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March 23

Heroes

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

March 23 Heroes In defense of liberty Mail/AAFES downrange International situation Front page photo Article sent the wrong signal Partisan politics pervasive For love of countryMarch 24 An accident waiting to happen Prayers for all TV shows for children needed Never again Visa issue separates a family Troops are the real patriots Timeless words can inspireMarch 25 How about a travel boycott? On the other side of the war Protesters support military Letter to a son Slow but sure improvements Bush showed courage Maines still free to comment Postwar world won't be saferMarch 26 Photo was in poor taste Stop-loss obviously necessary Ridicule a part of free speech Support from the border Casualties deserve privacy 'These are great days'March 27 Packages filled with love Cable TV provides variety Luck of the Irish ran out Lack of respect for country Don't forget Saddam's victims AFN fell short Never again unappreciated Not 'greatest show on Earth' Bush showed courage Living with such conditionsMarch 28 Ad doesn't belong in Stripes Protesters: Move to Iraq Retire pre-battle TV talk Blame it on hanging chads Troops fight for stars' rights Worrying scarier than warfareMarch 29 'Selfish' athletes owe apology Front-page photo appalling Lack of kids' TV a big issue Misguided hippies Another 'dirty' war Not hiding in fear Don't make the same mistake Quite a show at Kadena High

I sit here unfurling my flag and thinking of all the servicemembers preparing for whatever comes. This flag is a tribute to them. It’s a constant reminder to New York City and the world that amazing Americans are willing to take on the awesome responsibility of risking their lives for us here at home. My flag, as well as all of my neighbors’ flags, are New York’s way of thanking servicemembers properly for their bravery, sacrifice, and being away from home. The last time servicemembers went to battle for us, we were all so caught up in the middle of our disaster at home that we didn’t thank them. So thanks.

Servicemembers are our heroes too, as much as members of New York’s fire and police departments. I guarantee that after everything this city has been through and all the friends we’ve lost, what’s important to true New Yorkers right now is not taking political sides. It’s understanding that servicemembers have already risked their lives to protect and avenge us once, and now they’re doing it again. We won’t be so remiss as to make the same mistake twice and allow them to go into battle without first letting them know what we think. America’s servicemembers are indeed our heroes and we are truly thankful.

Constance PantoneNew York, N.Y.

In defense of liberty

When France was about to be overrun during World War I, America committed her resources and her young people in the defense of liberty. When France and North Africa were occupied by Nazi Germany, Russia was being mauled, Japan occupied China and England and Australia were threatened, America committed her resources and her young people in the defense of liberty.

When North Korea was overrunning South Korea, America committed her resources and her young people in the defense of liberty. When the free sectors of Berlin were to be absorbed into East Germany, America committed her resources and her young people in the defense of liberty.

After the French retreated from Vietnam and South Vietnam wanted to remain free, America committed her resources and her young people in the defense of liberty.

During the Cold War, when freedom was constantly challenged, America committed her resources and her young people in the defense of liberty.

When the entire Persian Gulf was in danger of being overrun by Iraq, America committed her resources and her young people in the defense of liberty.

In the Balkans, when Muslims needed protection and order needed to be restored, America committed her resources and her young people in the defense of liberty.

In East Timor, when a new, struggling nation needed protection, America committed her resources and her young people in the defense of liberty.

Now, when America has been attacked and remains threatened, it once again is committing her resources and her young people in the defense of liberty. America stands on her record. England, Australia, Italy, Spain, and most of the former East Bloc countries of Europe, Japan and many in the Middle East stand with her in the defense of liberty.

What is the record of France, Germany, Russia and China? Why do they not stand with America in the defense of liberty?

I have a son and a niece serving as officers in the Air Force. As a Vietnam veteran, I understand everyone’s concern when young people are placed in harm’s way.

Capt. Joseph T. Colvin (Ret.)Horseheads, N.Y.

Mail/AAFES downrange

I felt the article “Haven’t heard from Kuwait? Maybe it’s because the troops are in line” (March 9) was very one-sided. It told only the negative: long lines, limited stocks, limited AAFES personnel and facilities. People are busting their rear ends to provide Class VI support (AAFES management), and postal personnel are working nonstop once the mail arrives at the Joint Mail Terminal and “push the mail” to the battalion/company.

I’m the deputy of services for 1st Force Service Support Group. I coordinate the distribution of mail, money, merchandise and legal services to the I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF).

Since Feb. 15, I MEF forces have purchased $2.6 million in exchange items. The Marines of I MEF have four field exchanges in operation, as well as three WEST TMs (War Fighter Express Service Teams). They consist of disbursing, postal, legal support and exchange personnel, providing Class VI supplies (post exchange) and service to anywhere from four to six units a day.

AAFES has worked closely with I MEF to provide AAFES products as fast as they clears customs. AAFES works around the clock to restock and get ready for the next day.

I MEF postal personnel have delivered more than 740,000 pounds of mail to I MEF personnel since November, 2003. The past week alone we “pushed” 80,000 pounds of mail to I MEF forces.

Mail arriving at the Kuwait City International Airport is taken to the Joint Mail Terminal, where it’s redistributed for movement to units. The Marine Logistics Command Postal Marines “push” the mail the same day to 1 Forward Service Support Group Postal Marines, who then “push” it to the battalion/company. The time from JMT to servicemembers’ Unit Postal Orderly is on average 24-36 hours, and then an additional 12 hours on average to servicemembers.

The average letter arrives to the 1 FSSG Tactical Post Office in 10 to 14 days. Parcels take 21-30 days, with a spread of 14 to 45 days. Some mail takes longer, but that’s the exception. Mail problems outside Kuwait are being corrected. There are no paper mountains in Kuwait. No one is hoarding mail. It’s being delivered.

Mail starts in either New York or San Francisco. It then gets on a plane and travels as direct as possible, subject to available aircraft.

To speed up mail, servicemembers should address it properly. If transferred to another unit, they should notify the postal clerk. Send smaller packages. Send everything “priority mail.”

New York and San Francisco are overwhelmed and have separate buildings for only military mail.

This isn’t what people want to hear, but the mail is flowing and servicemembers are getting mail in country. There are a lot of dedicated people here and in the U.S. who are pushing mail as fast as they can to bring a piece of “hometown, U.S.A.” here for servicemembers.

Lt. Col. Tony PolettiDeputy Services OfficerCamp Coyote, Kuwait

International situation

I’d like to submit several simple points to ponder about the current international situation concerning Iraq and the United States.

France (and Europe?) say the U.S. is acting against the desires of the U.N. Security Council. But the U.S. and England are as much a part of the Security Council as France and Russia. Thus, could it be said that France and Russia are not acting in agreement with the desires of the Security Council? (Germany can essentially be discounted since it’s not a permanent member.)

If all the banners during the various demonstrations had read “Peaceful disarmament” instead of “Peace,” would the outcome have possibly been different? Or is the sentiment to oppose the U.S. so strong among our “allies” and friends such as France, Germany, and the Vatican that they’d rather blame President Bush than Saddam Hussein? At last count, Bush hasn’t scratched a single Kurd.

