Letters to the editor for Sunday, December 7, 2003

By STARS AND STRIPES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 7, 2003

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)

GI-Iraqi marriage

How I wish I could jump on the “Romeo and Juliet” bandwagon and feel anything good about the story “Discharge for GI who married while on patrol” (Dec. 3). How I wish I could believe that Sgt. Sean Blackwell was only “guilty of falling in love,” as his attorney claimed. Unfortunately, he’s guilty of much more than that. He’s guilty of putting every soldier in his unit at risk. I’ll take it a step further. He put every soldier in Iraq at risk. He took “a break from a foot patrol in Baghdad” to marry. He took a break from his patrol! In Baghdad! His mind was nowhere near his patrol. It was not at all on protecting his fellow soldiers.

If this happy day had turned tragic, if for some reason Sgt. Blackwell’s new wife had been pressured into divulging the location of their meeting to violent people who wanted dearly to exterminate all American presence in Iraq, there is no telling what it could have mushroomed into. Sgt. Blackwell put himself, his beloved, and his unit at risk.

Every time an American soldier is wounded or killed, it rattles all of us – the soldiers in Iraq included. If Sgt. Blackwell’s nuptials had turned deadly, every soldier serving in Iraq would be just that much less pulled together, just a pinch more distracted or scared. Our soldiers need to know that they can count on every single member of their unit. And speaking from personal experience, so do the family members who are waiting for them to come home.

Let’s just get this clear. Sgt. Blackwell is not being discharged because he fell in love. (This is the part of the story that makes me feel like I’m talking with a 15-year-old girl.) If it’s really love, the wedding could have waited. Sgt. Blackwell should have gotten his job done, and when his obligations to his country and his unit were fulfilled, he could have done whatever he felt was right. However, Sgt. Blackwell should not have dared to put anybody else’s son, daughter, husband, wife, mother or father at risk while he did it.

Jeannine Gabel
Babenhausen, Germany

Thanksgiving visit

So the boss came to visit us on Thanksgiving, under wraps and under the American flag. Thanks for coming. Oh thank you, kind leader, merciful leader, for taking one day out of your busy schedule to visit us. The shepherd looking over his flock. Thanks for making the sacrifice. God knows we’re making one. Re-election is coming up, but that had nothing to do with it, now did it?

I remember your victorious landing on the ship. Oh how all those then alive, and now dead, would love to sit down next to you, cutting their families’ turkeys and filling the empty seats at the tables. Leader of the free world, be our guest at the head of our table. Or would you like to sit in one of the many empty seats left by the war? There’s plenty of room. Enough turkey and stuffing to go around. Fat and happy, delirious and exhausted. That’s how I feel.

In a hurry? Going so soon? Have time for questions? You sure do have time for compliments. Do you ever feel responsible? I’m tired of this. Go back home to the ranch and tell them how happy and fulfilling the trip made you feel.

Spc. Damian Torres

AFN and military values

I can’t say that I’m shocked, but I thought the last of the OxyContin would’ve dissolved in Rush Limbaugh’s system before the letters calling for his ouster were published. So now we need to take Limbaugh’s show off AFN radio because he doesn’t display military values? Why stop there? We must also find other AFN shows that don’t meet or represent military values. So here goes.

Dr. Laura must go because risqué photos of her were posted on the Internet. National Public Radio must go because it tends to have a liberal slant, and that’s the opposite of military thinking. Click N’ Clack must go because the brothers tell people how to fix their cars, and the internal combustion engine is the single greatest danger to the environment, at least according to Al Gore. Tom Joyner must go because, well, he’s Tom Joyner.

Don’t forget about television. There are many shows that blatantly turn up their noses at military values. “Will and Grace” has homosexual characters. The same goes for the Teletubbies. The purple one carries a purse and there are homosexual symbols in the show. At least that’s what Jerry Falwell said. “That 70s Show” must go because we can’t have kids using drugs. “Bernie Mac” spanks his kids on his show. That’s not discipline, that’s child abuse. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Charmed” must go because of witchcraft and occult practices.

