June 15

Dog full part of military family

Recently I lost someone dear to me. I lost my best friend. His name was Sam, a black Labrador retriever. He was 14½ years old.

Sam was born on Christmas Day 1988, with 10 siblings. He was the runt of the litter. Sam came to live with us the following Valentine’s Day. He was the best present we ever got.

We’re a military family. We never have the advantage of staying in one place for very long. We do have the opportunity to travel and to see the world. Sam was always a part of our world as we moved. We never dreamed of leaving Sam behind. He was part of our family.

We had to improvise with a large dog. Not all hotels or rentals allow pets. So we had to search in advance for places that did. Sometimes we had to live in stairwell housing. We did for three years on a previous assignment. Sam was walked and ran daily. It was also a good way for our family to exercise. Living in a stairwell unit didn’t mean we had to get rid of Sam.

Pets require a lot of love and commitment. What does an owner get in return? A pet is a faithful friend until the end. After a hard day, a pet is at home anxiously waiting to greet its owner with its tail wagging. When one is lonely or sad, a pet is there for comfort. When a spouse is deployed, a pet is protection.

My dog Sam protected me on two separate occasions from snake bites. Once in Florida, Sam and I were walking when Sam used his body to redirect our path. I noticed a water moccasin coiled up, ready to strike at me. Another time while mowing the lawn in Maryland, Sam again pushed me away and redirected my path. Under a cedar tree where I’d been mowing was a snake, coiled and ready to strike.

Sam was not only my friend. He was also my protector. Sam truly was a “Lassie” dog. It doesn’t just happen in stories. It can happen in real life, too, if only people give their pets a chance.

I cannot understand why people abandon their pets. When PCSing, some people leave their pets behind and get new ones at the next duty station. I’ve heard kids say, “We had to leave our pet because they weren’t allowed to come here.” Moving is an adjustment in itself. A child’s pet can be his only friend. Moving is difficult enough on children without leaving their pets behind.

My daughter recently graduated from high school. Sam was our family dog. He greeted her each day after school for most of her life. Through every PCS move, Sam was by the side of my daughter and her two brothers. Sam is the one stable thing they’ve had in their lives.

As I said goodbye to my best friend Sam with tears streaming down my face, I knew every tear was well worth all the years of joy that he’d brought to me and my family. There’s a time to mourn and a time to dance. This is my time to mourn for all of the dancing.

I dedicate this letter in Sam’s memory that all pets may live a joyful life and not be abandoned or abused by their owners. I pray that readers who have pets will cherish their presence in their lives. I cherished Sam, and I will miss my beloved friend.

Amy BromwellVilseck, Germany

June 16

Put country above religion

This is in regard to the June 6 letter “AFN, Stripes must rise above.” What pornographic filth in Stars and Stripes? Is the writer getting a different issue than I am? If the writer is going to condemn Stripes, she should try citing reasons that exist — like by the time we get Stripes, all the news has been reported on TV the night before. As far as pornography goes, let me, as someone who enjoys a little porn from time to time, assure the writer that she will most certainly not find any porn in Stripes.

I’m no fan of the “Jonathan and Mary” morning show. But the writer criticized that radio show and offered the “John Boy and Billy Show” as an alternative? I listened to “John Boy and Billy” while stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga., and frankly there’s no difference in the two shows: They both use off-color humor to secure ratings.

American Forces Network television’s airing “Will & Grace” and “The Osbournes” is offensive? The last time I checked, the primary concern of most soldiers was a deep belief that we secure freedom for our citizens and, at times, the rest of the world. Freedom means the freedom to choose what’s good for someone and what’s not — instead of having it dictated by someone else. Are we representing freedom and America in the military or Christianity? That’s obviously from where the writer’s argument stemmed. The writer should re-evaluate why she and her husband are affiliated with the military, because that’s what the job entails.

Staff Sgt. Jeff HayesBüdingen, Germany

Don’t just close your eyes

I wish I’d been able to read the issue of Pulse magazine that a lot of letters have mentioned in the last couple of weeks. I also wish I could understand why so many Stars and Stripes readers want to limit — or, even worse, completely expunge — the content of a forum that covers the people, places, events, thoughts and, ultimately, the expression of a younger, more diverse and liberal generation. There’s a simple answer for readers who don’t like Pulse’s content: Don’t buy Stripes the day that Pulse is published. Even better, they should buy Stripes and throw Pulse out.