I’ve lived and worked in Europe a long time, but in my heart I still feel like a New Yorker. Do the resolutions against attacking Iraq passed by the New York City Council, and similar resolutions in other cities, really reflect the feelings of the majority of their respective residents?

Finally, there have been letters in Stars and Stripes from German citizens who say their feeling are not those expressed by the government of German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. They said they support the U.S. and are on our side. I appreciate those sentiments. But perhaps it would be more effective if they “told” their government and not just Stripes readers.

Maybe only “pacifists” know how to make their voices heard. In many democracies the governing class is “told” what the public thinks when it’s time to vote. Sometimes public opinion properly expressed — by journalists, for example — forces changes in a government. Watergate and President Nixon is an example.

George BauerVicenza, Italy

Front page photo

On the front page of the March 20 Stars and Stripes there was a picture of U.S. soldiers holding up their hand-held weapons. People in my office were discussing this photo, and I’d just like to say that it was tasteless. I think of Third World countries having formations like that. This would give the French and Germans a good reason to complain about the way President Bush is proceeding with this conflict. Stripes should please choose its pictures better in the future.

Michael T. BoydStuttgart, Germany

Article sent the wrong signal

I recently read Kendra Helmer’s article in the March 12 Stars and Stripes about an interview with some signalmen onboard the USS Kitty Hawk (“Last of the silent sailors?”), and I must say that I was very disappointed.

First, that interview made the signalman rating look like we do nothing of importance, and gives more fuel to the fire of getting rid of our rate.

I am ashamed to think that another signalman would have so little to say about our rate. It is obvious he is new to the rating and not a very likely candidate for an interview.

I would like to point out a few things that he missed in explaining to Ms. Helmer.

Most of us “real” signalmen still stand a proper lookout. A proud signalman is a lookout who reports any and all contacts correctly to the bridge, assisting them in all contacts in visual range. We are trained to identify dozens of military and merchant ships, just by the silhouette, on the horizon, with the sun in our eyes and wind in our faces.

When and if we would ever be attacked by a “slow-low flier” (aka a plane flying overhead) dropping a suspected chemical cloud, the signalmen are the only personnel outside, using our AN-KAS chemical detector, trying to identify it to the bridge so they can use that information to help fight it and protect the ship and rest of the crew against it.

Also, we don’t fly 68 different signals. We use a total of 68 flags and pennants. There are 40 flags to a international flag bag. The Navy uses an extra 28 flags for Allied use. There are more than 100 different signals we could fly, ranging from medical signals to tactical signals. On top of that, there are different procedures for Allied and International that we must know, understand and adhere to.

Yes, we talk using our arms. How many people can say they can do something like that? We don’t mind the names people call us — such as “skivvy-wavers” — because while the “quarts” or “maids” — as we call quartermasters — are down making coffee for the officers on the bridge, or the boatswain’s mates are handling lines and rigging stations, or even while the hard-working engineers are down in the “pit” sweating day and night to keep the “screws turning,” we are on deck — outside, with the sun upon our faces and wind at our backs.

We are our own masters. We love the freedom of working outside, working with our hands, and the satisfaction of properly receiving a message for our commanding officer via flashing light, or “skivvy-waving,” because we know no one else can do it, and this is what we signed up for.

I have been outside — fighting the bitter-cold wind-blown rain in my eyes, in the middle of the night, trying to read a flashing light from a ship on the horizon — on many occasions. I have been awake and seen the first rays of the sun of the morning — and the last glint of sunlight in the evening — more times than I can remember. I loved every minute and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

We signalmen may be a dying breed, but we are proud. We are proud of ourselves, and proud of what we do. We are proud of what we can do if called upon to do so. There may not be a use for us every minute of every day, as you need a boatswain’s mate of the watch to pass words over the 1MC, but when we are needed, there is no one else to do the job.

When we do our job, we do it with pride, heads held high — staring directly into that sun, or squinting away into the cold black darkness of a moonless night looking for that elusive contact that the bridge and combat know are there, but don’t know what it is.

Everyone will remember their Navy experiences. But I will always remember my signalman experiences. We have been referred to, and are, a cut above the rest. This is what we do. Our appearance and job requires we act that way.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Neal BishopAboard the USS Camden in the Persian Gulf

Partisan politics pervasive

A few things to remember in this time of war:

No liberals took to the streets when President Clinton bombed nine countries in eight years with no United Nations resolution. Why did he not get a resolution? Because he knew it would not pass the Security Council. Everyone supported Clinton in his bombings, but now only the Republicans support President Bush. It’s a simple sight of partisan politics. The Democrats will stick only with a Democrat, and they will stick by him, no matter what.

The Republicans are the only party that continually call a leader out for bad decisions, no matter what party he may be affiliated with (e.g. Nixon).

Democrats will support anyone, as long as they are on the Democratic ticket. I voted for Bill Clinton in 1996. And I did not vote for George W. Bush in 2000. And now I feel like I should be shot for that stupid decision. Now, seeing how the Democrats have completely made asses of themselves the past two years, I will definitely vote for Bush in 2004.

Some people bash Bush for not doing anything on the war on terror. Did Clinton put any effort at all into catching the Muslim terrorists that bombed our embassies, the USS Cole or the first World Trade Center attack in 1993? No. He only promised to. Did Clinton jail or kill more than 600 al-Qaida members in his first three years in office? No, he didn’t; Bush did. Did Clinton catch Khalid Shaikh Mohammed? No, he only promised to, while Mohammed was still bombing away at American targets. Maybe if Clinton would have, Mohammed would not have been around to plan 9/11 and kill more than 3,000 innocent people. Or do you think Bush flew those planes by remote control?

I have actually heard some liberals try to say that Bush is involved in some scheme to create this war. It took President Bush to make these captures, arrests and kills become reality.

Before World War II, there were millions of people who called Winston Churchill a bully and a drunk. They called him a warmonger for wanting to remove Adolf Hitler. Even Neville Chamberlain did not listen. The world saw full-page newspaper articles all over the globe, placed by Hitler, saying that he (Hitler) had no bad intentions. Millions all over the world believed this. Why did they believe it? Because they had this hope, this thought, that there was no evil in the world.

“Surely Hitler would not strike out against us, or he would be killed,” they said. “He knows this and, therefore, would never do it.” These are the same words we hear today by the liberals about Saddam.

This nation has never secured itself by appeasing murderous dictators around the globe. But we have seen that, when we attempt to appease, a greater war comes soon after (e.g. if we would have stopped Hitler before he invaded Poland, there would have been no World War II).

We have a choice right now: We can appease Saddam — turn our heads and pretend that it doesn’t matter. We can take the chance that he may or may not give a weapon of mass destruction to a terrorist to use on our soil. We can pretend that chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and 100 of his friends will uncover all of Saddam’s weaponry in a country the size of California.

We can get a map, and point out a major city in the States that is worth sacrificing to a WMD attack, if Saddam chooses to give a weapon to a terrorist.

Or we can fight for this nation — like we have always done.

