and all the great active and/or retired soldiers are going to make the Army work. The writer isn’t alone in this. We are everywhere. Just ask my wife, who spent more than 30 years of highs and lows with me in the U.S. Army and loved every year of it!

Davie Heath Jr.Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.)Garmisch, Germany

Missing best friend

Recently I lost someone dear to me. I lost my best friend. His name was Sam, a black Labrador retriever. He was 14½ years old.

Sam was born on Christmas Day l988, with 10 siblings. He was the runt of the litter. Sam came to live with us the following Valentine’s Day. He was the best present we ever got.

We’re a military family. We never have the advantage of staying in one place for very long. We do have the opportunity to travel and to see the world. Sam was always a part of our world as we moved. We never dreamed of leaving Sam behind. He was part of our family.

We had to improvise with a large dog. Not all hotels or rentals allow pets. So we had to search in advance for places that did. Sometimes we had to live in stairwell housing. We did for three years on a previous assignment. Sam was walked and ran daily. It was also a good way for our family to exercise. Living in a stairwell didn’t mean we had to get rid of Sam.

Pets require a lot of love and commitment. What does an owner get in return? A pet is a faithful friend until the end. After a hard day, a pet is at home anxiously waiting to greet its owner with its tail wagging. When lonely or sad, a pet is there for comfort. When a spouse is deployed, a pet is protection.

My dog Sam protected me on two separate occasions from snake bites. Once in Florida, Sam and I were walking when Sam used his body to redirect our path. I noticed a water moccasin coiled up, ready to strike at me. Another time while mowing the lawn in Maryland, Sam again pushed me away and redirected my path. Under a cedar tree where I’d been mowing was a snake, coiled and ready to strike.

Sam was not only my friend. He was also my protector. Sam truly was a “Lassie” dog. It doesn’t just happen in stories. It can happen in real life, too, if only people give their pets a chance.

I cannot understand why people abandon their pets. When PCSing, some people leave their pets behind and get new ones at the next duty station. I’ve heard kids say, “We had to leave our pet because they weren’t allowed to come here.” Moving is an adjustment in itself. A child’s pet can be his only friend. Moving is difficult enough on children without leaving their pets behind.

My daughter recently graduated from high school. Sam was our family dog. He greeted her each day after school for most of her life. Through every PCS move, Sam was by the side of my daughter and her two brothers. Sam is the one stable thing they’ve had in their lives.

As I said goodbye to my best friend Sam with tears streaming down my face, I knew every tear was well worth all the years of joy that he’d brought to me and my family. There’s a time to mourn and a time to dance. This is my time to mourn for all of the dancing.

I dedicate this letter in Sam’s memory that all pets may live a joyful life and not be abandoned or abused by their owners. I pray that readers who have pets will cherish their presence in their lives. I cherished Sam, and I will miss my beloved friend.

Amy BromwellVilseck, Germany

Rude treatment

I cannot recall any professional entertainer or athlete treating fans as rudely as the rhythm and blues group Dru Hill did on May 31.

Dru Hill was scheduled to attend an autograph session at the Hanau, Germany, main exchange from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. I arrived at the exchange at 5 p.m. Eighty to 100 fans were waiting. I noticed three American Forces Network workers who I believe were there to schedule an interview with the group before it gave a concert in Darmstadt.

At 6 p.m. there was no sign or hint that the group was on its way. There was a rumor that the group was behind schedule and would arrive in 40 minutes. Meanwhile, Army and Air Force Exchange Service personnel announced that they’d be selling CDs and T-shirts that could be autographed. Many fans were becoming restless. Many contemplated leaving but decided to wait until 8 p.m. At 7:30 p.m. I discovered that many fans had been waiting since 4 p.m.

By 8 p.m. I’d had enough. Dru Hill’s concert was to begin at 9 p.m. I then heard that Dru Hill was 25 minutes out of Hanau and on its way. I left because the exchange closes at 9 p.m. So if there was to be an autograph session, the exchange would have to extend its hours so the many people who’d waited so patiently would have an opportunity to get autographs.

