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March 16

GIs’ living conditions

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

March 16 GIs’ living conditions Downrange food shortage Stay strong Stop loss Customers not always right Stereotyping is more unseemly Wall between writer and truth Patriots are on the front lines Change not for the betterMarch 17 Special team Saddam’s supporters Different definitionMarch 18 Kuwait mail too slow International law Military coverage Songwriter’s past Give Bush credit for caution A cry for cryoconservation infoMarch 19 Changes in Germany Bad comparisonMarch 20 Give us the order Camp’s problems Paying for war Sorry for lack of support A northern neighbor’s backingMarch 21 Tense and praying Tax status for troops Set better example Stop complaining Dictating to othersMarch 22 Freedom of speech World won’t be safer Mistake St. Patrick’s Day dancing Going extra mile

I’m writing in response to the letter “Conditions bad for GIs” (March 9). It was written by a spouse voicing her concerns about living conditions for our deployed soldiers. I’d like to reiterate the mission and duty of U.S. servicemembers.

While conditions in areas around the world where numerous U.S. soldiers are deployed may be less than “standard,” these GIs are not on all-expense paid vacations. Every member of the U.S. armed forces took an oath to defend democracy and fight for an environment in which freedom can flourish. It’s our duty to establish an environment of safety and stability.

While fighting for the freedom that we take for granted may not always be easy or comfortable, it’s a duty in which U.S. servicemembers take pride. Individuals don’t go into the Army to join the ranks of the rich and famous. They do so out of honor and pride. This honor and pride is based on the very values that our deployed soldiers are risking their lives to defend. This often seems to be forgotten in today’s society.

My husband is deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, just as are many spouses and family members of Stars and Stripes’ readers. I don’t lose sleep at night because my husband may have to deal with insects or rodents, or that he has to eat three Meals Ready to Eat per day. Rather, I lose sleep over the idea of what the world would be like without men and women as brave as him. What type of country would we live in if servicemembers such as my husband were not willing to sacrifice life’s frivolities to defend the ideals that we call “standards”?

While I’d never wish for my spouse to be deployed, I can’t voice how proud I am of him for standing up for what’s right, no matter how dangerous or uncomfortable. I hope he never forgets that he’s a part of the most triumphant and distinguished military in the world. Years of traditions and events have bred the strongest military leaders any nation could ask for. They’re not going to allow anyone to endure any unnecessary suffering or discomforts.

Conditions will be rough initially. That’s the nature of the beast. It’s never easy to deploy to a foreign country and establish a base camp from scratch. But this is what we constantly train for. As things become more established, the soldiers will eventually gain the comforts that we feel important and things will rapidly improve.

Life downrange may not be grand. But every deployed GI joined the military for a reason. They’re now a part of an extremely important worldwide mission. They’re defending the principles and values upon which our nation was built — the exact principles and values that make it the best nation in the world. These are the exact reasons why I joined the military.

Capt. Jamie L. KrumpKitzingen, Germany

Downrange food shortage

I’m the spouse of a recently-deployed soldier, and I was very upset to read the story “Haven’t heard from Kuwait? Maybe it’s because the troops are in line” (March 9). The story said there’s a food shortage at Camp Udairi, Kuwait, which was designed for 6,000 soldiers and is now holding more than 10,000. How can they see fit to send that many soldiers to a place that isn’t large enough for that many soldiers? I’m sure the soldiers can deal with being lucky to have two feet between their cots. Hopefully no one gets hurt by another soldier stretching out his arms.

Soldiers will have much worse conditions to deal with soon. Maybe our country needs to take a step back and stop taking care of people in other countries and start taking care of our own. How do we expect our soldiers to have the strength to fight a war if we can’t supply food? Having smaller portions is one thing. But it’s unacceptable if some soldiers aren’t getting any meals because the food has run out before every soldier is fed. I shouldn’t have to run to the commissary and send groceries downrange to make sure my husband is being fed. That’s the responsibility of our country.

I support my husband and all the soldiers who are downrange. I believe the food issue needs to be looked into and taken care of. Until then, I guess other wives and I will keep going to commissaries and sending food downrange, hoping our soldiers don’t waste away before the packages get to them.

Susan ZelieIllesheim, Germany

Stay strong

I’m the husband of a senior enlisted soldier who is protecting freedom and providing stability downrange. I was in the German air force myself and went on different engagements around the world. I experienced both being deployed and maintaining the home front. Now I’m a civilian, but deep within me I’m still a soldier. Most importantly, I’m the husband of my darling wife.

Yes, a deployment is tough, not only for me, but for my wife, too. Our spouses downrange need all the support we can give them from the home front. It doesn’t help that we hear all the time about how mean and difficult life is at home while our spouses are serving their country. Weren’t couples aware that deployments might occur when they decided that one of them would serve their country?

I have to substitute for my wife on daily things at home, and it’s a lot of patchwork. But spouses at home should try to keep living the lives they used to. They shouldn’t let darkness come into their lives. They shouldn’t blow out the light of love. They should stand tall for their relationships. If it becomes too difficult or overwhelming, they should ask for help through their local church or contact family support groups. They shouldn’t remain passive. If deployed soldiers have to be concerned about home, how can they fulfill their mission? How are they supposed to stay the course? How are they supposed to protect themselves? Sidetracked soldiers will make mistakes. Sooner or later, these mistakes can turn lethal.

I’m almost always subconsciously worried, because I’ve lived in the type of environment that my wife is in right now. But I have big-time support. I have a son at home, and most importantly I have my trust and faith in God. They help me overcome anything, along with the encouragement I receive from my wife when she telephones or e-mails.