Appeasement is not what made us who we are today. The strength and bravery of our soldiers and people have made us who we are today. The minds in this country — the minds of industry and invention — are what has made this country what it is today. And this is what we fight for.

We do not fight for world peace in our time. We all know that is a pipe dream. We fight now to piece together a puzzle of sorts — a puzzle containing countries of democracy and love, countries of various ethnicities and religious backgrounds, like ours. And in this puzzle that we fight to create, we may have the chance to help generations down the line find a world peace that we have not been blessed with — one free of dictators who murder their own people, free of people who fear for their lives and, maybe the best of all, free of these leaches who suck from the veins of this nation, but will never have the courage to fight for it.

Yanni J. KratsasLos Angeles

For love of country

I am a proud American who wholeheartedly supports military action in the Middle East. It is not because I knew someone who died on 9/11, or because I dislike people of Arabic descent.

It is because I love my country. It is that cut and dry. I have a very close friend who is stationed in Kuwait, preparing for war. My son considers him an uncle. To me, these stationed military personnel are not “bullies” as Saddam Hussein would like us to believe. They are heroes. These men and women are risking their lives to save ours. They are giving up every last nicety so that the American people can live safely and happily.

My friend, Pfc. Charles Hazel, is a brave soldier and I am proud, not only to have been blessed by knowing him, but to have him protect our great country. It is hard for those of us to be left behind, but it would be harder to be the ones off defending this great land. Those who disagree with the war and are doing things to interfere with the job that needs to be done are just as guilty as those terrorists. If they don’t love it, they can leave it.

God bless our troops in the Middle East. I have been urging everyone I know to pray for our troops as they go off to war. Please continue praying for each and every man and woman — they need all the support they can get. I am proud to be an American and I’d like to thank our troops for putting their lives on the line so that my son may know a free country as we have.

Adrienne A. TompkinsHighland, Mich.

March 24

An accident waiting to happen

With the large amount of money the Department of Defense has spent on playgrounds and skate parks in the European communities, I find it amazing how many children still play in the parking lots and yards.

As an Army brat myself, I understand the lure of playing in unconventional places, building forts and bushes in trees, and even using the buildings themselves as an urban war zone. But it’s becoming increasingly annoying.

I work shifts, and can forget about sleeping after 3 p.m. in the housing area. The screaming and banging around of the children penetrates even closed windows, not to mention the thin walls in stairwell housing. Unfortunately, that’s not the problem; it’s the damage caused by reckless children to the buildings, cars and themselves.

I have had to replace the windshields of both of my cars lately. Then there are the side mirrors, which are knocked around by children zooming in between the cars on skateboards and rollerblades.

It’s not just the noise, damage to vehicles and the trash (which I won’t even get into), it’s also the danger to the children. I have yet to pull into my lot during the day without having to stop and wait for the children to disperse. Everything from bikes and skateboarders to little girls drawing with sidewalk chalk have to get off the street just so I can park.

I realize that it may be easier for the parents to watch their children out the window, but it’s only a matter of time before a child gets injured.

Staff Sgt. Gress S. CloydHeidelberg, Germany

Prayers for all

I wanted to suggest that the following occur in the upcoming days. I ask that the Christian, Jewish and Islamic places of worship exchange the names of their members who were going off to war. The idea is for the Christian churches to pray for the Jewish and Muslims, the Jews to pray for the Muslims and Christians, and the Islamic members to pray for Jewish and Christian soldiers.

Nothing could better show the world and remind us what this is all about.

Michael Z. MetzgerLewisville, Texas

TV shows for children needed

My comment is concerning the selection of shows on AFN. I understand that news coverage about the war is important, but is anyone thinking about the kids? It seems that every channel except one has news coverage and the one that doesn’t have news coverage is showing primetime sitcoms aimed more towards adults.

Couldn’t we have one channel showing children’s entertainment to keep their minds off of current world situations? Being on base and having parents deployed is hard enough without having to subject them to news coverage all day long.

If anyone else feels the same way please contact AFN and voice your concern. Here is an e-mail address that I got from its Web site: pao@afn.frankfurt.army.mil.

Senior Airman Luis A. RodriguezStuttgart, Germany

Never again

To the soldiers serving in Iraq: Don’t worry about coming back to a Vietnam-style homecoming. We won’t let that happen, not this time, never again. You are serving a just and noble cause.

Your nation has called upon you to perform this mission and we’ll support you. I served five tours in Vietnam and never once felt welcomed home. We will NOT allow this to happen to you. You are the finest soldiers in the world and the most humane.

Remember the children who have no mother or father because they died in New York, Washington or Pennsylvania during 9/11. Remember the valiant passengers of the Pennsylvania flight who weren’t soldiers, yet were willing to die for their country and ultimately for us because they felt our country was attacked. That is why you’re there.

As far as the protesters? Where were they when the Twin Towers went down or when the Pentagon was attacked or the flight went down in Pennsylvania? I didn’t see them out there protesting the terrorists acts.

You go for it, soldiers. You have more support back here than you’ll ever realize. We won’t be silent anymore!

Henry Geib (CWO Retired)New Freedom, Pa.

Visa issue separates a family

I am a Jamaican citizen who has been serving in the U.S. Army since September 1999. I enjoy my job and I consider it a great privilege and honor to serve in the greatest army in the world. When I enlisted and said the oath, I meant every word of it, because I realize that the world (not only Americans) is depending on me. I thought to myself, “What would Jamaica be like without the help of the United States?”

The problem that I and a lot of noncitizens face is that it is very difficult to get your family members to the States to be with you. In September 2000, I applied to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for visas so my family could live stateside with me; it is now 2003. And that application has not been approved. The INS office told me that my case is not a priority because I am not a U.S. citizen. I even applied for a visiting visa for my family at the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica and it, too, was denied. I was hurt, because I think I am doing this country a great service.

I am now stationed in Germany. My family is with me, thanks to the Status of Forces Agreement. I have applied for my U.S. citizenship and I received an interview date for June 2.

The problem is that I currently am deployed to the Gulf region and I might miss that interview date. If I should die here, my family might be sent back to Jamaica because they do not have a U.S. visa. I am giving my life to preserve freedom and rights and opportunities that I can’t enjoy. And if family members are not taken care of, the soldier could lose motivation.

Isn’t there a way the INS could work with the Department of Defense to ensure that noncitizen servicemembers receive visas for their families so they can be together? I really need someone who can assist in this matter.

Sgt. Teflon WintMannheim, Germany

Troops are the real patriots

In reference to “Protesters are patriots” (March 5), the letter writer seems to think that she has cornered the market on who is a real patriot. All of the servicemembers deployed at this time took an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution. They are following the orders of the president. They are not asked what their view is about the situation, and they knew that when they took their oath.

Many of them did not want to go to war, but because they don’t take to the streets to demonstrate doesn’t mean that they are not patriots. With their hands held up in support, they swore an oath to God and country. To me, that is real patriotism and taking democracy seriously.

Karen AnspaughPhenix City, Ala.