The next day I found out that Dru Hill finally arrived at the exchange at 8:30 p.m. The group first entered an AAFES break room to eat for 30 minutes. The group members entered the autograph area at 9 p.m., appearing not to be appreciative of the fans who waited patiently for their arrival. The autograph session lasted 30 minutes. Many fans who purchased T-shirts did not get them autographed because security personnel said the group members would sign only CDs and posters.

As a music fan, I think it’s a disgrace to treat fans in this manner. There are many people around the world who don’t get an opportunity to meet artists they like. And when they do get the opportunity, they get treated like this? The members of Dru Hill have lost my respect as artists and human beings. I don’t think AFN’s personnel were too pleased by Dru Hill’s professionalism either.

Luke JohnsonHanau, Germany

Trust the rescuers' instincts

I’m disturbed by the attention given to the supposedly unnecessary dramatics surrounding Pfc. Jessica Lynch’s rescue.

When I read Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich’s questions to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, I was struck by their irrelevance. Hindsight may have demonstrated a lack of resistance, but in the midst of a rescue, the enemy’s location is uncertain. Whether they saw Iraqi troops or were fired upon during the rescue should not prevent them from acting as if they were there, just out of sight, in a cleverly laid ambush.

I hope that all precautions to protect troops’ lives and Iraqi civilians were taken. Whether they knocked down doors does not matter — I will leave judgment up to those on the ground in charge.

It’s very likely the hospital’s staff had tried earlier to return Pfc. Lynch. This is likely how U.S. forces discovered her location. I also believe those on the ground made appropriate decisions to protect themselves from attacks by repelling these attempts.

War is dangerous and full of deception; all information is subject to question. Trying to verify whether the hospital and its surrounding area was vacated of Iraqi forces would have been a meaningless exercise. It is safer to prepare for their presence and hope for their absence.

In response to Mr. Kucinich’s questions, I would answer:

The form decisive action and display of force should take are decisions that should be made by the military officers responsible for carrying out a mission in a manner to best protect our troops.

The more important questions are: Were any U.S. troops injured or killed in the rescue? Were any Iraqi civilians injured in the rescue? Was Pfc. Lynch returned home?

I hope Mr. Rumsfeld has the courage to tell Mr. Kucinich to not waste the secretary’s time answering irrelevant questions — and to allow him and his troops to do the job they were instructed to carry out. I hope members of Congress and all others involved have the wisdom to recognize that launching extensive investigations into details that do not matter wastes valuable time from more-important issues.

Brian MarriottYokota Air Base, Japan

Supporting units play key role

This is in response to the May 15 letter “Time for new blood in Iraq.” Our infantry and the fighting forces who led the war in Iraq did a spectacular job, and I applaud their efforts and sacrifices. Their success dominated the war. But the success of the supporting units played a significant part as well. Without supporting units, the infantry and forward-combat units would not be able to perform their jobs. The supporting units sacrifice to keep them rolling along. We push the beans and bullets up to them every day while the leaders move us faster than our supply lines can keep up.

I recognize the writer’s hard work and know he needs a break. But he seems to be putting blame on everyone else. I think every day about the soldiers up on the front lines. When soldiers here in the rear complain, I tell them they have no idea and to think of the soldiers on the front.

I hear people at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, complain when I’m hoping that no one took the napkins so that I can use them as toilet paper at Camp Virginia. When we sent our equipment to Camp Doha, Qatar, for preparation to ship home, I thought of the soldiers in the front and the things they’ve seen. They sleep on the ground. They’re on the edge all the time and never have enough sleep.

I sit here every day sweating my brains out, never complaining and assuring my soldiers that it could be worse. We could be with the soldiers at the front.

But I take offense to the writer saying that I and other supporting units aren’t doing our jobs just as he’s done his. My sister battery was the unit that was ambushed. We’re joined in what we do, because without support the war would have never happened. If I were next to the writer during a battle, I’d fight hard and valiantly. The writer should think before he opens his mouth and claims he’s the only one who did anything.

Sgt. 1st Class John L. OzengharCamp Virginia, Kuwait

Pulse alone harms no one

I have just read some of the people’s comments about Pulse magazine publishing porn. The people are up in arms over something they claim is damaging the community or harmful to their children’s welfare.