I want to appeal to all spouses on the home front to stay strong and show their servicemembers downrange how beautiful life is. They should show it to other people in their communities and let the power of word of mouth help them encourage one another in times of hardship. They shouldn’t let doubts rule them. They should consider daily problems a challenge and work on solutions. They shouldn’t blame the situations. And they should remind themselves constantly that they have nice, warm, dry homes and everything they want. What do our spouses have downrange? Certainly not even 25 percent of the quality of living that we have at home.

I’m very proud of what servicemembers are doing for us downrange. I salute the soldiers with deep honor and appreciation for what they’re doing. And I send a hug to all the spouses on the home front and offer them my encouragement during this time.

Volker BrunkeCologne, Germany

Stop loss

The current stop-loss policy has turned me and thousands of other soldiers into slaves for the U.S. Army. After serving in the Army for more than 22 years and being denied retirement three times, I’ve come to the realization that I’m not a free man. I’ve spent more than half of my life thinking that I was defending freedom around the world. Now I realize that my government has enslaved me.

I’m not able to make plans for my family’s future because my master, the U.S. Army, won’t let me. Now every year I must beg and plead to be set free. So far, my pleas have not been answered. I must now go to another country to help remove a brutal dictator who imprisons his people. If I refuse to go, my government will imprison me.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael DunsonBamberg, Germany

Customers not always right

The assertion that a customer is always right is illogical. The rampant addiction to the myth of customer infallibility can be dismantled by applying a syllogism:

A customer is a human being.

Human beings make mistakes.

Therefore it is impossible for a customer to be always right.

However, there are customers who disregard this insight and stubbornly promote their selfishness, resorting to the notion that the purchasing power of the almighty dollar validates their errant opinions.

A customer exchanges money for merchandise, but a customer’s money cannot buy infallibility. Retail associates are indoctrinated to honor the philosophy that the customer is always right. But on a personal level, many associates feel that the slogan is ludicrous and merely used by customers who insist on getting their way.

Retail associates are lectured that the customer is king. Some customers, however, behave like jesters.

Nevertheless, retail associates should treat customers with due respect. Associates will likewise appreciate being treated in a civil manner.

Duchan CaudillDarmstadt, Germany

Stereotyping is more unseemly

Was the writer of the March 12 letter “I swear I don’t like profanity” serious? I agree there’s a time and place for everything. But to stereotype women as unladylike because they may utter some profanities is a few decades behind the times.

I agree that officers and noncommissioned officers should not swear when it may deem them as unprofessional. No one should swear in front of children, although it doesn’t seem to stop children from using profane language at the top of their lungs in public places anyway. What about them?

I know a number of women who occasionally swear. Yet neither I nor anyone I know thinks of them as unladylike. What’s next? Should there be a BDU dress so women are more ladylike? I guess I’ve set my standards too low, because when my wife reads that letter, she’ll most definitely say, “What the %&)&$)?”

Master Sgt. Al ClarkeRAF Lakenheath, England

Wall between writer and truth

I recently read two letters that were really flawed regarding historical information. The March 2 letter “Protests seen in States, too” was profoundly inaccurate. I won’t even address the rubbish written about oil or revenge. But I think the writer should research Berlin Wall history.

Contrary to the misguided writer’s belief that President Kennedy and German leader Willy Brandt tore down the wall, I must inform him that President Reagan was greatly responsible for the wall coming down. If my memory serves me well, Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev met in June 1961, after the Bay of Pigs invasion. The meeting didn’t go so well and, in August 1961, Khrushchev ordered the Berlin Wall to be built.

Kennedy was in Berlin during the summer of 1963 and gave a speech saying that he hoped the wall would one day come down and Berlin would no longer be divided. Kennedy was assassinated a few months later. Sadly, Kennedy had been dead for about 26 years when the wall finally came down.

The March 4 letter “Protesters hate war, not U.S.” said that Americans have never known war in our country. Perhaps the writer forgot about the American Revolution, the Civil War and Sept. 11, 2001, when a terrorist war came to our homeland. And for heaven’s sake, don’t forget the Alamo. And don’t ever forget that Americans have always been there when any country anywhere needed us.

We may not have suffered the destruction of structures like many countries have in war, but we’ve lost treasures far more valuable than any structures. We’ve lost our brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers. We know the horrors of war. The blood of our servicemembers has been spilled all over the world. And we continue to be anywhere in the world any time that we’re needed.

I thank every soldier, airman, Marine, sailor and member of the Coast Guard. Their sacrifices and courage are the pride of our nation. My admiration for them is boundless. God bless them and their families, and God bless America!

Amelia KlosowskyHeidelberg, Germany

Patriots are on the front lines

This is in regard to the March 9 letter “Protesters are true patriots.” It’s evident the writer has no clue who is really a patriot. Protesters don’t put their lives on the line each day to protect the writer’s freedom of speech. As a former soldier, I’m here to tell the writer that he should be grateful for our country’s military, which serves and protects all of us. It’s the servicemembers who are truly our patriots.

Sid GutmanHohenfels, Germany

Change not for the better

Regarding Stripes’ new Your Money pages: Nice try but, oh how I looked forward to my favorites on Sunday morning.

I used to enjoy it all with a leisurely pot of coffee: Click and Clack, Liz Pulliam Weston, Jim Coates, the funnies and, of course, the advice columns.

I also enjoy the middle of the paper with all the news from the different states. I guess that is all mostly down the tubes now. I just don’t have the time during the week to enjoy all these favorites. I sincerely hope Stripes reconsiders this latest “improvement.” It really was better the way it used to be.

