July 20

Article didn’t wear well

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

July 20 Article didn’t wear well ‘Family’s soldier’ endures much Think about good things USO concert was nice release Expect the pains of deployingJuly 21 Army not professional in Iraq Complaining is immatureJuly 22 More missions than mail Military manpower a mustJuly 23 Weekend warriors help a lot Army must improve conditions Thanks for getting mail to GIs Transition help not strong Stop bashing governmentJuly 24 Fewer contractors than reportedJuly 25 Lost benefits gnaws at retiree Can’t deny effect on marriages Reassignment hurts chances Support helped ease painJuly 26 It’s a stretch to ignore Japan Breathing freely on Okinawa DOD act devalues Bronze Star BBC reports lack balance Attacking Guard off the mark

We are writing in response to the July 4 article “New dress code issued on Navy bases in Japan.”

There are a couple of issues we want to bring to Stripes’ attention.

First, the attribution of some of the quotes was incorrect. Capt. Dan Hartwell is the chief of staff for Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Japan, not the 7th Fleet. Additionally, Jon Nylander is a spokesman for CNFJ, not the 7th Fleet, as was stated in the article.

Second, CNFJ offered Stripes reporter Joseph Giordono the opportunity to interview policy experts on the CNFJ staff who were willing to provide detailed facts, background information and the reasons why the instruction was modified, as was done when the original instruction was implemented in 2001. Granted, these staff members were not immediately available when Mr. Giordono contacted us (they were not available until after the July 4th holiday), but Stripes chose to publish the article without interviewing them. We fail to understand Stripes’ sense of urgency to publish this article without having all the facts. Clearly, waiting just a few days over the holiday weekend to publish this story after interviewing our staff members would have provided more timely, accurate information and resulted in a more balanced, complete story. Instead, Stripes opted to use a quote from Capt. Hartwell that was 2 years old.

The intent of this revised civilian clothing policy instruction is to present a good public image and reinstall a sense of pride and professionalism. All of us here in Japan, both military and civilian, are ambassadors of the United States and the United States Navy, and as such must look and dress the part.

We would be happy to answer any questions Stripes has about the instruction and the reasons for it.

Master Chief Petty Officer Mike DriscollRegional master chief, U.S. Naval Forces JapanMaster Chief Petty Officer Ashley SmithCommand master chief, 7th FleetYokosuka Naval Base, Japan

‘Family’s soldier’ endures much

I write this in the hope of inspiring all military personnel to constantly express appreciation for their spouses and family members when they’re deployed. Throughout my 17-year career my family has had to live through numerous separations and difficult times directly due to my military commitment. Just in the past year I’ve been away from my family for more than 180 days due to training, TDYs and deployments. The most difficult thing to deal with is being away from my loving wife of 16 years and our precious daughter. I believe that many of us fail to express our true appreciation for what our spouses do for us when we’re away.

I consider my wife to be our family’s soldier. She is the one who keeps our hearts together no matter if I’m next to her or 4,000 miles away, as I am now. She’s the personal taxi service for my daughter for school, swimming lessons, tumbling classes, doctor’s appointments and birthday parties. She’s our spiritual leader, ensuring that our faith will never falter. As our personal accountant, she makes sure our debts are paid and our family needs are met, and also ensures that there’s funds for supporting our church. She’s also our unpaid lawn service, housekeeper, cook, tutor and nurse.

My family and I have dreams no different than other Americans. We dream of owning our own home, a simple retirement, putting our daughter through college and enjoying our freedom. Most of what I read in the media is that soldiers guarantee our dreams of freedom. I know that I couldn’t do what I do as a soldier if it weren’t for my family’s soldier back home.

Our jobs demand that we stay focused and stand ready to do our duties without hesitation of thought and commitment. We can only do this by knowing that everything at home is being taken care of while we’re away. I think every person who is deployed, whether military or civilian, should constantly express to his or her spouse how much he or she means to them and that they are proud of them for what they do. Their commitment to our country and our families is no less important than our own. When we’re in deployment mode, so are they. When we need our spirits lifted, they are always on 24-hour call.