The June 6 letter “AFN, Stripes must rise above” said that “honest, decent and hard-working families don’t want to read, listen to, or watch porn or immoral behavior.” Such blatant ignorance and generalizing assumptions about people, their interests and their behavior is really what Stripes should keep out of the paper.

The same writer went on to criticize American Forces Network television’s airing of “Will & Grace” because “the show centers around a lifestyle that can result in a servicemember’s discharge … and it’s also considered sinful by many viewers.” People with similar thoughts need to get off their moral high horses and realize that not everyone thinks, feels or believes the way they do. By forcing the rest of the military population to yield to their despotic idealism, they are creating a breeding ground for continued and increased ignorance.

The parents upset with their kids’ exposure to Pulse who’d like Stars and Stripes to do away with the magazine should be more concerned with what they’re teaching their children about censorship by trying to prohibit writing they consider “filthy” or “indecent.” Their desire to suppress expression by demanding the discontinuation of a freer-thinking and a maybe somewhat licentious magazine would do far more harm to these children than having to explain what “gyrating hips” means.

The bottom line is that readers who don’t like Pulse shouldn’t read it. They shouldn’t force everyone to conform to their thoughts, beliefs, values and ideals.

Maija KruethMannheim, Germany

Pulse reflects modern life

The big argument concerning Pulse magazine is ridiculous. I’m dismayed and shocked that people who fight and stand for the freedom of others seem to oppose the freedom of their own press. Many mornings when I walk into my local German bakery, I’m greeted by the local newspaper, which often features nudity on the cover. (Gasp!) I often see scantily dressed women on my one — count ’em, one — American Forces Network TV channel. Beyond that, I also see scantily clad women on the covers of magazines when I walk into my base exchange. Often these magazines offer tips to women on “how to please their man.”

Instead of hiding in my kitchen cabinet waiting for indecency to clear, I simply understand that this is the reality of modern life. If we wanted to live an Amish lifestyle, we wouldn’t have joined the military or married military spouses. I don’t understand why it’s so hard for some people to live and let live. So let’s try something new. Let’s throw away the newspaper inserts we deem irrelevant to our lives.

All the letter writers who said Pulse was disturbing to their kids missed a golden opportunity to talk about the human body and, if appropriate, sexuality. Beyond that, they must realize that they’re so fortunate to have their families with them overseas. They should volunteer and read to and with their children. They should let their children read Stripes and see alternative lifestyles on television. This gives parents a chance to talk about the real world outside the gates of whatever base they share with their families and friends.

As for the June 6 letter “AFN, Stripes must rise above,” I have one AFN station. It shows some programs that didn’t interest me in the United States. (I only had two channels then.) So I turn off the television and find another form of entertainment.

Staff Sgt. Armenia ColemanRamstein Air Base, Germany

FCC changes limit information

In Edward Wasserman’s June 4 opinion piece “Did you hear of plans to weaken FCC rules?” he quoted Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein as saying, “We are on the eve of the most sweeping and potentially most destructive overhaul of ownership laws in the history of American broadcast — and most people have no idea what’s about to happen to them and their media.”

The FCC voted to deregulate the media further than it already is on June 2. Of the five commissioners on the FCC panel, headed by Michael Powell, Colin Powell’s son, three GOP commissioners voted to loosen remaining restrictions on media monopoly, while the two Democratic commissioners voted against. This lays the groundwork for continued media consolidation. (In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the majority of all aspects of U.S. news media. Today, just a handful do.)

I did not read a single article in Stars and Stripes about the FCC’s plan to place media control into fewer hands, nor was Stripes’ archive service able to produce any article or opinion piece that I might have missed alerting me to this upcoming vote. Had Stripes informed its readers of this FCC vote and its consequences, it surely would have mobilized a strong coalition of military members to prevent this destructive act against our democratic principle of maintaining the multiplicity of voices in our news that soldiers dedicate their lives to support.

How many readers know of the new budget passed by the Senate that includes a $14.6 billion reduction in veterans’ benefits? (The House version is $28 million in cuts.) Without a diverse and open media, it’s difficult for readers to discern, for example, how the latest tax breaks for corporate media moguls are being subsidized.

The battle over print, airwaves, cable and Internet control is far from over. The new rules will hopefully be challenged in court with a ruling that FCC media consolidation is unconstitutional. If a court challenge doesn’t work, there’s a new bill in the Senate that would override the FCC ruling. Both the House and Senate have the necessary support. It’s only a question of whether President Bush would veto it.