Pat BlaineHildrizhausen, Germany

March 17

Special team

I’d like to tell readers about the team I just finished coaching. A group of 10- to 12-year-old kids with high hopes came out for basketball in Illesheim, Germany. Almost immediately their coach was taken away to prepare for deployment, and he couldn’t attend practices or games. Another coach stepped in and tried to meet the challenge, but he, too, was called away for deployment. So by default, I became the coach halfway through the season.

Needless to say, the kids were insecure that anyone would stay to coach them, and just a few weeks later all their fathers deployed. But they didn’t give up. There were times when we cried and times when we laughed. Frustration creeped in, and sometimes there was a sense of failure as a specific skill overwhelmed us. We weren’t the best team, and I certainly wasn’t the best coach. In fact, we didn’t win a game. But every Saturday, the team showed up to play.

By the end of the season, the kids learned to play together and made valuable friendships to help them get through the next few months, which may prove to be very trying. I’m encouraged that they’ve pulled themselves together in a very stressful time. I know other kids are going through the same things. This is a hard time for all of us who have loved ones deployed and facing danger.

I am so proud to have coached these kids. They have reminded me that perseverance and commitment are still at the foundation of accomplishment. They made it through the season because they stuck with it.

Lauren DillardIllesheim, Germany

Saddam’s supporters

Those who continue to support Saddam Hussein are crude and vulgar. Protesters around the world and the countries of France, Germany, Russia and China have vilified the United States for wanting to protect its own citizens and the rest of the world from a very serious and real threat. But they’ve been very mute on where their true, narrow self-interests lie. For if the United States goes to war with Iraq to disarm an out-of-control dictator, it would go to war against tanks made in Russia, planes and missiles made in France, and weapons made in China. Are France, Germany, Russia and China supporting Saddam in order to protect billions of dollars in sales from Iraq’s military industries?

This could be, since France, Germany, Russia and China have sought to lift trade sanctions against Iraq. Maybe these questions should be posed to Germany’s Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm. Or France’s Aerospatiale, Euromissile, GIAT, Panhard, Thompson-Brandt, Matra, Thomson CSF, Luchaire, COFRAS, Raclet, Matra Manurhin Defense, and Lacroix. Or China’s Norinco. Before the United States is accused of wanting to start a war for oil, one might question the hundreds of billions of dollars that France, Germany, China and Russia have made by providing an unstable and dangerous man with some very horrible weapons.

The United States is not trying to impose its will. The United States seeks to impose peace, security and our place in humanity among our fellow human beings and against a man who has waged war on Iran, Israel, Kuwait, the United States and his own people.

The French helped the United States gain its freedom and democracy during the Revolutionary War. In turn the United States helped France and Germany gain freedom and democracy in World War II. We also saved Russia and China from tyranny. So why can’t they join us now and help bring freedom and democracy to Iraq and liberate its people from tyranny, instead of selling death to that country? Remember what Edmund Burke said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Or in this case, sell them lots of weapons and provide them the technology to destroy the world. France, Germany, Russia and China should please do the right thing and stop supporting Saddam and his “thugocracy.”

Antonio DominquezWiesbaden, Germany

Different definition

The letter “Protesters not patriots” (March 12) said that the word “patriot” is defined in Webster’s dictionary as “one who loves his country and zealously supports its authority and interests.” My Webster’s defines patriot as “one who loves, supports, and defends one’s country.”

The beauty of our type of government — whether it’s called a democracy, a republic or any other name — is that patriots can express their opinions using a variety of formats, including peaceful protests. We’re even allowed to have opinions different from the current administration or authority. We can express those opinions and still be patriots.

Zealousness and zealots are the cause of problems which the world is now trying to overcome. Rather than be zealous, let’s look thoughtfully at all sides of issues. Let’s weed through rhetoric and unsubstantiated, unsupported claims and misinformation. Let’s objectively review all viable paths of action that would meet the objectives and provide innovative alternatives, if possible, to resolve issues.

Gordon UscierWürzburg, Germany

March 18

Kuwait mail too slow

My husband is with a unit in Kuwait. On March 17 I was fortunate to talk to him for the first time since he called the night of the Black Hawk helicopter crash that killed four crew members on Feb. 25. The lack of phone calls wouldn’t be so bad, but on March 14 I received a letter from him that he’d written on Feb. 28. Prior to that letter, I had received nothing. This was the letter I kept waiting for, the letter that assured me he was OK mentally, the letter that told me he was standing tall and ready to go on. Fifteen days is not acceptable.

During our March 17 conversation, I found out my husband had not received anything from me since Feb. 28. I write to my husband every night and mail it the next day. He writes every third day. Knowing that phone lines home would be scarce and e-mail would be limited to official mail only, my husband and I planned for the postal system to be our main means of communication. Now I find out that the packages of baked goods and those I call “Class VI push packages” (no alcohol or illegal items) that I’ve sent every week have not arrived. Almost three weeks to deliver a letter is unacceptable, and more than a month for packages is appalling.

My husband has been gone since the beginning of February. If he had been moving from one camp to another, I could understand. But his unit has not left the camp it arrived at on the first day. I wouldn’t be so mad, but while working with several other spouses at a bazaar last weekend, I found out that they, too, are getting the same poor support from the postal system. So mine is not an isolated case, but rather the rule.

Granted, all the support that Army Community Services and other community organizations provide is wonderful for the family members left behind. But they can’t provide the morale support necessary to keep families strong. I feel that better mail support is not too much to ask for. This is the stuff that spouses complain about to their congressmen.