No good soldiers can do their jobs 24 hours a day, seven days a week without appreciation for what they do. Every one of us is trained to appreciate the soldiers we lead. We must never forget about the silent soldiers who serve our families while we’re away. I’m proud of everything that my wife Darlene is doing for us. I love her and want her to know that I couldn’t do what I do without her.

Master Sgt. Randall CaswellAl Udeid Air Base, Qatar

Think about good things

I’m with the 77th Maintenance Company, 485th Corps Support Battalion, based out of Babenhausen, Germany, and currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I get tired of reading over and over about the mail problems. I arrived in Kuwait way back on Feb. 3. When the mail starting flowing to us, we were receiving it from Germany and the States in a week or sometimes less. Incredible! But as the tempo started increasing, of course we saw our mail start to flow slower and slower as expected.

I’ve moved three times since February, from Camp Udairi to Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait to Convoy Support Center Cedar to logistics support area Dogwood in Iraq. I’ve seen my mail flow come to almost a complete stop. But not once did I doubt that the mail handlers were providing the best possible service. Case in point: On July 5 I received a package mailed from Germany on March 7. It had a total of four APOs lined through it. But somehow it made it to my location. How’s that for service? Now that we’re stationary here, our mail is coming in from the States and Germany in 10 days or less. I think that’s incredible!

The bottom line is that all the complainers should stop whining and think about all the good things, such as going home and seeing their families soon.

Sgt. 1st Class George A. GomezIraq

USO concert was nice release

I’m writing in response to the July 5 letter “Don’t need Kid Rock’s support.” Aghast at Kid Rock? Trash? I appreciate the response and I’m happy to see that others are taking advantage of their freedom of speech. After all, it’s that freedom and many others that are given to all of us. We have these freedoms thanks to our Constitution and the thousands of soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors who have died to uphold them.

In regard to the letter, I and many others who were at the USO event did not necessarily enjoy the chance to hear Kid Rock sing about being president. Instead, it was the simple chance to see, meet and welcome entertainers from the United States. These are entertainers who volunteered to be here to show their support and appreciation to thousands of coalition forces. It says a lot about these entertainers. They could be selfish and give a world concert tour at $50 a ticket. NFL and NBA players could make endorsement deals. Actors could read scripts for another big hit movie or attend a photo shoot. Instead, they took time out of their lives and realized that without us here — dedicated to our mission to uphold our freedoms — they wouldn’t be who they are or where they are.

I don’t condone religious intolerance or advocate illegal substance abuse. Yet I realize that the American people have many different views and can live their lives with many different freedoms that others cannot. It was our release and our escape. It was a release and escape from flying bullets, rocket-propelled grenades, snipers and ambushes, along with the loneliness of being away from our friends and loved ones.

I hope that soon we can all realize and appreciate that we are U.S. citizens and that our country has reaped the benefits of troops who have died in combat, survived near-death experiences and dealt with everyday combat fatigue. The letter writer shouldn’t hate us for trying to enjoy one day of entertainment when he can enjoy his freedom with his family and friends and has the everyday opportunity to go to a movie or sporting event and live his live as he pleases.

Sgt. David WhippBaghdad, Iraq

Expect the pains of deploying

Quite frequently I see letters in Stars and Stripes attributed to senior noncommissioned officers that contain little, if any, beneficial content. Most complain about the operations tempo and how many times they’ve been deployed lately. A case in point is the July 2 letter “Jump through multiple hoops.” The writer complained because he isn’t school-trained to do a job. I’d expect this type of input from a lower enlisted soldier, not a seasoned warrior.

I have yet to read about anyone’s displeasure in receiving hazardous-duty pay, family-separation pay, save pay, tax-exempt leave days, federal tax-free status, etc. The bottom line is that we are at war, and war requires discipline and sacrifice, especially from the leaders entrusted to direct, motivate and give purpose to America’s sons and daughters in uniform.

Attitudes determine attitudes. So the letter writers should cheer up and fly high, because we aren’t going home any time soon. If the writer of “Jump through multiple hoops” can’t become semiproficient in a new job on his own, he should see his command sergeant major. I’m sure his CSM can place him in a job that he can perform to standard, such as sergeant of the guard, police call NCOIC, escort duties, etc.