Corporate deregulation didn’t work. Do we want to experiment with media deregulation as well?

Edwin ThornburgWürzburg, Germany

June 17

Waksal sentence deserved

“Greed is good.” Such was the Wall Street mantra of the late 1990s when irrational exuberance reigned supreme in the equity markets. That is until the bubble burst and sent corporate America hurtling down to Mother Earth. Coming on the heels of the worst bear market in history, confidence in the U.S. financial markets all but vanished in the face of accounting irregularities, illicit business practices and insider trading.

Once the envy of stock markets all over the world, U.S. financial markets have seen their squeaky clean image sullied as corporate scandals emerged one after another. All at once, Enron, WorldCom and Global Crossing, the toast of corporate America, have become case studies for corporate greed gone awry. Beleaguered CEOs and investors have found out that the same avarice that propelled their companies to fame and good fortune can hurt businesses as well. As the old adage goes, too much of a good thing can also be bad.

Fortunately, corporate America has since weathered the crisis of confidence. Yet serious questions linger. To restore investor confidence, the Securities and Exchange Commission must seek out and punish those who undermine the integrity of the equity markets. Sam Waksal, former CEO of biotech firm ImClone Systems Inc., is the first ex-CEO to serve jail time for his role in an insider trading scandal. His 87-month jail sentence should send a strong and unequivocal message to corporate crooks that no one is above the law.

That being said, the stock market is the bedrock of the U.S. economy and for Wall Street to recover from its current malaise and remain viable in the future, it must muster the resolve to rid itself of corporate crooks, even if they wield considerable clout with the high and mighty.

Mr. Waksal’s punishment, although not as harsh as some had hoped for, is a step in the right direction toward restoring lost confidence and to show investors that the market is not rigged. But this is just the beginning. Several other CEOs indicted for alleged corporate chicanery and wrongdoing are waiting in the sidelines for their day in court. One can only hope that the wheels of justice keep moving briskly.

Master Sgt. Manuel W. YaptangcoOsan Air Base, South Korea

Iraqis should support U.S. work

I’m currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I must say that I’m proud, and my prayers go out to each and every servicemember serving in the Persian Gulf and to the families who support these fine soldiers. But after reading about how some Shiites in Iraq are exercising new freedoms by bashing U.S. efforts in their country, I was very upset. Here I am, day in and day out, transporting equipment and helping do my part, and I’m reading that they want us to go home. For what? So somebody else can take Saddam Hussein’s place and put his foot thigh deep in their butts for another couple of decades?

What they need to do is focus all that protest energy into something positive, such as rebuilding their homeland, instead of bashing the United States, stripping our vehicles left on the side of the road down to their frames and going on suicide missions. The story also mentioned that people came from as far as Iran and other regions to Karbala, Iraq. They should have come with hammers, nails and a vision.

As a Muslim soldier, I had my reservations about coming over here. But I’m happy to be a part of the liberation of my fellow sisters and brothers. But the madness has got to stop. Those same clerics who lead the people and are so opinionated after sitting on their hands for so many years need to help calm the people so we can do our jobs and go home to our families. We need peace, not protests. That’s the big picture for a promising future in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Kwame Ali PettusCamp New York, Kuwait

June 18

Adopting a defiant tone

After the publication of our adoption story (“Finding home,” Stripes Accent, June 10), we have been thankful for so many people’s support and blessings. We were especially touched by a card we received in the mail signed “Anonymous” on the day the story was in the paper. While others argue over contents of newspaper articles, and stories of war and politics fill our papers daily, one small story was able to touch someone in a way that we may not always know about. It was nice to hear how it touched this person and I carry his or her card in my purse every day as a reminder.

However, there has also been a downside to the story. While we are very open to discuss our adoption experience, we have had several intrusive and rude questions by people who seem to think it is their “duty” to make sure our son is being raised a certain way due to his cultural background. In the diverse culture of our own military community, I find it unbelievable that adopting a child from a culture different than ours can bring about such rudeness. I am especially appalled that another military member would use duty hours to call my husband at his workplace and ask personal questions when, admittedly, the military member hadn’t even read the article. This person crossed from curiosity to stupidity.

When a family adopts a child, there are always questions about the many things surrounding the adoption, but taking it upon yourself to decide if a family is providing for a child based on his ethnic background is intrusive. Implying we will not meet our child’s cultural needs is insulting. How we choose to encourage his growth of cultural background is not just our job as his parents — it is also dependent on his wishes. He is very capable of telling us what he wants and needs, despite others’ assertions that he cannot speak or understand English. Offering cultural help or support is one thing, but being rude is another.