AFN also showed the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. Lingerie-clad women strutting up and down a runway should send shock waves through the entire military value system. I’m appalled. I can’t, as a heterosexual man in the military, be subjected to that. It forces me to flush my eyes out with holy water.

AFN airs sports. We can’t have that. Football and rugby promote violence. There’s steroid use in baseball. Wrestling has sexual overtones and violence. Golf doesn’t have enough diversity. Women tennis players are made out to be sexual objects. Hockey? Forget about it.

What about movies? There’s too much violence, sex, drug use, crime, and other unacceptable behavior shown on the idiot box.

This constant barrage of valueless programming affects our morale and well-being. Therefore, I’m calling for a complete overhaul of AFN. Only programs that we can all agree upon should be aired. The shows must represent the highest quality of military values and ideals. Of course, that’s never going to happen. So I recommend that people who come across programs that don’t meet their standards or military values should click the power button to off and go read a book. And make sure it’s not Mark Twain. It could offend.

Chris Robinson
Petty Officer 2nd Class
Vicenza, Italy

National Public Radio

I understand that the writer of the letter “Rush on AFN” (Nov. 15) claimed that in my capacity as ombudsman for National Public Radio, I “recently admitted to a liberal bias in NPR’s talk programming.” Actually, I said no such thing. Readers can look up the column on the NPR Web site  [http://www.npr.org/yourturn/ombudsman/2003/031015.html] and judge for themselves.

I noted that Fox’s Bill O’Reilly was interviewed on the program “Fresh Air with Terry Gross.” Some listeners complained that Ms. Gross seemed to have it in for Mr. O’Reilly. I wrote that “the interview only served to confirm the belief, held by some, in NPR’s liberal media bias.” It was a tough interview that so upset Mr. O’Reilly that he stormed out of the interview.

In fact, NPR has no editorial position either left or right. NPR’s editorial goal is to present the facts and a range of opinions around events that will allow listeners, as citizens, to make up their own minds.

That is a more appropriate definition of “fair and balanced” journalism, in my opinion.

Jeffrey Dvorkin
National Public Radio Ombudsman
Washington, D.C.

Chaplain’s story excellent

Ward Sanderson’s “War in the Chaplain Corps” (Nov. 23) was stunningly good. My kudos are stammeringly insufficient.

It’s obvious Mr. Sanderson did his research. We saw aerial views of majestic mountain tops. We know the valleys. “Been there, done that, and got the coffee mug too, yes suh.” Also the mountain tops. Been there too. Hence, it was abundantly clear the research was done.

Not just Europe and the Pacific, but also in the United States, “War in the Chaplain Corps” was read widely at legacy.stripes.com. Thousands received it here in the U.S. It got wide play in the “Early Bird” at the Pentagon.

The story was balanced and objective. Contrasting views were offered. Think tanks, First Amendment law firms, and constitutional leaders were introduced. Of note was attorney Steve Aden of the Rutherford Institute and his law review article, “The Navy’s Perfect Storm” and likening this “War in the Chaplain Corps” to the civil rights battles of the 1960s.

The interview with Congressman Walter Jones of the House Armed Services Committee and his pledge to pursue congressional hearings was of vital interest.

The story also identified the contributions of Cmdr. Stan Aufderheide, CHC, U.S. Navy. One wag correctly noted that Cmdr. Aufderheide “kicked the door down”... and then the “tank divisions.” Today, field commanders man the entire battle line.

The story also focused on the magnitude of issues. Upward of 2,000 Navy chaplains are in the largest class action lawsuit in 228 years of military history. This has galvanized evangelical chaplains across the nation. There have been denominational calls for reform from two of America’s largest evangelical denominations. Taken together, they dwarf the sideline communities combined. There is the potential loss of millions of dollars, national press stories, and hearings in the House Armed Services Committee.

I salute our servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan. As they secure freedom for others, we chaplains are doing the same. We hate war, but unfortunately it’s sometimes necessary. Like our servicemembers, we shall finish what we’ve started.

I also salute the free press and Stars and Stripes for its well-researched, widely-read, balanced, objective and comprehensive coverage of “War in the Chaplain Corps.”