Since when has a picture of a half-naked person ever hurt anyone? Come on people, why do you feel it is Stars and Stripes’ responsibility to cater to your family values? Are you forgetting that this is a newspaper designed for the military? It was people like you who had the “smut magazines” removed from the shelves of our mini-marts. Our soldiers are fighting for their country and their First Amendment rights. Why should they not have the same opportunity to purchase or look at such material as their civilian counterparts?

For all you people who say this type of material is harming the community, think about this: When was the last time a person looked at a naked person in a magazine and then got in his or her car and killed someone? I would have to say never. If you really want to help the community then why don’t you start complaining about the sale of alcohol in the base mini-marts? After all, alcohol is a harmful drug when consumed in large amounts, and we all know how many lives are taken each year due to alcohol abuse. How many children are killed each year because of drunken drivers?

Don’t get me wrong: I am not lobbying for the ban of alcohol. All I am trying to say is this: If you want to improve the community and protect your children, then you should put your efforts into something that is really going to make a difference. Since you seem to have so much time on your hands, how about volunteering as a designated driver for all the single soldiers. That would really help make the community a safer place.

Leave Pulse and all the other magazines that don’t agree with your family values alone and do something that will really help the community. Also, why is it that most of the people complaining about Pulse are dependant females? I never hear them complain when the newspaper prints pictures of men in boxing shorts or Speedos in the sports section.

Darrell FergusonKadena Air Base, Okinawa

Serve notice on French fans

For those who say “freedom fries” and “freedom toast” are a load of phooey, I say read the June 7 article titled “Serena slammed in Paris.”

I hope Abby reads the article, too. I used to read Dear Abby until I read her comments about “narrow-minded Americans” and their attitude toward the French. I’m tired of hearing how narrow-minded Americans are about the French after their stance toward the coalition invasion of Iraq.

So much for tennis etiquette. I guess the French could not resist the opportunity to bash a warmonger American. Thanks to the fans for making the American public aware of the anti-American resentment that lives in Paris.

I have now added the French Open to my boycott list along with French wine and cheese. Here’s an idea, perhaps the Dixie Chicks can go to Paris and play for the winner of the tournament. I have nothing personal against those who may say “Viva la France,” but I’ll stand by “God Bless America” until the day I die.

Brett SmithYokota Air Base, Japan

June 12

Something positive

I’m a soldier, a noncommissioned officer, a mother, a wife and a Christian woman. Seems like it could be a little overwhelming, huh? But when a person gives herself to God and continues to put him first each day, all those titles work out. If our faith is strong, God can do amazing things through us and others.

Soldiers who are deployed here in Iraq like me should hold their heads up and not complain. I know it’s hard not to complain, but we all have our own personal, separate part to play out here. It’s going to be hot. It’s going to be sandy. Mail will take some time to reach us. We miss our friends, families and regular lifestyles.

I’m just writing so we can all read something positive. This letter may just allow some soldier to accept God into his life. This letter could also allow some soldier to be a better husband, wife or friend.

I’m only writing because I, too, want to encourage soldiers and to tell them to be patient and wait. This, too, will pass and we’ll all be back home and look back and remember what we went through.

GIs should say positive things, have good conversations, think about changing for the better, and understand why they’re in Iraq. It’s not to be comfortable or to wake up and have McDonald’s. If only one soldier reads this letter and it helps him to not complain, makes him realize how much he has in life, and he pushes ahead, does his job and gets home safely, that’s enough to make my day.

Even if I don’t make it home to the States, I’ll still make it home to my God without complaining. I wish all serving soldiers a blessed day.

Staff Sgt. Kim HarrellIraq

Couldn't be there

I’m currently stationed in Iraq, serving my country against terrorism and dictatorship over oppressed people.

My daughter, Kathy Wellhoff-Metcalf, graduated this year from high school. I was unable to be there for her, which seems to be a continual chain of events. She tries to understand that I’m in the military and that the job I do is essential to freedom and our way of life.

She crossed the stage with her peers, whose fathers are also here with me in a country far from our homes. She accepted the diploma and spent her biggest moment with her mother and two sisters in Germany. She felt that I missed this momentous occasion since I wasn’t there for her, center stage down front, as I wish with all my heart I had been. But I was able to see the event here in Iraq courtesy of the 440th Signal Family Readiness Group.

