Letters to the Editor for Monday, February 28, 2005

By STARS AND STRIPES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 28, 2005

European and Mideast editions

(EDITOR’S NOTE: These are the letters that appeared in each edition of Stripes on this publication date. Click here to jump ahead to the Pacific edition letters)

Pacific’s $2 off gas coupons

In response to “AAFES can’t spin away taxes" (letter, Feb. 24), asking if there are coupons in the Pacific theater for $2 off gasoline, the answer is yes, there are.

I used them until I transferred to Germany in November. These coupons are a nice little savings. In fact, Army and Air Force Exchange Service Pacific offers coupons for $4 off haircuts, $3 off dry cleaning and many others every week! I always assumed that it was AAFES’ way of “giving back” to the community. I guess it only applies if you are stationed in Japan.

I guess now the big complaint is going to be that AAFES is raising prices on gas again by 10 cents. Funny thing is that the article says that, in the States, the average is $1.89. So why then does AAFES think it needs to raise prices to $2.07 for regular unleaded in Germany? I am surely not a math major (ask anyone) but, if the average on Thursday in the States was $1.89, how can AAFES justify charging its customers in Germany 18 cents more a gallon starting March 1?

Don’t even get me started on the other gouging that AAFES does here in Europe; for example, all of its combo meals at its restaurants (Burger King, Popeye’s, Charlies, etc.) cost more than a dollar more here than they do in Japan.

How many millions of dollars does AAFES make a year off the extra dollar it charges us every day?

Maybe it’s time for the AAFES regional managers to talk, and get things straight; otherwise the folks serving in Europe will, and should, feel slighted.

Come on, AAFES, it’s time to do the right thing for all the people you “serve”!

Master Sgt. Shawn Sorensen
Ramstein Air Base, Germany

Some camo changes puzzling

In regards to the Feb. 10 article “Army now issuing new camo uniforms,” I wonder why some of the changes were made.

I applaud the angled breast pockets (they’re easier to access when wearing Interceptor Body Armor); new ankle pockets (can be accessed when seated in a Humvee); wicking T-shirt (they sure stay cool), and other improvements.

But I cannot understand why the Army would put the rank on the center of the chest where no one can see it? Or, why not fabric badges instead of pin-on? I cannot understand the pin-on badges and rank placement? I have yet to speak with a soldier who can understand those two changes.

2nd Lt. Justin Baty
Camp Bucca, Iraq

Beret offers individuality

I thoroughly enjoyed “Bring back patrol cap” (letter, Feb. 22).

As a Brit embedded in Iraq, I would like to offer a slightly different view of the beret, which has been worn in all theaters by the British army in recent years.

The beret offers a degree of individuality through shaping and angle of wear.

In the British army, fashions vary from regiment to regiment — and officers and enlisted personnel can normally be identified by the way in which the beret is worn. Shock, horror within a homogenous society! However, it does have the ability to humanize those of us who wear the beret.

Properly fitted and shaped, it is comfortable and — while offering no ballistic protection — when the situation allows, it can reduce tensions on the street. For day-to-day wear and most jobs, it is ideal.

Having thrown caution to the wind and put this missive forward, I hope that the beret issue does not raise emotions as the Combat Infantryman Badge has.

Lt. Col. Simon Wilson

Look at the whole picture

The writer of “‘Separation’ isn’t mentioned” (letter, Feb. 9) is correct: There are no words in the First Amendment saying: “There shall be a separation, an impenetrable wall if you will, between church and state and never shall the two mix.”

However, let me take this opportunity to educate the writer, as he — and I am sure many others — are only looking at half of the picture when attempting to argue constitutional issues.

Don’t forget about the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, which possesses the power of judicial review to interpret the Constitution. Supreme Court rulings and decisions become law. In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the Supreme Court set fourth a definition of the Establishment Clause: “Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force … a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will, or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.”

The court also held that government may not participate in religious affairs or impose taxes for their support.

“In the words of Thomas Jefferson,” said the court, the Establishment Clause “was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between church and State.’”

Capt. Adam Jonasz
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

Do we need to be here?

A lot of people ask, do we really need to be here [in Iraq]? To me, the answer is most certainly yes.

While other members of my company flew up to get to our base, I was able to participate in a convoy. I was able to see the country firsthand.

Politically, we won a war that needed fighting but, on the ground, the children were without shoes. Many were begging for food. The ground literally looked like an apocalyptic wasteland. Getting into Baghdad and the more urban areas, there was a semblance of infrastructure.

A form of government is necessary, if only to put the will of the people into cohesive form and to set a course of action toward that goal. With a new government, Iraq would be able to embark on a course that would improve the quality of life, create jobs, and promote spiritual and economic growth.

With this would be the need to improve education. There was a time, under the banner of Islam, when Baghdad was known for its scholars, mathematicians, medicine and poetry.

With time and the guidance of a government dedicated to improving the living conditions of its people, Iraq might be able to achieve this again. First, however, the Iraqi people must endure the tribulation of terrorists, people who would by threat of bomb or rifle try to force the people away from actions they themselves would choose. These are the actions of a few scared men and women whose actions are destroying the very people they claim to represent.

The future stewards of Iraq’s society will very shortly be chosen by the Iraqi people. The guardians of Iraq’s society will be an Iraqi army. The laws of Iraqi society will be enforced by an Iraqi police force. That’s my two cents.

