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March 9

Conditions bad for GIs

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

March 9 Conditions bad for GIs Soldiers have it hardest Saddam the real problem Swearing by women Gas price hikes Views on war, GIs can coexist Boycott only closed minds Protesters are true patriots What was reaped from VEAP

March 10 French have helped U.S. Media reports aid enemies Smoking reduces readiness Extension of empathy Alums plan reunion Germany boycott not justified A message for Mister RogersMarch 11 All making sacrifices Troop restructuring untimely Hand-to-hand training Kaiserslautern reunion Critics should think twice The meat of the matterMarch 12 Protesters not patriots Child custody unfair to fathers Don’t change for terrorists Educational benefits Accusations warrant apology Restructuring talk untimely Soldiers have it hardestMarch 13 Reservist’s employment Flawed letters All making sacrificesMarch 14 Swearing not unladylike AAFES’ finances Servicemembers are patriotsMarch 15 Defending America Sperm banking

My name is Constance Hamilton, and I’m the spouse of a soldier. I’m writing because my husband was recently sent to Turkey, and I was extremely disturbed when I heard what kind of treatment the soldiers are receiving down there. At first I thought it was just a rumor. But after talking to other wives, it’s been confirmed.

A few troops left on Feb. 18. Unfortunately, they haven’t had a shower since. The soldiers get only two Meals, Ready to Eat each day. They’re sleeping in an unheated grain warehouse on concrete floors with rats and mice. There’s no forwarding address for them yet, so family members can’t send them any packages.

People in prison for rape, murder and other heinous crimes receive better treatment than these soldiers. Prisoners get three meals a day, showers, and beds or cots to sleep on. Prisoners are able to receive mail, but our husbands can’t. I really thought soldiers who signed up to defend our country would receive better treatment than this. I’m outraged.

Way too many people are in a rush to deploy troops for a possible war with Iraq, and they don’t give two cents about the troops who would fight this battle. The troops can’t even be supplied with showers or breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I thought the United States took better care of its soldiers. The United States takes such good care of everyone else in the world. Why not take care of the people who are defending the United States first before giving money and aid to other countries?

Constance HamiltonKitzingen, Germany

Soldiers have it hardest

I’d like to respond to the letter “Don’t forget the wives” (Feb. 21). I’m the spouse of a deployed Army soldier, and the letter offended me.

As a military spouse, I know deployments will happen. It’s a fact of military life. Spouses are left with much uncertainty in these times and, yes, it’s hard to be left behind.

But let’s not forget that we still have the comforts of our homes. We can still sleep in our own beds and kiss our children good night.

We’re not missing our children’s milestones and accomplishments. We’re able to take hot showers. We don’t wake up with sand all over us and in our clothes.

The soldiers are the ones who have it hardest. They’re the ones who had to pack their bags and literally walk away from their daily lives to go perform their jobs. Let’s not lose perspective about that.

I take pride in being the wife of an Army soldier, and I want to thank every soldier who has made a personal sacrifice for the good of all.

Holly KuekerIllesheim, Germany

Saddam the real problem

Can readers imagine what might happen if all the so-called “peace activists” decided to finally recognize that the real problem is not George W. Bush but rather Saddam Hussein? Saddam has no trouble letting his people die of hunger and disease while he lives in more luxury than any of us could ever imagine. Can readers imagine the pressure that could be applied to demonstrate the unity of the Western world?

Right now, Saddam is having a ball because Germany, Russia and France are strengthening his position by completely taking away the pressure. Even if there are not yet any ties between Saddam and al-Qaida, there’s the old saying that “money talks.” If Saddam could sell his weapons to al-Qaida, make money and kill many Americans, why would he not go for that?

I’m a German, and right now I’m ashamed of it. I’m sick and tired of watching German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder destroy the relationship we had with our American friends. I deeply apologize to the American people in the name of many Germans whose voices are not being heard and who feel as strongly about this issue as I do.

It always cracks me up when I hear peace demonstrators talk about what a war would do to Iraqi children and that they’d be the real victims. What do the demonstrators think is happening to these children right now? Do the demonstrators really think they are doing Iraqi children a favor by not doing anything? We’re talking about people who are poor because of their leader, not because of the sanctions imposed on Iraq. I’m convinced that even if there were no sanctions at all, the Iraqi people would be as poor as they are now. How do demonstrators think Saddam was able to build about 30 new palaces during the last few years?

People who are very much against a possible war with Iraq should think about what can happen if we turn our backs and pretend like nothing is wrong. It’s amazing how quickly people have forgotten Sept. 11, 2001. Before that, America and the world could have and should have done something to prevent the terrorist attacks from happening. But we didn’t, and we saw what happened. There are many other dictators in the world, but none of them has been as defiant to the United Nations and the world as Saddam. He’s a dangerous man.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know anybody, myself included, who likes war. But sometimes there’s no other way to reach the common goal that we’re all striving for, which is to make the world a better place. This goal cannot be achieved as long as there are dictators like Saddam. I thank America for standing up and not acting like wimps.

Bärbel WilliamsGrafenwöhr, Germany

Swearing by women

What is it that makes so many female representatives of the armed forces and the Department of Defense work force so intent on beginning, bridging and concluding their conversations with expletives? Has the use of the verbally profane developed into a popular pastime for women? Maybe I’m an anachronist, but I tend to yearn for a revival of ladylike demeanor. It may seem oh-so-hip to “embellish” a sentence with foul language, but the application of same mirrors the personality of the orator. I would rather endure the gibberish of a Teletubby than to listen to a woman swear, and I thank fate that there’s no law that can force me to date a woman who releases a sewer of profanity when talking.

I’m especially astounded when a female officer resorts to gutter talk. One would think that a solid education and exposure to thought would award such an individual with a maturity that makes her feel comfortable in deleting from her mind the slant of the vulgar. A woman should contemplate the consequences of her choice in words, for in a broader sense it may link her to a like-minded man. Men shouldn’t set their standards low. They should spend time with women who are ladylike.