Timeless words can inspire

An open letter to U.S. servicemembers:

I wanted to take the opportunity to write to you and express my sincere sorrow that my country is not supporting the war in Iraq. I am 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 negotiation is over and you will forever have my gratitude for this unspeakably difficult task ahead.

My father served as 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 — that expresses things much better than I. I think it especially fitting given 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 endeavours so that we shall see the fruit of our labours and be satisfied.”

Anne FaulknerWindsor, Ontario

March 25

How about a travel boycott?

Last week’s Stripes Travel magazine contained 10 or more pages of places to visit, things to do and stuff to buy in Germany, Russia and France. I have a better idea: don’t. These countries refuse to support the United States when their support is needed the most. Why then should we support them with tourism?

There are at least 30 countries that are publicly supporting our efforts to liberate Iraq. Most of these are developing European nations that could greatly benefit from increased tourism. It is a small gesture to visit and spend money in one of the countries that have pledged their support. However, I feel that it is a great gesture to support the United States by boycotting the countries that refuse to.

Dean PraynerEagle Base, Bosnia and Herzegovina

On the other side of the war

Many times in the past four and a half years, I have been asked, “I bet you loved trading that green for the brown ID card, didn’t you?” As a former servicemember (with a green card) turned family member/husband (with a brown card), I used to say, “You bet I do.” That has changed now that my wife is deployed “in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Thanks to embedded media, I know that she was near the location where Iraqi missiles were neutralized by Patriots during the hours following our initial strikes into Iraq. Being a Gulf War vet, I was within the same range of similar missile attacks; at that time, I felt fairly safe being 20 miles away from such impacts. However, things are much different from the other side of the fence. When you’re sitting at home with a loved one deployed on such a mission, 20 miles is way too close for comfort. The “not knowing” factor about a loved one is a lot scarier to me than facing combat was.

I support our troops and I support Bush’s decision to go to war. I support my wife’s goal of making the Army a career and becoming a sergeant major and am extremely proud of her for setting those goals. On the other hand, I also have let all our servicemembers know that they need to give it up for their spouses back home, because though they may not be facing actual combat, they ARE facing the longest and scariest hours of their lives.

I am proud of all of our servicemembers for their actions and commitment to their country and its values. And, I applaud all of my fellow family members for their strength and commitment to their loved ones deployed during these difficult times.

Christopher M. HoweIllesheim, Germany

Protesters support military

Some of the media have suggested that peace marchers or anti-war protesters do not support our military personnel in the war with Iraq. Far from that. The only thing we are protesting is the policy of the hawks in the Bush administration.

We really only want America as we knew it back, and also, we want to see our troops back, healthy and in one piece. Never forget, we love you and support you. This is what democracy is all about.

Evelyn AugustinChicago, Ill.

Letter to a son

To my son, going to war: You know about my pride in you. I have told you about it many times — when you joined the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M. When your mother and I pinned those bars of gold on your shoulders. When you took up the burden of defending the United States.

I shouldn’t speak to you about fear. You have proved your courage. Mine is wanting. When I watch you climb aboard that plane, I don’t know if there will be room enough in my heart. Even now there is not enough room for the pride. There cannot be enough for the fear.

What you do need to know is the gratitude I feel toward you and all the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers who are marching with you; who are leaving the people they love, putting aside the comfort and safety I take for granted every day, facing the prospect of fire and death, to keep their promise “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.” My gratitude to every one of you cannot be put into words. My debt to you can never be paid, any more than it can to the millions who went before you, especially those who lie now under green grass and rows of white crosses.

It is thanks to you that Americans live in freedom. The difference between us and those poor, enslaved people you are going to set free is your courage, your strength, your valor. It is thanks to you that we sleep at night without the fear of secret police. It is thanks to men like you that no American city has ever been gassed by our own leader, that no American parent has been forced to watch his child being tortured, that none of our people have been taken from prison cells for experiments with poison gas. And it is thanks to you that the people of Iraq will soon be set free from these atrocities.

You are going with the 2-70 Tank Battalion, the most decorated armored unit in American history. No power on earth can stand between the United States army and its objective. There is only one way in which the United States can be defeated, and that is in the streets of America.

I love every member of our family unreservedly, but you are the best of us. You are going forward into the face of fire and steel and poison and horror. You will overcome all these, and you will bring us the very thing those demonstrators are clamoring for: Peace. Peace through victory, not through surrender.

This war began on September 11th, 2001. It will end when the terrorists are dead, the terrorist organizations are destroyed, and the terrorist nations are conquered; or it will end with the defeat of America and of civilization. It is only because of men like you that we can hope for the former, and need not fear the latter.

Michael D. HomillerArlington, Texas

Slow but sure improvements

In response to “GIs’ living conditions,” (March 16) it is easy to say that one shouldn’t complain about living conditions when one isn’t living in those conditions. Granted, some deployments are started from scratch but they are planned in advance. Yes, we are U.S. soldiers who train, train, and yet train some more, but there should be no reason for soldiers to sleep on the ground with rats if we are not at war.

How long was it known where we soldiers would be staying? Did our leaders wake up one morning, throw a dart at a map and ship us out that same day? We all know what the Army is and what our mission is, but we also know that nothing is done in the Army on seconds’ notice; there is always prior planning. The letter writer was not reduced to washing up in either a porta-potty or an unheated, dark tent with bottled water.

Do not be so quick to defend and agree with everything our leaders do or say. Do not forget, our leaders are human, too, and sometimes mistakes are made along with not so good ideas. Do not be so quick to jump on someone who voices an opinion about something unless you have experienced it.

Life is improving slowly but surely. There are some things that should be up and running before long.

Sgt. Demetrius DavisIskenderun, Turkey

Bush showed courage

I give much credit to President Bush. He had the courage to do the right thing by attacking and invading Iraq, even though it was not most popular thing to do. History is kind to those who demonstrate courage in the face of extreme danger when allies turn and run the other way.

Tech. Sgt David G. StroebelWillow Grove Air Reserve Station, Pa.

Maines still free to comment

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. (Ms. 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 Ms. 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 Ms. Maines’ critics didn’t like, look what they did.

Don’t get me wrong. As Americans, Ms. 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 Ms. 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 Ms. 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

Postwar world won't be safer

I just returned from a few weeks in the 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 United States 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. Couldn’t we have waited 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 United States 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

March 26

Photo was in poor taste

I am writing about the front page photograph published Sunday in Stars and Stripes. This photograph showed a a military vehicle with a wounded soldier lying next to it, while his comrades secured the area around him. The wounded soldier’s feet were facing toward the camera, but a bandage over his abdomen was visible. The caption stated that Stripes blurred the name on the vehicle to protect the identity of the injured soldier because the family had not yet been notified. However, Stripes disclosed the name of his company commander, which significantly narrowed the field of possible soldiers, allowing people who have a loved one under this command to wonder if it was their spouse, son or friend.

I felt this picture was in poor taste and lacked complete sensitivity to those of us who rely on Stripes for news. Stripes must take into consideration its audience, which consists significantly of spouses of these fighting soldiers. I don’t think any family member should have to see a picture like this before they are notified of their soldier’s situation.