We may have taken the boy out of Samoa, but we cannot take the Samoan out of the boy. He spent the first nine years of his life there; he speaks fluent Samoan and has many sad tales to tell of the poverty-stricken life he had; he also has happy, joyous tales of customs and holidays. We embrace them all.

He is now an American and is proud of it, as well as proud of how well he is learning English and American customs. Did our detractors ever stop to think that he has to choose when, how and why he adapts his ethnicity into his new life? We can support and encourage him as his parents, but it has to be when he is ready. That is not for anybody else to judge — and it is certainly not up for discussion during duty hours.

Jennifer PiedraCamp McTureous, Okinawa

Different gas prices can burn

Who is going to enforce Army and Air Force Exchange Service gas prices? Why are we paying for gasoline at a taxed rate when the gasoline AAFES buys is not taxed?

Just because the local-economy gasoline price is high does not make it right for AAFES to charge us at a taxed rate. Local economy is taxed at about a 300 percent rate. We are authorized tax-free gasoline. However, that is not what we pay.

I went to Chinhae Naval Base, a U.S. Navy base in South Korea, and paid $1 per gallon and in the same week I paid more than $1.70 per gallon at AAFES. For the extra 70 percent I got no extra service, either. Other people can be happy by paying an extra 70 percent but I feel like I got robbed.

I am not talking about an extra five or seven dollars per pump, but rather the feeling I get after pumping gas — when I know that gas not controlled by AAFES costs 70 percent less for the same gas, same time and in the same country with the same status or forces agreement status.

Gas prices should be uniform or more closely related. Let’s just be fair to servicemembers and their supporters.

Richard PakYongsan, South Korea

Mail not first necessary tool

I’ve been reading letters about mail service for several days now and I’ve had enough.

Mail going to deployed units gathers at a staging base until a supply plane, truck or train is able to deliver it downrange. It will not take the place of required cargo such as food, ammunition, fuel, and whatever else our troops need to perform safely downrange. This means that the tons of packages and daily letters are backlogged because there’s not enough room on the transports to take the mail in or out as often as we’ve gotten used to. Would readers rather their loved ones get food or letters?

When there’s finally room to put a pallet of mail on a transport, the oldest stuff goes first. It could be several weeks old by the time there’s space available. It’s the same for the returning mail. I’m still waiting for a letter mailed to my son for his birthday in February. The uncle who mailed it has been home for a month already. It happens, and it’s just something that we military families have to deal with.

The further away loved ones are from a permanent staging base, the longer it will take them to get any “snail mail.” The more that’s sent, the more it gets backlogged at staging areas and deployed bases where there aren’t enough people to process it and perform all the other required duties. The more it gets backlogged, the longer it takes to find space on a supply run and in the mail rooms downrange. And the longer it takes to find that space, the angrier letters in Stars and Stripes become.

No one’s trying to keep mail from our troops. Active-duty postal clerks and our own family members are deployed with everyone else. They’re not getting their mail and are unable to send it, just like everyone else. We’re definitely not stealing it and aren’t delaying it because we can. We don’t want it building up any more than the guys out there do.

Although I’m a civilian postal clerk, this is in no way an official reply. These are things I’ve learned in nearly 33 years as a military dependent and postal volunteer. Most recently I got my Air Force husband’s only letter home the day he got back because it was mailed internationally when he was finally allowed off his site. Mail delivery has always been like this. I’ve heard the same stories about mail service during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm. It will continue to be this way as long as we overload the system. It’s as much our fault as it is the logistics of the supply runs.

At least now we have e-mail, cell phones, satellite phones and video phones to help us stay in touch. Let’s be grateful for what we have and be tolerant of the imperfections in the military lifestyle. We’re all in this together, and getting angry about something that we have no control over is not helping anyone. All it does is make us all miserable and angry when the fault is not with the system, but in the fact that we went to war and war is hell on mail, just like everything else.

Deanna L. RosarioRamstein Air Base, Germany

June 19

DODDS payroll woes endemic

I started working for Department of Defense Dependents Schools in January 2002 as a paraprofessional for the Special Education Department at Camp Zama, Japan.

