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April 13

Battle streamers nobly earned

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

April 13 Battle streamers nobly earned Support must include mission Vets back troops, oppose war Categorizing and bashingApril 14 Focus on the fighters Photo not picture perfect In our thoughts alwaysApril 16 AAFES discounts GIs’ concerns Will moderates play a part? Seeing Pyle’s legacy re-emerge Troops show compassion Thanks from across the pond Stand united for soldiersApril 17 Iraq war had good ripple effect Seeking a piece of the peaceApril 18 Pfc. Lynch not the only hero The world beyond U.S. purview Brooks talks a good gameApril 19 Air Force’s service invaluable

They are thin strips of simple cloth, brightly colored, and each has an embroidered name. A casual observer could mistake the meaning of these cloth strips as mere place names in the paths of great battles. American battle streamers do symbolize battles, but battles fought in the cause of freedom and justice.

Two of our American formations that will add battle streamers stand out, especially to a person whose father worked with one and who personally served in another. These are the 1st Marine Division and the 3rd Infantry Division.

Among the places on Marine streamers are Guadalcanal, Peleliu and the Chosin. On battlefields ranging from steaming jungles to Arctic frost, the 1st Marine Division distinguished itself in combat. Readers who are Marines will know the names “Manila John” Basilone, “Red Mike” Edson and Chesty Puller. The actions on the Tenaru, Bloody Nose Ridge and at the Reservoir earned for the division the right to hang those streamers on their battle flags. These Marines helped save a troubled world from subjugation by tyrants.

When another world power sought, in a last desperate attack, to break and subjugate its neighbor, it sent its army to attack toward a river called the Marne. The 3rd Infantry Division got there first. The 3rd Infantry Division would not be moved or defeated. Anyone who is a Marneman knows that action is why our division is called the “Rock of the Marne.”

A quarter of a century later, our division was back in Europe, fighting the forces of an evil dictator. A Marneman will remember the name Audie Murphy, a Texas sharecropper’s son who was awarded every combat decoration the United States can bestow. A Marneman will also remember the sons and daughters of an entire generation of Americans who, as part of the Marne Division, stood in front of the Fulda Gap and told another series of dictators, “No entry.” The Marne Division has streamers for all these actions and, like the Marines, the streamers mean that America’s best have given all.

In the past three weeks, the 1st Marine Division and the 3rd Infantry Division have once again helped defeat the forces of evil. They will be able to add streamers with the names of Basra and Baghdad. They have helped a subjugated people return to freedom’s road. Their brave deeds are bringing justice to a country that has for a generation only known oppression and fear.

When soldiers and Marines salute their battle flags, they should know that all the responsible citizens of the world understand and applaud that their battle streamers do mean freedom and justice.

Dave TheisGen. H.H. Arnold High SchoolWiesbaden, Germany

Support must include mission

U.S. polls recently showed that Americans support the soldiers in Iraq. I want to thank Americans for their support. But do Americans support us troops personally, or do they support our purpose? Clarity seems lacking. It’s not enough for me to know that the people back home support me. I also want to know that my cause here in Kuwait is needed, necessary and just.

People aren’t meant to be held under an oppressive government. They should be free to pursue all that is good and virtuous, to live free without fear from their government. We Americans have enjoyed the liberties that our independence purchased for us in 1776, and we’ve been faithful stewards of that liberty. What about Iraq? Can we find a clear moral vision for our mission in Iraq? And how do we answer those who ask us why we’re there?

One only has to visit the CIA’s official Web site to read of Iraq’s confirmed uses of VX, mustard gas and other agents against Iranians and its own citizens, especially the Kurds. Tens of thousands have been killed. On the Web there is a picture of dead children lying in the streets after being gassed by Saddam Hussein’s government.

Do we owe it to the people of Iraq to free them from this oppression? No more than we owed the Jews of the 1940s, and no more than the Northern states owed the slaves of the South in the 1860s. Life and liberty are never to be taken for granted and are always to be cherished and defended.