I am not against reporting the news as it takes place, but I request the editors use a little more discretion concerning which pictures they use to get their story across. I don’t think pictures of this nature tell the story any better than the words used in story, but they do increase the anxiety and stress associated with these events. Please be more sensitive to those of us who have spouses, family and friends fighting for your freedom to publish this paper.

Susan SolidaIllesheim, Germany

Stop-loss obviously necessary

Options are an American way of life, and American soldiers also have options. We fight for democracy and freedom, and that requires determination and dignity. The Army’s stop-loss isn’t an act of slavery but rather an act of Army policy. Any soldier with even a small sense of what the Army values stand for should realize this. I love my country and have absolute faith and confidence in its leaders. I’m sure that the stop-loss wasn’t implemented as a first resort but rather an obvious solution to an American problem at hand.

Pfc. Charleston HartfieldFort Bragg, N.C.

Ridicule a part of free speech

This is in regard to “Freedom of speech” (March 22) about comments made by the Dixie Chicks’ lead singer, Natalie Maines. (Maines, a Texas native, recently told a London audience, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.”) I agree wholeheartedly that Maines had the right to say what she did about President Bush. But when you accept the right to freedom of speech such as Maines did, you also accept the right to ridicule and humiliation by those who have the same freedom of speech and expression. Maines was not jailed nor did she have her tongue cut out like she would have in Iraq for speaking about the country’s leader.

Maybe Bush was too quick to start the war. As an American, I have the right to agree or disagree with Bush’s actions because I voted. As a veteran, I stood alongside men and women ready to die for the very freedom that Maines and Hollywood personalities never stood up for. Like the old saying, I don’t always agree with what you say, but I will die for your right to say it.

Ask any officer to tell you how he feels about the president of the United States. If it is contemptuous, he gets court-martialed. How about that for freedom of speech? I understand why that rule is in effect, but the ones defending those freedoms don’t have the same freedoms Maines has. Make no mistake, I am all for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Just keep in mind that there are a lot of responsibilities attached to the U.S. Constitution.

Jeffrey HayesQueidersbach, Germany

Support from the border

I am a former military police staff sergeant with a son who is stationed in Kitzigen, Germany. I am currently a federal officer in the Customs and Border Protection Bureau (CBP) along the Mexican Border. I want everyone serving in Europe, Afghanistan and Iraq to know that everyone I work with on the southern border supports all that you are doing to ensure our safety and that of the world.

It is an extremely important mission that you have to rid the Middle East of a dictator like Saddam Hussein. Your efforts will ensure the finding of weapons of mass destruction, their destruction and the freedom of the Iraqi people from more than 30 years of terror by their own leadership.

Try to put out of your minds the treatment of our prisoners of war by the Iraqis. Those war criminals will be dealt with. I know this is hard, but treat all captives as our great country always treated them: with safety, security and compassion.

What you do now will also help ensure the safety of everyone at home. Keep completing your duties in the outstanding manner that you are. Fight as a team and cover each other, every time and in every way.

Jon A. UnderwoodYuma, Ariz.

Casualties deserve privacy

I would like to comment on the recent war coverage by the German television news channels. It seems the German media are the first to tell us barbarian Americans what is correct and what is not correct in regard to the war in Iraq. I love Germany and some of my best friends are German, but I’m left with some questions.

How about what is correct with regards to one’s privacy or the consideration to family members of those dead and captured American servicemembers I saw Sunday on several German television stations? At least French television had the good sense to blot out the captives’ faces.

I would hate to be the mother of any children who were watching television when they saw their father or mother being held prisoner — or worse yet the picture shown of soldier lying dead next to his vehicle.

For those who say, “What are the chances of that?”, read the news and you will see that the young soldier from New Mexico was first seen by his mother on a Philippine news channel that she subscribed to.

Funny how nobody has the stomach to be engaged in this war, but many are more than willing to watch from the comfort of their well-protected living room.

Dan HogsedMannheim, Germany

'These are great days'

I just wanted to say thank you to all the brave souls in the U.S. mililtary for their commitment to protecting the American people. I and the overwhelming majority of Americans stand behind you 100 percent. I, for one, will defend your honor and bravery to no end. Without honorable and peace-loving people like you, this world would be a very different place.

A quote from Winston Churchill, who understood troubling times such as these: “You ask what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, and with all our might. ... You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory ... victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival!

“Do not let us speak of darker days; let us rather speak of sterner days. These are great days — the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable.”

And so they are, and so we shall.

Tracy HustonSeattle, Wash.

March 27

Packages filled with love

I recently read the letter “Downrange food shortage” (March 16) about the food shortages at Camp Udairi, Kuwait. The food shortages were in part caused by a fire in the mess tent. Therefore, as the loving, supportive, six-shooter wives that we are, we sent the soldiers food.

I and many other spouses are very grateful for the sacrifices that our soldiers have made for our freedom. Yes, it is the Army’s responsibility to feed our soldiers, but it is also our responsibility as military spouses to go with the flow and help out where needed. The packages we send are sent with lots of love and they are received with great appreciation. Being away from my husband is extremely hard because he is my best friend and soul mate, but the letters and the packages that I send make him and the guys he shares with feel good.

If spouses feel it is not their job to make sure their husbands are not fed, then they shouldn’t complain, because there are spouse like me who take time out to make sure that our soldiers know they are appreciated. Our soldiers are there for us and the United States of America. So, no inconvenience is too great for me when it comes to my husband and the rest of the soldiers down there being happy. They need all the support that we can send them.

Julie MoonIllesheim, Germany

Cable TV provides variety

In reference to “TV shows for children needed” (March 24), I understand the writer’s concern, but all you have to do is go to your local cable company and pay about $20.45 and you can get the Cartoon Network, BBC and Sky One, which also has shows for children.

It is a small price to pay to solve the problem. We have a lot more to worry about than something that small that can be easily solved.

Nicole McGillKitzigen, Germany

Luck of the Irish ran out

I had my wallet pick-pocketed on Sunday after church at the Mainz-Kastel Kaserne while shopping with my family. After searching the stores and tracing my steps for about 45 minutes, I decided to file a report with the military police. But I had to go to Wiesbaden Army Airfield to file with the MPs there since there are no patrols in the Mainz-Kastel area.

Fifteen minutes later while I was at the MPs, I called my bank to cancel credit cards, debit cards and the like. To little surprise, the culprit was trying to withdraw money at the Mainz-Kastel ATM. I felt a bit of relief knowing the thief would be on camera. But, consistent with my luck of the day, Community Banks do not have cameras at ATMs.

Next, I decide to review the footage from the AAFES stores to view the actual incident. My streak of luck would continue. The AAFES stores rotate which stores actually record their patrons and that day was not my day. As a last-ditch effort, I combed through virtually every refuse container around the shopping area. I found some of my credit cards! I immediately called the MPs with a glimmer of hope that the thief’s fingerprints might provide a clue. No such luck. MPs do not track or record fingerprints and I was told not to worry about it.