Elizabeth FranksGiebelstadt, Germany

International law

Forget about “just war.” Forget about “sanctions.” Forget about “peace protests.” Forget about “1441.” Whatever happened to the mechanizations of international law? The military tribunal at Nürnberg spelled out the jurisdiction and general principles to try to punish people who commit any of the following crimes: (a) Crimes against peace, i.e., initiation or waging of a war of aggression. (b) War crimes, i.e., murder, etc. (c) Crimes against humanity, i.e., namely, murder.

With reflection, isn’t the leader of Iraq guilty of the exact said crimes? Saddam Hussein was the catalyst behind the invasion of Kuwait. How many Kuwaitis were murdered? How many were tortured? But where is the international community when we need justice served? Hiding behind the coattails of self-interest.

The United Nations wants to be an omnipotent force in laying down the laws on how to safeguard humanity, but it doesn’t have the wherewithal to enforce these laws. If the Kuwaitis asked the world to bring the perpetrators of the crimes committed against them to justice, who would do it? France? Germany? Russia? These countries seem happy enough to leave an international war criminal in power.

Even if Iraq disarmed peacefully, would its leaders be brought before a military tribunal to answer for their crimes? I don’t think so. I can’t see delegates from the above countries knocking on Saddam’s palace door, armed with a warrant for his arrest.

In an ideal world, criminals would turn themselves in to the authorities. But sadly, we don’t live in an ideal world. And once again, the “world’s policemen” have to risk their lives for the good of humanity. God bless them all.

Paul DesJardinsMildenhall, England

Military coverage

I’m writing to echo the sentiments in the letter “Media reports aid enemies” (March 10), which criticized military unit information being openly reported throughout the media. Sadly, this also includes Stars and Stripes.

I’m aware that the majority of military-related articles printed in Stripes comes from various wire services as well as our own Department of Defense. I’m also aware that, for the most part, much of this information is also available on the Internet. I’m convinced that, if pressed, this is the defense that Stripes’ staffers would use regarding their military coverage. But because Stripes caters to American servicemembers overseas, any articles regarding military movements reported in its pages carries a little more credibility than other media. Many areas that we’ve operated in — and may yet be headed for — don’t have Internet access. Yet I’d bet that Stripes is readily available to the troops in those areas. How hard would it be, and how innocent would it appear, for some local nationals to be grabbing a few copies?

Too many times the media hides behind its “freedom of the press” when reporting on controversial subjects. We American servicemembers know about that freedom. It’s one of the many we’ve chosen to defend. My question for Stripes’ staffers is, just because they have the right to print a report about unit or troop deployments, don’t they ever stop to think whether or not they should?

We’re all encouraged to practice good operations security, or OPSEC, because pieces of unclassified information, when collected by an experienced analyst, can sometimes reveal classified information. With everything I’ve seen recently in Stripes, it’s my opinion that Stripes’ staffers are failing in their OPSEC practice. Perhaps for Stripes’ staffers, freedom of the press is more important than force protection.

Bob Mayhew, Jr.Kaiserslautern, Germany

Songwriter’s past

This is in regard to the story “Singer writes war songs” (March 10). It was about Yusuf Islam, formerly known as pop singer Cat Stevens. The story said Islam has recorded two songs to express his opposition to a U.S.-led war on Iraq. I have some old Cat Stevens albums and enjoyed his music while in college. I also hope that our soldiers don’t have to go to war. But I recognize that the U.S. and President Bush aren’t the bad guys.

As for Islam and his “authority” as a peace spokesman, some things need to be remembered from history. Islam has twice been barred from entering Israel because of his alleged financial support for the violent activities of Hamas. The Israeli government has accused Islam of donating tens of thousands of dollars to Hamas. Hamas is definitely not conducting peace activities. (Islam has denied that he’s ever knowingly supported Islamic terrorists.)

The other major issue that hurts Islam’s credibility is his support for the execution of writer Salman Rushdie, who wrote the book “The Satanic Verses.” In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa — a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority — calling for the death of Mr. Rushdie for his writings. When asked to denounce the action of the ayatollah, Islam said he supported the fatwa, which is still in effect. (Stevens has since claimed that his views were partially misstated.)

Being killed for what one writes does not meet the test for peace either. While we should all hope and pray for peace, we need to be aware of the messengers and be a little bit circumspect of their motives or motivation.

Tom SchauerHeidelberg, Germany

Give Bush credit for caution

While many Americans don’t support President Bush’s domestic policies on the economy and environment, most seem to support him as commander in chief. In times of crisis, most Americans want a strong leader who will take decisive action and not waiver because of opposition. Conferring with other governments and listening to their points of view is one thing. But letting them dictate how America best defends its citizens and interests is another.

It’s really interesting to see how hypocritical powers from bygone eras of empires and colonialism brand the United States as unilateralist while they act in their own governments’ interests and hide behind a facade of multilateralism. These same countries are trying to reassert themselves by way of the same diplomatic power-playing that engulfed this planet in two world wars.

Now we’re faced with the prospect of another American-led war in the Persian Gulf region because the United Nations is apparently incapable of enforcing its own resolutions. Iraq agreed to immediately disarm after the first Gulf War. Twelve years and 17 resolutions later, Iraq has not complied. What should be done? I suppose waiting another 12 years would be OK. But then how would President Bush explain another 3,000 civilian deaths?

Some people may not buy in to any Iraq-terrorism connections. I’m not sure if I do. But most of us don’t have access to the same information as President Bush does. Some people believe that Iraq and the war on terrorism are two separate issues. But these same people believe that if Iraq is attacked, there will be more terrorist attacks. Most people believe there will be more attacks in spite of, not because of, an attack on Iraq.

