December 17

Carrying the weight of service

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

December 17 Carrying the weight of serviceDecember 19 We didn't go it alone University not shipshape

December 20 A lot in Reserve The kids are all right

This is regarding the Dec. 5 letter “Retire postal prohibitions.” I retired with 29½ years of service. I started at the young age of 17. From Vietnam to Kosovo, I’ve received many medals from a grateful nation. As a soldier, I never asked why. I just went because there was a job to be done and my country needed me.

Last night I took all those medals from my grateful nation, and guess what? They weigh more than 16 ounces. And if I weigh the metal removed from my body that I received in the defense of this grateful nation, it also weighs more than 16 ounces. I also folded the American flag, which we put over the caskets of our fallen soldiers. It, too, weighs more than 16 ounces. It looks like 16 ounces is a small price to pay for the years of service and all the sacrifices our retirees have given our country.

Someone at the top should have changed this regulation long ago. But that’s not all. One’s money at the community bank is good only until becoming a retiree. Then the money is of no interest to the bank.

So after all their years of service, those becoming retirees should look out. Their grateful nation will soon forget their years of sacrifice. They’ll go from “hero to zero” at midnight, the day before their retirement dates.

John L. DraytonCommand sergeant major (Ret.)Hohenfels, Germany

December 19

We didn't go it alone

I was pleasantly surprised to see Ed De Bruycker’s Dec. 8 letter (“Dates don’t jibe with fighting”) taking to task the somewhat-apocryphal story of a Korean War veteran. I knew Ed when I lived on Okinawa and haven’t seen him for nearly a quarter century.

Yes, Ed did serve in the Korean War. He did so as a member of the U.N. Peace Enforcement troops from Belgium. That is a story that Stripes’ Okinawa bureau might want to pursue. In a time when our national government is attempting to enlist the services of other U.N. member states in taking on the problem of Iraq, it might serve Stripes readers to know that those other member states fought alongside us — and some bled and died in a war few people really know about.

Lt. Cmdr. John E. Kraft, U.S. Navy (Ret.)Las Vegas

University not shipshape

Congratulations to the University of Maryland on getting a 10-year contract extension. I first started attending the university in 1966 in Wiesbaden, Germany, and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1971. I received a second degree in 1979 on Okinawa.

The University of Maryland has been a tremendous aid to millions of servicemembers all over the world by allowing them to obtain their educations while serving their country. In fact, there are probably two or three times as many military members attending the University of Maryland overseas than there are attending the main campus in Maryland. Even though I have obtained two degrees and my wife one, we have never set foot on Maryland’s flagship campus.

Suffice it to say that the University of Maryland makes a very large amount of money on its overseas program. But the official University of Maryland Web page says: “We do not ship to APO/FPO.” Thanks a lot, University of Maryland. With all the money it makes on its overseas military students, it’s an affront to every servicemember that the university doesn’t ship products to us.

I’ve made my feelings known to its Web page to no avail. I believe that all it would take to change this policy would be a simple change in the University of Maryland’s Web page. It wouldn’t cost the university any more to ship to overseas military members than it does to ship to customers in the United States.

Wayne H. SmithEinsiedlerhof, Germany

Civilians' attire blurs lines

I’m concerned about the Department of the Army’s uniform policy for deployed civilians. I’ve observed civilians wearing military-issue uniforms (battle dress uniforms and for Army physical fitness training) during my Balkans rotation. They don’t have to abide by Army Regulation 670-1, “Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia.” There are a number of civilians who are overweight and/or wear their uniforms improperly.

There are many NATO nations here at Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia. When they see a military uniform, they assume the person wearing it is in the military. When a person is not wearing the uniform correctly, it’s a direct reflection on the U.S. Army.

There seems to be three courses of action that would remedy this situation:

1. Stop the policy of civilians wearing uniforms downrange.

2. Design another type of uniform for civilians.

3. Make deployed civilians adhere to AR 670-1.

We know the appearance of the military is tantamount to the perception of a professional military.

Maj. Kristen JanowskyCamp Able Sentry, Macedonia

December 20

A lot in Reserve

It’s hard to believe that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a retired Naval Reserve captain, so flippantly brushed off reducing the retirement age for reservists from 60 to 55 in a recent interview.

I chose to be in the Reserve more than 20 years ago. I’ve never wanted to be active military. I didn’t get second place in boot camp or not make the cutoff on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. The Reserve and Guard aren’t full of GIs who aren’t qualified for active duty. Most of us are successful in their civilian jobs and could easily do without the weekend paychecks we get for being ready to go to war along with the active components.

I volunteered to go to Beirut, I volunteered for Desert Storm, and I’m more than willing to go to the desert this time. The armed forces can’t do major campaigns without relying on the Reserve. So it’s only fair that we’re given the option of collecting a retirement for our many years of sacrifice, “one weekend at a time.”

When I was a company commander in the National Guard, the only thing my battalion commander wanted to talk to me about was recruiting and retention. I made the mistake of telling him that if we concentrated on training, recruiting and retention would take care of themselves. He didn’t want to hear that, so I went back to kicking the same dead horse with the same results.

I think the Reserve and Guard waste more money per year on recruiting and retention than it would cost to pay reservists a retirement after 20 years. It’s hard to convince a 24-year-old Reserve soldier to re-enlist because he already has six years toward a 20-year retirement — and he can’t collect any of it until he’s 60. Most 24-year-olds don’t think about being 60. Now tell that same soldier that he can collect a retirement at 38, and let’s see what happens to retention. We only get that smaller percentage of money based on our total time in service, so why is it such an issue? Dropping the retirement age from 60 to 55 would cost $200 million in the first year alone. But that’s a drop in the bucket compared with the $90 billion it will cost to wage war against Iraq. Reservists will be there if it happens.

I’ve rarely seen any GIs in the Reserve or National Guard forced out when they were at “the top of their game.” I’m 40, and I’m not at the top of my game when it comes to many of the things that make a soldier. As a very wise older colonel once told me: “War is a young man’s game.”

Like the law enforcement career I chose for my full-time occupation, I never expected to get rich as a cop or a soldier. If there’s one benefit to both careers, it’s that one can expect to get a stable retirement. I believe it’s high time we bring the Reserve and National Guard in line and at least lower the age at which one can collect a retirement. As Secretary Rumsfeld can attest to, retirement from one career can often open the door to another.

Maj. Daniel P. GroslandKosovo

The kids are all right

I read with great interest the Dec. 14 letter “Commander gets an education.” I understand the writer’s displeasure at not being able to turn the screws just a little bit tighter on soldiers who are flagged. It’s a typical attitude that’s displayed every day somewhere in the Army. Too bad our young soldiers see it, too.

Smart young troops leave the Army every year because they see not only their benefits going away, but also people such as the letter writer trying to control entitlements given to them by law. Telling people they can’t use the GI fund that they’ve contributed to and which receives matching funds from the U.S. government fits right in with, “If the Army had wanted you to have a wife, it would have issued you one.”

We lose enough rights when we raise our right hands. We don’t need to lose any more. Thank God for the lawmakers on Capitol Hill. We have to love those checks and balances.

Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Langston (Ret.)Grafenwöhr, Germany

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