August 25

No salary cap on service ...

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

August 25 No salary cap on service ... ... and players should know it Thanks for the securityAugust 26 'Play ball' means 'Be grateful' Selfishness adds to pollutionAugust 29 A slant on the five-year rule Videos confirm what we knew

August 31 They're starving for attention Cheney in charge on Iraq It's just a game

Well they’ve done it.

After all the talk the Major League Baseball players have set a date to strike, and leave the fans — the ones who ultimately pay the salaries — confused about the greed that could drive all of this.

Many of those fans are in the U.S. military, protecting our freedoms — even the freedom of greed.

This time it is reported that the players: want a raise in minimum salaries; have an objection to mandatory drug testing; and do not want a luxury tax on excessively high salaries.

Players, whose average salary is $2.38 million, want to increase the minimum salary by between $100,000 and $300,000 for doing exactly what they want. These players report for “duty” in the spring and are finished by September or October to return to their families full time for five to six months. On the other hand the people who preserve this privilege earn an average annual salary of about $20,000, are separated from their families three to six months or longer serving in harm’s way, and when they return home they still go to work every day.

The players object to mandatory random testing for illegal drugs and muscle-enhancing drugs. Whether they want the job or not, they are role models for today’s youth (albeit not always the best role models). We, as a nation, educate our youth to “just say no” to drugs. Why wouldn’t the players all want to step up to the plate (no pun intended) and volunteer to drug testing to be that great role model? By the way, members of the armed forces have been subjected to mandatory testing for decades. The repercussions of drug use for a servicemember usually include discharge from the service — which could affect him or her the rest of his or her life — and possible criminal prosecution — and the servicemember didn’t make millions to fall back on.

The players also object to a luxury tax that, in effect, puts a salary cap on a team. Perhaps in the long run (when offered $80 million contracts) this keeps a shameless player from saying: “I think there is better money out there.” Regardless, once again, many of the fans, including those in the military who put their lives on the line for all our freedoms, are eligible for government transfer programs such as food stamps.

I see on American Forces Network advertisements from players saying how proud they are of our troops and how they stand behind America’s military as it defends our freedoms. Then the news comes on and the reporters are stating players’ demands for more. Do they have no shame?

Jim MurphyMisawa Air Base, Japan

... and players should know it

I’m quite amazed and quite sick of the attitudes of some of our professional athletes back home. For the most part I’ve been deeply touched by the way Americans have pulled together since the Sept. 11 atrocities. For a small while, the big picture came back into focus for our wonderful country — that life in itself is a very precious thing to have or lose. But it seems that, as usual, the focus is slowly shifting back to the almighty dollar.

All over the world, everyday men and women who want only to be a part of something better than they are stand up for the principles of freedom and democracy. These men and women suffer great hardships, whether standing in the heat and cold for hours on end or being separated from their families and friends while literally putting their lives on the line. Do these men and women receive the pay that they deserve? No! And all the while I hear from home that another strike by Major League Baseball players is in the air, or that another athlete just signed a multimillion-dollar deal.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge these very talented people their chosen professions. But I can’t help wondering what is happening to our country when the men and women who entertain us are more valuable than the men and women who protect us and provide us the freedom to enjoy that entertainment.

Sgt. Randolph J. King Jr.Mannheim, Germany

Thanks for the security

An open letter from a civilian to U.S. military personnel:

I wanted to say thank you for the job you are doing. It is not a misty-eyed thank you wrapped up in the flag. It is a thank you that comes from knowing that each day you get up, fulfill your duties, do your job, and protect me and everyone I know — and that you do it for very modest pay, often separated from family and friends, and with sporadic appreciation from the citizens you defend. A lonesome job for sure, but it’s one that seems often to attract, or call forth, the very best in America’s men and women. This is as true today as it has ever been.

I am reminded of my gratitude to you each day I walk out and look west from a hill outside my door. Around this time last year, I watched from that hill from 15 miles away as the Twin Towers blazed and smoked across the sky.

Soon, I looked from that hill and they had vanished, along with many friends.

My thanks to you comes from the knowledge that there are a thousand evils that I will never see and will never happen because you wear that uniform and do your job. My thanks comes because our enemies have more to fear than I do. My thanks comes because much of what you do and what you sacrifice is known but to you and God. Thank you.