What is to be made of this? If the present Iraqi government is a threat to U.S. interests, then the U.S. government should not need the world’s permission to act. I believe that’s why George Washington warned us to stay out of European affairs and to not entangle ourselves in any permanent alliances. They restrict our ability to act in our interests and respond to a crisis.

Dion HarrisonWiesbaden, Germany

A cry for cryoconservation info

My family is stationed in Germany and my husband is being deployed to Kuwait. After reading several articles about anthrax and smallpox vaccinations and chemicals to which soldiers might be exposed that may cause sterility, we started thinking about cryoconservation (sperm banking) before he leaves. Our intention was confirmed by a doctor from California Cryobank in Los Angeles. He said on TV that there is a possibility of sterility and higher rates of miscarriages caused by vaccinations, chemicals and medications used to treat chemical exposure.

So my husband and I contacted military hospitals in Würzburg and Landstuhl, Germany, to learn about cryoconservation. Surprisingly, no one could give us any information or help. In fact, no one had even heard about it. Does that mean that servicemembers stationed overseas don’t get to take the same precautions that can seriously influence their lives as those stationed in the States? Yes, it does.

Since my husband and I seriously intended to do this, we made our way to the German University Hospital in Würzburg, where cryoconservation could be done for us. It cost $300. But what about servicemembers who don’t know about this possibility or who aren’t able to do it because of language or financial difficulties?

Bettina HillyerWürzburg, Germany

March 19

Changes in Germany

I’d like to thank Germany’s military police for protecting U.S. military assets, soldiers and their families at U.S. military bases in Germany. My 8-year-old daughter was truly impressed with a “feldjaeger” badge given to her by a German military policeman. She has proudly displayed it in her bedroom. While I understand that the German government has limited its support for the United States in its confrontation with Iraq, I respect the German military police and their colleagues. After all, soldiers are only soldiers, and we do as we are told — even old retired ones like me.

Sadly, the U.S. military will withdraw from Germany as soon as the United States is done with Saddam Hussein. Why else would Gen. James Jones have become commander of the U.S. European Command? He has a proven track record in Okinawa and has come to Germany to take care of business — the realignment of forces in Europe. Remember the deployments during Gulf War I in 1990 and 1991 and the subsequent drawdown of U.S. forces in Germany? I expect much the same after Gulf War II. Gen. Jones has said he’s negotiating with former eastern bloc countries. He’s also said the realignment of forces in Europe will take “years, not decades.”

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is trying to fix his country’s broken economy by “dredging the bottom” for economic aid. Of all things, the former most economically powerful nation in Europe has been going to the French for help. I can’t help but laugh. Chancellor Schroeder’s smile looks more like wincing when he’s with French President Jacques Chirac. On television recently, Schroeder looked to be in real pain. All the while, Chirac was manipulating Schroeder’s moves, appearing marionette-like.

Look out, Chancellor Schroeder. When the going gets tough and Germany’s economy continues pulling the European Union down, Schroeder should expect to have his strings cut by his new ally, Chirac. Chirac has already slapped eastern European leaders for supporting President Bush on Iraq. Schroeder really should align his country with a proven winner.

With Germany’s unemployment at 11 percent in the west and 18 percent in the east, things will only get worse when U.S. forces leave Germany. Hundreds, even thousands of German employees will be on the dole very soon. How will that affect Germany’s unemployment figures? What about all the lost rental income from military caserns, air bases and private rental housing? We’re talking millions, no, billions of dollars in lost income. That’s gotta hurt.

The Germany we once knew is changing, ever evolving with the times. Germany should try to remember who its real friends and family are. Americans love Germany and will miss it.

Ken DempsterMannheim, Germany

Bad comparison

I’d like to respond to the letter “Hand-to-hand training” (March 11). Apparently the writer didn’t notice that the fight in Frankfurt, Germany, between soldiers and locals to which he was referring happened at 4 a.m., and that the soldiers were drunk. The writer also apparently missed the fact that the soldiers were outnumbered and that the local nationals had a weapon.

I don’t think this incident is any indication of how our troops can handle themselves in hand-to-hand combat. To compare the two was ridiculous.

Carole BeasleyRhein-Main Air Base, Germany

March 20

Give us the order

Sometimes I wonder why I’m here in Kuwait doing what I do as a motor transportation operator (driver). A lot of times I read Stars and Stripes, if I get the chance, to find out why. I’ve been given many, many answers. It’s never narrowed down to one answer. I guess being a lance corporal in the Marine Corps, I’ll never truly find out.

I’ve been told it’s for oil, to protect the nationals in Kuwait, to stop Saddam Hussein from using his chemical weapons, or to take over Iraq because Saddam has failed to comply with United Nations inspectors. I’ve been told a number of different reasons other than those listed above.

I know everyone here is sick of all these things going on with Iraq. I wish everything would finally end. All of us here in Kuwait have family who we all want to get back to. It broke my family’s heart when they found out I was leaving and going to Kuwait.

If President Bush would just give us the order to invade, I would be so much happier. That would mean I’m going home a little bit sooner. I’ve made promises to everyone I know that I’m coming home in one piece. I’ve never broken a promise, and I’m not going to stop now.