As a Christian, I’m also concerned about the religious issues surrounding war. Many assume that a godly person would never want war under any circumstances and that God must prohibit war outright. But in fact, God commands his people to go into battle on numerous occasions in the Scriptures. A commonly known verse of Scripture that sums up the Ten Commandments is, “You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If I love God with all of my heart, mind and soul, then I love all that he loves and hate what he hates. I hate injustice. I hate murder against innocents. Instead, I love compassion, freedom from fear, and righteousness.

Why is the United States in Iraq? As Americans, we’ve been given the greatest gifts available to man: security, opportunity and freedom. These gifts aren’t ours to own. We have a calling before God and man to reach out and show mercy and compassion to anyone who is oppressed and afflicted and to liberate them from their oppressors. This is what it means to be an American. This is what it means to be free.

Chaplain Michael CannonCamp Arifjan, Kuwait

Vets back troops, oppose war

I remember being a young soldier in Germany with the 1st Armored Division in late 1990, preparing to go to war. I remember those feelings of fear and excitement and uncertainty and anticipation. My family worried about me as many families now worry about those deployed in Iraq.

What I didn’t understand then, and what many letter writers don’t understand now, is why people could be protesting the war. I’d like to share my experiences and perspectives as an eight-year Army veteran and a protest organizer. Maybe my words can help bridge that understanding gap.

The most common and divisive misconception is that those who oppose the war in Iraq don’t “support the troops.” Nothing is farther from the truth. I have never met a peace activist who wanted anything more than the safe return of those deployed. What most of these well-intentioned activists don’t understand is how it feels to volunteer to put one’s self in harm’s way while someone safe at home screams that the soldier is “killing for oil” or some other nonsense. I understand that. But I also now understand that the motives of those opposed to the war generally fall into two groups: pacifists and realists.

Pacifists oppose war in general. Their views are simple. They think state-sponsored killing is wrong. Period. I respectfully disagree. I’m a realist. I understand, for example, that the first Gulf War was fought to send a message from a unified international community that a country could not invade its neighbor. There are more than 163,000 Gulf War veterans on Veterans Affairs disability as a result of that policy decision. That huge sacrifice was made so the world would be a safer place. In contrast, the current war in Iraq is being fought without international consensus and is therefore likely to make the world a more dangerous place by creating more hatred toward Americans.

Respected scholars and experienced diplomats have convinced me that U.S. leaders have made a grave mistake — a mistake that’s being paid for with the lives of those now executing a flawed policy. As a former soldier who has come to this belief, how can I sit at home and claim to “support the troops” when I believe their leaders have failed them? I must honor their sacrifice by opposing the war. I hope beyond hope that we are wrong and that the sacrifice achieves the stated goals of democracy in Iraq and a safer world.

I’m now privileged to help lead a large organization of veterans of many generations who feel the same as I. Our message to the troops is clear: We support them. We respect them. We think President Bush has failed them. It’s not just our right to protest. It’s our responsibility to the troops.

Seth PollackVeterans for Common SensePhoenix

Categorizing and bashing

This is in response to the April 10 letter “Know who’s backing protests.” It disgusts me that the writer can be ignorant enough to make discriminatory remarks such as, “Many people said Americans don’t like Bush. There’s a name for these people: Democrats.”

The letter writer should be ashamed for categorizing and bashing. Saying all Democrats hate Bush is like saying all gay people have AIDS. There are some Democrats who support Bush and some Republicans who don’t. But right now the focus shouldn’t be on “Democrat” or “Republican.” The focus should be on the troops out in the field who are risking their lives for us. There are probably many Democrats who have already died for their country in this war against Iraq. Putting them down is only a slap in the face to the families and friends they’ve left behind.

I thank God that there are Republicans to question Democrats and vice versa. As we can see from the Iraq situation, too much of one power can cripple and destroy a country and its citizens. The whole idea behind ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein is so Iraqis will one day be able to freely question their government.

