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January 12

Answering to a higher authority

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

January 12 Answering to a higher authority Look at the bigger pictureJanuary 13 Osprey criticism won't fly Many words, few good ideasJanuary 14 Foster rules shouldn't apply Servicemembers can't refuse Ali's integrity is intact ... ... especially when era viewed Fairness is not in the cardsJanuary 15 Hagee matter a minor one Not all ex-spouses merit aid Trust that only firms benefit Dollars don't make senseJanuary 16 Danger of 'go pills' is real Change tactics in terror warJanuary 17 Not all heroes wore uniform North Korea a serious situation Story a hit in the StatesJanuary 18 More than a paycheck Roll with the changes

Robert Jensen’s Jan. 2 column “Noble warriors, yes, but an ignoble pursuit” addressed uses of the military for “ignoble pursuits.” I won’t attempt to argue the merits of his arguments related to U.S. policy. Perhaps he’s correct. But my disagreement with his “message to the troops” is for a very simple reason: I’m sworn to protect the U.S. Constitution. It’s not up to me to decide which wars are just or unjust, regardless of my opinions related to the execution of national policy.

My rights as a citizen are the same as Mr. Jensen’s. I vote. I have distinct personal views when it comes to the uses or misuses of the military. But I take my orders from the National Command Authority, an authority vested in the Constitution. Congress is required to regulate the military. Its members are elected by the people, not appointed. The laws of war, the Code of Conduct and rules of engagement constrain what I can and cannot do in a given situation. My personal world view is irrelevant.

What “resistance” does Mr. Jensen suggest? Refuse the orders of elected leadership? Every soldier a sovereign? This is a slippery slope. No doubt Mr. Jensen cheered when the United States intervened militarily in Kosovo. Many “ordinary” people didn’t want to see their sons and daughters inserted into another Balkans quagmire. Maybe we should have refused that mission. Perhaps the chairman of the Joint Chiefs should declare martial law and depose the president, Congress and any elected official. Who, then, should the military take its orders from?

Mr. Jensen can call U.S. foreign policy empire building. He can clearly state his objections to war. He can claim that attempts to combat terrorism are a front to expand U.S. control over the world. I respect his right to voice these opinions. I am sworn to protect that right.

But Mr. Jensen shouldn’t patronize us. He has no message of support for the men and women of the military. His message is neither constitutional nor mainstream.

I suggest Mr. Jensen leave the military out of his messages. We are noble because we support and defend an ideal higher than ourselves — the U.S. Constitution.

Maj. Kurt P. VanderSteenCamp Monteith, Kosovo

Look at the bigger picture

When I read the Jan. 3 “Caught in stop-loss shuffle” from a dependent Army wife, I knew I had to respond. I’m an Air Force wife of 18 years. The writer asked, “How can a person be involuntarily extended when he enlisted in a volunteer Army?”

First, her husband doesn’t work in a civilian workplace where the only issue is profits. He’s a member of a proud heritage of people who’ve dedicated their lives so that others, such as her and her children, can sleep peacefully at night and even complain about the government (as she has) without fear of persecution.

These brave men and women, as well as their family members, are constantly asked to make sacrifices for the good of the United States and the world. These sacrifices often include living in substandard conditions far from family and friends with inadequate pay and, more often than not, long separations from loved ones. I can’t begin to tell readers how many days, weeks and months my children and I have been separated from my husband. We’ve done remote tours, overseas tours, multiple deployments and numerous temporary duties. These separations are a way of life in the military, and I find it hard to believe that the writer wasn’t aware of this possibility when her husband enlisted.

I must also remind the writer that although she and her husband are separated at the moment, they did in fact choose this separation. I can understand the reasoning behind the decision. But the writer, not the Army, decided to return to Texas without her husband. The writer should stop and think about the thousands of military families with members currently spending time in Afghanistan or worse. At least the writer knows her husband is safe and living a life of relative ease.

Second, I think the writer contradicted herself. She said, “The Army is all volunteer, yet it has the right to extend my husband involuntarily in a time of peace because of what might happen in the future.” Then she went on to say, “Under today’s circumstances, I have to believe a war is a distinct possibility.”

I think the writer’s last statement says that we aren’t truly living in a time of peace. I don’t think we have since Sept. 11, 2001. That day should show us how vital our military is. It enables normal civilians to live the lives we do. The terrorist attacks also show why it’s so important for those who volunteer to serve in the armed forces to do so with a committed spirit and a love of country and their fellow man, not just to “pay off student loans.” These volunteers just might be called upon to actually defend our beloved country.

I’m sure the writer’s husband has “given 100 percent to the Army.” What her husband needs now is the writer’s love and unconditional support, despite the current trying circumstances. I don’t know what the writer’s marriage vows consisted of, but mine included for better or for worse.

Glenda BatesRAF Croughton, England

January 13

Osprey criticism won't fly

Jack Kelly shows his ignorance in his Jan. 6 column “This bird has flown: Osprey not worth risk.”

The first thing he brings up is vortex ring state. He says that vortex ring state is “distinct to tilt-rotors.” As a helicopter pilot in the Marine Corps, I can tell you that all helicopters are susceptible to vortex ring state. Not only that, the general flight regime where vortex ring state occurs is approximately 40 knots and more than 800 feet per minute rate of descent. The V-22 involved in the Arizona accident was descending at more than 2,000 feet per minute, almost 250 percent over its published limits.