I wish all the luck and good fortune to the person who violated my personal space. May the wind be always at your back because you will need it running from the law and myself if I ever catch you.

Michael O’Malley DonnellyFrankfurt, Germany

Lack of respect for country

I have been deployed overseas many times for many different conflicts, from Somalia through last year’s war on terrorism. This is the first time I have seen such a complete lack of respect for our country coming from the people who wake up every day under the protection provided by our military.

To the soldiers who hear about all the protests, there is another side to the story: There are pro-military rallies, too.

The anti-war demonstrators call for peace, but if someone were to vandalize their property during the night they would be looking for revenge. They are hypocrites. They can’t have their cake and eat it, too.

This country was founded on God and backed up by the military, and nothing has changed about that. I want to say thanks to everyone fighting for OUR country right now and I hope they all come home.

Staff Sgt. Kevin AlbertsonHurlburt Field, Fla.

Don't forget Saddam's victims

Millions of people are taking to the streets to decry America and President Bush while demanding an end to the war. I don’t understand why these protesters hate the Iraqi children so much. Please, please get off the street and let the coalition save the Iraqi people from their dictator.

It would take decades for the allied forces to kill as many innocent Iraqis as Saddam Hussein’s regime has killed. The collateral damage that U.S.-led forces try so hard to prevent will be sad indeed. But it won’t amount to a fraction of the deaths in the well-documented litany of atrocities committed by Saddam. The peace protesters are poorly informed indeed, to be protesting the rescue of so many people.

Conversely, the leaders of France, Russia and China are plenty informed, but morally bankrupt, because they have to know the truth. Saddam is every bit as bad as Stalin, Hitler or Pol Pot.

As for the the veto-threatening countries, they will suffer the embarrassment of their complicity with Saddam. These nations exchanged banned weapons materials in exchange for billions of dollars of Iraq’s oil-for-food allotment from the United Nations — while the Iraqi children died. A low estimate of Saddam’s infanticide is about 100,000 lives.

Saddam’s regime has killed more than twice that number of ethnic Kurds; killed tens of thousands of Shi’ite Muslims; slaughtered tens of thousands of Muslim Iranians with chemical and biological weapons; experimented on Iranian prisoners with biological and chemical weapons; and tortured and killed children while the parents were forced to witness.

The peace protesters need to shift their myopic eyes to the dangers of real evil, instead of making knee-jerk reactions. All wars are bad, but sometimes peace is even less desirable. Sure, it’s about oil, regional power equations and myriad other complex factors besides Saddam’s evil. But so are all wars. And the truth is that some wars are right. This is one of them.

Richard PrattKaiserslautern Germany

AFN fell short

After more than 20 years of living in Germany, I was always advised that AFRTS was to inform the public of special news items within their respective countries. Especially after 9/11, it was discussed that all personnel would receive an AFN decoder system so that important command announcements could be made.

Well, AFN definitely did not get the information out to the public about the demonstrations that happened in Germany last weekend. I listened to the radio at work until late Friday night and again listened to both AM and FM the next morning while traveling to Frankfurt. Boy, was I surprised when I drove into the downtown area of Frankfurt (where I needed to be) and found myself in the middle of a demonstration.

Maybe I should have listened to the German radio stations. I am pretty sure that they would have said something about the demonstrations. Next time I hope AFN lets the public know in advance as to what is happening.

Robert GettyRamstein Air Base, Germany

Never again unappreciated

To the soldiers serving in Iraq: Don’t worry about coming back to a Vietnam-style homecoming. We won’t let that happen, not this time, never again. You are serving a just and noble cause.

Your nation has called upon you to perform this mission and we’ll support you. I served five tours in Vietnam and never once felt welcomed home. We will not allow this to happen to you. You are the finest soldiers in the world and the most humane.

Remember the children who have no mother or father because they died in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or Somerset County, Pa., on Sept. 11. Remember the valiant passengers of the Pennsylvania flight who weren’t soldiers, yet were willing to die for their country — and, ultimately, for us — because they felt our country was attacked. That is why you’re there.

As far as the protesters? Where were they when the Twin Towers went down or when the Pentagon was attacked or the flight went down in Pennsylvania? I didn’t see them out there protesting the terrorists’ acts.

You go for it, soldiers. You have more support back here than you’ll ever realize. We won’t be silent anymore.

Chief Warrant Officer Henry Geib (Retired)New Freedom, Pa.

Not 'greatest show on Earth'

I am proud to have served in the U.S. Army and that pride extends to our military men and women currently serving overseas and domestically. The bravery and valor that is shown on the battlefield by American servicemembers is a testament to their honorable willingness to make any sacrifice to liberate the oppressed and defend our nation from enemies, and this has been noted time and again throughout history.

Those who are serving outside the areas of combat should also be admired and appreciated with the same respect and spirit of those facing the enemies of our nation at this time; all veterans know it is merely chance in most cases that places them at their respective posts, and all military swear the same oath to defend and uphold the Constitution even if it means the ultimate sacrifice. These people are all true heroic patriots and deserve the love and respect of the people who owe their freedom to them — with humility, grace and dedication they serve us and this should never be forgotten.

I find it unfortunate that ignorant people with a political agenda contrary to the majority of people in this country have taken it upon themselves to make a circus of protest marches in the streets of our largest cities; these demonstrators only show their complete lack of understanding of history and current events and give comfort to the enemy in this hour of decisive action taken against a man and a government that can only be described as despotic, murderous and manifestations of true evil. I marvel at the completely mindless nature of their protest, following the lead of others who can best be characterized as ranging from misguided to reprehensible.

The time for protest is before the war begins; once the hostilities start, the protest is moot.

If those who protest read this, my message is this: Suppose your efforts cause brave young men and women to be killed in battle because you encouraged the enemy to resist rather than peacefully surrender. Have you not added momentum to the very thing you are claiming you are against? When you are out there shouting your chants and slogans, do you really believe that your efforts have served the cause of peace?

If you really want peace, pray for it and for our fighting men and women, pray for the enemy to surrender, pray that Saddam Hussein and his government are deposed or surrender so our troops can return safely as soon as possible. Use that conviction and conscience to an achievable end, the end of the war on terms that make it safer for our nation, the Iraqi people and the rest of the world.

Oh, and by the way, where were you when this madman used nerve gas to kill those who opposed him after the first Gulf War? I saw no evidence of your passion and outrage then, and it also didn’t surface when our country was called the “Great Satan” by those who most embody evil. Why is that?

Things like that really do not give much credibility to your argument, perhaps considering that which we protest would be in order. I feel that many of you are intelligent enough to grasp this concept, so go ahead and run with it. Show us what you are made of. Seventy percent of the country is waiting for you to get on board — like you did on Sept. 11, 2001. Your support is welcome.

Steve CoxEnid, Okla.

Bush showed courage

I give much credit to President Bush. He had the courage to do the right thing by attacking and invading Iraq, even though it was not the most popular thing to do. History is kind to those who demonstrate courage in the face of extreme danger when allies turn and run the other way.

Tech. Sgt David G. StroebelWillow Grove Air Reserve Station, Pa.