The next time someone writes a letter about “prayers for troops,” let’s keep the prayers positive and the negative comments about different affiliations out of the picture. America is wonderful, every single different person included.

Melanie FordRamstein Air Base, Germany

April 14

Focus on the fighters

I really object to the idea presented in an editorial cartoon that appeared in Stripes’ April 5 edition. It portrayed a “suit” intended to look like Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld skating toward Baghdad on two tanks.

Secretary Rumsfeld isn’t in Iraq. He isn’t in uniform. He isn’t in the war. He can’t drive a tank. He’s not in the fight. He’s not risking his life. He’s not a soldier. We see enough of these Pentagon “suits” being called “leaders” on American Forces Network’s one- and two-minute replacements for commercials. To suggest that they are in the battle for Iraq and being brave at the front is an affront to those who are.

Robert D. DolemanLandstuhl, Germany

Photo not picture perfect

I recently had a problem with my official photo on the Department of the Army Photo Management Information System Web site.

In December, I had my photo taken at the Roman Hill photo lab. The photographer did an excellent job and processed the photo properly. An electronic version was sent to DAPMIS and a hard copy was sent to the Personnel Services Battalion. I was able to review and approve my photo online at DAPMIS within three or four hours. I had no previous photo in the DAPMIS system.

Thinking everything was OK, I didn’t bother to check my photo again until last weekend. Much to my chagrin, my photo that was taken and approved in December, with my current rank insignia was replaced by a scanned copy of my official photo. It was taken in April 1998, with a staff sergeant rank. A check of my Personnel Data Snapshot in the Interactive Web Response System reflects Dec. 12, 2002, as the date of my last official photo, not April 1998. I don’t know why this was done. But I may not be the only one.

According to the Current Year-2003 Message Board Announcement, paragraph 13, “EREC (Enlisted Records and Evaluation Center) will conduct a test of the automated selection board system and online promotion file review as a part of this board with a select portion of those eligible for consideration.” So I can only guess that my record was one of those included in this “test,” and I’m sure there are others.

It’s well known that having a current photo is important for a promotion board. According to the EREC Web site, it’s recommended that a photo not be more than 1 year old and must be in the current grade. A picture tells more than a thousand words and, although an official photograph is not the sole basis for selection (or lack thereof), it does carry a lot of weight.

Unfortunately, Army Regulation 600-8-19 section 4-14 h.(6) says outdated photographs are not grounds for consideration by a Standby Advisory Board.

Sgt. 1st Class Thomas B. AlbasiniWürzburg, Germany

In our thoughts always

I live in the United States. I have a brother-in-law in the U.S. Army and a few friends too. My son was in the Marines and he has many friends overseas fighting for the United States. This war hits home for me. I watch the news often to keep up.

I want to send my prayers and love to our military. God bless all the men and women who are putting their lives on the line for the United States. All of them are in our thoughts every minute of the day. My heart goes out to those who lost their lives and families, and also to our prisoners of war and those missing in action. Our heroes will never be forgotten, nor will the wives, husbands and children who have family members overseas.

Linda AustinReisterstown, Md.

April 16

AAFES discounts GIs’ concerns

Well here it comes again: the monopoly prostrates its captive audience.

As I reread the April 3 article “Gas discount coupons at AAFES drop $1,” I wonder just how many people will actually fall for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service’s sorry explanation that we are already getting a great deal since gas prices in the States are significantly higher than its pumps on Okinawa. Gee, let’s make another comparison that will make as much sense: the price of tea in China and Maine lobster.

Just so everyone knows, AAFES does not buy its fuel on the open market; it negotiates an annual contract to buy fuel for an entire year — so, regardless of what happens to the prices elsewhere, its cost remains the same. Come on AAFES, publish your cost price for a gallon of mid- to low-rate fuel; it’s somewhere around 90 cents, isn’t it? That’s a pretty good markup for a no-competition dealer.

