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Letters to the editor for Thursday, January 29, 2004

By STARS AND STRIPES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 29, 2004

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)

On deployment, not TDY

I’d like to comment on the letter “Poor conditions” (Jan. 25). It’s obvious the writer is a first-time deployed soldier. The “hardship” that he wrote about is because he’s on deployment, not TDY. Going from Iraq to Kuwait didn’t put the writer in a “safe zone.” He still needs to be alert to his surroundings.

The writer’s selfishness ranks up there with his ignorance. Apparently his senior leaders haven’t educated the writer on the history of those who served in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and so on. Many soldiers and Marines alike slept in foxholes without cover, on the ground. They went many days without changing clothes or having a decent meal.

My uncle, Command Sgt. Maj. Warren Stone (Ret.), served in the Korean War, and his bed was his supply truck. I served in Desert Storm one week after I joined active duty, and I spent most of my time doing details and sitting in a foxhole with my M-16 and AT4. With deployments in between, I also served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and I was quite impressed with the way the Army accommodates troops to boost morale compared to when I first joined.

The bottom line is that the writer shouldn’t bust other soldiers’ morale because he doesn’t have a comfy bed to sleep in. He should remember that he’s still on a mission. It could be worse. The writer could still be in Iraq. If the writer is this adamant about his conditions, he should use his chain of command and make suggestions to upgrade the facilities. Importantly, he should also set a positive example for the new soldiers coming up in the ranks. The writer should do what he can with what he currently has and drive on.

Sgt. Kellyanne Stone
Heidelberg, Germany

Iraq is a hardship tour

I’m the proud daughter of a retired Army officer and an even prouder wife of a combat engineer currently stationed in Iraq. Although I may not always agree with the Army’s policies or “reasons” for doing things, I’m generally in agreement with its decisions and understand the reasoning behind them. But it recently came to my attention that for whatever reason, Iraq is not considered a hardship tour.

My husband deployed to Iraq on Jan. 10, and although it’s only been several days since he departed, I can assure readers that it couldn’t possibly be any harder on me or my children. But please don’t make the mistake of imagining a helpless woman with tear-filled eyes on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I’m a very independent woman, and I’m managing very well with day-to-day life despite the hurt I feel inside. But although I realize it’s my husband’s duty as a soldier to serve wherever and whenever, it doesn’t make it any easier emotionally to lose my best friend.

I’m not sure what person or committee decided that Iraq doesn’t need to be considered a hardship tour, but I feel strongly that those on the committee aren’t in jeopardy of leaving their families for 12 to 15 months for Iraq, returning home for 60 days, and then being ripped away again for another 12 months to Korea. Although this doesn’t happen to everyone (thank God), it’s happened to several soldiers who I know personally.

Sometimes the situation may be reversed and they may have come from Korea, been stabilized in the States for 60 days, and then whisked off to Iraq for 12 to 15 months. As far as I know, the only thing that makes this possible is the fact that Iraq is not a “hardship tour” and Korea is. Family members are generally not permitted to accompany their sponsors to Korea unless they’re granted a command-sponsored three-year tour. What part of “cannot take your families to Iraq” is eluding them? And that’s not to mention the rising death toll daily!

I love my country and would never consider for one minute turning my back on it. But is it truly right or fair for the Army to preach “family support” and then separate a family unnecessarily for two years? I couldn’t possibly be any prouder of my husband, and in the event he’s one of the unlucky ones who has to serve out another 12-month tour after Iraq, then I’ll continue to wait for him.

One of the Army’s current major concerns is re-enlistments. Sure, an extra pay incentive would be fabulous. But here’s a novel idea: A little compassion and understanding would go a long way. The Army should take into consideration some of its unrealistic expectations of soldiers and their families.

Michelle Toilolo
Fort Hood, Texas

Gas coupons

I’m not sure what a fair price for gas is or should be, but the Army and Air Force Exchange Service often claims that the reason gas prices are higher than many of us think is reasonable is because of the cost of administering and producing gas coupons for use off post.

