December 22

Yearning for a little learning

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

December 22 Yearning for a little learning Snail mail in the extremeDecember 24 Bad press for F-15 piloter Saddam has cruel intentions For healing, return to basics Divorce us from ex-spouses actDecember 26 Hands off education benefits Getting a pet is a family affair

December 27 Giving credit where it's due

December 28 Military spouses also sacrifice Redress of attire concerns

I just finished reading the Dec. 14 letter “Commander gets an education,” and there are a few things that concern me. Why would soldiers be denied any education that may benefit them in the future, in or out of the Army? Not all people dream of making the service a lifetime commitment. An education is what a lot of servicemembers are after. It’s ridiculous if the Army says soldiers can’t get an education because they’re unfit or over the weight standard. If people can’t meet the standards, they should be punished, but not by taking away their opportunity to get a better education. If people want to pursue their education with the GI Bill — something they paid for — then they should be left alone.

It’s ignorant to tell people they can’t educate themselves because they’re a little heavy or slow runners. I don’t really care if the finance guy is overweight or can’t run a six-minute mile, as long as he can get my pay correct. No individuals should be told they can’t use something they paid for.

Staff Sgt. Larry D. BinnionRAF Lakenheath, England

Snail mail in the extreme

In these times of heavy-duty, serious news stories, I thought Stars and Stripes readers might enjoy a story that can only be considered humorous.

On Dec. 10, I checked my personal mailbox at the brand new consolidated mail room at Wiesbaden Army Airfield in Germany. To my delight, I had received a “Critics’ Choice” video catalog. When I looked at the movie titles on the yellowing pages, I thought it was a special edition for “golden oldies.” It was addressed to me, but the address was USMCA and the New York, NY, APO is 09457. The date on the catalog was “SUMMER 1991.”

Yes indeed, that was my address in 1991 here in Wiesbaden. I wonder where this catalog has been for 11 years? Thanks to our dedicated postal folks, somewhere along the line it finally made it to my mailbox. Thank heavens it wasn’t an income tax refund check or any other critical piece of mail.

Judy FlackeWiesbaden, Germany

December 24

Bad press for F-15 pilot

I would like to comment on the Dec. 16 article concerning the F-15 crash in August of this year (“Report cites pilot error in F-15 crash”). I realize these planes are expensive. I spent 15 of my 20-year Air Force career working on the F-15. However, I did not feel it was appropriate to single out this pilot for what happened. Granted it may have been pilot error, but the article also stated he was a new pilot training on new maneuvers.

Stripes could have been more sensitive to the pilot’s feelings by leaving his name out of the article. It would have been just as effective to say that an F-15 pilot from Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, was at fault for the August crash. Just my thoughts.

Fred MinkleKitanakagusuku, Okinawa

Saddam has cruel intentions

If Saddam Hussein is ready to burn his own oil wells, and authorize chemical and biological attacks on troops inside his country, then why wouldn’t he try the same inside Britain and the United States? The CIA says it is more than 75 percent likely that Saddam, about to topple, will authorize chemical and biological attacks on the U.S. homeland.

The most powerful weapon Saddam has is highly contagious and lethal. Delivering such a weapon is as easy as infecting one person and have him or her ride airplanes and hang around airports while infectious. Obviously there are better ways, but this just goes to prove that delivering such a weapon would be easy.

Odds are Saddam has weaponized this highly contagious biological weapon, meaning that vaccines or antibiotics would be ineffective against it.

President Bush will cause what he is trying to prevent by ordering the invasion of Iraq. It is extremely reckless to invade a country that possesses a weaponized highly contagious and lethal biological weapon.

Brad ArnoldSt. Louis Park, Minn.

For healing, return to basics

This is regarding the Dec. 10 Ellen Goodman column “Uniting the financially and morally bankrupt,” which compared the Roman Catholic Church to the Enron scandal. Ms. Goodman did little comparing and more Catholic-priest bashing. She appeared to blame everything on the church’s “all-male rules” and “celibate regulations.”