We are all feeling the pains of deploying. The letter writers should make the most of it; it could be a whole lot worse.

Master Sgt. Shaun TrescottIraq

July 21

Army not professional in Iraq

I’m a GI who served in both Persian Gulf wars. I’ve seen a drastic change in the Army. In the first Gulf War, we were a more self-contained Army. We did the mission ourselves, no matter what it was, and we did it without always having civilians in the middle of things. It’s a shame when I hear GIs say they can’t do something because civilians do that job now. The Army spends a lot of money training us to do any job that a civilian does. It’s time we give noncommissioned officers their jobs back and make soldiers do the jobs they’re trained to do and quit depending on civilians.

I arrived in the Gulf for the second time on March 27 and couldn’t believe the disarray I saw as I went from camp to camp. Each one looked like a junkyard. There was equipment everywhere. No one knew where anyone was located. In 1991, everything had its place. It just seemed to me that no one cared this time around.

When I got to the theater in 1991, it was time to work. It wasn’t time to ask where the post exchange was or where the Internet access was located. It wasn’t time to make a beeline to the mess hall or go back to the tent and go to sleep. There was mail to be sorted, water to be palletized and supplies to be moved forward.

Where is the highest-ranking officer in charge of this camp? Oh yeah, that’s right. He or she is in the PX line or on noncommissioned officer business while the camp is on autopilot.

Sgt. Tyray DanielsBaghdad, Iraq

Complaining is immature

I’m writing in response to the July 12 letter “Disproportionate luxuries.” The writer, an Army E-4 who isn’t in Iraq, feels it’s her mission to berate the Air Force for having morale-boosting items such as ice cream and air conditioning. If she’s so upset about how good the Air Force has it, then maybe she should do something about it besides whine. Maybe she should have considered a different career choice.

The Air Force takes care of its own the way it sees fit. Likewise for the Army. We do our mission better than any Air Force in the world, even when we’re on a “real hardship tour.” The writer should walk a mile in our shoes before she passes judgment. I have nothing against the Army or those who like to complain or point fingers. My message to the writer is to quit complaining and grow up!

Tech. Sgt. Jack WertzRamstein Air Base, Germany

July 22

More missions than mail

I’m a soldier stationed in Iraq between the Kuwait border and Baghdad. I, too, wait every day for a letter or package from home. I’ve received one letter and my family has received one postcard from me that I wrote when I first got into the country. I have sent T-shirts and rugs and little things from the post exchange back home for my family. The post office said it would take two weeks. I also got a chance to use the morale phone, which is a three-mile-drive away, to see if my family members had received my packages. They haven’t. It’s been almost 30 days now.

I run missions constantly. I’m gone for three to four days before I get back to my camp, and it’s disappointing to come back after a mission and find that my letters have still not gotten here. My son turned 4 last month, and there was a death in my family that I found out about 30 days later. My son has still not received his gift.

The morale phones are nice, but the operators running the military station closest to my house don’t work weekends. If I’m gone on a mission all week, I still can’t call. It’s an 8-hour difference from here to home, so I have to try to call at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. to reach my family.

It would be really nice if someone could help with the mail. It really feels good to hear from back home.

Spc. Dennis LogueIraq

Military manpower a must

I’m writing to thank Stars and Stripes for the July 18 article “That stretched-out feeling,” which covered the current shortage in military manpower and the straining effect on our troops.

As the conflict in Iraq continues, and as more troops are being deployed to hot spots around the world, it’s imperative that our armed forces increase their end strengths to meet the demanding operation tempo.

What is disturbing is that legislation to increase the number of active-duty personnel was not funded through the defense appropriations subcommittee in the House, and manpower increases were not proposed in the Senate. In reaction, the Fleet Reserve Association has written to the chairmen and ranking members of both the House and Senate appropriations defense subcommittees urging them to add funding to cover increases in personnel end strengths.

The FRA, representing the enlisted men and women of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, continues to fight for increasing the number of active-duty troops in order to relieve the strain on those who have fought bravely in defense of our country.