Duchan CaudillDarmstadt, Germany

Gas price hikes

How in good conscience could AAFES say in the story “AAFES raises gas prices 14 cents per gallon” (March 1) that the “short month” of February did not allow it to give customers any warning on gas price increases? Let’s see. Seven months have 31 days, four have 30, and one has 28. Wow. It boggles the mind that AAFES can do business during those five months with less than 31 days! Should AAFES employees worry about getting paid during those months? It seems like making payroll would surely be more complicated than adjusting gas prices. Too bad this wasn’t a leap year. Maybe then we would’ve gotten more than no notice. What a way to run a business.

Master Sgt. Burl StubblefieldRamstein Air Base, Germany

Views on war, GIs can coexist

I was very disappointed to read Kathy L. Coogan’s Feb. 27 column “Supporting servicemembers means OK’ing mission.” It was an irrational and failed attempt to label Americans who oppose a potential war with Iraq as not supportive of our fine men and women in uniform. It was ludicrous writing that purported a conclusion for which the major part of the column was not relevant. I’m doubly disappointed in that I’m a commander in the Navy and Ms. Coogan resides in my hometown of Cincinnati.

I won’t debate Ms. Coogan’s lesser point that the conjoint of hating the military and supporting our soldiers is an oxymoron. But insisting that those who are unconvinced about a possible war in Iraq are therefore not supportive of our troops is an effort to disparage some Americans. Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni is one of the Americans who isn’t persuaded that war is necessary, and I have great faith that he supports servicemembers.

Ms. Coogan likened the group that is not supportive of the war but supportive of our soldiers to someone in “the bad old days” who would say, “I’m not prejudiced against ---. Some of my best friends are ---.” This is a mechanism meant to insinuate hypocrisy, yet there’s no rational correlation between these positions. Her next six paragraphs were devoted to illustrating how people are often wrongly labeled by overzealous, politically correct thinkers. She then suggested a scheme for pejoratively labeling the Americans she attacked. By default she settled on “the misguided.” Does Ms. Coogan not see this is duplicitous?

Then, as if in a self-debate, Ms. Coogan fabricated the statements of her hypothetical anti-war groups and proceeded to criticize their (her own) word choices. She continued to drag us through self-constructed innuendo against the military by the “unsupportive Americans” who are irrelevant to her premise of why supporting servicemembers means OK’ing the war in Iraq. She nearly waxed poetic in her admiration of servicemembers, but never explained why a decision to wage war on Iraq is necessary to support servicemembers.

Ms. Coogan’s attempt to taint the patriotism of those with a different opinion of the possible war than hers was thoughtless demagoguery and did not merit to be printed in Stars and Stripes. Further, those of us who serve must obey the orders of our commander in chief on whether to make war or peace. No one need consider if such decisions of state are supportive of military men and women. Worst of all, in Ms. Coogan’s haste to be supportive and patriotic, she tread upon the greatest values we have as Americans — the freedoms of thought, opinion and expression.

Steve DorfGaeta, Italy

Boycott only closed minds

This is in reference to the Feb. 27 letter “… but Germany let us down.” After I calmed down about the rather one-sided letter and the immature reaction of its writer, something struck me as very odd. It was that the writer’s accusation about the German media is exactly the opinion of Germans about the American media.

How often does the writer hear reports about Germany or even Europe on nonmilitary broadcasts? How come nonmilitary children think Europe is next to Canada? And how come during my last trip to the United States, I was asked if “that war with that Hitler guy” was still in progress?

According to the writer, Germany’s media and politics have brainwashed all Germans into “parading around the country on weekends with their anti-Bush banners.” (Hopefully the writer speaks fluent German, which helped him make this accusation.) How does the writer explain the numerous protests in major American cities? If this is the result of a brainwashing government, which government might have brainwashed the protesters?

I agree with one part of the letter: “This is not about Iraq or weapons of mass destruction or U.N. inspectors.” This is a crisis that began during the presidency of the first President Bush, and which his son has the urge to finish.

Of course Germany wouldn’t be behaving this way if Bill Clinton were still president, because Clinton’s politics were more liberal. Maybe one could say more “European.” Clinton’s solution to this conflict would be rather different.

The letter’s next paragraph must have been copied from Ceasar’s “Bello Gallico” (Gallic Wars), which was written more than 2,040 years ago. It’s the heroic tale of a dictator whose empire went to ruins. Let’s assume taking Baghdad happens as easily as the writer thinks. Does he actually believe the Iraqi people will consider it a victory? Has the writer forgotten the American flags that were burned by Arabs after Sept. 11, 2001? Has the writer considered the extreme difference in cultural traditions?

I know the writer is in the U.S. armed forces and thus is restricted in his criticisms toward the U.S. government. It’s also only natural that should the writer deploy to Iraq, it would be close to impossible to endure the deployment while unconvinced of its purpose. Nevertheless, I don’t believe the solution is for the writer to turn his back on his host country and close the door because the voices he hears don’t reflect his own beliefs.

A resolution might come from the opposite: exchanging opinions, listening to different attitudes, reasoning in letters to the editor and taking advantage of our cultural-inflicted differences. Kind gestures, such as Germany’s military guarding U.S. posts to protect their families, is a step toward a resolution. And let’s be honest. Isn’t the resolution we all want a world of freedom, peace and fairness filled with the laughter of our children?

Katja ChatfieldBamberg, Germany

Protesters are true patriots

In a democracy, the people control the government. In a tyranny, it’s the other way around. When our government tries to control us, we stop it by saying, “Stop right there.” It’s clear to me that anti-war protesters express the views of many in the military community, where dissent is artificially suppressed. The anti-war protesters are taking democracy seriously. They are patriots of the highest order.

Debra RosenthalStuttgart, Germany

What was reaped from VEAP

After 20 years of faithful service to our great Air Force I’m ready to call it a career. As retirement beckons, I look back to a career spanning two decades with a sense of pride and nostalgia. It was the spring of 1982 when this writer made that fateful decision to enlist in the U.S. Air Force.