However, problems have begun as far as my pay situation goes. As a Command and Staff College tech, I was allowed to work 78 hours. I was told the only one who gets these 78 hours is the CSC tech. There was a mix-up from the start that somehow, I was told, would be fixed. In good faith, I continued to work.

I had many dealings with local representatives about my pay during this time. They — on many occasions — spoke to the main office in Okinawa, while I was sitting at their desk, about the situation. They were given excuse after excuse as to what the problem was and I was told: “It will all be resolved.” I continued to do my job.

Pay period after pay period seemed to come and go without the resolution. There were many pay problems at that time, that I, the representatives and the Okinawa payroll personnel were aware of. I was not the only employee to be caught in the trap.

This entire situation is a joke. DODDS should be ashamed. The military family preaches togetherness, helping others, going that extra mile when someone has a problem. As far as I see it, DODDS seems to be excluded from that. They should have had this problem straightened out in October at the very latest. Someone is not doing his or her job. I have been the joke here, working all the hours, doing what was expected — and then some — and never once did I think it was something more than an oversight of some sorts. Well, I have had enough.

DODDS has a major payroll problem, and it has taken my resignation to get it any sort of attention. It was admitted in more than one phone call by a higher-up that it has been this way for years. Does anyone think maybe it is time to take care of it? I have handed in my resignation, and I know DODDS has lost a good employee. I was dedicated to my job; unfortunately I know the attitude of many at DODDS is: “Oh well, just another aide.”

I worked my heart out to help those who needed it most, and because of the lack of concern of their employees, DODDS took it away from them.

I would like all those reading this to realize that what constitutes waste, fraud and abuse is when someone brings forth a problem and those in charge choose to turn and look away. Maybe now the right someone will finally recognize what has been going on “for years” with the DODDS payroll system.

Jean StinsonCamp Zama, Japan

3rd ID spearheaded war

I read the March 31 article “On the Road to Baghdad,” and I’m quite disturbed as to how the article made the 3rd Infantry Division look. Many times the article mentioned the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment and the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment going ahead of 3rd ID tanks “that were supposed to clear the way.”

Given the time line for the 2-6 Cavalry’s and 6-6 Cavalry’s crossing of the border — “the convoy didn’t cross into Iraq until nightfall,” the article said — it’s highly unlikely that the 2-6 and 6-6 convoy caught up to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd ID, which busted down the berm on March 20. Tanks and Bradleys from that unit began to engage targets in Nasiriyah later in the night on March 21 when the 2-6 and 6-6 convoy finally crossed into Iraq.

I’m a crew chief on a command-and-control Black Hawk supporting a 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment attack battalion. We crossed the border to attack observation posts on the night of March 20. The 1-3 then attacked Nasiriyah on the night of March 21. About four hours into the attack, tanks and Bradleys rolled in and joined the fight. They were the first vehicles to Nasiriyah.

Thanks to my job, I had an interesting view of all the major battles fought on the way to Baghdad, which as I write this is in the hands of the 3rd Infantry Division. The 3rd ID led the war from Kuwait to Baghdad. I’m sure many soldiers of the 3rd ID felt insulted, as I did, by the article’s many comments about how many times 2-6 Cavalry and 6-6 Cavalry found themselves “in front of the warfighters.”

The fighting men should be applauded, not put down, in Stars and Stripes’ articles. The 3rd ID spearheaded this war. So let’s give credit where credit is due.

Sgt. Ryan A. DeanBaghdad International AirportBaghdad, Iraq

U.S. colors, then Marne patch

I’m a maintenance shop foreman with B Battery, 1/39 Field Artillery (Multiple Launch Rocket System), 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized). I’m currently at Saddam International Airport in Iraq. I couldn’t be more proud to say that I’m about to sew on the Marne patch on my right shoulder. But for a couple of reasons, it’s my opinion that the flag that’s already there should remain where it is. At no time should any other flag or unit colors fly higher than the national colors. Whether Enduring or Iraqi, it’s freedom that we’re fighting for, and as Americans we should represent that at home and on any deployment during peacetime or war.

I can’t think of anything better to place above a combat patch than what’s already there. It just usually takes more than a maintenance staff sergeant to change Army regulations. I’d like to know if my opinion is shared elsewhere.

Staff Sgt. Jason C. JohnsonBaghdad, Iraq

Writer just a missionary

Stars and Stripes recently published the letter “Look beyond the superficial” (June 14) from a “Christian woman” — only incidentally a U.S. soldier — who urged readers to believe that “God can do amazing things through us and others.” This letter pretty obviously and without subtlety urged its readers to adopt similar Christian beliefs.