Joseph L. BarnesNational executive secretaryFleet Reserve AssociationAlexandria, Va.

July 23

Weekend warriors help a lot

This is in response to the June 20 letter “An (active-duty) Army of One.” The hats of the women of Bravo Company, 142nd Echelon Corps and Below (Heavy), are off to the reservist writer. As guardsmen, we couldn’t agree more. Many times we feel that the National Guard and Reserve are misunderstood by the active-duty component.

Yes, we chose to be “weekend warriors.” We made the decision to pursue our educations, careers, and family and social lives on the civilian side. We also made the decision to include the U.S. military in that lifestyle for the same reasons that many individuals join active duty. It’s because of experience, knowledge, educational benefits and a source of income. But it’s mainly because of the pride that comes with serving our country.

Some consider us underdogs because we don’t wear the uniform every day. Yet we go through the same training and testing required by the Army. Many of us have prior service, and many of us also do our military occupational specialties on the civilian side. For instance, a medic is a registered nurse and a combat engineer is a foreman for a construction outfit. Many of us are very experienced and well educated for our MOSs. We also seem to get the job done well when given a mission.

We and our employers have made sacrifices for us to be here. College educations are on hold, and colleges and universities are losing revenue. Our troops here are everything from teachers to police officers in the States. These jobs wait patiently for our return. Some troops are making better money here while others are losing money, which can cause hardships at home.

We’re not complaining, just stating the facts. Being in the Guard or Reserve is truly a balancing act. We’re proud to make these sacrifices, and we’re proud to join forces with all military components to stand up as one for our nation. It would just be nice to see a little more respect and know it’s understood that we’re also needed back home. We are what helps make America what it is today.

Sgt. Heidi K. PaulsonBaghdad, Iraq

Army must improve conditions

As I understand it, our reason for being here in Iraq was to remove a corrupt regime. Mission accomplished. Our reason for still being here is to help the Iraqi people get back on their feet and set up some form of government. The same people who are taking care of us soldiers are trying to ensure a smooth transition. Judging from our living conditions, I don’t see anything happening here in the near future.

We have a government, but no — or not enough — hot meals, water, Internet access, phones, etc. And that’s not to mention a hit-or-miss mail system. The Iraqi people may not have a government, but they have phones, hot meals, water, Internet access, air conditioning, etc. It almost makes one wonder who is really worse off here.

My unit, the 2-70th Armored Battalion, arrived in Kuwait on March 7. We crossed the berm with the 3rd Infantry Division on March 21. We fought with the 101st Airborne Division and are now in Baghdad with our own division, the 1st Armored Division from Fort Riley, Kan. Our battalion is the only one in theater that has been conducting continuous combat operations since we arrived.

It’s time for some air conditioning, a phone call, an e-mail or a good, hot meal. I think that the biggest, baddest, most technologically advanced Army in the world could do a little something for a few war-weary (but still highly motivated) GIs.

Sgt. John NormanBaghdad, Iraq

Thanks for getting mail to GIs

I just want to say thanks to all the people who make it possible to send and receive mail in Iraq. Even though it may take awhile, it’s nice to know that I’m missed at home. My family is grateful to get letters letting them know that I’m OK. Thanks again for this luxury that so many people take for granted — sometimes even me.

Spc. Chris McCordIraq

Transition help not strong

Why is it that we’re so good at setting up our soldiers for success on the battlefield but so bad at setting them up for success as they transition? Returning GIs go through a bum’s rush of outprocessing and out the door in a process that sets them up for failure. It’s inexcusable.

The success of our people, whether they re-enlist or ETS, is (or should be) an imperative for the entire chain of command. There’s no part of our society that’s so affected by the success or failure of each individual as the military. If we fail on the battlefield, our friends, families, comrades and units suffer. If we fail in transition, it’s almost worse. Corporate America gets to excuse itself by saying servicemembers are “culturally unprepared” “infantilized” or “inadequately trained or educated” and disregards them as desirable hires.