Living with such conditions

In response to the March 19 letter “Serving country is living right”: It is easy to say that one shouldn’t complain about living conditions when one isn’t living in those conditions. Granted, some deployments are started from scratch, but they are planned in advance. Yes, we are U.S. soldiers who train, train and yet train some more, but there should be no reason for soldiers to sleep on the ground with rats if we are not at war.

How long was it known where we soldiers would be staying? Did our leaders wake up one morning, throw a dart at a map and ship us out that same day? We all know what the Army is and what our mission is, but we also know that nothing is done in the Army on seconds’ notice; there is always prior planning. The letter writer was not reduced to washing up in either a porta-potty or an unheated, dark tent with bottled water.

Do not be so quick to defend and agree with everything our leaders do or say. Do not forget, our leaders are human, too, and sometimes mistakes are made along with not so good ideas. Do not be so quick to jump on someone who voices an opinion about something unless you have experienced it.

Life is improving slowly but surely. There are some things that should be up and running before long.

Sgt. Demetrius DavisIskenderun, Turkey

March 28

Ad doesn't belong in Stripes

Why in the world did the Stars and Stripes feel it necessary to publish a full-page advertisement for Durex condoms in the paper (Pulse magazine, March 19)? Does it not seem inappropriate to advertise sex that needs to be put out with a fire extinguisher? Did Stripes editors not think about the possibility that the paper’s nonadult population might stumble on this while looking for “Calvin and Hobbes”?

I find it irresponsible to make available this information to young children who read Stripes. Leave the condom ads to the magazines, and to the adult-only population, who will seek out the advertisements as needed. No need to force even more unsolicited sex information into our kids’ lives that they already get from the television or the kid next door.

Vanessa WallaceOkinawa

Protesters: Move to Iraq

To all the anti-war protesters who seem to think Iraq is so grand and the U.S. is so horrible, I strongly recommend you move there. Our soldiers are there dying not only for the U.S. but also for the freedom of the Iraqi people, who have been mistreated for years. Our soldiers are being taken prisoners by a country that tortures its own, so I don’t want to imagine what they are doing to those young brave Americans who are fighting for your freedoms.

There should be a law that these protesters could be arrested for the disgusting displays against their own country. They can ramble on about freedom of speech, but I believe anyone who speaks badly about our great and brave soldiers and our leaders should lose those rights for not supporting the people who go out and give them these freedoms.

My heart also goes out to the many spouses, children, mothers and fathers who are now watching the news to see if their loved ones are among the missing or dead. I am proud of our soldiers and I am proud of our great leader President Bush, who had the courage to go in and do something that should have been done long ago.

Melissa PowellMannheim, Germany

Retire pre-battle TV talk

Since the “decapitation strike” I have been watching the operations in Iraq every day on CNN (it’s the only news channel I get here). While I think the coverage is great and the “embedded” journalists are doing a great job, this letter is intended to address an issue with the “military analysts” (mostly retired colonels and general officers) who comment and answer questions for the news anchors on military operations throughout the day.

Whether you are for the war or against the war we all have one thing in common. The safety of our troops. The military analysts are “offering” too much in the way of prediction. They have on more than one occasion suggested that “we might go in from this way,” or “we might do this.” Readers who have been following this might have a good idea as to what I am referring to. I am no great planner or strategist; however, if someone is going to tell me the bad guys are coming from a certain direction, I am going to fortify it. If someone suggests that they might have this type of equipment, then I will make sure I have the equipment on hand to counter it.

The retired military officers who are hired for these positions need to stay “retired” as far as the strategy goes. Go ahead and answer questions as to why the military went that way or why we used that type of equipment. That’s good stuff, keep it past tense. Just don’t “predict” where our troops might go for the next battle in Iraq. The Iraqis also watch CNN.

Robert JohnsonCamp Walker, South Korea

Blame it on hanging chads

I am against this war 100 percent, but when the first round was fired, my allegiance went to every soldier, airman and Marine in harms way. As a former servicemember, I have nothing but the utmost respect for our men and women in Iraq. My problem is the way this war is being fought and the overall view of Americans worldwide; I never thought that during my lifetime we Americans would be so universally despised. It frightens me to think we are now one of the most hated countries on earth.

You don’t need the Hubble telescope to see that we have basically become bullies. How can we say Iraq poses a bigger threat than North Korea? If North Korea were sitting on vast oil reserves, would we be there now?

When I go to sleep at night, I have no fear of any Iraqi storming into the States, raping and pilfering our cities. I guess I think about Iraq about as much as they think about me. In my opinion, Iraq is not worth the life of one American. A couple of days ago on German TV I saw bodies of our sons heaped together, I saw frightened young men and women being held hostage, and my first thought was why? Why have our sons and daughters been placed in this predicament?

I think it’s the way we are trying to fight this war. The last couple of conflicts have spoiled us Americans into thinking that every enemy will just lie down and not fight, but this conflict is proving otherwise. We should have gone in with most the prolific blitzkrieg known to man, minimizing the lost of coalition lives. A lot of civilian lives would have been lost, but Saddam Hussein has killed and tortured more people then we would in any bombing campaign. In war there are no good guys; good guys finish last.

Some autocrat in England hit the nail on the head: If it weren’t for hanging chads and Florida, would we be in this situation?

Stephen P. MaloneKaiserslautern, Germany

Troops fight for stars' rights

To all the Hollywood stars who felt it was their duty to let the world know their opinions on the war against Iraq during Sunday’s Academy Awards, I feel it is my duty to let you know how I feel about your opinions being aired on an international broadcast — and also being seen by some of the troops all over the Middle East.

The time for political grandstanding is over. The time for protest is over. We are at war. Our personal views should be put aside for the time being. Our support should be given to our husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters in combat. Our focus should be on lightening, not increasing, the burden on their shoulders. Will we greet them with stones thrown at them for doing their jobs? Certainly not I.

Shame on you, especially Michael Moore, who criticized President Bush and the war during his acceptance speech for his documentary “Bowling for Columbine.” This “fictious” war is to keep you safe, to allow you to make documentaries free from government influence, and above all to ensure your freedom of speech. I’m not saying your opinions shouldn’t be expressed, but there is a time and place for everything.

The servicemembers are underpaid, overworked, tired and away from their families. Mostly without thanks or credit. Part of the sucesses of what makes you stars comes from their pockets. Thin-lined pockets at that. So before you put down what they do, stop to think where you or all of us would be without the never-ending battle they fight for our freedoms. The fight for our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without fear.

Stephanie CutshallVicenza, Italy

Worrying scarier than warfare

Many times in the past four and a half years, I have been asked, “I bet you loved trading that green for the brown ID card, didn’t you?” As a former servicemember (with a green card) turned family member/husband (with a brown card), I used to say, “You bet I do.” That has changed now that my wife is deployed “in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Thanks to embedded media, I know that she was near the location where Iraqi missiles were neutralized by Patriots during the hours following our initial strikes into Iraq. Being a Gulf War veteran, I was within the same range of similar missile attacks; at that time, I felt fairly safe being 20 miles away from such impacts. However, things are much different from the other side of the fence. When you’re sitting at home with a loved one deployed on such a mission, 20 miles is way too close for comfort. The “not knowing” factor about a loved one is a lot scarier to me than facing combat was.