My recruiter once told me that the Air Force is a great way of life. He was right. But I’d be disingenuous if I said it’s not devoid of disappointments. That being said, I lament the most the fact that some Veterans Educational Assistance Program-era servicemembers were denied Montgomery GI Bill eligibility. I’m referring to the 2001 VEAP-MGIB conversion plan that President Clinton signed into law in the waning days of his presidency that, unfortunately, left out troops who opted not to participate in VEAP from the conversion plan.

Reasons for passing up on the now-defunct VEAP are quite obvious. Compared with the far-more-generous Vietnam-era MGIB and present-day MGIB, the VEAP program offered no more than a pittance. Of course, folks back then knew this only too well. Cognizant of the huge disparity between the two programs, servicemembers gave VEAP only a cursory glance. Simply put, the program failed to generate interest because it didn’t offer enough.

Low enrollment rates and anemic contributions ultimately sealed its fate, which forced the hands of policy-makers to make drastic changes. The handwriting was on the wall: VEAP had been a dismal failure. Soon after, MGIB, a far-more-attractive and superior program, came into being and replaced VEAP. However, for reasons known only to policy-makers, VEAP contributions were used as a prerequisite and justification for MGIB eligibility. One wonders, though, what are reasons behind such a dubious decision.

That being said, this piece of legislation can only be construed as egregiously unfair because it allows an individual who joins the military after June 1986 and serves two years to receive this benefit but denies the very same benefit to those who have gone the distance and served at least 20 years. Thankfully, some lawmakers took note of this and filed legislative bills (most recently House Resolution 2020) to seek redress but, sadly, such measures didn’t amount to anything.

Perhaps VEAP-era personnel have become somewhat irrelevant in the scheme of things. Clearly, the younger generation of servicemembers have it so much better than their predecessors in just about every category: record promotion rates, retirement options, hefty targeted pay increases, attractive enlistment and retention bonuses, retraining, etc. I realize that this is the price to pay in order to keep recruitment and retention rates from eroding. But one wonders why our senior members are being shortchanged when we’re the ones who have steadfastly stuck by our military through thick or thin? Which begs the question: Does loyalty mean anything anymore these days?

Much has been said about this glaring inequity, but given the post 9/11 realities and the precarious geopolitical climate in which we live, I’m doubtful if anyone on Capitol Hill is listening. Even so, it’s my hope and the hope of the remaining VEAP-era veterans still on active duty that justice will be done and that the same educational benefits the rest of the servicemembers now enjoy will someday be afforded to us.

Manuel W. YaptangcoOsan Air Base, South Korea

March 10

French have helped U.S.

I’m tired of the negative talk about the “ungrateful French” and their refusal to go to war with Iraq. People, including members of the media and several narrow-minded talk show hosts, are saying that the French have forgotten how much America has done for them. They say, “We went to France’s rescue during World War I and World War II. How could the French forget that?”

Nobody seems to remember that if it had not been for France, we would not be the United States of America. In 1776 John Adams declared France was “a rock upon which we may safely build.” Later it was the French navy, with Gen. George Washington at Yorktown, Va., who accepted the final surrender of the British forces, thereby allowing us to become a nation. If it had not been for the timely arrival of the French navy, we never would have made it. Some of us have forgotten our history. We only want to remember the stuff that makes us heroes and not beholden to someone else.

We have a long history with the French. From them we received the Statue of Liberty, which was erected to celebrate our centennial year of independence. It shines as a beacon of freedom, hope and refuge for the entire world, and represents our untiring friendship with the French people. There is so much more, but what more could we have asked from a friend?

Friendship is not always easy. It doesn’t mean that we will always agree with the other party just to keep them happy. To do so would change one partner into a sycophant. Friends try to keep friends out of trouble. The French advised us to stay out of Vietnam, but we didn’t listen. Now they’re advising us not to start a war with Iraq, and we still will not listen. We must be slow learners.

We accuse the French of being ungrateful and self-centered because they don’t support our desire to kill, maim and demolish an entire country. Maybe after the war starts, there will be a few American families who will understand what the French were trying to tell us. After two major wars on their homeland, the French know the horrors of war much better than we do.

I have traveled to France and found the French people to be pleasant, helpful and friendly. They told me not to judge the French by their government. Let’s hope they don’t judge us by ours.

Clifton J. JesterKadena Air Base, Okinawa

Media reports aid enemies

When is enough information enough?

What units are deploying?

What are their capabilities?

What are their vulnerabilities?

How many troops are assigned to each unit?

When are they leaving?

Where are they leaving from?

When will they arrive?

The answers to all of these questions are plastered all over the visual and written media every day concerning the possible war with Iraq.

I wonder how the outcome of World War II would’ve been affected if our adversaries had known how many carriers we had and where they were deployed. Or if they would’ve known how far, in what condition, and from what direction Gen. George S. Patton’s troops were coming.

Just because the media doesn’t promulgate exactly when the action will commence doesn’t mean that it isn’t threatening the safety of our troops. If our adversaries know exactly what they are facing, especially the limitations, they can develop a much better plan to combat it. When is enough information enough?

Cmdr. Daryl R. HallSasebo, Japan

Smoking reduces readiness

This is a response to letters I’ve seen in Stars and Stripes recently from people commenting on the new Department of Defense no-smoking policy. They’ve complained about it affecting soldiers and Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities.

I agree that a lot of people will now choose to take their business off post where they can continue to smoke. Some say military members are risking drinking and driving to have a smoke. Give me a break! Responsible soldiers are going to act responsibly no matter where they might smoke. As far as force protection, leave that to the professionals. The number of people staying on or going off post has zero impact on force protection, so that shouldn’t be brought up.