I further read that AAFES will discount “another retail item” by a dollar. Boy, I can hardly wait to see what item that will be that we all need as much as gasoline. Did Alaska have an excess of block heaters that we will get a dollar off on?

Let’s just see if AAFES’s rationale is greed or otherwise motivated. If AAFES comes out and tells us that it will contribute that dollar it so glibly takes away to our government’s war against Iraq, then I will be the first to praise AAFES. But something tells me this will not be the case.

I think the tired phrase “AAFES working for you” has lost its meaning, or we at least fully understand who “you” means. It is a real shame the Defense Commissary Agency can’t provide us fuel for our cars the way they do our bodies; cost plus 5 percent.

John BowersGinowan City, Okinawa

Will moderates play a part?

Instead of lamenting over the “damage done to Islam” by the rapid entry of coalition forces into Baghdad, the more-moderate Arab states should offer to help restore peace and order in a new Iraq. Jordan and Egypt, who greatly benefit from U.S. aid, should lead the way in offering to help. Saudi Arabia could also lend a hand. These countries could show true Arab solidarity by providing police officers and aid workers to help in stabilizing a new Iraqi government. Instead, these nations allow fanatics to cross the border and terrorize not only our troops but Iraqi civilians who do not even want to fight in the first place.

I have yet to be shot at (and that’s fine with me), but I have flown in the back of a helicopter over several Iraqi settlements in the rural areas between the Kuwait border and Baghdad. We generally fly low to avoid radar and IR missile threats, so we get a good view of the ground. The vast majority of people I’ve seen, especially the kids, wave at us and seem to be happy we’re here. The only negative response I saw was a farmer throwing his hands in the air because we scared his sheep (sorry about that).

I have no doubt that the Iraqi people are proud of their heritage and would like to run their own affairs as soon as possible. While I don’t agree with the tenets of their religion, I can understand how even the most pro-American Iraqis would be apprehensive of a long rebuilding process that’s required an extended American presence. That’s why I feel it is important for the moderate Arab states to put away their foolish pride, show some leadership and help their brothers. As for the French, Russians, Germans and the United Nations in general, thanks for nothing.

Marine 1st Lt. J.E. Rollins IIIOceanside, Calif.

Seeing Pyle’s legacy re-emerge

Listening to National Public Radio a few days ago, there was a story about Ernie Pyle — need I say more about his journalistic style, his reverence for the troops he was documenting, and his beauty in his presentation of the facts for all to read. I have been an avid “watcher” of all that has been happening in Iraq these past weeks brought to us live by CNN, and yet have not been too much of a reader. I must admit that I was one who thought we had no business in Iraq, fearful of the repercussions here in the States and the chemical warfare threatened overseas and many other philosophical reasons.

However, after listening to Ernie Pyle’s words, I thought that I should make a few “words” to express my ineffable gratitude to the extraordinarily brave men and women for giving Iraq back to Iraq. I hope that Stripes will be able to channel this letter to the soldiers who need a comforting word, knowing that there is a mother in St. Louis who is thinking of them, and praying for their strength, courage and humanity in these tough times. Seeing the jubilation in an Iraqi child’s face makes my son and I dizzy with happiness — as does knowing that it was made possible by the soldiers’ hard work and compassion, which certainly is awe-inspiring.

I am so proud to be an American. May God bless the troops, who fight so strongly for what is right in the world, not accepting tyranny at any cost.

Anne Marshall BradySt. Louis

Troops show compassion

I cannot even begin to say how proud our troops make me every day. I just had to write to show my support and to sing their praises. I watch in awe on television as they storm into unknown situations. They show compassion to Iraqis who could turn on them at any given moment and tend to men who may have shot at them minutes before.

These men and women in uniform are what every man and woman in America should strive to be like. I just want to let the troops know that all their sacrifice and hard work are appreciated, and that there are millions of Americans praying for them to come home safe and soon.