The Stripes staff may not like to admit it, but Stars and Stripes is a Department of Defense entity. The paper is produced, published and distributed by the Armed Forces Information Service, a public affairs entity within the Department of Defense.

Why, then, does the state organ that is Stars and Stripes print every letter from every Christian who believes his or her thoughts and beliefs ought to be the thoughts and beliefs of others? What allows Stripes to spend the U.S. government’s money to promote Christianity?

Capt. Tiernan DolanHeidelberg, Germany

Censorship fixes nothing

Censor Stars and Stripes? Censor shows on American Forces Network television? For the last month I’ve sat here wondering what country these letter writers are from. Hello Americans!

Every writer has complained about the content of shows or articles, and not one of them has remembered what it means to be an American. We have the right to choose on our own. Censorship is not our way of life. We’re the home of the free.

Those who don’t like a show should change the channel. If readers have a problem with an article, they shouldn’t read it. They should try throwing it away if they feel it might be inappropriate for their families. These letter writers should stop trying to run the lives of everyone around them. They should worry about what’s good for them and not be the judge and jury for me.

As for shows that portray alternative lifestyles, let’s get over that. They’re for entertainment. They don’t exist to change viewers. If the letter writers are afraid of the shows, perhaps some counseling might help.

Patricia KoningRamstein Air Base, Germany

June 20

Complaining must stop

The May 4 article “No fun in sun for troops at Camp Virginia” was about soldiers having a hard time living at Camp Virginia, Kuwait. They have electricity, running water, a post exchange, drinking water and hot chow. My unit has been maneuvering through Iraq since April 14. My unit is A Troop, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.

We have not received our mail on a regular basis. We have only two complete uniforms. My unit has not had showers or hot chow. We get only two 1.5 liter bottles of water and two Meals, Ready to Eat per day. We have been sitting in the sun 12 hours a day in 112-degree heat in full “battle rattle” and body armor. We don’t have enough water to clean ourselves or our laundry. We are too far forward to get the laundry out to us.

So when those at Camp Virginia are sitting in their tents or waiting in line at the PX or eating a hot plate of chow with a cold soda, they should just remember that there are soldiers out in Iraq somewhere who are not getting their mail, eating two MREs a day and only getting two 1.5 liter bottles of water a day. We have not been cleaned and have not gotten to do our laundry. We also cut our own hair and sit in the sun all day.

So when those at Camp Virginia are feeling down and out in Kuwait, they should remember us, the spearhead of the 4th Infantry Division, A Troop, 1-10 Cavalry, out front, leaning forward in the saddle and keeping them safe.

Sgt. Mickey AndersonIraq

Discipline lacking in country

This is in regard to the May 25 letter “Reservists, guardsmen do job”: When my unit left Camp Virginia, Kuwait, we were told to pack a five-day supply of water and Meals Ready to Eat. We had to beg, borrow and steal to get the numbers of bottled water and MREs to feed our soldiers. We still came up short because we had no support. Once we crossed the berm, we were on a two-MRE, six-bottles-of-water-per-day ration. Some soldiers and I would use only five bottles a day to stretch out our supply. It’s a good thing we did, because we didn’t get resupplied until Day 8.

We did not get our first pieces of mail until the fifth week we were in theater. Mail still is not reliable. Our unit sent two men back to Camp Virginia to guard a connex of ours that could not get pushed forward to us. And that is where those two men found another connex full of mail for our battalion, just sitting there for months. So, letter writer, talk to me about how the infantry would feel if we didn’t get our food, water and mail. We didn’t! Some unit was sitting on its rear instead of pushing forward the things that help morale.

Discipline is not in a support unit’s vocabulary. It takes the smallest amount of discipline to stay in the right uniform. It takes the smallest amount of discipline to maintain security. Discipline is doing the right thing without being told.

I have seen men under fire with their lives in danger. I have been shot at. We’ve taken numerous amounts of mortar rounds and we still held our ground, returned fire and took our objective. That’s discipline — to have soldiers fight and pull security for another 24 hours at 100 percent. That’s discipline.

I don’t consider the letter writer a National Guardsman or reservist because he’s active right now. As a matter of fact, I also served in the Reserve for eight and a half years, and I know the lack of discipline that those units have. But when the writer talked about active-duty infantrymen lacking discipline, he crossed the line.