The current system is inadequate. It doesn’t provide more than a “check the box” equivalent for those who’ve decided to transition. It’s up to all of us, E-0 to O-7, to be successful, to remember where we came from and to take care of the troops. So whether we’re career military or first enlistments, we are (or should be) obligated to take care of each other while in the military and when we seize the ring and succeed in corporate America.

Setting subordinates up for success is what good leaders do. That needs to apply to transitioning servicemembers as well.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Donald R. MillsCamp Bondsteel, Kosovo

Stop bashing government

Regarding the continued bashing of President Bush over the war on terrorism: What do people expect? We were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. More than 3,000 Americans died. The president made a commitment to hunt down those responsible. He’s keeping that promise.

I’m not a lockstep loyalist who blindly supports our leadership. I don’t agree with certain political decisions. But I don’t bash my country and its leadership. I didn’t agree with many Clinton administration decisions, but I still served proudly in our armed forces and trusted in the ability of our government to do the right things. Everyone has a right to disagree. But many are publicly displaying their own personal hatred of our current government and its leaders. These extreme actions during a time of war are wrong.

The United States has not suffered another terrorist attack. It’s because the Bush administration doesn’t follow opinion polls to decide to do the right thing. All the Chicken Littles should now look back and realize that the sky has not fallen in the United States. Our national leadership hasn’t allowed it to happen.

I’m also upset by the bashing of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “Experts” predicted thousands of U.S. casualties in Iraq. It didn’t happen. Any U.S. life lost in combat is tragic. Any professional commander feels each loss within his own soul. I heard it often in my own commanding general’s voice. The Iraq war is less than 5 months old. It’s not over. We’re helping Iraq rebuild. It takes time. The average tour of duty in Vietnam was one year. Does America really expect an entire war to begin and end in less time than that?

I hear complaints about not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The true WMDs are Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. If we’ve killed them or destroyed their means of attacking America, we’ve destroyed the true WMDs.

Those who disagree should work through their legislators to facilitate changes and vote their consciences. But they should please stop bashing our government in view of the world and every servicemember overseas. It isn’t right.

Reg NealKuwait

July 24

Fewer contractors than reported

In reference to the article Patrick J. Dickson wrote in the June 20 Stars and Stripes (“Pentagon: Some military slots may go to civilians”): The last paragraphs really disturbed me.

I am sure that it is true that 80 percent of the civilians in Kuwait and the surrounding areas supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom (before, during and after) were contractors, as Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness David Chu was quoted as saying. What Mr. Dickson failed to mention is that nearly all of those 80 percent are what is considered “500 labor,” which are the wrench turners, forklift operators, warehouse workers, etc. These are positions for which there is no, or very limited, Civil Service counterpart. Because these positions typically do not require a great deal of expertise and the need for these positions varies, the government uses them on a contract basis. This allows the government to save money by not having a large amount of personnel getting paid when no work is required.

The last paragraph is the one on which I would like to focus. Mr. Chu’s comment regarding sending a team to repair helicopters is so far off the mark it needs to be addressed.

I work Civil Service in support of Marine and Navy helicopters on Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, N.C. I also deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. From this air station alone, 11 civilians were given notices ranging from 12 hours to three days that they needed to deploy with Marines from MALS-29, HMM-162, HMH-464 and HMLA-269. Eight of the 11 civilians were Civil Service employees; the other three were contractors from Sikorsky, Bell and Boeing. This changes the percentage to 27 percent contractors (these 11 are skilled positions assigned as technical experts).

All eight Civil Service personnel had signed “mobility agreements” that required them to deploy even with such short notice. All of the Civil Service personnel deployed as required with no delays.

This is not the same situation for the contractors. One contractor from this location arrived two weeks after the deployment was initiated due to contract renegotiation because he was unwilling to deploy with the current contract provisions.

The global numbers concerning technical experts such as myself are varied from this isolated example. Of 52 civilians deployed, 34 (65 percent) were Civil Service representatives and only 18 (35 percent) were contractors. (These numbers are for personnel in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and do not include the Civil Service personnel that accompany military units on regularly scheduled deployments). With regard to these 52 civilians, the only personnel that failed to deploy on time were contractor personnel. (The example regarding MCAS New River was not an isolated incident.)