I thank our troops. They are the pride of this great country. They’re in my mind and in my heart every minute of the day. God bless them. We’re awaiting the return of our heroes.

Christine AtencioEspanola, N.M.

Thanks from across the pond

I’m an Englishwoman living in London, and I just want to send my heartfelt thanks and all my love and prayers to American, British and other coalition forces serving in the Persian Gulf. All of us are praying for them and hope they come home very soon after a job well done. God bless them and bring them home safe.

Kathleen ShannonLondon

Stand united for soldiers

I’m proud to be an American and that the fighting men and women of our country give me the right to feel that way. With our backs against the wall, I feel the war in Iraq was something we had to do. No one likes war, but when it comes we have to stand united.

As for the protesters, the Dixie Chicks and Michael Moore, I bet they voted for Bill Clinton.

I thank the members of our armed forces for a job well done and for making Americans back home proud.

James KuglerSt. Marys, Pa.

April 17

Iraq war had good ripple effect

While the U.S. military is most assuredly aware of the effect its presence is having on Iraq’s liberation, I wonder if our troops realize how far Operation Iraqi Freedom is extending. Their efforts, however difficult, have succeeded far beyond the Middle East.

In the United States we are awed by the jubilation of a people anticipating what we already enjoy — freedom. But we’ve had Iraqis in the United States who’ve been afraid to speak out publicly or give their names to the press out of concern for their loved ones in Iraq. They live in the United States but, because of a tyrant across the sea, they’ve also been fearful to fully exercise their guaranteed right of freedom of speech. Saddam Hussein’s evil hand was reaching beyond Iraq without chemical weapons. Thankfully, the coalition forces have cut it off.

Some MREs shared, some confidence gained. One tank, one statue toppled. Three weeks, God willing, will lead to a lifetime of freedom for the people of more than just one country. I’m not an Iraqi, but I thought our military should know how far the ripple of freedom extends. I thank our military.

Joan DomicoloPaterson, N.J.

Seeking a piece of the peace

Differing national objectives relating to Iraq is what really led to the internal rifts in NATO, the United Nations and among European Union members. It’s a dangerous situation of inflammatory economic and popular zingers that in the past has led to world wars. Now that U.S. foreign policy has proven itself successful, our opposing allies (Russia, France and Germany) have regrouped to make new demands.

In an effort to mend this relationship, the United States just might see itself forced to give in to these new demands — namely, the right to participate in future peacekeeping operations under the U.N. — in an attempt to converge national interests for the sake of world peace.

Noteworthy are the facts that not only did these nations cast aside our long-standing friendships to oppose us, but they also hindered us in every possible diplomatic way, putting their own immediate interests ahead of those of the Iraqi people.

Once again, American, British and coalition forces died to free complete strangers from an insane dictator in a faraway land. Let us not forget these noble acts of altruism in this just war of liberation in the dark weeks of skirmishes and diplomatic bickering that lie ahead.

Capt. Raphael EreditaRamstein Air Base, Germany

April 18

Pfc. Lynch not the only hero

I’m the wife of an Army soldier who is about to deploy as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon hearing the news of Pfc. Jessica Lynch’s rescue, we were all very excited and happy for her, her family and the country. What a morale boost for all of our soldiers.

But as we sat here and watched over and over the news stations showing her coming home, I became rather upset. We kept hearing how she was “Stretcher No.4” being loaded onto the plane. We heard of the “hero Jessica Lynch and 40-some other soldiers who were wounded.” What about those other soldiers? Who was on Stretcher Nos.1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7? Are they any less of heroes?

If my husband or my friends’ husbands are wounded, will they all have scholarship offers and vacations waiting for them? I hardly think so. Are these things available to all of the other soldiers who have been injured in this war? Again, we haven’t heard that they are.

Is Jessica Lynch a hero? I believe so. I also believe that every man and woman in the military is a hero, be they overseas, stationed stateside or part of this operation. It’s frustrating to us to hear about one soldier getting onto a plane with so many others who seem to be nameless and unimportant to the media. I hope the families of the soldiers on the other stretchers know how much we all appreciate their soldiers.