I’ve always been so proud of my daughter and all her accomplishments. She’s never let me down or embarrassed me. The greatest gift I can give to her now is the blessing of a proud and grateful father. I love and miss Kathy. I was there in heart and with a smile for her from ear to ear.

Chief Warrant Officer Todd A. MetcalfIraq

Right to complain

I’m writing in response to the letter “Mail complaints” (June 2). I believe the writer doesn’t know what it feels like for a GI to get a package or letter from a relative or friend that the soldier has been waiting on for two months. I feel sorrow for the soldiers who’ve been killed in combat in this or any other war. But saying that our mail is trivial compared to those horrors is kind of blowing things out of proportion.

I think there’s a problem with the mail system if it takes me two months to receive one package from my mother while it only takes two weeks to receive a different package from my father. There are problems with the mail out here in Iraq. This is expected, as there have been problems with everything out here since I arrived in country. But for the writer to say that we have no right to complain seems trivial when the writer isn’t out here.

I only wish that I could have some of the luxuries that people who aren’t in the military enjoy. I’d like to be able to go to my APO and pick up my mail whenever I please and not have to drive two hours in more than 100-degree weather once a week to pick up a massive shipment of mail.

I’m not saying that the writer has never been in a war or in the military. But I believe that someone who isn’t now suffering the hardships that we’re suffering should not step on a high horse and say we should not be complaining. Wars are fought with bullets, blood and tears. But the motivation to live to see our next letters from home also plays maybe a small part.

Spc. Jonathan Ross BijakCamp Victory, Iraq

Deli/bakery operations

On May 1, most Defense Commissary Agency, Europe, deli and bakery operations were taken over by Wolf GMBH of Bavaria under a short-term contract. A number of start-up problems were encountered on both sides, but are being resolved through diligent efforts by both DECA and the contractor. Recent publicity has centered on pay problems in Darmstadt and Heidelberg, Germany. Please allow me to put all this in perspective.

Wolf GMBH is a reputable company in business in Germany for many years. It assumed operation of deli and/or bakery operations in 32 locations in five countries on very short notice when our former contractor notified us of his intent to cease operations. This is the first time Wolf has dealt with the U.S. government or run operations outside of Germany. The learning curve has been tremendous. Wolf has dealt with complex requirements and language difficulties. It tried very hard to comply with DECA’s desire to make a rapid transition and dealt with the fallout that came from such a tall order.

In an effort to limit personal impact, Wolf agreed to assume the in-place staff instead of bringing in its own people. More than 200 employees were on the rolls. Some of those employees chose to accept the new arrangement and some did not, as is their right. The new arrangement states that employees are to be paid on the last day of each month. With the exception of the Darmstadt Commissary, this process went fairly well on the first and only payday thus far. But it was not without challenges. This is a German company dealing in euros. It is paying people who mainly deal with U.S. dollars. In the United Kingdom, where euros are not used, the situation was even more complex. While most employees were paid by check, in some cases Wolf staff members drove many miles with cash in hand to resolve pay issues and came face to face with the many challenges of entering U.S. base facilities.

In the case of the three Darmstadt deli/bakery employees discussed in recent Stars and Stripes articles, they were paid as of June 3 — three days late — by personal delivery from a Wolf staff member. The article “Commissary employees fill in for deli workers in pay protest” (June 3) said, “... 13 people staged a six-day walkout at the Patrick Henry Village [Heidelberg] commissary after they didn’t receive their paychecks.” While the deli/bakery staff at that store has experienced some personnel changes, no 13-employee walkout for six days occurred at any time, and the unrest had nothing to do with receiving paychecks.

While the pros and cons of overseeing a deli/bakery contract such as this are not something our customers should have to worry about, it’s important to understand that both DECA Europe and Wolf GMBH are heavily involved in trying to resolve all start-up issues. It’s of benefit to all concerned for us to do so. It’s also important to know that the number of companies able and willing to operate in our highly-complex, overseas environment is extremely limited, and DECA Europe is not funded for this operation.

