December 8

Dates don't jibe with fighting

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

December 8 Dates don't jibe with fighting Article addressed valid issueDecember 10 Flag relates to port Civilian workers foot the bill Stripes more than a memoryDecember 11 Policy unfair to disabled vets

December 13 Attacking Iraq misuses Army

December 14 Commander gets an education

In response to Stripes’ touching Nov. 11 front-page story “Veteran passes down luck, legacy”: There are several inconsistencies in it, and the writer should have checked her facts. Also, her editors should have caught it.

The article says Harvey Becker got married on March 24, 1953, and got his draft papers in April 1953. He left for the service on June 3, and was sent to boot camp in Arkansas. This lasted at least eight weeks. He shipped out sometime in late summer 1953 on a troop transport, perhaps stopping in Yokohama, Japan, before sailing to Pusan, South Korea, where he must have spent some time at Camp Hialeah for orientation and outfitting. Then a long train ride up north, which would have brought him to the front at the earliest in the middle of October 1953.

The shooting war ended on July 28, 1953, so Mr. Becker kept one of his marbles in his pocket during the “17 months of bitter conflict." Being assigned to an artillery outfit, he spent most of his time in the rear. Surprise: When checking the Web site Korean War Project, the Army Second Infantry 128th Field Artillery Battalion was not listed among the numerous units that fought in the Korean War. He returned home in the spring of 1955, and the war was over.

Give us a break! This is an insult to all the servicemen who were there between 1950 and July 1953. I know. I was there.

Ed De BruyckerGinowan City, Okinawa

Article addressed valid issue

In reference to Stripes staff writer Carlos Bongioanni’s Oct. 22 article “DODDS-Okinawa taps substance-abuse help”: Is it a coincidence that both of our high schools on Okinawa now have counselors to deal with drug- and alcohol-related issues?

When the drug issue was the headline in September, the letters that appeared in Stripes were all against the article. Based on the Sept. 22 article “AF adding more drug, alcohol counselors at DODDS schools,” “Camp Foster’s Kubasaki High School has no substance-abuse counselor. Okinawa DODDS spokesman Henry Myer said traditionally, local commands pay for such staff, not the schools.

“Gloria Clark-Arnold, Kubasaki principal, said the school anticipates receiving a drug and alcohol counselor in the future.”

This future became reality after the Sept. 22 front-page headline “Over-the-counter high.” Kudos to Carlos Bongioanni for making the military community aware that there is a drug-abuse problem.

In his Sept. 28 letter “Drugs don’t define Okinawa,” Lt. Gen. W.C. Gregson wrote that Okinawa is a safe environment for the military families to enjoy while serving their country, but he admitted that we have had occurrences of teenage drug use on Okinawa.

Betty Eisenmann’s Oct. 4 letter included the following question-and-answer: “Is there some drug use? Yes.”

The Oct. 9 letter “Story a disservice to Kubasaki” from H.L. Puzey indicated that that teacher knows of but one incident, the Percoset matter from last year.

Tasj-Nicole Yabut has a very creative imagination after reading the article and writing her Oct. 5 letter “Not high on Kubasaki coverage.”

If there is a problem, what is the students’ role as a part of this community? This cannot be taken for granted or can we deny it. Let the problem be solved. Carlos Bongioanni’s work was criticized, but the Sept. 22 articles were based on facts and interviews from respected authorities in the military community: Okinawa Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent Chris Cote, Bryan Waldron from Camp Foster’s Criminal Investigation Command, the MCCS Web site, Carol Schubeck from Kadena High School, Clark-Arnold, Myer and a couple of sophomore students.

I can’t find anything in that issue that Carlos Bongioanni made up. I know it did hurt some good students who attend Kubasaki, but this is not a matter of “us” and “them.” Americans are the individual diplomats of their country here on Okinawa. Okinawa is a safe and good place in which to live because of the culture and its people. One can either affect his or her environment or the environment can affect him or her. This is my home and you are a visitor on this island: Take care and support your family, your friends, your neighbors and your military community.