As one letter writer said, the purpose of MWR clubs is to provide safe and convenient places for military members to enjoy a night out. I guess in the writer’s mind that doesn’t extend to people who don’t smoke and/or are allergic to cigarette smoke. When I go to a smoky club, I end up taking breaks outside in the cold a couple of times an hour just for some breathable air.

Eliminating smoking in MWR clubs is yet one more step in the right direction in DOD’s effort to completely eliminate smoking from the military. Over more than 18 years I’ve seen the Army move from allowing smoking whenever and wherever to allowing smoking only in designated areas. I even had one noncommissioned officer tell me when I was a specialist that I had no business taking a break because I didn’t smoke.

Smoking reduces readiness and is a health risk. By reducing or eliminating smoking — or making it more difficult for smokers to smoke — there will be a long-term effect on reducing smoking. That’s good for business.

Smoking is not a right. It never has been. It’s a privilege. Take it from someone who’s picked up about a million cigarette butts. I’ll never be sorry to see it go.

Army Staff Sgt. George R. BauerCamp Carroll, South Korea

Extension of empathy

I’ve just read the news of the tour extension for 2,800 U.S. troops. In 1961 we were also extended 90 days because of the Berlin Wall being erected. At that time, everyone on duty in South Korea was extended. Readers can imagine the varied reactions from the troops.

Rest assured, U.S. servicemembers’ efforts are not ignored by the millions of Americans who have served in Korea. In conversations with others who have served there, it’s evident that we know and understand the current mission.

U.S. servicemembers in South Korea are always in our thoughts. There are many who have not forgotten our tour or those who serve there now. God bless our troops.

Frank JonesMyrtle Beach, S.C.

Alums plan reunion

The Nineties Era Lakenheath Alumni Association is in the final stages of planning a 1990s-era reunion and is still looking for the majority of our fellow alums. Our Web site address is http://lakenheath.net/. The reunion will be held Aug. 22-24, 2003, in New Orleans. The main event will kick off on Saturday, Aug. 23 at Hotel W. The hotel’s Web site address is http://www.starwood.com/whotels/search/hotel_detail.html?propertyID=2030.

Our class shares a special bond, a bond that most military brats experience. That bond has grown deeper due to the events we shared and the events of today. Our fathers and mothers served in Desert Storm. We can remember the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing being deployed. F-15 after F-15 flew overhead. Walking from my house in base “Anglo” housing to school, I had to present my identification card numerous times, passing tanks and sharpshooters in trees as I entered the main gate.

My e-mail address is scarmade@comcast.net and my phone number in Maryland is 410-757-6961.

Shane CarmadellaLakenheath High School, EnglandClass of 1993Annapolis, Md.

Germany boycott not justified

I’m writing in response to the Feb. 27 letter “… but Germany let us down.” It showed a lack of intelligence. I thought the writer was joking when he said the Germans are “spoon-fed.” Why go so far as to boycott the economy? Does the writer realize how he made other Americans look when he wrote that?

I’m a military spouse. I love what the Army can do for my family, and I love that my husband loves serving his country. I love my country. I love Germany. But I hate the whole war thing. I fully understand why Germany doesn’t want to send in its troops.

Think about it. When President Bush said, “You’re either with us or you’re against us,” he should have explained it a little more. Germany, Belgium and France have gotten a bad rap for not wanting to go to war. That’s their choice. Just because they don’t want to send their troops in doesn’t mean that they can’t back us up with moral support.

I’m thankful for the German soldiers who are now guarding most of the U.S. posts in Germany. I’m thankful for Germany and the people who live here. I won’t let myself go as low as the letter writer did. I’m not that self-centered.

People should think before they write things like the writer wrote. Reading it made me and other people sick.

Leah HoganMannheim, Germany

A message for Mister Rogers

Sadly, TV personality Fred Rogers has succumbed to stomach cancer. Mister Rogers has been a positive role model for children for more than 30 years. Instead of using the loud, high-tech mechanisms of his contemporaries, Mister Rogers remained faithful to his gentle, low-key and low-tech delivery to teach children important, life-affirming values in a meaningful way.

Mister Rogers is truly an inspiration to parents and teachers everywhere. His message: “That which is mentionable is also manageable” is an important guiding principle to anyone involved with — as Cicero called teaching — “the noblest of professions.” Parents and teachers should embrace Mister Rogers’ spirit. They shouldn’t be afraid to discuss topics with children. As Mister Rogers knew all too well, young inquisitive minds need to be nurtured. We should answer their questions and teach children well. Otherwise, they’ll get the wrong information from their youthful peers, and this can lead to trouble.

For more than three decades, Mister Rogers invited us to be his neighbor. Now he has been invited to be God’s neighbor. Rest in peace, Mister Rogers. Your message has not fallen on deaf ears.

John Di GenioYongsan Garrison, South Korea

March 11

All making sacrifices

This is in regard to the letter “Soldiers have it hardest” (March 9). Why do we continue to compare who has it worst — deployed soldiers or the spouses left behind? The last time I checked, we’re all making sacrifices during these deployments. It would be unfair and unwise to assume that the jobs of deployed soldiers and their spouses are even remotely comparable. In very different ways, we’re all doing our best to survive this most unnatural time of separation and uncertainty.

My husband has been deployed for a little more than a month now. I couldn’t be more proud of him and all the troops who have given up the comforts of home in these troubled times. But I know he can perform his job better with the knowledge that I’m providing a positive environment for me and our two small daughters. I’m blessed with a very active Family Readiness Group and a caring and supportive FRG leader, Lynn Snyder. I feel myself growing stronger each day that my husband is gone. (I’ve had to do everything from killing spiders to servicing the car.) Naturally some days are better than others, but I’m developing the skills necessary to cope. Does that mean I’m more patriotic than another wife who expresses her unhappiness or frustration with the deployment? Of course not.

Some of us handle things better than others. So why don’t we stop getting offended by disheartened spouses who express their despair and start supporting one another? Seasoned military spouses who have faced numerous deployments or those who just have some advice about what’s worked for them should share it with others who might need some encouragement.