Every possible effort is being made to provide our customers with excellent deli and bakery services. We ask only for customers’ patience and understanding during this process.

Cecil SaundersDefense Commissary AgencyDeputy DirectorKaiserslautern, Germany

Pulse has its place

After reading several scathing letters bashing Pulse magazine, I must defend an informative and targeted specialty section of Stars and Stripes. When Pulse was introduced, Stripes went to great lengths to make it clear that the magazine is not for middle-aged parents. Pulse is for young people serving overseas. I’d much rather have curious servicemembers read about an erotikmessen in a specialty section of Stripes and realize that it is or is not the place for them than for naïve servicemembers to explore a foreign culture with little or no idea of what to expect.

Pulse magazine sheds light on and dispels rumors surrounding “taboo” subjects such as piercings, tattoos and lingerie, thereby educating a younger generation to the benefits and possible pitfalls. Those who dislike Pulse — which in no way increases the cost of their paper — should simply remove and discard it, or preferably recycle it. Pulse has a place in Stripes. It has just as much of a place as junior enlisted and junior officers have in the armed services.

Spc. Christopher E. PattersonLandstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany

June 13

Freedom to choose

This is in regard to the letter “Wants something better” (June 4). What pornographic filth in Stars and Stripes? Is the writer getting a different issue than I am? If the writer is going to condemn Stripes, she should try citing reasons that exist — like by the time we get Stripes, all the news has been reported on TV the night before. As far as pornography goes, let me, as someone who enjoys a little porn from time to time, assure the writer that she will most certainly not find any porn in Stripes.

I’m no fan of the Jonathan and Mary Morning Show. But the writer criticized that radio show and offered the John Boy and Billy Show as an alternative? I listened to John Boy and Billy while stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga., and frankly there’s no difference in the two shows. They both use off-color humor to secure ratings.

AFN television’s airing “Will and Grace” and “The Osbournes” is offensive? The last time I checked, the primary concern of most soldiers was a deep belief that we secure freedom for our citizens and at times the rest of the world. Freedom means the freedom to choose what’s good for someone and what’s not instead of having it dictated by someone else. Are we representing freedom and America in the military or Christianity? That’s obviously from where the writer’s argument stemmed. The writer should re-evaluate why she or her husband are affiliated with the military, because that’s what the job entails.

Staff Sgt. Jeff HayesBüdingen, Germany

Don't like it, don't read it

I wish I’d been able to read the issue of Pulse magazine that a lot of letters have mentioned in the last couple of weeks. I also wish I could understand why so many Stars and Stripes readers want to limit, or even worse, completely expunge the content of a forum that covers the people, places, events, thoughts, and ultimately the expression of a younger, more diverse and liberal generation. There’s a simple answer for readers who don’t like Pulse’s content: Don’t buy Stripes the day that Pulse is published. Even better, they should buy Stripes and throw Pulse out.

The letter “Wants something better” (June 4) said that, “... honest, decent, and hard-working families don’t want to read, listen to, or watch porn or immoral behavior.” Such blatant ignorance and generalizing assumptions about people, their interests and their behavior is really what Stripes should keep out of the paper.

The same writer went on to criticize AFN television’s airing of “Will and Grace” because “the show centers around a lifestyle that can result in a servicemember’s discharge .. .and it’s also considered sinful by many viewers.” People with similar thoughts need to get off their moral high horses and realize that not everyone thinks, feels or believes the way they do. By forcing the rest of the military population to yield to their despotic idealisms, they are creating a breeding ground for continued and increased ignorance.

The parents upset with their kids’ exposure to Pulse who’d like Stars and Stripes to do away with the magazine should be more concerned with what they’re teaching their children about censorship by trying to prohibit writing they consider “filthy” or “indecent.” Their desire to suppress expression by demanding the discontinuation of a freer-thinking and a maybe somewhat licentious magazine would do far more harm to these children than having to explain what “gyrating hips” means.

The bottom line is that readers who don’t like Pulse shouldn’t read it. They shouldn’t force everyone to conform to their thoughts, beliefs, values and ideals.