Let’s knock out the feminist, chauvinistic idea that the world, politics and the church would all be in order if ruled by women since women are all perfect. Some of history’s queens and rulers have destroyed this premise. The key issue in the scandals involves fidelity to what one is supposed to believe in and to live by those principles. Ms. Goodman mentioned pedophiles, but not once did she mention homosexuality. The number of abuses committed by pedophile clergy is very small compared to the tremendous harm that’s been done to teenagers by gay clergy. To say so is not gay-bashing, but the truth.

When the pope says no women or homosexuals can be priests, he’s following the teachings of Christ and the scriptural and traditional concepts of his church. A Catholic priest is a male because he is to act, follow and be a witness to the discipleship of Jesus Christ. Celibacy is a gift that a priest or nun offers to God so that he or she may devote himself or herself to prayer, holiness and good works. And what’s the result? Thousands of priests, brothers and nuns are providing housing for the poor, building schools, teaching at all levels and feeding the poor.

Ms. Goodman also mentioned an accused priest who was charged with abuse and yet transferred to the Army chaplaincy. True, a bishop is accountable if he sends a priest or minister with such a record to our Army chaplaincy. But again, one must not smear the good names of thousands of good men and women who are serving in the various chaplaincies of the U.S. Army around the world because of a very small number of those accused of sexual impropriety.

We’ve gone more than a year now hearing about nothing but sex-abuse scandals. What are we going to do about them? Should not Hollywood and the TV and film industries clean up their acts and end the constant diet of violence, sex and pornography? Seminaries and schools of theology should also go back to the basics and stop developing far-fetched ideas.

The cause of clergy sexual abuse has been a falling away from orthodoxy and fidelity to either Catholic teaching or, in the case of some Protestant clergy, a denial of the true meaning in Holy Scripture. The only way to correct the abuses is by getting back to the basics of what we believe in our faith and to the traditional principles that have guided America in the past — whether clerical, political or social. These principles maintained us during World War II. What principles will we fight for should, God forbid, another war descend upon us?

Jean-Paul PoninskiChievres, Belgium

Divorce us from ex-spouses act

Our government continues to let stand the Uniform Services Former Spouses Protection Act, which unfairly and unconstitutionally allows states to award up to 50 percent of a military member’s retired retainer pay to a former spouse through the premise that it’s property. I don’t advocate not supporting former spouses, but current state laws dealing with alimony and child support are adequate to ensure that ex-spouses receive fair compensation and their children receive adequate care.

I feel this way for the following reasons:

• Servicemembers sign a contract to lay down their lives to protect our country’s interests. Spouses do not.• Retired pay is retainer pay. We can be recalled to active duty, just as retirees were during Operation Enduring Freedom. Spouses cannot be recalled.• Retirees remain subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Spouses never were or will be subject to it. In fact, if we break any laws under the UCMJ and are court-martialed (a felony conviction), we forfeit our right to retired pay. But spouses could smoke dope and commit adultery, be prosecuted and found guilty of crimes, and still receive payments from the government.• Alimony normally ends. USFSPA allows for lifelong payments.• The USFSPA allows spouses to benefit from future promotions of servicemembers, even after their divorces are final.• Servicemembers must maintain American citizenship. The act allows payments to foreign nationals who never swear allegiance to the United States or obtain U.S. citizenship.• If retired retainer pay was truly property, why does the IRS view it as taxable income? If it were truly property, ex-spouses should assume tax responsibility after division.

Our elected officials and military leadership need to act to correct this injustice to military members who are defending our country against terrorists and enemies. It takes 20 or more years to earn our retirements. Please help us to protect that for which we have sacrificed. Repeal the USFSPA now.

Senior Master Sgt. David E. McGuireAviano, Italy

December 26

Hands off education benefits

The Dec. 14 letter “Commander gets an education” made my blood boil. It was about soldiers’ Veterans Affairs educational benefits and the lack of authority commanders have to deny these benefits.

The writer suggested that unit commanders should have the authority to deny soldiers their right to use the GI Bill for education while on active duty. He said commanders lack the authority to stop soldiers from using the GI Bill because it’s considered an entitlement and not a benefit.