We must stop invalidating each other’s feelings and worth with all this needless comparing. Yes, deployed soldiers have it rough. Yes, spouses who are left behind have it rough. We can all agree on that. So we should find ways to help each other smooth out the rough spots. We’re all in this together for the long haul.

Sharon Berry-BrownGiebelstadt, Germany

Troop restructuring untimely

There’s been much talk recently of thinning out U.S. troops in Germany. Gen. James Jones seems to be a proponent of the idea that the U.S. should shift troops east and begin to reduce troops in Germany. Asked why this is being brought up now, Gen. Jones said, “Timing is everything.” But it’s clear that the timing is bad.

It’s a tribute to democracy when people and their governments express their respective opinions. The U.S. and German governments have differing opinions on Iraq. That’s all part of democratic governments working together, isn’t it? It should happen without repercussions.

It’s a tribute to German-American relations that the recent flurry of anti-war protests haven’t had a strong anti-American undercurrent. Quick to criticize and even parody their own leaders, Germans have protested against President Bush and his Iraq policy, just as have their American counterparts. Germans haven’t criticized Americans. They’ve voiced their opinions about present American government policy. They have that right. Other issues shouldn’t be discussed. It’s like a husband and wife bringing up unrelated points in an argument. It’s a cheap shot.

The New York Times has reported that some lawmakers have called for the Pentagon to pull U.S. troops out of Germany to punish German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for his refusal to support a war on Iraq. That’s a cheap shot. The Times also said that Gen. Jones insisted his plans have nothing to do with the trans-Atlantic tension. If that’s true, why the talk of reducing forces in Germany now? Shouldn’t that be tabled for later out of respect for German-American relations?

The German newspaper Die Welt quoted German Defense Minister Peter Struck as saying that no troop reductions have been discussed with him. If the U.S. insists on talking about this unrelated issue now, the least it can do is discuss it with the people on whom it would have the greatest effect. Another group directly affected would be families living overseas. Doesn’t such talk put added stress on military families already dealing with deployments?

Perhaps it’s true that this move would be in America’s best interests financially and militarily. But a key factor in this discussion is missing. We discuss 50 years of infrastructure as an advantage for staying. What about 50 years of intercultural relations? This can’t be argued with dollars or statistics, but it can’t be underestimated.

Because of these intercultural relations, troop cut talks should be tabled until the Iraq war issue is resolved. Only then should it be brought up. The appropriate way to deal with troop realignments is to consider the German government’s input and wait until the proper time.

For the most part German anti-war protests have not become anti-American. We should return the favor. Anti-war protests should not become anti-German. That’s the least we democratic Americans can do.

Dennis OsborneHeidelberg, Germany

Hand-to-hand training

It’s frustrating to read an article like “Soldier stabbed in late-night brawl” (March 7). It showed the lack of combat effectiveness of our servicemembers. Unfortunately, the situation was similar during my 20 years in the military. The story said GIs and locals got in a fight in Frankfurt that resulted in the GIs going to the hospital and the locals being arrested by police. In addition, a curfew was established for our GIs. I suppose it’s for their protection from civilian locals.

How embarrassing that the same soldiers who we’re putting on the front lines have difficulty engaging in hand-to-hand combat and coming out victorious. Do we actually believe that helicopters and fast-moving aircraft will stay aloft indefinitely? Do we actually believe that armored vehicles will not run out of gas, or worse, not get a flat and the occupants must fight on foot?

I’ve found that whenever U.S. aircraft are downed or helicopters can’t fly or armored vehicles can’t move, our military must “escape and evade” to avoid the enemy at all costs. I’m beginning to think a key factor in this philosophy is that our servicemembers are very weak in the physical aspects of self-defense. When there’s no bullets or weapons, the enemy will be prepared to cause our servicemembers bodily harm with their bare hands.

When will the military wake up and smell the coffee? Hand-to-hand combat training needs to be encouraged beyond basic training. Four hours of attention won’t make up for years of neglect. We need to get tough. Tough and animalistic combat is not just for Navy Seals, Rangers and Special Forces. It’s for every military person who believes that fundamentals establish the foundation for courage, tenacity and just plain professional soldiering.

War is a fighting business. It’s been said over and over again that, “In battle there is no room for second place.” We must improve our knowledge of every aspect of defense, especially personal defense, and not just rely on what we can project from a man-made weapon.

David GonzalesVogelweh, Germany

Kaiserslautern reunion

The Kaiserslautern American High School Alumni Association will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary Reunion in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Oct. 9-12, 2003. For more information, please call me in New Jersey at 732-308-3494 or e-mail me at donnewton@hotmail.com.

Don NewtonFreehold, N.J.

Critics should think twice

As a soldier deployed in the Middle East, I’d like to give heartfelt thanks to all American civilians who support the military. I won’t mislead anybody. Being deployed is rough on everybody, from spouses and family members to the soldiers themselves.

Those who criticize President Bush and our military are technically enjoying their freedom of speech. But let’s look at this criticism from the perspective of soldiers. As we leave our loved ones, our homes and our country for lands unknown, how do these critics think we feel to see the very people who we’re fighting to protect demonstrating against a possible war in Iraq and the soldiers who would fight in it? How do critics think we feel when they second-guess our president? Most soldiers don’t want to go to war any more than the critics do. But if we don’t, who will defend our great nation? Who will defend the liberties that everyone, myself included, takes for granted? Do the critics really want to live in a country where they have no rights or freedom?

The critics should think about these questions the next time they protest any U.S. action against Iraq. They should think about everything deployed soldiers sacrifice to fight for their rights. Would the critics be willing to live for any amount of time in tents that leak, with no hot water for showers? Would they want to not be able to eat whenever they’re hungry? Would they want to work 36 hours, sleep 45 minutes and then go back to work for several hours? And then there’s the ultimate sacrifice. Are they willing to give up their own lives?

It’s very easy to stand on the sidelines and complain about what’s happening. But if the critics really want to know how things are, then they should try walking in the boots of a deployed soldier. They’d learn to appreciate the things in life that they normally take for granted.