I’m sure there’s a considerable expense for this service. But has anyone asked AAFES how many coupons are sold but never redeemed because they’re lost or they expire unredeemed, and how much profit this generates for AAFES?

Jeff Dykeman
Vilseck, Germany

‘Oh’ not a number

This is in regard to the letter “It’s twenty -oh-four” (Jan. 25). Excuse me, but “oh” is not a number! Sure, “oh” and “zero” are both round, circular things, but they occupy different buttons on the keyboard, and most fonts distinguish them.

Calling our year “twenty-oh-four” is a bad idea. As a designation of the number of a year, it is a different usage than all the modern languages I know. They would call it “two thousand four.” And while “twenty-oh-four” might confound our enemies, it would confuse our friends. Worst of all, this confusion would be bad for business and tourism.

I suggest calling the year “twenty aught four.” “Aught” is short for “naught,” meaning “nothing” or “zero.” This is the usage of my wife’s honored grandfather. But of course he used it for a different century. And this would lead to calling the decade “the Aughts,” certainly much better than the “Ohs.”

If Army procurement officers are going to adapt a new rifle or cartridge in the near future, they should do so in 2006. We oldies and gun nuts would appreciate it.

Ellis M. Madsen
Würzburg, Germany

Dogs critic narrow-minded

This is in regard to the letter “Dangerous dogs” (Jan. 22). The writer’s condemnation of Rottweilers, pit bulls and Dobermans and his wanting to kill all of them shows his narrow-mindedness.

I own an almost 2-year-old Rottweiler. He’s been one of the best dogs I’ve ever owned, and I’ve had my fair share over the years. My question to the writer is, what breed of dog goes after those three are gone? The German shepherd? The St. Bernard? ( I saw “Cujo.”) Even the yellow Labrador? (Remember “Old Yeller”?)

It isn’t the dogs that cause the problems, it’s the owners. All dogs can be gentle or aggressive, depending on how they’re trained. Certain breeds are trained for particular uses. I’m sure a poodle would never guard a military outpost. People just have the misconception that all of the breeds that the writer mentioned are completely dangerous. I was bitten by a wiener dog when I was 5 years old. That doesn’t mean all wiener dogs should be killed.

I agree it was a tragedy that two Rottweilers attacked a small child, and I pay my respects to the heroics of the soldier who saved the child. The dogs’ owner should be held responsible. An evaluation should be completed on the dogs, but not the utter destruction of breeds. If this worries the writer this much, he should get a cat!

Tech. Sgt. Curt Bowman
RAF Lakenheath, England

Pacific edition

Women make own choices

In the Jan. 22 letter “Home front trumps front line,” the writer indicated that he’s only upset with “liberals” who “support deploying women in a combat zone.” Hey, what’s wrong with getting mad at the “conservatives” who support the same deployments? After all, the commander in chief lets the deployments continue, and the commander in chief is a conservative.

Women sign the same contract as men. Sorry, letter writer, but if a woman joins the military, she can expect the same treatment as men. And why not? This is an all-volunteer force, at least for the moment.

The writer also said, “It’s within man’s DNA and genetic makeup to protect women and children and to shield women from murder, rape, killing, torture and the atrocities of war. It’s part of our innate biological makeup.” If this is true, why are women in war zones being murdered, raped, killed and tortured by (mostly) male soldiers? The writer’s statements don’t ring true. Was he saying that only American women are shielded by man’s special DNA?

In addition, the writer said, “They (the women in his family) have also been instructed to kill under certain circumstances, and only to kill special groups of people. Domestic criminals, home invaders and invading foreign soldiers have earned the right to die from the women in my family.” Instructed? Sorry again, but it appears to many Iraqis that we Americans are home invaders and invading foreign soldiers.

Too bad the writer can’t appreciate that women can make up their own minds. He should please keep his chauvinistic feelings to himself. Perhaps he can take some prevention of sexual harassment training or see his Equal Employment Opportunity counselor. The military and the world don’t need more men with special DNA like the writer’s. Women have the right to make their own choices.