I support our troops and I support President Bush’s decision to go to war. I support my wife’s goal of making the Army a career and becoming a sergeant major and am extremely proud of her for setting those goals. On the other hand, I also have let all our servicemembers know that they need to support their spouses back home, because though the spouses may not be facing actual combat, they are facing the longest and scariest hours of their lives.

I am proud of all of our servicemembers for their actions and commitment to their country and its values — and I applaud all of my fellow family members for their strength and commitment to their loved ones deployed during these difficult times.

Christopher M. HoweIllesheim, Germany

March 29

'Selfish' athletes owe apology

I read the article in Stars and Stripes that was titled: “Possible conflict in Iraq weighing heavily on many athletes’ minds.” While I don’t doubt that many of the concerns expressed by some of the athletes were genuine and heartfelt, there was one paragraph that did bother me: “Two female basketball players, Toni Smith of Manhattan Ville and Deidra Chatman of Virginia, protested U.S. foreign policy by turning their backs to the flag during the National Anthem.”

How do they protest U.S. foreign policy by “slapping in the face” everything the United States stands for? They would probably say they were just exercising their right to freedom of speech, but let’s not forget where that freedom comes from. It comes from 228 years of Americans giving their lives for this country and that flag they turned their backs on.

I am a Marine deployed to Kuwait, and I took what those two women did as a personal insult. I might not agree with everything the leaders of our country do, but I swore to do what my commander in chief says — no questions asked.

I just want those two women to think about the message they’re sending to all of the young fans when they turn their backs on the symbol of freedom for the country we all love. All a 10-year-old in the stands sees is basketball players they like turning their backs on the U.S. flag, when the child knows the right thing to do would be to look at it and put their hand over their heart.

I ask the two women to think about all the people they could be affecting by what they consider a protest. They are telling everyone they are ignorant, selfish and just don’t value their freedom. They owe everyone an apology.

Lance Cpl. Robert LeavittKuwait

Front-page photo appalling

I was very appalled at the picture that was on the front page of last Sunday’s Stars and Stripes. It showed a wounded soldier with his feet hanging out of the Humvee with a bandaged wound. You didn’t show the bumper number, but you showed the face of his commander. Are you stupid or what? You just added more worry and fear to what is already a very stressful situation for the spouses and children who are left behind.

I know that Stripes has to do its job, but all I’m asking is that you try to be a little more sensitive to the spouses and children who happen to be big fans of your newspaper. We don’t mind the stories, but the pictures can be a lot less dramatic. At least give the family members time to become aware of the situation before reading or seeing about it in the newspaper.

Pam PierceWürzburg, Germany

Lack of kids' TV a big issue

The letter “Cable TV provides reality” (March 27) says the writer who is asking for at least one children’s TV channel to keep their minds off the war should go to her local cable company and subscribe to obtain a variety of programming, including the Cartoon Network. This not just “something small that can be easily solved,” as the writer said.

Not all military personal live on base. This means they do not have access to cable. Cable is not provided or even offered to personnel off base. So I think it is a big concern. Our children are worried enough about their fathers or mothers leaving and they need to be able to be children and have programming that is appropriate for them.

Maybe AFN should consider adding the Cartoon Network to its seven channels currently offered to military personal with the AFN decoder systems.

Amy StricklandIdar-Oberstein, Germany

Misguided hippies

The writer of “Protesters support military” (March 25) says she supports the troops but not the war. I am glad she see the difference, because I cannot. The soldiers supporting the war and those deployed on other fronts do not see the difference either.

We are united to win and protect our country. We need the people back home to stand united behind us and our mission. There can be no mixed messages sent. The time for protests was before the war started. If you cannot support us now, then bite your tongue.

Just remember that when you are out getting yourself on camera you could be doing something much more important. You could spend your time volunteering for organizations that support the soldiers. Instead, the protesters are self-centered and self-involved.

Thank God we have a strong leader like our president. He won’t back down to a mob of misguided hippies. The latest polls show that more than 70 percent of the American people support our efforts and understand the mission. To those who think this is a war about oil would probably reduce the Revolutionary War to one about tea.

Sgt. Andrew HokensonCamp Bondsteel, Kosovo

Another 'dirty' war

Your story on Clinton’s popularity in Kosovo had me laughing hysterically. It just proves yet another failed policy of the impeached, draft-dodging ex-leader.

And now we are led to believe that the Albanians are permitted to ethnically cleanse the Serbs from their homeland. Please do not forget that the Serbs were the inhabitants of that land for centuries, and that it was the scene of another “dirty” war centuries ago.

Craig SchadePittsburgh

Not hiding in fear

Here we sit in our vehicles ready to roll to the field. Having read the Stars and Stripes again this week, I must ask: Who are you serving? The overall tone of the paper is one that promotes confusion and dissension within the rank and file. We in this country enjoy the freedom of speech paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors.

Iraq has deceived the world since the Gulf War. If Saddam cared for his people, he would have used the food and medicine received for oil to give to his people, instead of to his military. If I do not come back, I will not have died in vain. My nieces and nephews — along with the disgruntled youth who need a forum to vent their frustration at being young adults and think it’s neat to hold peace signs — are as much at risk, too, from American haters as well as Christian and Jew-hating people who claim they act for God. We won’t fall prey to hiding in fear.

This 9/11 propelled us into a new territory, such as surveillance, that may infringe on some of our so-called rights as Americans. They drew first blood and innocent blood at that. These cowards that creep in the dark will squeal with the tip of my God-fearing blade should they stand in the way of peace. We are there to enforce and put at bay the inevitable great war to end all wars by this action.

Our president weathers constant insults and indignation. He should profess what he believes, because it makes me believe in him and our leaders as trusted servants chosen by the masses to look out for our best interests.

Spc. Frederick MancusoCamp Pennsylvania, Kuwait

Don't make the same 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 Command. 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 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 that 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 0.10 — legally intoxicated. While Army regulations require only eight hours between drinking and duty, I found out that’s not enough.

On June 21 I was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and drunken 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 that 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 drunken-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 is uncertain. And most important, another human being is dead. Because this type of alcohol consumption is very common in the military, I write this to educate others in the hopes that it will help prevent these tragic events from repeating.

Daniel M. RosneyMannheim, Germany

Quite a show at Kadena High

Kudos to the Kadena High School student cast and crew of “Once Upon a Mattress” for their outstanding performances! Vickie Briscoe, Tim Black and Larry Domingue are to be commended for their dedicated direction.

In these uncertain times, Ms. Briscoe reassured the students that the show would go on. Three months of long rehearsals and many late nights produced a successful run. What a delightful distraction from the world’s events — to spend two hours watching talented youth at their best!

Thank you for the entertaining evenings amid a chaotic and unsettling week.

Ruth BurkeyOkinawa City, Okinawa

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