I pray daily for your safety and success.

Scott SalvatoFlushing, N.Y.

August 26

'Play ball' means 'be grateful'

I have something I want to get off of my chest about the likely baseball strike: Here is a group of men complaining about not getting paid enough to play about two hours of an extracurricular activity. That goes for any professional sports team where a number of players make more than the U.S. president.

I have been serving my country for three years now. I am ready to give my life every day — for what? So some ballplayer can just gripe and complain because he is not making a few more million than he’s already making?

I really could care less how much money the military gives me, so long as my wife and son have a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. Here is a group of men who are paid to play a game for ridiculously large salaries and have luxuries that the common man could only dream of, and they want more. The average military person makes about $14,000 a year and usually works two or three jobs just to make ends meet for his or her family. In a time like we are in now, wouldn’t you think that the baseball players could just live with their million dollars a year? The only thing that is really feeding their urge to strike is greed. They won’t have enough money to buy that mansion on the hill or that $200,000 automobile.

I don’t want to sound greedy, but if any one should get a million dollars a year, it should be the ones who are defending and ready to give the ultimate sacrifice for their country. I wish I could just see those professional athletes try to walk in the shoes of my teammates. I just wonder how much they would want then.

I am sacrificing a year overseas without my family for us to have a better life together. What are those ballplayers really sacrificing? What kind of America do we live in were if someone doesn’t get that little extra, he goes on strike. I just want the American people to remember one thing: If it were not for people like myself and the rest of the U.S. military, you would not have the right to pick your job, be an independent employee, or even go on strike.

Ballplayers should be thankful for what they have; it could be worse. This display by these “professional” ballplayers has indeed left me with a disgusting feeling in the pit of my stomach.

P.S. I need a fourth job; I’ll play ball for any of those teams for a quarter of what those other guys make.

Joseph BreazealeFutenma Marine Corps Air Station, Okinawa

Selfishness adds to pollution

This is addressed to everyone who’s left a car running “even for just two minutes” while at the ATM. It’s addressed to every person who’s left a car running outside the shoppette “just to run in to grab coffee and a paper.” It’s to every person who was just checking his mail, or returning a movie, and to every person who leaves his car running with the air conditioning on so that he may return to cool comfort after bearing the sweltering heat. To all of these people, I’d like to extend my thanks.

They are helping to contribute even more pollutants into the air that my parents breathe, the air that the 4-month-old son of my good friends breathes, the air that my ailing grandfather breathes, and the air that I hope to continue breathing for many years to come. All to save themselves the trouble of turning the starter to their vehicles upon their return.

Of course there is more to the story. Certainly these people have valid reasons for their behavior, and I am simply too foolish to see and understand it. Besides, these people are going to dismiss this letter as quickly as they read it. It’s the mindless drivel of an altruistic boy, right? Not only that, but these people live next to an air base. So why should they sacrifice their comfort when there are C-5A Galaxies and 747s dumping more fuel into the air every day than they could save in 1,000 lifetimes? The answer is because it’s the right thing to do.

Eric J. HooperRhein-Main Air Base, Germany

August 29

A slant on the five-year rule

The five-year rule — which requires that nearly all civilian Department of Defense employees return to the United States after five years — is a crutch for commanders, managers and supervisors to use to avoid doing their jobs. If an employee is a problem or not working to standards, the solution is to “check with the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center and see how long the employee has been here.” If the employee has been overseas for more than five years, that’s the answer to the situation. Ironically, the people who send others back are the ones who have been overseas for more than five years.

Those who have purchased houses with their living-quarters allowances or have been here more than five years will do anything and everything for their bosses to stay here. This fosters corruption and unethical practices (Enron, WorldCom, EUCOM). The good old boy network is alive and well, especially among the major command’s senior positions that are held by former officers. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s fair and open competition is a farce.

The largest contingency of U.S. forces and DOD employees are in Europe. But all senior civilian positions are held by white people (GS 14s, 15s and Senior Executive Service). Ninety-eight percent of all executive officers in the European theater are white. Ninety-nine percent of all its directors are white. Any position of responsibility in senior or midlevel management is held by a white person.

This has been the trend because of the “tag team system”: My buddy hires me, I replace him when he goes to the States and, when he wants to come back, I hire him and I go.