Lance Cpl. Jubel AguilarKuwait

Camp’s problems

I was recently a member of the Indiana Army National Guard. Now I’m an active-duty Army member stationed at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. I read the article “For GIs, ‘another day in paradise:’ Troops flock to AAFES’ new store at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait” (Feb. 8) about the opening of the new post exchange here at the camp. But I have to wonder why Stars and Stripes’ reporter doesn’t write about all the other things going on here, like the one- to two-hour line at the post exchange at any given time.

And then there’s the phone bank where there are 10 pay phones for everybody stationed here. That line also takes one, two and sometimes three hours. And then there are the phone cards we have to buy. For example, a 200-unit card that costs about $15 is only good for about 60 minutes of talk time, if a soldier even has time to wait in line. I’m a married father of five children. It would be nice to be able to afford to call home and talk to them.

We were all told to get e-mail accounts before we came over here. But now that we’re here we have no access to the Internet. We were told that e-mail would be our primary means of contact with home.

But the largest problem by far is the mail system. It takes anywhere from 10 to 30 days for some mail to get to and from the States.

The article also mentioned that we live in warehouses. That’s true. We have approximately 210 people packed tightly into ours.

All of these issues are really affecting a lot of soldiers’ morale in a very negative way, and nobody seems to care enough to do anything about it.

So in regard to the article, fast-food trailers and PX tents don’t mean much to some of us. This place is not near as special as the article made it sound.

Sgt. David R. OsborneCamp Arifjan, Kuwait

Paying for war

After U.S. forces overwhelm and capture Iraq, the first order of business should be to secure and protect its oil fields. The United States should bring in major oil companies with their latest technology and get all the wells pumping at maximum capacity. As the oil is sold, 50 percent of the profits could rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure and 50 percent could be refunded to American taxpayers for the total costs of the war. Once the United States was completely repaid (only for the cost of the liberation), all profits could then be used as the people of Iraq saw fit.

The possibilities are endless: better food, clothing, shelter, roads, schools, utilities, medical/dental care and most of all, freedom. Benefits to the United States would be reflected in gas prices, the stock market and a reduced threat of terrorism.

Master Sgt. Brian J. BaranowskiBaumholder, Germany

Sorry for lack of support

I want to express my sincere sorrow to U.S. servicemembers that my country, Canada, is not supporting the war in Iraq. I’m completely disheartened by the shameful position our prime minister and government have taken. I believe that Saddam Hussein is a clear and present danger to us all, and I absolutely agree that the time for negotiations is over. U.S. servicemembers will forever have my gratitude for the unspeakably difficult task ahead.

My father served as a medical officer with Orde Wingate, who was commander of Britain’s 77th Indian Infantry Brigade, and the British and U.S. Chindits during World War II. In the Report on Operations on the 1st Campaign, Gen. Wingate issued an Order to Columns as they crossed the Chindwin River beginning Feb. 13, 1943. It expresses things much better than I. I think it’s especially fitting given the current circumstances. It reads:

“Today we stand on the threshold of battle. The time of preparation is over and we are moving on the enemy to prove ourselves and our methods. At this moment we stand beside the soldiers of the United Nations in the front line trenches throughout the world. It is always a minority that occupies the front line. It is a still smaller minority that accepts with a good heart tasks like this that we have chosen to carry out. We need not, therefore, as we go forward into the conflict, suspect ourselves of selfish or interested motives. We have all had the opportunity of withdrawing and we are here because we have chosen to be here; that is, we have chosen to bear the burden and heat of the day. Men who make this choice are above the average in courage. We need therefore have no fear for the staunchess and guts of our comrades.

“The motive which has led each and all of us to devote ourselves to what lies ahead cannot conceivably have been a bad motive. Comfort and security are not sacrificed voluntarily for the sake of others by ill-disposed people. Our motive, therefore, may be taken to be the desire to serve our day and generation in the way that seems nearest to our hand. The battle is not always to the strong nor the race to the swift. Victory in war cannot be counted upon, but what can be counted upon is that we shall go forward determined to do what we can to bring this war to an end which we believe best for our friends and comrades in arms, without boastfulness or forgetting our duty, resolved to do the right so far as we can see the right.

“Our aim is to make possible a government of the world in which all men can live at peace and with equal opportunity of service.

“Finally, knowing the vanity of men’s effort and the confusion of his purpose, let us pray that God may accept our services and direct our endeavors so that we shall see the fruit of our labors and be satisfied.”

Anne FaulknerWindsor, Ontario

A northern neighbor’s backing

I pay due respect with a full and formal curtsy (knee to floor and forehead to knee) to say thanks to U.S. servicemembers. They can never hear this too often. We all owe them so much. They have my deepest thoughts and highest wishes for their success and safe return. They should know that what they are doing is worth it and they are not alone.

Lynda MasonPeachland, British Columbia

March 21

Tense and praying

Last night my son brought me to tears by asking if I had to go because he was afraid he would never see me again. Then I thought of all the families of our soldiers around the world. All of them are tense and praying that they don’t get word of the demise of their loved ones.

It’s humbling and terrifying that some must undergo such terror and be so helpless. But I also remember a time not so long ago when the same savagery was inflicted by terrorists and so many families lost their loved ones. The terrorists took the lives of people who were not soldiers, so the blow to the victims’ families must have been all the more terrible.

I cannot even begin to understand the pain of these families. But I do understand that anyone who threatens the kind of love that my son has for me is going to get buried. They will be buried with the bodies of the men and women who give all so that my son can speak his mind and his words of love. If that is not a horrifically beautiful statement, then I’ve never heard one.