The writer also implied that there’s a double standard for unit commanders trying to enforce the same standard for all soldiers, and that unit commanders should have the authority to deny soldiers the right to use the GI Bill for educational reimbursement while on active duty. This is exactly why the GI Bill is a congressionally mandated entitlement and not just an Army benefit. It protects a soldier’s right to use his or her educational benefits during off-duty hours, even if his or her commander thinks he or she performed poorly on a physical fitness test.

If soldiers want to continue their education, why would their physical fitness tests even be a factor? What if a command sergeant major with 20 years of faithful service failed to pass an important inspector general inspection? Should his commander have the authority to subtract that year from his retirement plan? Of course not. It would be absurd. The same applies to the GI Bill.

The writer also said: “Entitlements are benefits that are judiciously rendered when a commander and unit mission can afford it.” Therefore, he suggested that unit commanders should have the same authority to deny VA educational benefits as they do to deny annual leave based on mission need. But I fail to see how off-duty education can adversely affect mission need or negatively affect a unit’s ability to conduct operations. In fact, if a soldier would rather spend his nonworking hours attending college courses rather than playing video games or drinking, it would only serve to increase that unit’s performance.

Thirteen years ago I walked into a Marine Corps recruiting office as a rebellious 18-year-old with a ninth-grade education and a GED. Because of the discipline and dedication the Marine Corps instilled in me and the educational entitlements the VA provided, I’ve earned a bachelor’s degree in geography and a master’s degree in geographic information technology. I’ve also been accepted into the information science doctoral program at Nova Southeastern University. Fortunately, my VA education entitlements were never at risk from being denied if I performed poorly on a physical fitness test or failed to qualify expert at the rifle range.

Staff Sgt. Kenny J. HebertGrafenwöhr, Germany

Getting a pet is a family affair

I’ve been alarmed and saddened by ads for puppies, especially those highlighting the fact that the pups will be available “just in time for Christmas.”

People considering adding a dog to their family should think of the decision as more along the lines of having a child than buying a toy. Far too many puppies are purchased for all the wrong reasons, mistreated and eventually abandoned. If readers are thinking about getting a dog, they should understand that they’re making a commitment for 10 to 15 years. If they’re not willing to make the commitment, they shouldn’t get a dog. Abandoning a dog because it has become inconvenient is like abandoning a child.

Many breeders also sell puppies only for profit. Particularly suspect are sellers who offer multiple breeds or appear to have dogs available continuously. There are many Web sites that offer good advice about evaluating breeders. Here’s a few tips:

• Ask to see a puppy’s parents.• Ask to see where the puppies are being kept.• Puppies shouldn’t be separated from their mother until they are at least 10 weeks old.• Puppies should have vaccinations and the breeder should provide customers with their health records.• If readers are purchasing a particular breed, they should research the genetic problems that the breed may face. A responsible breeder will have had the necessary medical screening done before selling the dogs.• A good breeder should be willing to take a dog back, regardless of the reason, if a customer can no longer keep it.

If readers want a purebred dog, they should research the breed. There was recently an ad offering Border collies and Dalmatians. Both are high-maintenance, highly energetic breeds that require an enormous amount of time and work. Border collies, in particular, require several hours of work a day, every day, regardless of weather. Neither breed is appropriate for a first-time dog owner or someone who does not have a lot of time to dedicate to the dog.

Readers should also please consider rescuing a dog from a shelter. There are many good dogs (and cats) that are available for adoption. Many are already housebroken and trained. Puppies are nice, but saving a good dog that has been abandoned is a true gesture of Christmas.

Mark RayHeidelberg, Germany

December 27

Giving credit where it's due

I have an opinion that I would like to weigh in on this whole travel-card fiasco. We are all spending a lot of time looking at how we can better teach cardholders responsible use of the card. Time is also being spent on why soldiers overcharge and misuse their cards. What I want to know is why it takes three to four weeks for my claim to be processed. I properly fill out my travel voucher, file six copies with a sheet that has my Social Security number, the bank’s routing number and my account number on it. (I feel this is illegal but military officials say they won’t process a travel voucher without it.) Then I wait several weeks for my settlement. This is while my Air Force friend who got back a week after me was paid in less than a week and has already cleared his account.