Bonnie Spoales
Wiesbaden, Germany

Women have right to serve

This is in response to the Jan. 22 letter “Home front trumps front line.” There must be something wrong with my “biological makeup,” because I, too, feel the need to “protect women and children” (men too) and “to shield women from murder, rape, killing, torture and the atrocities of war.” I happen to be a woman. What exactly is the part of the male DNA the writer referred to that makes men the protectors of women and children? I don’t remember that one from biology class.

I also wonder when fathers became “expendable”? Does the writer think that children who’ve lost their fathers believe this? Probably not. Do the writer’s own children believe this? It’s not only the bonding between a child and a mother that should be given “top priority, protected, and allowed to occur,” as the writer suggested. The same should go for bonding and nurturing with a father. It’s just as important.

We all entered military service of our own free will, knowing that one day we might have to serve in a combat situation in a foreign land to defend our country. I believe we also all took an oath that mentioned protecting against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. When I took the oath I didn’t pledge only the “domestic” part, as the letter writer believes women should. Why should women serving our country be given the option to stay at home to raise their children during war when they made the same commitment to serve as men did?

It’s the right of anyone’s mother, sister, wife or daughter to serve her country without anyone raising “holy hell” or “mobilizing America’s conservatives” to prevent it.

Women may not make up the majority of our armed forces, but they play a vital part in both peacetime and war. I doubt the letter writer could do his job right now without the women serving next to him.

Staff Sgt. Brandi K. Taylor
Ramstein Air Base, Germany

Clearly stirring the pot

This is in regard to the Jan. 22 letter “Home front trumps front line.” God bless America. Only in America can a person this closed-minded express his views free from political (but not editorial) persecution. It amazes me that this soldier has achieved the rank of E-7 with his point of view about women.

I’m a liberal, born and bred in New York City, and I see things differently. It’s my opinion that anyone enjoying the rights and privileges of being an American citizen also has the duty to serve, on the front lines if called, to protect those rights. This includes all able-minded adults regardless of sex, creed, race, handicap or sexual preference.

As for my children needing their mother more than me, I pray to the almighty that he is not bringing the news of my death to my family. I’m not expendable. This statement showed how out of touch the writer is with life in general. Studies prove that children from two-parent homes are better off with the love, guidance and support of an adult female and male in the home rather than with just one adult.

I know that the writer was just stirring the pot. He can’t be this out of touch with modern-day America. He’s obviously starved for intellectual stimulation. Or maybe it’s time we take away his weapon and send him home to his barefoot and pregnant wife.

Capt. Danny Vallone
Camp Virginia, Kuwait

Emotional logic not accurate

This is in regard to the Jan. 22 letter “Home front trumps front line.” This is an emotionally charged issue to which there is not a yes-or-no, right-or-wrong answer. For many years women have played a role in combat. In World War II, female nurses hit the beaches of North Africa and were held as prisoners of war. Women were killed and captured in Vietnam. Women have been killed and captured in both desert wars. Women have been and are a part of combat, so the letter writer is galvanizing his conservative friends a little late.

The letter writer is thinking with his emotions. I don’t blame him. I weep for all the children who’ve lost their parents in this war, just as I wept for the children who lost their parents on Sept. 11, 2001. But I must disagree with the writer that men are more expendable than women. I have lost both of my parents. Losing my father was not easier than losing my mother. Both deaths brought immense grief.

I must also disagree that it’s in a man’s genetic makeup to protect women. To illustrate this, I’ll close with some statistics. According to the American Institute on Domestic Violence, every nine seconds a woman is beaten in the United States. Between 3 million and 4 million women are battered each year. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. And according to the Department of Justice, there were an estimated 248,000 rapes and sexual assaults against victims above the age of 12 in the United States in 2001. Seventy-seven percent of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.

It’s not in a man’s DNA to protect women and children. The writer fools himself if he thinks he shields us from atrocities.

Sherry Hatcher
Ramstein, Germany