Staff Sgt. Anthony C. SmithGeilenkirchen Air Base, Germany

Tax status for troops

To make the argument that U.S. soldiers currently deployed in Israel face a modicum of danger in regard to their duty assignments is moot. That Israel would most certainly be a primary target of aggression in a real-world war scenario is a given. That is precisely why our presence here is necessary. In order to protect and defend our allies, it can be easily discerned that such a calling is hazardous in nature. Why then are U.S. forces in Israel not afforded tax-exempt status on their wages?

It’s not as if they don’t endure the same hardships as those units which are closer to Iraq. U.S. troops in Israel are prepared to fight. They train daily for nuclear, biological and chemical attacks. They’re deprived of the same comforts, save the privilege of shopping for personal items. U.S. troops in Kuwait at least have access to AAFES. They’ve become accustomed to similar living conditions. They work long shifts in stressful positions. Thus far, I’ve yet to hear a single complaint from them. Why? Because the troops in Israel are soldiers in the U.S. Army, and they’re pros.

Every servicemember ordered to carry out essentially the same tasks under the same conditions should be entitled to equal consideration under the U.S. tax code. Distance is hardly an accurate determinant of imminent danger. Otherwise, our presence here would be without purpose. The income tax provisions we fall under should be more egalitarian and less biased in terms of geography.

Pvt. 1st Class Jennifer N. DixonIsrael

Set better example

This is in response to the letter “Stop loss” (March 16). The writer is certainly not the only servicemember affected by the current stop-loss policy. We’re all aware of the hardships the writer is experiencing. But to use the word “enslaved” is not only excessive, but extremely childish. As servicemembers, we’re all aware that something like this may happen. When servicemembers re-enlist, this is definitely the kind of chance that they take.

As a senior noncommissioned officer, the writer should be able to see the big picture. But he seems to be able to look no further than his own needs. The military needs seasoned soldiers to carry out its wartime mission. Like it or not, the writer is one of those soldiers.

It’s extremely noble that the writer has spent 22 years serving his country. I’m sure that during those 22 years he’s received many benefits and entitlements inherent in military service. The writer can’t just hang it up because maybe things aren’t going the way he wants them to or because he might be exposed to danger.

The writer should have thought about what he wrote, especially since his name and rank appeared below it. A senior NCO should be setting a better example for those below him. Serving in the military, especially in a time of war, means that selflessness, not selfishness, will get the job done. Before the writer deploys, he needs to think about what trait he’ll take with him. If it’s selfishness, congratulations. For he is truly an Army of one.

Sgt. Michael A. SampsellSchweinfurt, Germany

Stop complaining

This is in reference to the letter “Stop loss” (March 16). The writer claimed to be enslaved by the Army. I say the writer should stop complaining. I’d expect this type of letter to be written by a lower enlisted soldier who joined the military for the GI Bill and just completed his first tour.

After serving for 22 years, the writer should realize that sacrifices have to be made. In fact, I’m sure he’s made quite a few during his career. This is another one. Our country is involved in a war against terrorism, and personal sacrifices are being made by soldiers everywhere.

As far as not being able to make plans for his family’s future, the writer should be thankful that his family is being taken care of by his “master.” The writer’s “master” is providing he and his family with all the necessities for their well-being while he’s deployed, not to mention that the writer is probably the most well-paid indentured servant in the history of “slavery.”

The future of the writer’s family will be secured by the selfless actions of today’s GIs and the pension plan of his “master.” The writer should stop complaining, suck it up and set an example for his soldiers.

Master Sgt. Thomas MillerMannheim, Germany

Dictating to others

I suppose I was lucky in life in the way my parents raised me. I was taught that it’s the right of all humans to live their lives as they see fit and to not have to live by another’s standards.

I was watching a news show a few months after Sept. 11, 2001, in which a small group of Islamic women were speaking. One said, “People all over the world were mourning. There were people crying in Africa. Then your president came on the air and spoke. We thought, ‘How pompous.’ And we stopped crying.”

My parents studied many religions growing up, so I did too. Islam was one of them. There are things in Islam that I disagree with, just as there are things in Christianity that I disagree with. Strangely enough, Muslims used to be, and in many ways still are, the more tolerant of the two.

We are bound and determined to pull Islam out of the Middle Ages. But do we stop to really question if Muslims want to be? Where exactly has it gotten us? Women are not so much allowed to work as they are forced to work. In the society we’ve created, a single income for a family doesn’t go very far. For the most part, courtesy and respect for women have gone by the wayside. They may be found in some places where more dominant men don’t fear women berating them for providing it.

How often do most men hold open a door, pull out a chair, or stand when a woman rises or arrives, unless it’s on a date? Many younger men are not taught these things, nor are they under the impression that they have an obligation to support the children they father. They leave this to the mothers. Our children are therefore raised in day-care centers by strangers. This is not out of their mothers’ love for their jobs, but out of their need to feed their children. Of course many mothers do work for the love of their jobs, and that’s great. But I can’t help but wonder if this is what was envisioned by our foremothers who fought for equality.

Most Muslim men don’t beat or degrade their women any more than most Hispanic men do. These are generalizations. As a matter of fact, from what I’ve seen and heard from Muslim women, they have a cherished place in society. They are protected. We used to be as well. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.

It’s not the place of any person or country to dictate how others live. The fact that Americans seem to feel it is our place proves just how pompous we are.

Pvt. Sara Morgan SeawrightKuwait

March 22

Freedom of speech

I recently heard the comment about President Bush made by Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, and the response by Americans all over. (Maines, a native of Lubbock, Texas, recently told a London audience, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.”)