C. TairaGinowan City, Okinawa

December 10

Flag relates to port

This is a point of interest for the writer of the Dec. 3 letter “Just U.S. flag for the Foster,” who got his underwear in a knot over the U.S. ship that flew the Chinese flag in a Chinese port.

In foreign ports, all mercantile marine and naval vessels fly the flag of the country being visited as a sign of respect. This is the case throughout the world. It’s been going on for a few centuries. So the writer shouldn’t panic. His ship wasn’t being taken over by the Chinese.

Hamilton LindsayKaiserslautern, Germany

Civilian workers foot the bill

Civilian employees have always been shortchanged when it comes to receiving quality medical care from military dispensaries overseas. But MEDCOM’s new policy of Outpatient Itemized Billing (OIB) is a clear indication that it does not want to deal with civilians at all. Under the new program, civilians not only have to pay exorbitant prices for itemized doctor visits, but they are now billed a flat fee of $6 for every pharmacy item prescribed plus the full cost of the drug or drugs dispensed.

For many civilians, a routine doctor’s visit could now cost in excess of $500. If they’re lucky, civilians will recoup about half of that amount from their individual insurance carriers. The rest comes out of pocket. Adding insult to injury, MEDCOM has the audacity to spin this new program as a “good thing for civilians.”

At a time of high turnover when managers are experiencing increasing difficulties recruiting the best and brightest to accept overseas assignments, our backward-thinking medical community has just dumped another huge disincentive on any civilian contemplating a foreign tour. Hey MEDCOM, thanks for nothing.

C. Benjamin PendletonSeckenheim, Germany

Stripes more than a memory

Stars and Stripes is a great newspaper. The travel section beats anything in the civilian sector. I have fond memories of Stars and Stripes as a member of the Air Force at Tachikawa Air Base, Japan, and in Tokyo and Athens, Greece, from 1961 to 1964. I’m 62 and retired, but have kept up to date through my son-in-law, who is at Eagle Base in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I want to thank all of our military people for a job well done. I’d also like to wish them a safe and happy holiday season. Our nation, my family and I appreciate their commitment to stand and serve.

Joe VukonichTrinity Alps, Calif.

December 11

Policy unfair to disabled vets

I am a retired E-7. I have a problem with our government. I spent 25 years in the U.S. Air Force and was medically retired because of a military medical incident that damaged my spinal cord. I receive disability compensations and I lost my retired pay because of a 110-year-old law. Undersecretary of Defense David Chu says we disabled are just doing fine; this is not true. We retired disabled veterans are not treated like our brothers the civil service workers; they get retirement and disability compensation.

Congress fought for us but in the end they did a “bait and switch” and gave concurrent receipt to only Purple Heart recipients and a few other retirees with combat-related injuries, so they could pass the National Defense Authorizations Act. Then, in the same week, members of Congress got an annual pay raise of close to $5,000. This is a slap in face of every disabled retiree, and we are darn mad.

I have fought for the return of my earned retired check for 12 years and government officials know that those in my situation deserve retired pay because last year I started to get $300 a month extra because I am 100 percent disabled paraplegic, under public law 107-107. The active Air Force doctors finally gave up on me and let the veterans health care system take over my medical problems and compensations. I should be getting $2,200 a month retired pay.

The 25 years are erased because I get a Department of Veterans Affairs compensation. My family is left to deal with my disability and DOD is off the hook. It’s just not fair. I cannot recommend to any young person to join the military until this terrible injustice is rectified.

Gerard BergeronFort Walton Beach, Fla.

December 13

Attacking Iraq misuses Army

Americans are by nature a very patriotic people. In a time of war, we’ll come together to support our government with no questions asked. The vast majority of Americans believe that we should attack Iraq. They believe that in attacking Iraq the United States would be responding to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. This isn’t true. The two have nothing to do with each other, and our government knows it.

Our government’s politicians are saying that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, but I have issues with this. Let’s be real. America has the greatest intelligence-gathering capability in the world. This was evident by our masterful discovery of North Korea’s plans to build nuclear weapons. North Korea is a closed country with the most heavily guarded borders in the world. That’s why the intelligence coup was so masterful. On the other hand, Iraq is a wide-open country. Our planes fly over Iraq daily. Iraqi dissidents spy for us, and our agents are in Baghdad masquerading as news reporters and U.N. food agency workers. There’s nothing happening in Iraq that we don’t know about.