Furthermore, all this talk about how an E-2 or an O-1 are unsure as to how to use their “official” credit card is a bunch of hogwash. Who can honestly say that a soldier entrusted to operate complex and expensive systems (while he maintains full control of his weapon and equipment) can’t handle the credit card? I want to meet these people and give them a lesson in leadership.

I know of units whose leaders take the cards away from the troops until needed. Hooah. I know of units who counsel the soldiers on the use/abuse policy and then nail the servicemember to the wall when he or she violates policy. Double hooah.

Maybe if leaders would lead and do what is needed to take care of their troops this wouldn’t be an issue. Yes we will have the occasional soldier run a $5,000 tab at a casino or the like. But I would guess that a soldier who would do this probably has a pretty thick counseling file already, and maybe should have already been put out of the military.

Capt. Victor M. Baez-anRhein Ordnance BarracksKaiserslautern, Germany

December 28

Military spouses also sacrifice

In reference to Senior Master Sgt. David E. McGuire’s Dec. 24 letter (“Divorce us from ex-spouses act”), I find he is missing a few reasons ex-spouses are awarded a percentage of the military member’s retirement pay.

First: The spouse of a military member must put her own career on hold for her husband’s. When the military member goes on maneuvers for months or weeks at a time, the spouse must adjust her schedule to accommodate — which does not go over well with some employers. When it is time to PCS, which can be every two years, the military spouse quits her job, stops her advancement and starts all over again with another company. This also means starting over on the pay scale.

Second: Most married military members have children. But the spouses do not live by extended family. Therefore all child care is the responsibility of the military spouse. Day care is expensive. So the spouse either puts off working, has a part-time job or forfeits half of her salary to pay for day care. The spouse is not thinking of putting money away for retirement; she is trying to maintain the family household. The military spouse puts her financial security on the back burner. The military spouse puts the military first. The military member has a very important job that usually cannot be put on hold for family affairs. The military spouse knows that and supports in any way she can, so the military member can complete his duties.

Third: When divorce occurs in the civilian world the spouse, be it male of female, is also subject to retirement sharing. Military life can be stressful, there is always change. The military spouse must adapt — and give a lot of themselves — to support their loved ones. Spouses who stay married to servicemembers for at least 20 years have earned it.

When divorce happens, there are injustices on both sides. I believe the courts try to make it fair to both parties. However, it is always the side you’re listening to that is “getting the raw deal.” Since it takes two to make a marriage work, give and take on both sides, I would say that would go for divorce as well.

Cheryl CurleySeoul

Redress of attire concerns

This is concerning the Dec. 19 letter “Civilians’ attire blurs line.” I’m one of the many “emergency essential” civilians employed by the Department of Defense who had to sign a mobility agreement for terms of employment. We civilians who must deploy downrange are required to possess certain military clothing items including battle dress uniforms and TA-50s. As I understand it, physical training uniforms are optional. But it’s recommended that we deploy with them so that when we’re “off duty” we may comfortably relax in something other than BDUs and yet still blend in with our military counterparts.

I’m retired from the Army and familiar with Army Regulation 670-1. I submit that there may be some civilians working for the DOD who may not have served a day in the military, much less be familiar with the regulation that covers proper wear and appearance of Army uniforms.

As far as overweight civilians wearing the uniforms, I’m guilty. After serving our country for 21 years, I was deemed overweight and forced into retirement. Although I no longer look like “Sgt. Rock” in uniform, I’m still willing to work for my country and deploy to areas of the world where others may fear to tread. I’m still willing to continue to suffer through the hardships of family separation and sacrifice the comforts of home to support our troops (including the letter writer) as best I can and help them successfully accomplish the mission.

The writer’s suggestion to have deployed civilians wear a different type of uniform so as not to discredit the “professional military” sounds good. But it’s probably not feasible due to the cost and logistics involved. If it were, I’d suggest the “Magnum P.I.” look.

Tony AdamsGiebelstadt, Germany

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