As a country music lover and the wife of an Army soldier, I’m disappointed in the way Americans have reacted to Maines’ comment. It’s one thing to disagree with her, but it’s another to try to ban the Dixie Chicks’ music. I think those who are trying to ban their music from the airwaves and from being sold in stores are being hypocritical. We Americans brag about having freedom of speech, but as soon as something was said that Maines’ critics didn’t like, look what they did.

Don’t get me wrong. As Americans, Maines’ critics have the right to not buy or listen to the Dixie Chicks’ music. But they don’t have the right to speak for the rest of us who like the Dixie Chicks’ music and agree with Maines or don’t care about what she said. Banning their music is not fair to those who want to keep listening to it.

I think Maines should not have apologized. She’s an American and is entitled to her opinion. As an American, she can choose to exercise her freedom of speech. That doesn’t mean everyone has to agree with her. Those who want to ban the Dixie Chicks’ music don’t speak for the rest of us.

As a servicemember and under the Code of Conduct, my husband can’t say anything about his commander and chief. But as an American, I have the right to say what I want, and I don’t care for President Bush. I think he had in his mind from the start that we were going to war. And as an American, I have the right to say that.

Tiffany WeissBamberg, Germany

World won’t be safer

I just returned from a few weeks in the United States and was astounded at the lack of support President Bush has for his solo gig to get Saddam Hussein. I spoke to no one who thought the U.S. should go it alone. All those with whom I met and spoke to agreed that Saddam has to be removed, but they wanted it with U.N. approval.

Why the sudden hurry? For 12 years the world, including the U.S. government, ignored Saddam’s buildup, like we’re “ignoring” the nuclear buildups in North Korean and Iran. Years before, we financially and militarily supported Saddam’s regime as a partner against Iran. Now we can’t wait another 120 days based on the suggestion of Hans Blix?

Is saving face worth the life of a single U.S., British, Australian or even Iraqi person? Remember, it’s not the Iraqi people who the United States is after. “We” want Saddam and his sons. But a reality check and the U.S. experience in Vietnam underline that those who won’t come back will be our sons and daughters — the daughters and sons of “the willing” and many on the other side.

The U.N. charter does not state that U.N. members should agree with the U.S. in every circumstance. For President Bush to dictate an ultimatum to the U.N. from the Azores was the arrogance of power speaking. The world will not become safer as a result of this action. It will get rid of Saddam and his family. But it will breed hundreds if not thousands of terrorists throughout the Muslim world who will want their revenge.

Klaus-D. PaulVogelweh, Germany

Mistake

I’m 28 years old and have been married to my high school sweetheart for the last 10 years. We have three sons. I’ve been in the Army for those 10 years and attained the rank of sergeant in the military police field. I was well-liked, highly respected and decorated by my superiors and peers alike. I was on the verge of realizing my dream of becoming a special agent in the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division. I was active in local community volunteer organizations, especially with my sons. I was a straight “A” student in my local college course work. However, none of this could prevent the mistake I made on the night of Oct. 9, 2001.

After putting in a long week at work, I decided to blow off some steam. I watched television and drank at home, becoming intoxicated. Since I didn’t have to report to work until the next evening, I figured I would have plenty of time to sober up. After about six hours of sleep, I showered, ate and prepared for work. On the way, I had a car accident which resulted in the death of another driver. Although it had been approximately 12 hours since my last drink, my blood alcohol content was measured at .10 — legally intoxicated. While Army regulations require only eight hours between drinking and duty, I found out that’s not enough.

On June 21, 2002, I was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and drunk driving. I was sentenced to 15 months of confinement, reduction in rank to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a bad conduct discharge. I’m currently an inmate at the Army’s confinement facility in Mannheim, Germany.

In the course of trying to reconcile all that has transpired, I’ve found facts pertaining to alcohol metabolism rates. It’s information which was easily accessible but not widely known or taught. According to the scientific formula used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal government’s primary agency responsible for drunk driving research, it would have taken approximately 17 hours for my blood alcohol content to return to zero.

This knowledge has come to me too late. My law enforcement career is over. The future of my family and I are uncertain. And most importantly, another human being is dead. Because this type of alcohol consumption is very common in the military, I write this letter and tell my story to educate others in the hopes that it will help prevent these tragic events from repeating in the future.

Daniel M. RosneyMannheim, Germany

St. Patrick’s Day dancing

Seven, three, three, seven. Those were the numbers being recited as everyone danced to Irish tunes on St. Patrick’s Day.

The hall was filled with music, laughter, and a couple of left-footed people. There were 62 people in all — men, women, Girl Scouts and couples. They all had a great time under the direction of Brid McBride. Ms. McBride is an enthusiastic and gifted woman who took the time from her duties as a judge for the Topper Awards to bring Irish step dancing to the Heidelberg, Germany, community. It was a wonderful evening and quite strenuous for all.

I congratulate Dane Winters and his Roadside Theater team for bringing Ms. McBride to our community. Community involvement and appreciation of the arts are more than just words. (Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is the current Roadside Theater production.). The Heidelberg community is very fortunate to have such an enthusiastic team supporting these endeavors. I look forward to the acting workshop presented by Carole Gutierrez on March 24-25.

They should keep up the good work and break a leg.

Edward F. OlsonHeidelberg, Germany

Going extra mile

The military families of the Headquarters, Headquarters Battery, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade are very fortunate to have a Family Support Group headed by Maj. Sara Small, the rear detachment commander, and leaders Karin Bethel, Nikki Cox, and Debbie Ziegler. I thank them and all the volunteers who are always there for the families. They’ll go the extra mile in support of all FSG functions. My wife is deployed, and the support I’ve seen for the families is outstanding.

Jack BatyGiebelstadt, Germany

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