Spc. Jacqueline JohnsonIsrael

The meat of the matter

As a vegetarian, I find myself part of a growing community of individuals who, for various reasons, have ceased consuming meat. Our commissary at RAF Lakenheath, England, had started carrying a variety of premade foods that cater to vegetarians, such as the superb Linda McCartney products and Boca items. Neither of these contain genetically modified ingredients.

Several weeks ago, two of the Boca sausage products were discontinued, and recently the Linda McCartney line seems to have been dropped. I’ve spoken with the commissary’s management and to date have not received an explanation for the shrinking vegetarian section. But they did try to put me in touch with the person who handles the Boca line. I’ve not yet heard back.

Vegetarians are part of base communities. I urge folks who enjoy vegetarian meals, which are lower in fat and healthier than animal-based products, to speak up and support their local commissaries’ ability to carry such items and to ensure a proper variety.

Those who are not vegetarian or vegan should try the site www.peta.org and find out about alternatives. If they’re curious about genetically modified foods, they can go to www.truefoodnow.org and learn why most American companies don’t want more specific labeling of their products. The public has a right to know what goes into its food, and it’s good to know that one may obtain healthy foods conveniently.

Joel J. DrouetLakenheath, England

March 12

Protesters not patriots

The letter “Protesters are patriots” (March 5) showed some very flawed reasoning. It sent me to the dictionary to obtain an accurate definition of terms.

A patriot is defined in Webster’s as “one who loves his country and zealously supports its authority and interests.” Are the people protesting the possible war with Iraq supporting the authority and interests of the United States government? On the contrary, I think they are undermining our government.

As far as our form of government being a democracy or “rule of the majority,” we have a democratic form of government, but it’s better defined as a republic. A republic is defined in Webster’s as “a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.”

I think a true patriot has two options. One is to accept the judgment of the current elected administration. Its leaders possess much more information than the average American has. They are responsible for defending our nation. The second option for a patriot is to contact his governmental representatives and express his thoughts and opinions.

Staging anti-war protests during the current situation, especially by Americans outside the United States, is not patriotism. While people may have the legal right to protest a possible war with Iraq, I don’t think it’s reasonable to label these protesters as patriots.

John EmmeringDexheim, Germany

Child custody unfair to fathers

I’ve lived in Stuttgart, Germany, since October 1999. I’m fluent in German, watch only “German” television and am very well-versed in the opinions of the mass media and numerous German friends and acquaintances.

I’m the proud father of a wonderful son. He has U.S. and German citizenship. His mother is German. We were never married. We separated when our son was 8 months old. I was informed of my rights concerning my son by Jugendamt, the agency responsible for child custody matters. By German law, the mother is virtually assured full custody and is automatically given full custody if the parents were not married. I was informed that I’m allowed to see my son for exactly 52 hours each year (every other weekend for two hours) under the supervision of his mother. Other than that, I have no rights whatsoever concerning my own son. I have nothing to say about his future and never will unless his mother voluntarily grants me shared custody. There is no legal recourse. There was no custody hearing, and no one asked any questions concerning the child. It is an automated process reminiscent of the 1930s.

Germany has taken my son away from me completely and laid 100 percent in the hands of his mother any chance of a meaningful relationship between us. As if that was not bad enough, should my son’s mother pass away, I will not be granted custody. Instead, a German judge will decide his fate. Because I am a man, single, a full-time worker, a foreigner and, even worse, an American, I don’t realistically see any chance of a judge granting me custody. Instead, according to every lawyer/father/German official I’ve talked to, my son would be awarded to either his aunt, grandmother or a couple who wanted to adopt him (all Germans, of course). At that point, I’d be entirely removed from my son’s life. Whether I’d be forced to continue to pay the 1,000 euros a month in child support payments is unclear.

While racism is no longer official policy in Germany, sexism and discrimination are. Equality is a goal for which America strives, and child custody in most states is somewhat fair. So I ask my fellow Americans to boycott Germany and all German products until this discrimination against fathers and their children ends.

Jason C. ParkesStuttgart, Germany

Don’t change for terrorists

I commend golfer Tiger Woods and baseball player Kevin Millar for defying the typical professional athlete stereotype of being greedy and money hungry. Woods passed up a $2 million appearance fee by declining to play in the recent Dubai Desert Classic in the Middle East. And that’s not to mention what he could have made by playing in the tourney. Millar pulled out of a $6.2 million, two-year deal with a Japanese team to play for the Boston Red Sox for $5.3 million. Both athletes chose their safety over money. Most of us would not have turned the money down. I now have great respect for both of them.

On the other side of the coin, Woods and Millar were worried about terrorist threats or actions. Who are terrorists? Terrorists are people who spread fear and disrupt everyday life. That’s what these terrorists are doing. We’re letting them win. They don’t have to blow up anything to prove a point. The fact that most people are on the edge of their seats waiting for the next terrorist act and not doing the things they want to do is allowing the terrorists to win.

As I said, I have great respect for Woods and Millar. But I’m not going to let terrorists scare me out of my right to freedom that so many have given their lives for.

Todd J. BraunGermersheim, Germany

Educational benefits

I lament the fact that some Veterans Educational Assistance Program-era servicemembers have been denied Montgomery GI Bill eligibility. I’m referring to the 2001 VEAP-MGIB conversion plan that President Clinton signed into law in the waning days of his presidency. Unfortunately, it left troops who opted not to participate in VEAP out of the conversion plan.

Reasons for passing on the now-defunct VEAP are obvious. Compared with the far more generous Vietnam-era MGIB and present-day MGIB, the VEAP program offered no more than a pittance. Of course, folks back then knew this only too well. Cognizant of the huge disparity between the two programs, servicemembers gave VEAP only a cursory glance. The program failed to generate interest because it didn’t offer enough.