The majority of people in headquarters are former military buddies who have been here for more than 20 years and have not returned to the States since their discharges. They are all white. The five-year rule is another form of ethnic cleansing, and it is becoming more evident as U.S. Army Europe and the 7th Army become whiter as the five-year rule is enforced. It would be interesting if Stars and Stripes did an investigative story on how minorities have “fostered” their careers because of this policy.

Why is every position of responsibility previously held by minorities filled by a Southern white man, and every position held by a white man replaced with a white Southern man? I find it very odd that, all things being equal, one can reach into a jar of M&M’s and consistently pull out a white M&M every time.

To add insult to injury concerning positions for spouses, there is a U.S. Army Europe memo directing that all vacancies be filled by local nationals when possible. The only jobs left for U.S. spouses? KP, child care and anything that is beneath the Germans.

It’s amazing that U.S. civil service employees are working for Germans, Turks and other nationalities on U.S. installations in senior positions without security clearances or qualifications, and U.S. citizens are held to standards.

The five-year rule raises more questions than it answers. I wonder if the judge who made the ruling to uphold this policy would work for people who are less qualified and paid twice as much. The DOD lawyer should come and work under the rule he defended so well. There is more to this issue than what Stripes has printed and what the American people and Congress are aware of.

Elder Leanon TrawickPresidentNAACP, Hanau BranchHanau, Germany

Videos confirm what we knew

So al-Qaida’s been training personnel to build improvised conventional weapons and has been doing research on chemical weapons, and somehow this is supposed to be news? I’m not sure if this is news as video confirmation of what every American has already concluded to be fact, or news for quantifying American vulnerabilities in the small towns back home. Either way, there seems to be nothing new in this, other than the clips CNN shows hourly.

I don’t want to rain on CNN’s parade, but we in America and England already have comparable training tapes. Perhaps worse still, they are broadcast for all to see. My son, nearly 4 years old, can explain in great detail the steps used to make a cannon (and how to make it self-propelled), options for building torpedoes, and how to destroy a building. How? He loves “Junkyard Wars” and “Scrapheap Challenge.”

But the difference is that my son is not evil at heart, and instead of wanting to learn how to kill all infidels, he would like the Discovery Channel to do an episode on building rally cars so that he can compete in the Rallye Deutschland.

Art La FlammeWiesbaden, Germany

August 31

They're starving for attention

On Sept. 11, 2001, 36,615 children died because of hunger, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The place: the poorest countries of the world. Special televised reports: none. Articles in newspapers: none. Messages from heads of state: none. An appeal by associations against the crisis: none. Messages of solidarity: none. Minutes of silence: none. Homage to the victims: None. Specially organized forums: none. Messages from the pope: none. Mobilization of armies: none. Hypotheses about the identity of the criminals: none.

Possibly responsible for the crime: rich countries. Stock exchanges: normal. Value of the euro: normal. Level of alarm: nonexistent.

David CurtisSomerset, England

Cheney in charge on Iraq

I would like to ask those of you who bravely serve us in the military: “Where was your commander in chief the other day, when Vice President Cheney made the case to the American people in attacking Iraq?”

Now we all know who is truly in control of this attack. Cheney is. Because once again, President Bush has been winding his way around the country campaigning as usual and is on that vacation of his.

You would think the leader of the free world would make the case personally and not have his second-in-command do so. Would Bill Clinton have Al Gore make the case? No, with something this serious, he would have done so himself, and he would not be flying all around the country campaigning for upcoming elections.

Men and women in our military will be asked to risk their lives for this offensive, and when the attacks start to happen, will Bush sell pictures of him handling it for the GOP coffers — as in the case of those photos on Air Force One on Sept. 11?

Do not get me wrong about my support for the efforts and actions of U.S. servicemembers. I just question the man to whom all of them must give their allegiance. I stand firm on my opinion that no war with Iraq be waged. I do not wish harm to come to any servicemembers. Their lives mean more to us as a nation.

Mary MacElveenSound Beach, N.Y.

It's just a game

Major League Baseball owners and players are feuding yet again. I have a few words of wisdom for these folks: The players are getting paid millions to play a game. Sniffle, sniffle. The owners own baseball teams. Waaaah.

Sgt. T.J. WestphalCamp Magrath, Kosovo

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now