For 10 years, we’ve bombed Iraq monthly — every time a radar switch has been turned on. So how can any American believe that we wouldn’t have already made dust particles out of any known WMD site? Why hasn’t our government shown the United Nations any evidence that Iraq has WMD? We went to South Korea and Japan with evidence of North Korea’s nuclear plans, and we showed the United Nations evidence of al-Qaida’s part in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The point is very clear: We’d have destroyed any WMD sites we knew about, and no U.S. president is going to kill thousands of people, Iraqis included, on just a hunch.

If there’s no terrorist connection and no WMD, then why invade? There must be a hidden reason. There is, and it’s time for Americans to realize the truth. It’s about making money for a few individuals.

After one look at the main players and their past affiliations, anyone should be able to see why the whole world questions their motives. President Bush and Harken Oil. Vice President Dick Cheney and Halliburton. National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and Chevron. Army Secretary Thomas White and Enron. Secretary of Commerce Don Evans and Denver Oil & Gas. Secretary of Treasury Paul O’Neill, who resigned Dec. 6, and Alcoa. Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Unocal. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and British Petroleum.

I’m all for our war against terrorism. I joined the Army in 1970 during the Vietnam War. For 22 years, I have helped transform a defeated, racially divided, drug- and alcoholic-infested Army into the finest fighting force the world has ever seen. Just ask Saddam. So I’ve earned the right to speak out against anyone who’d try to abuse or misuse our great Army.

James A. CarrethersHeidelberg, Germany

December 14

Commander gets an education

Do leaders know that their soldiers who are flagged for various reasons can attend civilian schooling without their consent? Soldiers using the GI Bill (Veterans Affairs benefits) don’t have to seek approval from their commanders to use tax dollars for continued civilian education.

So are education benefits an entitlement or a benefit? That depends on who’s asking the question and to whom it’s asked. If GIs choose to use tuition assistance for continuing civilian education at any of our Army Continuing Education System accepted universities, DA form 2171-E must be completed by the institution and approved by the unit commander or authorized representative. This makes perfect sense since the commander is responsible for enforcing standards and the health and welfare of his soldiers.

Since Tuition Assistance is defined as a benefit, it can be denied for obvious and legitimate reasons. Examples are operations tempo, deployment tempo, contingency operations and soldiers flagged for failing an Army physical fitness test. Others include not complying with height and weight standards and a pending investigation.

So, in essence, a soldier who is flagged is denied his benefits. But what if this same flagged soldier chooses to use his GI Bill for continuing education? What are the checks and balances for commanders at this stage of the game? There are none. Since the GI Bill is considered by law an entitlement and not a benefit, soldiers can pay for a course up front and get reimbursed the total cost, minus books, from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A great deal? For a flagged soldier, yes. But not for a commander attempting to enforce the same standard for all soldiers. That there are no systematic procedures to assist a commander in this quandary puts into question the legitimized authority that all commanders possess.

It’s great that our political leaders added educational benefits as an entitlement for servicemembers. But while they are serving in the military, entitlements are benefits that are judiciously rendered when a commander and unit mission can afford it. Case in point: We’re all entitled to 30 days of annual leave. But we can’t necessarily take leave when we want to unless our commander approves the absence.

The mission of the Army Continuing Education system is to provide education and training support, thereby enhancing the combat-readiness of the Army. They are also key elements in the Army’s Leader Development Program. Until the ACES executive steering committee and Army G1 challenge the policies, laws and bylaws as they apply to the use of VA benefits for active-duty servicemembers, we will be forced to live with double standards created by systems that are separate in mission and funding. If AR 621-5 is written to support leader-development programs as defined in the mission statement, we must develop procedures to work with — and not in contrast to — good law and order that all commanders are responsible to enforce.

Command Sgt. Maj. David A. EddyGrafenwöhr, Germany

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