The writer said that civilians were throwing stones. Where was the security? Did the writer not have the discipline to put his people on security if things were that bad?

We’ve heard about and seen many support units getting lost and putting themselves in bad situations. Tell me more about infantrymen lacking discipline, letter writer. In the more than 4,000 miles that I’ve put on my vehicle doing movement, combat and patrols, all the discipline problems that I’ve mentioned have come from support units. If the writer is in one of the support units that did its job, thanks. Otherwise, the writer has no ground to walk on when talking about discipline in the infantry.

Staff Sgt. Anthony AlvarezBaghdad, Iraq

An (active-duty) Army of One

This letter is directed to all the active-duty component soldiers who must not be very observant. I read the May 15 letter “Time for new blood in Iraq.” The writer said we should bring in National Guardsmen and reservists to relieve the active-duty component. This comment highly agitated us reservists.

I’m at Camp Bucca, Iraq, and have been here since March. At this site it’s rare to find an active-duty soldier. We reservists over here are right alongside the active-duty people. There are currently about 60,000 Army Reserve soldiers who are activated. What about us? We left our civilian lives, our jobs, our families and schools to come over here. For what? To get no respect from our active-duty component?

We are no less soldiers than they are. If anything, it’s harder being reservists, trying to maintain our military skills and balance our civilian jobs and lives at the same time. And that’s not to mention putting our lives on hold when we get deployed.

I want to thank my fellow reservists and National Guardsmen for being willing to put their lives on hold when our nation calls.

Spc. Jacklyn KovaschetzCamp Bucca, Iraq

Adult magazines give boost

This is in response to the May 30 letter “Stripes double standard seen”: I think the writer is in need of professional help. Her warped, puritanical views on sexuality are truly disgusting. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking at, reading or purchasing adult magazines. Adult magazines are not smut. I believe them to be works of art. A lot of this so-called smut reminds many of us of exactly what we’re fighting for: the freedom to appreciate the beauty of our women.

As for Pulse magazine, it is absolutely not smut. There are far worse publications to look at. Stars and Stripes is not providing sexual content for any of us here in Iraq. We’re lucky to get a newspaper that’s a week old about twice a week.

I also think the Army and Air Force Exchange Service should be allowed to sell so-called smut in Kuwait and Iraq. It would seriously boost morale around here. AAFES has probably lost quite a bit of money due to the Military Decency Act. AAFES used to have a much better and broader selection of adult reading material. Now it’s just a crying shame.

Staff Sgt. David J. WallachIraq

Site honors troops, supporters

Hello from Iraq. I’m an Army medic, and I’m currently deployed to a location just northeast of Baghdad. We are proudly continuing the mission of Operation Iraqi Freedom as one of the battalions of the 4th Infantry Division.

I’m writing in regard to the Web site I’ve created in honor of the men and women who’ve served and are serving our country in uniform. The site,, showcases more than 500 celebrities, sports figures, models and actors who support our troops. Some of the favorites are Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Dave Thomas and Hugh Hefner. (Thomas and Hefner served in the Army at Camp Hood, now Fort Hood, Texas.)

I started the wall of fame on my deployment to Kosovo when I was in the 47th Forward Support Battalion in Baumholder, Germany. The pictures came in slow at first. But pretty soon we had our entire command post wallpapered with signed photos from celebrities. I continued the wall in Germany and started a new one when I PCS’d to Fort Hood. I scan all the photos, watermark them and then upload them to the site.

Sgt. Timothy StroudIraq

June 21

Mayors’ views not shared

Given the recent reticence of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his “holier than Thou” attitude toward anything American, this American feels it is time we pulled our troops out of his country.

As the wife of a retired airman, I have had the opportunity to visit Germany several times. Most of our visits were wonderful and we enjoyed the country immensely; however, I will take issue with Landstuhl Mayor Klaus Grumer’s attitude toward Americans in his fair city, as we encountered a most unfavorable attitude toward American GIs.

In the June 14 article “German mayors push to keep bases in fold,” Mayor Bernhard Deubig of Kaiserslautern said that having basic services in place favors existing U.S. bases in Germany. “I believe it is important that these factors are present in Germany, but need to be created in other countries,” he was quoted as saying. “Heat, energy, fresh water need to be supplied. You cannot build that out of nothing."

Quoting the article: “Deubig was asked if such spartan bases, without schools and families, would be acceptable to his community.” Funny. I thought that’s exactly what we encountered after World War II when we rebuilt Germany.