D. Philip Veitch
Jacksonville, N.C.

Pacific edition

West went too far

I’ve read about the plight of Army Lt. Col. Allen B. West. I’ve also read with much disgust and revulsion the thinking of some individuals who support him.

Everyone shouts, “This is war.” Sorry, folks. This is not war. While I support the efforts of those involved in Iraq, readers must remember that no declaration of war exists and never has. Who are we at war with? There is no Iraqi army. Terrorists? Who are they, and where are they?

World War I and World War II were wars. I’m not sure anyone knows what to call Iraq, but it’s not a war. The purpose of invading Iraq was to remove a tyrant from power. Major combat operations ceased some time ago. Yes, Americans are being killed on a daily basis, but not by well-trained troops. There are more U.S. servicemembers being killed on a daily basis in automobile accidents in the United States than there are dying in combat operations in Iraq.

When Lt. Col. West interrogated a person allegedly involved in planning an attack, took that person outside the detention facility, placed a gun next to his head and pulled the trigger twice, he crossed the line. Lt. Col. West himself became a terrorist. Lt. Col. West may have had inside information about a possible attack, but he should have left it to the experts to obtain that information and put his troops on higher alert.

Taken as a whole, the actions of Lt. Col. West were along the same lines as the war criminals of Japan, Germany and Italy in World War II. Some were arrested, tried, convicted and even executed for their actions. They were guilty of murder, torture, inhumane treatment of prisoners, and stepping outside the rules of war. Lt. Col. West stepped across the line. He admits it and seems proud of it.

If an interrogator put a gun next to a suspect’s head and asked questions, the suspect would say something, regardless of whether it was true, just to save his life. Lt. Col. West obtained some information. But how was he to know if it was truthful or not?

Lt. Col. West needs to face the bar for his actions, and I hope that justice is swift and sure. Lt. Col. West may not need to be imprisoned for his actions, but a total loss of benefits and a dishonorable discharge are in order.

Walter J. Irwin
Ludwigshafen, Germany

Fallen soldier one of best

I recently opened the latest edition of Stars and Stripes that my unit had received, dated Nov. 26. Normally I don’t read the names of reported casualties, but for some reason I was drawn to them. To my complete dismay, the last name mentioned was that of Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Wilson, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. The shock I felt was strong. When I was a young soldier, I served under Command Sgt. Maj. Wilson’s influence in 2/1 Infantry, Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

He was one of the best, if not the best, noncommissioned officers with whom I’ve ever served. This man showed hard love to all of us in the battalion, and he genuinely cared for all of us. Our unit was the best infantry unit the Army probably had, and that’s how he made us feel.

Since coming to Iraq and knowing of his position in the 101st, I’d been hoping to see him sometime out here. This won’t happen because he died in Mosul, doing what I know he loved most, serving his country. From his intimidating demeanor to his long Southern drawl, I’ll miss Command Sgt. Maj. Wilson, knowing I won’t have the chance to ever serve in one of his fine units again. I pray for his family and for the soldiers of the 502nd. I don’t have to think twice to know that they’ll miss him greatly.

Instead of the constant complaining about serving one year here in Iraq, let’s be thankful that we’re still here. Every night the majority of soldiers in Iraq eat warm meals, sleep well, and will go home. This is a tough year, but only one year. Some soldiers might come back. But if they do, it’s only their dedication to the cause that will bring them back. We can all ETS eventually. If some don’t, why complain? Just like Command Sgt. Maj. Wilson, this is our calling. We fight for our country, our children and our loved ones. Let’s not forget.

Sgt. Jason Kucera
LSA Anaconda, Iraq

Thanks to GIs downrange

I want to say thanks to everyone serving all around the world. I’m stationed in Hanau, Germany, and I think about my friends downrange all the time. We see a lot of negative things in the newspaper, some of which are very valid. But I just want to get across to everyone that they’re in my thoughts and prayers.

I look for e-mails from my friends downrange every day just so I know that they’re doing OK. I thank everyone for the hard work they’re doing and I wish them the best.

Sgt. 1st Class Christine Brosius
Hanau, Germany