Low enrollment rates and anemic contributions ultimately sealed its fate. That forced drastic changes. VEAP was a dismal failure. Soon after came the superior MGIB program to replace VEAP. But VEAP contributions were used as a prerequisite and justification for MGIB eligibility. One wonders about the reasons behind such a dubious decision.

This legislation can only be construed as egregiously unfair. It allows an individual who joined the military after June 1986 and served two years to receive this benefit, but denies the very same benefit to those who have gone the distance and served at least 20 years. Thankfully, some lawmakers took note and proposed legislation to seek redress. But such measures sadly didn’t amount to anything.

Perhaps VEAP-era personnel have become irrelevant. Younger servicemembers clearly have it much better than their predecessors in just about every category: record promotion rates, retirement options, hefty targeted pay increases, attractive enlistment and retention bonuses, retraining, etc. I realize this is the price to pay to keep recruitment and retention rates from eroding. But one wonders why our senior members are being shortchanged when we’re the ones who have steadfastly stuck by our military through thick and thin. Does loyalty mean anything anymore?

Much has been said about this glaring inequity. But given the realities after Sept. 11, 2001, and the precarious geopolitical climate, I’m doubtful if anyone on Capitol Hill is listening. Even so, the remaining VEAP-era veterans who are still on active duty and I hope that justice will be done, and the same educational benefits that the rest of our servicemembers now enjoy will someday be afforded to us.

Manuel W. YaptangcoOsan Air Base, South Korea

Accusations warrant apology

It has been almost two years since the brutal murder of Jamie Penich. At the time of the investigations, there were many letters written by her family and friends to this newspaper. In the beginning the search was focused on American, male soldiers. I cannot recall how many of the letters called the men “brutal animals, unclean barbarians,” etc. It was even to the point of suggesting that all of us in the military were “knuckle-draggers.”

A year or so after the investigation resulted in charges against a female fellow student, I still have not heard one apology. These brave Americans who put their lives on the line daily haven’t once heard: “We’re sorry.” How many soldiers had the bejeesus scared out of them when Criminal Investigation Command officials came knocking on their door? Does anyone have a clue as to how frightening that is? Then to just let the men go without an apology? That is like a slap in the face to all who serve.

I hope Jamie’s family and friends sleep well at night knowing that those “barbarians” are on watch, keeping them safe.

Stephen J. SaucierYokosuka Naval Base, Japan

Restructuring talk untimely

There’s been much talk recently of thinning out U.S. troops in Germany. Gen. James Jones seems to be a proponent of the idea that the United States should shift troops east and begin to reduce troops in Germany. Asked why this is being brought up now, Gen. Jones said, “Timing is everything.” But it’s clear that the timing is bad.

It’s a tribute to democracy when people and their governments express their respective opinions. The U.S. and German governments have differing opinions on Iraq. That’s all part of democratic governments working together, isn’t it? It should happen without repercussions.

It’s a tribute to German-American relations that the recent flurry of anti-war protests haven’t had a strong anti-American undercurrent. Quick to criticize and even parody their own leaders, Germans have protested against President Bush and his Iraq policy, just as have their American counterparts. Germans haven’t criticized Americans. They’ve voiced their opinions about present American government policy. They have that right. Other issues shouldn’t be discussed. It’s like a husband and wife bringing up unrelated points in an argument. It’s a cheap shot.

The New York Times has reported that some lawmakers have called for the Pentagon to pull U.S. troops out of Germany to punish German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for his refusal to support a war on Iraq. That’s a cheap shot. The Times also said that Gen. Jones insisted his plans have nothing to do with the trans-Atlantic tension. If that’s true, why the talk of reducing forces in Germany now? Shouldn’t that be tabled for later out of respect for German-American relations?

The German newspaper Die Welt quoted German Defense Minister Peter Struck as saying that no troop reductions have been discussed with him. If the United States insists on talking about this unrelated issue now, the least it can do is discuss it with the people on whom it would have the greatest effect. Another group directly affected would be families living overseas. Doesn’t such talk put added stress on military families already dealing with deployments?

Perhaps it’s true that this move would be in America’s best interests financially and militarily. But a key factor in this discussion is missing. We discuss 50 years of infrastructure as an advantage for staying. What about 50 years of intercultural relations? This can’t be argued with dollars or statistics, but it can’t be underestimated.

Because of these intercultural relations, troop-cut talks should be tabled until the Iraq war issue is resolved. The appropriate way to deal with troop realignments is to consider the German government’s input and wait until the proper time.

For the most part German anti-war protests have not become anti-American. We should return the favor. That’s the least we democratic Americans can do.

Dennis OsborneHeidelberg, Germany

Soldiers have it hardest

I’d like to respond to the Feb. 25 letter “Wives work through worries.” I’m the spouse of a deployed Army soldier, and the letter offended me.

As a military spouse, I know deployments will happen. It’s a fact of military life. Spouses are left with much uncertainty in these times and, yes, it’s hard to be left behind.

But let’s not forget that we still have the comforts of our homes. We can still sleep in our own beds and kiss our children good night.

We’re not missing our children’s milestones and accomplishments. We’re able to take hot showers. We don’t wake up with sand all over us and in our clothes.

The soldiers are the ones who have it hardest. They’re the ones who had to pack their bags and literally walk away from their daily lives to go perform their jobs. Let’s not lose perspective about that.

Holly KuekerIllesheim, Germany

March 13

Reservist’s employment

This is in regard to the article “Ombudsman teams smooth differences for reservists and their civilian employers” (March 6). It addressed some employment issues confronting reservists. But it didn’t appear to take the matter seriously. It made light of the problem at times. The article also failed to address the law regarding reservists and their rights. Instead, it focused on what reservists are not entitled to.

While myriad questions are being raised regarding what employers may or may not do to reservists in their employ, Title 38 of the U.S. Code clearly states that “… an employer may not discriminate in employment against or take any adverse employment action against any person … (who is a member of … a uniformed service)… .” Furthermore, “an employer shall be considered to have engaged in action prohibited … if the person’s membership … in the uniformed services is a motivating factor in the employer’s action … .”