Staff Sgt. Todd Samuelson

Trudeau strip a ‘piece of crap’

As a Marine colonel based in Iraq, I am offended that the supposed “newspaper” of the services would choose to include [“Doonesbury”], that left-wing-subcutaneous-slandering piece-of-crap comic by [Garry] Trudeau. Can’t Stripes find anything better on which to spend its money?

Col. John Crook
Al Asad Air Base, Iraq


Pacific edition

Iraqis will fight for freedom

My fellow cadre members and I are really disappointed in the articles “Finding stability and leadership” and “Training Iraqi troops is slow going for U.S.” (Feb. 19).

We have been members of the Company A, 302nd Iraqi National Guard Battalion cadre posted in Baghdad for the last 10 out of 12 months. We cover an area twice the size of the peninsula and patrol one of the hottest areas in the region, Haifa Street.

When we read these articles, it was disheartening to know that the U.S. military leadership believes that the new soldiers of Iraq won’t fight.

We have been with the Iraqi National Guard since its infant days as the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. We have been there to teach and train these men daily, and most of the training is hands-on while on patrol, while bullets, grenades and rocket-propelled grenades are coming and going from anti-Iraqi forces. To say that these men who have volunteered to fight for their country won’t fight is degrading not only to the men who have been training them but to the soldiers who fight and die daily for their country.

I suggest that Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, or anyone else who believes that these men won’t fight, come on patrol with us and see these men from the Iraqi National Guard of the 302nd and they will see men who believe in what they are fighting for: their country’s freedom.

Staff Sgt. James L. Martin

What a love story

Thanks for telling the story in the Feb. 19 edition about Joey and Jayme Bozik’s love story (“‘I’ve never been happier in my whole life’”). What an example of strength on his part, commitment on her part, and their love for each other for all of us to remember as we love our wives.

It truly blessed my heart and encouraged me as I read the story. With so much negative news, it was a great story and I hope they are able to read this letter.

Steve Shenk

Wife, mom of 11, is his hero

Stripes recently published an article about Johnnie Chennault, a naval reservist with 11 children who is going to Iraq for seven or eight months (“Missing the little things,” Feb. 15).

I would like to tell readers about my hero. My wife, Patricia, has taken care of our 11 children (all ours) for the past 14 months while I have been in Iraq.

She has supported me and our cause wholeheartedly, while giving each of our children the time and attention I could not in my absence. She has braved broken cars, washers and refrigerators. She has dealt with our family’s finances. She has helped the little ones understand why Daddy can’t be there for them when they are sad or scared, because he’s helping the people in Iraq.

She hasn’t complained or felt her sacrifice and contribution were any greater than anyone else’s.

I get to wear a combat patch for the rest of my career, but my wife is the true hero. I just thought readers might like to know.

Maj. David Miller
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

The following commentary appeared on today's Pacific letters page:

A conscientious objector speaks out

By Pablo Paredes

On Dec. 6, as my fellow sailors and Marines boarded the USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego, I decided that I could not join them.

After years of serving in the Navy, I would not assent to participate in a mission I knew would lead to the loss of human life.

There are no winners in war. There are only those who lose their life, those who lose someone close to them and those who lose their humanity — but none who win.

In my time in the Navy, I was not killing or hurting anyone, just trying to make ends meet. Eventually, I understood that I could not be a part of an organization whose sole purpose is violence. I could not hold a job that required me to take other people’s lives to make my own living. My uniform became a badge of shame, and I could “study war no more.”

The choice not to serve in war may mean serious consequences for me, including perhaps having to spend time in prison. But I have no regrets. The penalties of refusing to kill are far less than the toll that assisting in the acts of war would take on my humanity and my conscience.

As I prepared to file for conscientious objector status, many of my fellow sailors tried to talk me out of my decision, saying that to leave the military under such circumstances would ruin my life.

Instead, I realized, being complicit in the deaths of others would mean that life would have no meaning at all.

My evolution in becoming a conscientious objector has been a long process. I grew up on the tough streets of the Bronx, a dog-eat-dog environment where violence is part of the daily fabric of drug dealing, gambling and gang warfare. Coming from such a place, a stint in the Navy seemed like an opportunity for escape, a chance to experience the wider world.

I did, in fact, get to journey around the globe. In my travels and exposure to other cultures I also experienced a personal journey and came to realize that I could not bring myself to kill. It may seem ironic, but it was through serving in the military that I learned I was not born to be a warrior.

During my time in the service I always sought out those tasks where I knew I would not be called upon to push a button that would take a life.

But when I was assigned to the Bonhomme Richard, I knew that the days of tunnel vision were over. The ship was taking Marines to Iraq, and boarding it would make me complicit in the violence they were bound for.

Every person on this planet is part of the same single humanity. This means that to kill another person is not simply murder — but something inside of you also dies.

Part of my beliefs come from my upbringing as a Catholic. My experience as an altar boy and, later, a Sunday School teacher, taught me that we should not look to war as a means of solving disputes or attaining economic or political power. It also taught me that force is not justifiable, especially when all other options have not been exhausted. What’s more, violence brings only more violence.

The Beatitude states: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

And there is the sacred commandment: “Thou shall not kill.”

I shall not kill. Not because I live my life by a set of commandments, but because my conscience echoes them. That is what guides me, and I will follow it — even if, as seems likely, it leads me to the cold of a military brig.

Pablo Paredes has been in the U.S. Navy since 2000. He is now being confined at San Diego Naval Station as the Navy reviews his conscientious objector application.