Fourteen additional contractors did deploy as part of this evolution. These were not the technical experts, they were Contracted Maintenance Support (CMS) and fall into the same category as the “500 Labor” I mentioned previously.

All Civil Service personnel that support Military Aviation Units are required to sign a mobility agreement that obligates them to deploy or relocate to any location when requested by military personnel. This is not necessarily the case for government contracted personnel.

I invite Mr. Dickson to contact me if you would like further clarification of this issue. He is welcome to come meet with my co-workers and myself if he would like to get more of the real story.

Richard GeigerNaval Air Technical Data and Engineering Service UnitMarine Corps Air Station New River, Jacksonville, N.C.

July 25

Lost benefits gnaws at retiree

The erosion of benefits for those of us who served in the military — now in an untouchable caste known as retirees — continues to be accelerated. A memorandum released by Headquarters, 618th Dental Company, Unit 15652 and dated June 5 now denies any dental services, other than emergency care, to retired military members and their dependents.

This is nothing less than another slap in the face of retirees. I note with interest that this memorandum did not address other Department of the Army civilians. I wondered why, until I realized that they are pay patients. Unless this was an omission and these civilians are also being denied dental services, this speaks volumes as to the intent and integrity of the military dental system.

There are civilians in this command that are here, voluntarily, as emergency essential civilians. This category of civilian will remain in place in the event of hostilities, yet they also cannot receive dental services, according to the memorandum, if they are retirees.

It’s time for this command and the Army to make a decision as to the value of the civilian work force. If we cannot be provided adequate medical and dental support, then perhaps the 8th U.S. Army should consider deleting all civilian positions, except those that the medical/dental system can adequately support, from authorization documents for organizations in the Republic of Korea.

Norm CurranCamp Carroll, South Korea

Can’t deny effect on marriages

I’m writing in response to the July 7 letter “Freedom’s needs come first.” My husband wrote the July 1 letter “Army plan hurts families” to which the July 7 responds. He in no way believes that this is a ploy to make me divorce him or to keep him from re-enlisting. My husband re-enlisted on June 26 and plans to make the military his career. He was simply saying that it takes a strong marriage to withstand military life. With regular deployments it’s hard, but the plan to make deployments more regular would add unnecessary stress and hardships on families that already endure normal separations.

I do (and always will) support my husband’s job and his choices. I share his dedication to serving our country. But that doesn’t mean that military spouses don’t endure a rough road. I’ll stand right beside my husband and I’ll continue to be strong and supportive in his military career. But I agree with what my husband said about the retention rate and the divorce rate. I know of quite a few soldiers who are choosing to get out to keep their families together because of the hardships that recurring deployments cause. Divorce rates are going up daily from where I stand just from normal deployments. I can only imagine what it would be if they start doing redeployments more often.

But in no way am I going to add to this. I am and always will be a soldier’s wife. I’m very proud of my husband and the rest of the soldiers in Iraq who are doing their jobs with pride. My husband is the best of the best.

Kim JohnsonWürzburg, Germany

Reassignment hurts chances

I’m currently in the Reserve serving in Kuwait. I’ve spent 12 years on active duty, and I haven’t seen anything like the current situation in trying to get promoted. We have several soldiers from other companies attached or reassigned to B Company, 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment. My unit is originally A Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment.

I’ve been activated since Feb. 3. I put in my promotion packet to the senior board by May 23. The board is now over and I missed it due to a communication breakdown or a lack of knowledge on where the packets go. The unit I’m in says promotions are up to my original unit. My original unit returned my packet, saying I’m in B Company now. There are other soldiers in similar situations seeking promotions to E-5 and E-6.

I’d like someone to help in this matter. My first sergeant in Bravo Company says I’ll have to wait for the next senior promotion board. I think I shouldn’t have to. The command sergeant major also gave a briefing. He said that an acting CSM doesn’t have the authority to hold a promotion board. What’s happened to taking care of soldiers?

Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Mannion IIICamp Udairi, Kuwait

Support helped ease pain

This is being written with a broken heart. I lost my husband on May 11 in a motorcycle accident. It was his longtime dream to own a Harley-Davidson. The day he was killed, he’d had the bike for 11 days. It’s strange to say he loved his bike so much that he had to die on it. My 5-year-old says he’s in heaven riding it. Kids have such a different grasp on death and heaven, whereas I’m feeling angry, scared and alone without my husband.

Losing my husband is like losing the other part of me. The outreach and kindness I received from the family here in Hohenfels, Germany, was overwhelming. The condolences and donations, the kind words, the support, and all the hugs will never be forgotten. I was never left alone. My parents have also been a great help.

I also wrote the Feb. 26 letter “Pride tempers sad send-off,” which talked about military pride and family and how I wasn’t used to it. Well, when Anthony died my parents came as fast as they could. But my immediate family grew tenfold. There are so many people I’d like to give my deepest thanks.

First are Ronni and Tim Wright. They were my backbone. Master Sgt. David Robinson took the crying and yelling and held my hand. The Viper family lost their noncommissioned officer and friend. The wives brought food and they all came by to check on Raven and me. The sergeants called me all the time and came by daily. They also prepared a beautiful memorial video. Without them, I don’t think I’d have been able to stand up straight at the memorial service.

Spc. Rice and Sgt. Roff also accompanied me to the States to help with the funeral. They’re great people. The chain of command was supportive and kind.

My colleagues from DCA, my supervisors and friends from Lane 17 Bowling Center, the CAC and the Hohenfels Library helped with books to explain to my child where her daddy went. Raven’s Sure Start teachers were great and supportive. Hohenfels Elementary School Principal Dennis Conkright held me while I cried when I brought Raven back to school.

There are so many people who’ve been there for Raven and me that I can’t name them all. I don’t think Anthony ever imagined how many people cared for him and how he affected so many lives here in Germany. He loved his job and his soldiers. He was always there for them, and now they’ve all been there for me.

I can see Anthony smiling about how beautiful the memorial was and how many people came to pay their respects. I loved my husband and will forever. His short life with Raven and me was blessed and filled with happiness and love. The Army was my husband’s life, and he served his country with all his heart and soul.

All the donations I’ve received have helped us get through the tough days in the beginning. Now that we’re slowly figuring our way through the military paperwork, I’d like to donate all that money back to two organizations that my husband believed in, the Fisher House and the USO.

I thank everyone who helped us. Now I’d like to help others. Remember my husband and that family is important. Remember that life may be short. Thanks again. May God bless and protect everyone.

Lorena LopezHohenfels, Germany

July 26

It’s a stretch to ignore Japan

Regarding the July 18 article “That stretched-out feeling” and the “Ongoing Deployments” list that accompanied it, Stripes failed to mention the most important American ally in the world: Japan, and the men and women who serve there. Japan is the cornerstone of America’s Pacific strategy, without question the most important country in the Pacific, and the Pacific is arguably the most important theater in the world, yet Stripes did not mention the 50,000-plus troops stationed and working in Japan every day. Why the oversight?

So, let’s just review a brief history for Stripes in hopes that its editors might not miss us next time: World War II ended in Japan in August 1945. U.S. troops, led by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, have been “deployed” here ever since. We have soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen serving right now in Japan. There are more than 50,000 of us, and we’ve been here since 1945.

Next time Stripes runs a deployment list, don’t forget all the great Americans “deployed” to Japan.

Keith MuschalekYokota Air Base, Japan

Breathing freely on Okinawa

This spring Carlos Bongioanni wrote an article that appeared in the April 20 Sunday magazine titled “Mold complaints in Okinawa housing slowly prompting changes.” My family was the subject of the article.

Before the article was published, we had been offered alternative housing arrangements. In May, we were moved into a home that does not have mold within the air conditioning system. Both children have seen a tremendous improvement in their health. We have been in the home for nearly three months and my children have reduced their daily asthma/allergy regimen from five medications to none. This was the outcome we have prayed for since last summer.