Maija KruethMannheim, Germany

Modern life

The big argument concerning Pulse magazine is ridiculous. I’m dismayed and shocked that people who fight and stand for the freedom of others seem to oppose the freedom of their own press. Many mornings when I walk into my local German bakery, I’m greeted by the local newspaper, which often features nudity on the cover. (Gasp!) I often see scantily-dressed women on my one — count ’em, one — AFN TV channel. Beyond that, I also see scantily-clad women on the covers of magazines when I walk into my base exchange. Often these magazines offer tips to women on “how to please their man.”

Instead of hiding in my kitchen cabinet waiting for indecency to clear, I simply understand that this is the reality of modern life. If we wanted to live an Amish lifestyle, we wouldn’t have joined the military or married military spouses. I don’t understand why it’s so hard for some people to live and let live. So let’s try something new. Let’s throw away the newspaper inserts we deem irrelevant to our lives.

All the letter writers who said Pulse was disturbing to their kids missed a golden opportunity to talk about the human body and, if appropriate, sexuality. Beyond that, they must realize that they’re so fortunate to have their families in Europe with them. They should volunteer and read to and with their children. They should let their children read Stripes and see alternative lifestyles on television. This gives parents a chance to talk about the real world outside the gates of whatever base they share with their families and friends.

As for the letter “Wants something better” (June 4), I have one AFN station. It shows some programs that didn’t interest me in the UnitedStates. (I only had two channels then.) So I turn off the television and find another form of entertainment.

Staff Sgt. Armenia ColemanRamstein Air Base, Germany

FCC vote

In Edward Wasserman’s opinion piece “Did you hear of plans to weaken FCC rules?” (June 4), he quoted Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein as saying, “We are on the eve of the most sweeping and potentially most destructive overhaul of ownership laws in the history of American broadcast — and most people have no idea what’s about to happen to them and their media.”

The FCC voted to deregulate the media further than it already is on June 2. Of the five commissioners on the FCC panel, headed by Michael Powell, Colin Powell’s son, three GOP commissioners voted to loosen remaining restrictions on media monopoly, while the two Democratic commissioners voted against. This lays the groundwork for continued media consolidation. (In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the majority of all aspects of U.S. news media. Today, just a handful do).

I did not read a single article in Stars and Stripes about the FCC’s plan to place media control into fewer hands, nor was Stripes’ archive service able to produce any article or opinion piece that I might have missed alerting me to this upcoming vote. Had Stripes informed its readers of this FCC vote and its consequences, it surely would have mobilized a strong coalition of military members to prevent this destructive act against our democratic principle of maintaining the multiplicity of voices in our news which soldiers dedicate their lives to support.

How many readers know of the new budget passed by the Senate which includes a $14.6 billion reduction in veterans’ benefits ? (The House version is $28 million in cuts.) Without a diverse and open media, it’s difficult for readers to discern, for example, how the latest tax breaks for corporate media moguls are being subsidized.

The battle over print, air waves, cable and Internet control is far from over. The new rules will hopefully be challenged in court with a ruling that FCC media consolidation is unconstitutional. If a court challenge doesn’t work, there’s a new bill in the Senate that would override the FCC ruling. Both the House and Senate have the necessary support. It’s only a question of whether President Bush would veto it.

Corporate deregulation didn’t work. Do we want to experiment with media deregulation as well?

Edwin ThornburgWürzburg, Germany

Words from home can sustain

This is in response to the June 6 letter “‘Bullets, food and fuel’ first.” I can’t believe the writer would actually say it’s not all about the mail that GIs get downrange. The writer was correct to say that the soldiers were fighting a war. But has the writer thought about what’s making these soldiers live from day to day? Some of the mail that the soldiers get is their only means to know what’s happening in the world. And a lot of soldiers are living off of what they receive in boxes from their loved ones.

I’m sure that when the letter writer goes to his local mail room to check his mail, he takes for granted what he receives from a family member. So I think before the writer starts to gripe again about what people are saying about the mail, he needs to take into account what these soldiers who are fighting for our freedom are feeling.

Tracy DavisHanau, Germany

Battlefield strength affected

This is in response to the June 6 letter “‘Bullets, food and fuel’ first.” The writer made an interesting point about how wars are fought and won. “Bullets, food and fuel are what’s needed to fight and win on the battlefield,” he wrote.