My husband’s been a reservist for 14 years. He’s been employed as a civilian at the Warrior Preparation Center in Einsiedlerhof, Germany, for the past three years. He’s a model employee and received an award for his initiative and hard work. A year ago, my husband was offered a two-year extension by his ex-supervisor. My husband accepted. All parties signing the contract knew my husband is a reservist, including his supervisor and the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center.

But last month, after advising his current supervisor that he expected to be activated, my husband’s two-year extension was rescinded by his supervisor, with the full support of his vice commander and commander. My husband was told that if he agreed to get out of the Reserves, his two-year extension would be reinstated.

My husband sought help from the WPC employee advocate and the CPAC management-employee representative. He was told it was “no big deal,” and to enroll in priority placement and find another job.

My husband has a master’s degree in electrical engineering. He’s bright and talented. I have no doubt that he’ll get another job. That’s not the issue. The issue is that he shouldn’t lose his current job because he’s a reservist, and he shouldn’t have to look for work while on active duty.

My husband has been activated and is proudly serving his country. We realized this would be a sacrifice at times. But we never imagined that my husband would be, in effect, fired from his civilian position because of his desire and commitment to serve his country. My husband is a man of integrity and a patriot to the core. He’s fulfilling his obligations to his country and government, even as those around him are failing to fulfill their obligations.

Employers — particularly those in the government sector — should familiarize themselves with the laws pertaining to reservists. Reservists should be protected, and not just because it’s the right thing to do.

Magdalena De SalmeRamstein, Germany

Flawed letters

I recently read two letters that were really flawed regarding historical information. The letter “Oil and revenge” (Feb. 28) 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 John F. Kennedy and German leader Willy Brandt tore down the wall, I must inform him that President Ronald 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 letter “Loves U.S., but is anti-war” (March 2) 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 the fact 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 anytime 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

All making sacrifices

This is in regard to the March 12 letter “Soldiers have it hardest.” Why do we continue to compare who has it worst — deployed soldiers or the spouses left behind? The last time I checked, we’re all making sacrifices during these deployments. It would be unfair and unwise to assume that the jobs of deployed soldiers and their spouses are even remotely comparable. In very different ways, we’re all doing our best to survive this most unnatural time of separation and uncertainty.

My husband has been deployed for a little more than a month now. I couldn’t be more proud of him and all the troops who have given up the comforts of home in these troubled times. But I know he can perform his job better with the knowledge that I’m providing a positive environment for me and our two small daughters. I’m blessed with a very active Family Readiness Group and a caring and supportive FRG leader, Lynn Snyder. I feel myself growing stronger each day that my husband is gone. (I’ve had to do everything from killing spiders to servicing the car.) Naturally some days are better than others, but I’m developing the skills necessary to cope. Does that mean I’m more patriotic than another wife who expresses her unhappiness or frustration with the deployment? Of course not.

Some of us handle things better than others. So why don’t we stop getting offended by disheartened spouses who express their despair and start supporting one another? Seasoned military spouses who have faced numerous deployments or those who just have some advice about what’s worked for them should share it with others who might need some encouragement.

We must stop invalidating each other’s feelings and worth with all this needless comparing. Yes, deployed soldiers have it rough. Yes, spouses who are left behind have it rough. We can all agree on that. So we should find ways to help each other smooth out the rough spots. We’re all in this together for the long haul.

Sharon Berry-BrownGiebelstadt, Germany

March 14

Swearing not unladylike

Was the writer of the letter “Swearing by women” (March 9) 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 or anyone I know think 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

AAFES’ finances

I’m glad we have AAFES in Europe. I think it’s doing a good job. But I wonder if AAFES’ contributions to the military community are enough.

As I understand it, AAFES pays no state and federal taxes. When it builds a new facility, it pays for the construction but is given the land free. It also doesn’t pay for any of the utilities it uses (water, sewage, heat, and electricity) or any of the basic infrastructure that’s provided.

When customers buy gasoline at AAFES facilities, they pay the average U.S. retail price. Doesn’t the U.S. average price also include state and federal taxes? So shouldn’t the price charged by AAFES be lower than the U.S. average? If it costs more to issue coupons, then coupon buyers should be charged more and cash customers should get a discount. This would encourage patrons to use cash or credit cards and fewer coupons would be used. I wouldn’t want to do without my coupons when driving on the economy, so I’d pay more than the on-post price of gasoline for the privilege.

When AAFES sells a carton of cigarettes, the customer is charged about $32. Isn’t AAFES’ wholesale price somewhere around $10, less state and federal taxes? I realize higher cigarette prices were set to deter smoking, but someone is making a nice profit. Since AAFES also supplies the commissaries, is AAFES also making profits on all commissary cigarette sales?

Then there are liquor sales. AAFES has a monopoly on base. Again, there are no federal and state taxes on the products sold.

Last but not least are the on-base concessionaires. Do the fast-food enterprises pay utility costs, or are the utilities provided for free? In fast-food enterprises, utility costs can be significant. If utility-intensive concessionaires are provided free utilities, then the 15 percent cut that AAFES takes is too small.

I assume that some of the product markups are used to defer shipping costs to get merchandise from the States. But I’d also assume that items coming from the Asian-Pacific region are shipped directly to Europe at no additional cost, since shipping them to the States or Europe would be a wash.

I also realize it costs money to set up outlets in forward-deployed locations, and some of the profits generated are used for this purpose.

Most of my questions may have logical answers. It would be nice if AAFES made an annual financial disclosure to its patrons. Perhaps Stars and Stripes could print an annual disclosure or it could be made available in various AAFES outlets.

Dennis Mc AvoyRamstein Air Base, Germany

Servicemembers are patriots

This is in regard to the letter “Protesters are patriots” (March 5). 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

March 15

Defending America

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 into 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

Sperm banking

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 that soldiers might be exposed to which 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 two 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

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