Mike Reese, the chief of housing here on Okinawa, has been especially helpful, kind, pleasant and flexible while assisting my family with our relocation. One of his managers, Gloria Koluch, was also extremely patient, thorough and courteous throughout the process of our move. These two housing officials are shining stars among their peers. It was a pleasure working with both. Before we moved into our new home, Lt. Col. Steven Hammock, commander, 18th Wing Civil Engineering Squadron, personally toured the house to verify that it would be suitable for our needs. Many renovations were performed to ensure the home was as mold-free as possible.

Other housing issues have cropped up since our move, but Mr. Reese has swiftly addressed these problems for us. I hope that any other Okinawa residents who have base housing concerns and cannot resolve the issue(s) elsewhere would look to Mr. Reese. He has a cool head, patience beyond a saint and calming nature that is contagious. Okinawa is blessed to have him at the head of the housing department.

I also want to thank the Stars and Stripes for running the article. It shed light on an issue that had been overlooked for entirely too long.

Susan PetersenCamp Foster, Okinawa

DOD act devalues Bronze Star

What are they thinking back there at the Pentagon? The Department of Defense has just dishonored every combat veteran who has truly earned a Bronze Star by awarding one to Pfc. Jessica Lynch, whose only noteworthy accomplishments as far as I can tell have been surviving a vehicle crash and becoming a media darling for being a pretty prisoner of war.

I am a former U.S. Army sergeant (never called to serve in combat, thank God) and the son of an infantry soldier who earned his Bronze Star in the course of service in the North African, Sicilian and western front campaigns of World War II, and I’m just plain mad! Up to this point I have supported the efforts and policies of President Bush and the DOD regarding Iraq, but I now have to join the growing number of people suspicious that this government has been using nefarious tactics to manipulate public sentiment about the war.

I would like to call for the resignation of any in the Army and DOD, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who approved of this publicity stunt involving Lynch. Indeed, this is not the first evidence that DOD has for publicity purposes misused and willfully misrepresented the facts surrounding her capture and release.

I do not mean to denigrate Pfc. Lynch, who has certainly earned her Purple Heart and POW medals and who appears to have done her duty as far as she was capable, but her receiving a Bronze Star is a damn shame. Truly, something is rotten in northern Virginia.

Lawrence D. StoneGuilderland, N.Y.

BBC reports lack balance

Every day my men and I listen to British Broadcasting Corp. news. Since it’s the only news station that we can pick up in English, it’s our only real-time source of world news. My major problem with BBC journalists is the extreme anti-U.S. spin they put on every story relating to Iraq. Many of their reports are one-sided and don’t give U.S. authorities an opportunity to provide their side of the story. It appears to me that they’re too busy interviewing cowardly Iraqis who would make threats against U.S. forces rather than have the courage to face us in combat.

I’ve never seen or heard of a BBC journalist anywhere in our area of south Baghdad. Maybe they should spend some time talking to some paratroops in our unit, the 82nd Airborne Division. Our brigade combat team has been fighting the war since March. Why doesn’t the BBC come ask us about our battles in Samawah, where we liberated an entire city from the horrors of the Saddam Fedayeen?

The people there still hold us and other U.S. servicemembers in high regard. Maybe the BBC should speak to the local people of the Daura refinery complex and ask them how they feel about the presence of U.S. forces. Could it be because these people’s positive feelings toward the United States wouldn’t fit in with the BBC’s anti-U.S. views?

I’m tired of this radio station bad-mouthing my country, my commander in chief and our mission here in Iraq. I sincerely hope American Forces Network can get a radio station set up soon so we can listen to some unbiased news that isn’t clouded with righteous arrogance.

Staff Sgt. J. CritasiBaghdad, Iraq

Attacking Guard off the mark

I’m an active-duty veteran. I was in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. These days I’m here again with my National Guard unit.

The writer of the May 15 letter “Time for new blood in Iraq” invalidated his entire train of thinking by making a disparaging statement about the reservists and guardsmen who serve here in Iraq and around the world.

So just for fun and because I’m a good sport, I’ll say that it’s about time the active-duty component earned their beer money. Oh, sorry. Iraq is dry.

Spc. Michael CokerOregon National GuardMosul, Iraq

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