Tara CherizardHanau, Germany

The world beyond U.S. purview

The April 9 letter “Anti-American talk upsetting” made me ask myself why I’m only against the war in Iraq but not against Americans.

The writer said: “Too often the United States is stabbed in the back by so-called ‘allies.’” He also wrote: “These are countries into which the United States has poured billions since World War II” and: “Millions of dollars have been wasted on the United Nations.”

Does the writer think dollars can “buy” allies? “These countries” the writer was talking about are very grateful for the “poured billions” after World War II. But were these billions supposed to “buy” our freedom to make our own decisions? Dollars can buy many things, but they cannot buy minds, at least not mine.

The writer also said: “Certain members of the U.N. want to weaken America and rule as a one-world government, claiming dominion over the United States.” My free mind tells me that the last time I checked, there was only one world, and America is just one part of it. God bless the world.

Petra HatleyFürth, Germany

Brooks talks a good game

What would the daily briefings from the U.S. Central Command be without them being delivered by a most brilliant speaker, Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks. He is precise, extremely clear to understand and follow and takes no-nonsense questions.

I would appreciate him knowing that his appearance at such times is greatly looked forward to, as it is possible to follow what is taking place, how, why and sometimes (when permitted) when.

Thanks, Brig. Gen. Brooks. Good luck and stay safe — one and all of the coalition forces.

Alan WhatmanMelbourne, Australia

April 19

Air Force’s service invaluable

Throughout my Army career I’ve worked regularly with our sister services and, like most soldiers, I’ve always considered their sole purpose to be a support role — to get the Army to the fight. I’d like to share some recent experiences that have opened my eyes to what at least one of our sister services really does.

I’m working with an Air Force C-130 wing, forward deployed, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It’s not the most glamorous assignment for a Special Forces soldier. I’ve worked with regular Air Force crews before, but always considered them glorified truck drivers.

I want to dispel any notion that because I’ve been working closely with the Air Force that I’m suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. It isn’t that way. These C-130 crews don’t walk on water, but they’ve impressed me with their mission-focused, get-the-soldiers-to-the-fight attitude.

On a continuous basis, the wing’s mission planners and crews have gone to extremes to ensure that “our boys” (their words) get to the fight in a way that supports the ground commander’s plan and also takes care of the GIs. The whole crew has that single focus, starting with the loadmasters in the back. When cramming 52 combat-loaded soldiers into an aircraft, the loadmasters seat the soldiers and ensure that they’re able to quickly get out of the aircraft when they reach their destination. The loadmasters also help carry the soldiers’ excess gear, help reposition weapons, and always seem to bring enough goodies to pass out to the fighters on board.

Gearing up and strapping into their seats is the easy part. Flying during combat conditions is chaotic. Each crewmember continually transmits on and monitors several radios, watches instruments, reads charts and scans the ground for surface-to-air missiles, all while flying blacked out with no illumination at 300 feet above the ground. Then they try to find and land on a small, remote runway or dirt strip with only covert lighting. All of this is with one focus: to get “our boys” to the fight. Each crewmember understands full well that the infantry private on the back of the aircraft is the most important person in the whole operation. He will be the reason the United States wins this war.

I know a lot of Army guys will wonder how hard that can be when they’ve had all that crew rest. I’ve always thought crew rest was a big crock. I’ve flown with these crews on numerous missions, and crew rest doesn’t work. I’ve been worn out since the first few days. It isn’t like working a shift. These crews fly for 12 to 18 hours.

I’m not trying to say these Air Force crews are single-handedly winning the war. But they take our heroes to the fight, resupply them and bring them home. So I can tell the rest of the Army folks who have the same impression of the Air Force that I had that they are true warriors who work around the clock to keep our fighting force in the fight.

Maj. Tony RisiCamp Snoopy, Qatar

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