Deubig also was quoted as saying: “The answer is clear. We find it necessary that the families are included. An example: Fifty-one percent of Americans in these communities are family members. Fourteen percent are business people, and 35 percent are soldiers. I find this ration very positive.

“A base with only soldiers? That is comparable to a base in the desert, and that is exactly what we do not want.”

Actions have consequences and Germany needs to address its lack of support for our troops in Iraq, not to mention its cavalier attitude toward our president. We should pull the bases out of Germany and reward Hungry, Poland and Romania with our monetary support.

Forgive what appears to be my dancing on graves, but the esteemed mayors of 13 German cities came to beg for American dollars, not our troops.

Victoria FerrelliOcala, Fla.

Clarify currency information

The June 1 Stars and Stripes included a letter regarding the exchange rate for the purchase of British pounds at Community Banks in Germany (“Exchange rates an issue”). The information provided clearly indicates a breakdown in the manner that exchange rates are represented in Stripes’ “Exchange Rates” table and the manner in which American Forces Network radio is announcing exchange rates. The information the customer received from Community Bank was correct.

The “military rates” quoted by Stripes and announced on AFN are the individual conversion rates for the local currency in each respective country. In other words, the 1.68 rate quoted for British pounds (GBP) would be the individual rate to purchase GBP at Community Banks in the United Kingdom. Similarly, the 0.8268 rate quoted for the Euro would be the rate to purchase Euro in Germany and the Netherlands.

The basis for the setting of individual rates is established in the Department of Defense contract with Bank of America, which operates Community Bank and, in all cases, is dependent on the base cost of the currency, or acquisition rate. Lower purchasing volumes and a higher cost of delivery will generally always result in a higher acquisition cost for a foreign currency (GBP purchased in Germany for sale in Germany) versus a local currency (GPB purchased in the U.K. for sale in the U.K.). The amount of that rate cost variance on any given day is a function of market conditions and currency supply and demand.

The rate the customer received for his GPB purchase was the rate publicly posted in the banking center. DOD — working with Bank of America, Stars and Stripes and AFN — is looking at ways to better communicate foreign currency exchange rate information to eliminate future misunderstanding of this nature. A special thanks goes out to the letter writer for bringing this matter to our attention.

Keith WestbyDefense Financial Institutions Services OfficeColumbus, Ohio

FCC could be abolished

The June 16 letter “FCC changes limit information” said the FCC should not deregulate media consolidation. I disagree. I feel that not only should we deregulate more media-consolidation laws, we should also take it one step further. I’d like to see the FCC completely disassembled and done away with in its entirety. I find it highly ironic that we have a Bill of Rights in our Constitution that guarantees our Congress shall make no law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” and a federal government that authorizes a Federal Communications Commission. That’s along the lines of having a Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms while our Second Amendment guarantees us freedom of infringement on our right to “keep and bear arms.”

I find it interesting and morally questionable that I’m forced to pay almost half of my earnings to support a government that squanders away my very hard-earned money on frivolous federal organizations that are involved in taking away my freedoms. Why am I paying taxes for an organization to infringe upon the free-trade practices of private corporations?

I’ll take this even one step further: Who would be worse off were the FCC to go away tomorrow? Who really cares at what frequencies and power levels TV and radio stations transmit?

A true free-market economy would dictate that firms would only survive with fair and ethical practices anyway. I’d rather have to pay fewer taxes (maybe even eventually no taxes) and have to worry about buying a tuner that would receive the newest digital signals than pay taxes to an organization that feels the need to regulate commerce which keeps radio stations from commercially transmitting digital signals.

Do readers know that there are 135 federal agencies and commissions that are all funded with money they’re earning? Everything from the “Ginnie Mae” organization that does … er … something with my money, to the White House Commission on Remembrance. I’d much rather be able to keep my hard-earned money for myself and try to survive without a United Nations Information Center (also a federal administration). I’d also much rather not pay federal income taxes through the nose than have a U.S. Office of Government Ethics and a Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.

I find it even more interesting that we’ve been conditioned for so long to argue the nuances of the authority of these commissions, like the writer did, when we really should be concerned with why we even have these commissions in the first place.

Michael WolskeKaiserslautern, Germany


Due to an editing error, the June 16 letter “FCC changes limit information” contained an incorrect dollar amount for cuts in veterans’ benefits and health care voted for by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 20. The House voted to cut $28 billion in veterans’ benefits and health care.

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