My husband is in Iraq, where food is still scarce. In e-mails or rare phone calls home, he always requests that food be mailed to supplement his rations of one Meals Ready to Eat every other day. This is of great concern to me. I’m upset when my husband doesn’t receive what’s sent in a timely manner through the mail. A lack of adequate food affects soldiers in the performance of their mission. So in this case, timely mail service is more than just a morale issue. It affects the battlefield.

I pray for comfort for the families of servicemembers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the rest of us. The next time the letter writer reads or hears a complaint about mail service, he should think twice. It very well could be a legitimate concern.

Marla CastroIllesheim, Germany

Breakdown now a shutdown

I’m writing this letter on behalf of the majority of the members of my unit still stationed here in Iraq. There is a serious problem going on here that we feel readers should know about.

We’re members of the Army’s premier Digitized Division, whose new trademark is the ability to communicate more efficiently on the move. Our new technology makes for greater communication on the battlefield. But the Army is failing us in a form of communication as old as the Army itself. For some reason, all of our mail is getting backed up in theater — incoming and outgoing — and not being delivered in a timely manner.

I’ve been in the military long enough to know that breakdowns happen. But it’s going on almost two months, and we’ve got GIs who haven’t received any letters from their loved ones. As hard as that is for GIs on the ground to swallow, we can usually deal with that. But now we’ve found that our letters home aren’t even making it.

We all expect breakdowns. But this is a shutdown. Morale is slipping. Families are getting overly strained, and a solution is nowhere in sight.

Staff Sgt. Dennis GriffeeIraq

Too many parcels a problem

I’ve read all the letters from family members who have loved ones in Iraq, and they’re troubling. I’m a postal employee, and I enjoy my job. We try hard every day to get all the mail we receive out and on its way to soldiers downrange. There’s never a piece of mail that gets left behind. Some personnel work late every night to ensure the mail gets delivered.

But some of the problem is not with postal personnel. It’s with the very customers we serve. We have people who send out five packages every day, and this is tying up the Military Postal System. I’m not saying this is wrong, because I went through the same thing when I was a soldier. But what I’m saying is that people should please try to limit the number of items they send to maybe three or four every other day. I think this would help a little.

I know there will be negative feedback on this. But that’s why our friends and loved ones are in Iraq — to protect our right to freedom of speech. In the meantime, customers should please not give mail clerks a hard time when they ask them to fill out customs forms or wrap a reused priority mail box. We just want to make sure their mail reaches their loved ones in one piece.

Tim StewartWiesbaden, Germany

June 14

War's hard on mail

I’ve been reading letters about mail service for several days now and I’ve had enough.

Mail going to deployed units gathers at a staging base until a supply plane, truck or train is able to deliver it downrange. It will not take the place of required cargo such as food, ammunition, fuel, and whatever else our troops need to perform safely downrange. This means that the tons of packages and daily letters are backlogged because there’s not enough room on the transports to take the mail in or out as often as we’ve gotten used to. Would readers rather their loved ones get food or letters?

When there’s finally room to put a pallet of mail on a transport, the oldest stuff goes first. It could be several weeks old by the time there’s space available. It’s the same for the returning mail. I’m still waiting for a letter mailed to my son for his birthday in February. The uncle who mailed it has been home for a month already. It happens, and it’s just something that we military families have to deal with.

The further away loved ones are from a permanent staging base, the longer it will take them to get any “snail mail.” The more that’s sent, the more it gets backlogged at staging areas and deployed bases where there aren’t enough people to process it and perform all the other required duties. The more it gets backlogged, the longer it takes to find space on a supply run and in the mail rooms downrange. And the longer it takes to find that space, the angrier letters in Stars and Stripes become.

No one’s trying to keep mail from our troops. Active-duty postal clerks and our own family members are deployed with everyone else. They’re not getting their mail and are unable to send it, just like everyone else. We’re definitely not stealing it and aren’t delaying it because we can. We don’t want it building up any more than the guys out there do.

