The June 6 article “Former airman who posed for Playboy bares it all to help wounded troops” began: “An Air Force staff sergeant discharged for posing in Playboy is baring it all again, this time to help the services.”

The very reason Michelle Manhart was removed from service was because she appeared nude in a magazine. Now she is appearing nude to “help” the services? Would it not be more helpful to remain in the service as a good noncommissioned officer?

Also in the article: “ ‘It’s very humbling for me to have that chance and ability to help people,’ [Manhart] said. ‘I’ve had a lot of people calling with requests and offers, but I found this really intriguing because these people really care about helping those troops.’ ”

“Humbling”? Yes, getting paid to show off your body and several offers for movies and TV shows, along with articles in newspapers and other publications, no doubt must be humbling. And what ability to help people has she found? Being naked? Wow, that has got to take a lot of training and skill.

The following are excerpts from the NCO Creed of the Army; I cannot imagine that the Air Force has any lower standards for its NCOs:

“No one is more professional than I. … I am proud of the Corps of Noncommissioned Officers and will at all times conduct myself so as to bring credit upon the Corps, the Military Service and my country regardless of the situation in which I find myself. I will not use my grade or position to attain pleasure, profit, or personal safety. … I will earn their respect and confidence as well as that of my soldiers. I will be loyal to those with whom I serve; seniors, peers and subordinates alike. … I will not forget, nor will I allow my comrades to forget that we are professionals, Noncommissioned Officers, leaders!”

I do not object to this calendar project or its intent in any way, shape or form. I do, however, object to this comment [in the article from San Diego model Manuela Mezzadri, who started the calendar project]: “The fact that she (Manhart) has a military past and is a beautiful woman — who else better than her knows the needs of the military and of wounded troops?”

Who better than those servicemembers who respect what the military stands for, the ones who honor our fallen and wounded comrades by putting themselves on the line to shed blood, sweat and tears along with those who fight and die believing that wearing this uniform is a privilege, not a prop to be used in a photo shoot. I would also like to ask what being a beautiful woman has to do with understanding the needs of the military and of wounded troops. I am not going to say anything about the disgusting connotations of that statement; no doubt the absurdity of such a comment is not lost on everyone.

Manhart is married, and has two children. Need I point out the example she is setting for them? When her children ask what Mommy is doing, her husband can proudly say, “Well, she was serving our country as an Air Force NCO, but then she decided it was better to strip off all of her clothes and show the world what real military support looks like.”

As a female soldier it is very difficult to get respect from a vast majority of personnel. It’s true that you are respected on the surface, for everyone must be treated as a professional, a soldier; that does not mean, however, that you really have the respect of all those with whom you work or fight next to. Events like this make it even more difficult for females in the military to be taken seriously.

Actually, it makes it difficult for us to take ourselves seriously. Tell me then, why am I over here in the 115-plus-degree heat, working countless hours amid mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, improvised explosive devices and snipers — watching and listening to my comrades die every day — when I could just take off all my clothes to support my fellow soldiers? How does posing nude truly help the wounded? Money? Sure, OK, money helps, but it does not replace the noncom with 13 years of experience and it certainly does not replace the years of hard work that females have put into earning respect in the military.

I am not a feminist. I do not buy into any of the politically correct gibberish that seems to permeate through everything and weaken the very fabric of our society. I believe that every individual should be evaluated and utilized based on ability, not gender, race or religion, etc. I am not protesting the objectification of women, because I believe that a woman’s body is hers to do with as she pleases. Most importantly, though, I believe that when you sign on the dotted line and raise your right hand and swear an oath to live by a certain code of conduct, by a set of rules and regulations, to carry on a centuries-old tradition of duty, honor and respect, that you should stand by that oath. When you sign and swear, you give up certain freedoms while in the service of your country. In my eyes, Manhart has shown that she has no honor, no respect for the military and what it bleeds to defend, no sense of duty whatsoever, no loyalty to the service or to her ex-fellow servicemembers.

Strength of character goes a lot further than the almighty dollar, always has and always will. You cannot buy honor, you cannot buy respect, and you cannot buy a life that was sacrificed for the very freedoms Manhart is exploiting. The very concept that someone like this — someone who dishonored herself, her service, her comrades, her station and her country — can be honored, rewarded or given praise and attention for doing the same thing is a sickening one. I am appalled that such a situation like this even exists, let alone the glorification of “baring it all” versus loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.

Spc. Samantha K. Nichols is with 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, 202nd Brigade Support Battalion, B Company at Camp Taji, Iraq.

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