Although I’m a civilian postal clerk, this is in no way an official reply. These are things I’ve learned in nearly 33 years as a military dependent and postal volunteer. Most recently I got my Air Force husband’s only letter home the day he got back because it was mailed internationally when he was finally allowed off his site. Mail delivery has always been like this. I’ve heard the same stories about mail service during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Desert Storm. It will continue to be this way as long as we overload the system. It’s as much our fault as it is the logistics of the supply runs.

At least now we have e-mail, cell phones, satellite phones and video phones to help us stay in touch. Let’s be grateful for what we have and be tolerant of the imperfections in the military lifestyle. We’re all in this together, and getting angry about something that we have no control over is not helping anyone. All it does is make us all miserable and angry when the fault is not with the system, but in the fact that we went to war and war is hell on mail, just like everything else.

Deanna L. RosarioRamstein Air Base, Germany

Restless Heart

A while back, Stars and Stripes published a letter from John Dittrich of Restless Heart concerning the soldiers of 1-94th Field Artillery. I’m the wife of one of those soldiers, so I sent Mr. Dittrich a letter to thank him for his heartfelt support. He has since been a faithful and commendable correspondent.

I recently sent a mass e-mail out to my friends and family updating them on my husband. The e-mail included the names of five of his soldiers who are in need of care packages and asked for people willing to “adopt” these guys while they’re deployed. Mr. Dittrich and the rest of the band stepped up to the plate with more enthusiasm than I ever expected. Restless Heart, in its endeavor to support our soldiers and the sacrifices they make, has agreed to adopt these guys.

With all the negativity that’s come from a lot of musicians and actors, I thought this was a highly commendable act. I hope many more will follow suit and adopt a single soldier. Nothing boosts morale more than knowing that someone back home cares.

Michelle SwaimsBaumholder, Germany

Peace, not protests

I’m currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I must say that I’m proud, and my prayers go out to each and every servicemember serving in the Gulf and to the families who support these fine soldiers. But after reading the story “Shiites exercise new freedoms, bash U.S.,” I was very upset. Here I am, day in and day out, transporting equipment and helping do my part, and I’m reading that they want us to go home. For what? So somebody else can take Saddam Hussein’s place and put his foot thigh deep in their butts for another couple of decades? What they need to do is focus all that protest energy into something positive, like rebuilding their homeland, instead of bashing the U.S., stripping our vehicles left on the side of the road down to their frames, and going on suicide missions. The story also mentioned that people came from as far as Iran and other regions to Karbala. They should have come with hammers, nails and a vision.

As a Muslim soldier, I had my reservations about coming over here. But I’m happy to be a part of the liberation of my fellow sisters and brothers. But the madness has got to stop! Those same clerics who lead the people and are so opinionated after sitting on their hands for so many years need to help calm the people so we can do our jobs and go home to our families. We need peace, not protests. That’s the big picture for a promising future in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Kwame Ali PettusCamp New York, Kuwait

Caregiver's letter

This is in regard to the letter “Sorry parenting” (May 29). I’d like to know what prompted such a letter. The writer had no right to belittle any parents, considering she doesn’t seem to have ever been in their boots. The Child Development Centers that my son has been in, particularly those in Sembach and Landstuhl, Germany, have provided outstanding care. They’ve encouraged us to come in and spend a few minutes with him. They’ve taken the time to let us know how his day was, and they know his quirks. What the writer doesn’t realize is that, unlike her, military parents can’t just call in sick the second their children have runny noses. Yes, we feel bad knowing our children may not feel 100 percent, but we do the best we can.

The writer also said that parents shouldn’t expect her, a paid caregiver, to have a hand in raising the children she’s paid to watch. Then what does the writer do all day? Caregivers have as big an influence on our children as we parents do. I hope the children who the writer is paid to watch don’t pick up the same negative attitude that the writer seems to have.

Yes, parents should be encouraged to come in and spend time with their children. And yes, the writer should think it’s cute. Even on an off day, it’s not for a caregiver to dictate whether or not parents drop off their children. The writer is getting paid to be there, isn’t she? It’s the caregiver’s job to bring up any concerns she may have, not to just sit back, complain and hope somebody important reads her extremely rude and belittling letter. I guarantee that the writer wouldn’t have said any of those things directly to parents’ faces if given the chance.

Marissa AlmstromRamstein Air Base, Germany

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