Further in his column, Mr. Kelly states that most military helicopters can descend at more than 2,000 feet per minute; however, I guarantee if you are under 40 knots, you will risk inducing vortex ring state. Mr. Kelly also states that a V-22 can go 40 percent faster than a CH-46. With 12 combat-loaded Marines, I can fly about 120 knots in a CH-46. The V-22 has proven that it can cruise with 24 Marines at more than 240 knots. By my math, that is more than 100 percent faster than a CH-46.

Also, where did Mr. Kelly get the range that a V-22 can fly? A V-22 will almost double the range of a CH-53. In his article, Mr. Kelly states a CH-46 could lift 10,000 pounds when it was new. As a 46 pilot, I can tell you that I am lucky if I lift more than 3,000 pounds. The equipment on a 46 may be rated to lift 10,000 pounds, but the aircraft is not capable of that type of performance. The V-22 is fully capable of lifting more than 10,000 pounds; that has been proven.

The Marine Corps needs this new aircraft but, unfortunately we have people such as Jack Kelly who aren’t capable of critical thinking and regurgitate what they read from the newspapers. We are in the middle of fighting a war, and we need the best equipment available for our troops. Semper Fidelis.

John M. EnnisJacksonville, N.C.

Many words, few good ideas

I read with great interest two recent letters from Don Mitchell. Is this man a bigot or what?

In his Jan. 4 letter “Spouses know what to expect,” Mr. Mitchell talks about how spouses have no rights and says they should not complain. Did his wife ask him to marry her, or was it the other way around? Any spouse who stays married to a servicemember for 10 years or longer is due all she can get. For all the deployments and field and TDY to schools, who was left behind to take care of the house, take care of sick kids, take care of everyday problems? Yes, I am married and have been for 26 years. For 20 of those years, I was in the service. A marriage is a commitment between two people, not one.

Mr. Mitchell rambles on about the deaths of the two South Korean girls in his Jan. 6 letter “S. Koreans exploited deaths” and criticizes letter writer Philip N. Chessman (“U.S. not needed in S. Korea,” Jan. 3) for his comments. I, too, feel the two U.S. servicemembers got off light, but I can only comment on the facts I have, and they are the ones I read in the paper or heard on the news. Now, if Mr. Mitchell has other facts he would like to share with others, I think Stars and Stripes would probably publish them.

Yes it was the command’s fault for not doing a safety brief prior to movement, but I am sure the driver and tank commander had been in convoys before — since both were NCOs — and reasonably sure they were part of safety briefs before.

I recall in the many convoy briefs I was in, it was drilled in your head: If anything goes wrong with your equipment, pull over to the side of the road and the trail vehicle will stop and give assistance — especially if you are having trouble with communications equipment. I believe that is taught in driver’s training, and it’s in the operator’s manual.

The same attitude that Mr. Mitchell talks about the South Koreans having can be found all over the world — and especially in the States. Mr. Mitchell needs to get a job to keep him busy because he’s spending too much time writing to Stars and Stripes.

Tony TurnerCamp Casey, South Korea

January 14

Foster rules shouldn't apply

I’m a sailor stationed at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa on Camp Lester. I wanted to comment on liberty rules for the sailors here. For some reason we follow Camp Foster liberty rules and I — and a lot other people — are sick of this. These Marines need to realize that we are Navy, we are not Marines, and we dress and act different on liberty. I am so sick of coming from a place such as the beach or gym, then going to Foster’s shopette and some Marine has a problem with the way I’m dressed and actually has the nerve to ask me for my ID card.

This isn’t a one-time thing, either. Come on, when I wear my hat out, I don’t want to hold it in my hands while I’m shopping. I don’t criticize Marines when they come to our base and sleep in our lounges and hang outside our barracks or get us put on liberty risk for their actions.

I’m not an anti-Marine corpsman. I just think Marines need to realize the differences of our two services.

Seaman Kyle P. McNamaraCamp Lester, Okinawa

Servicemembers can't refuse

I appreciate that Stars and Stripes sometimes publishes articles that will irritate the majority of its readers, because a newspaper that just publishes what its readers want to see isn’t much of a newspaper. Stripes has certainly done it again with Robert Jensen’s Jan. 2 column “Noble warriors, yes, but an ignoble pursuit.”

As Mr. Jensen criticized U.S. policies and theorized about President Bush’s motives, at least he refrained from Vietnam-era bashing of the military itself. But he was way off base when he urged troops to “please join the resistance to this unjust war.” There’s only one way a uniformed member of the armed services can express resistance to the policies of his commander in chief, and that’s to vote for somebody else in the next election. Mr. Jensen’s failure to understand this very basic tenet of American democracy makes one wonder how much else he doesn’t understand.

Robert JordanStuttgart, Germany

Ali's integrity is intact ...

There are many reasons to criticize the U.S. government and American Forces Network, but displaying Muhammad Ali as a great American and world citizen is not one of them. Ali stood up for his personal and religious beliefs, which is what our military is prepared to fight for. He risked jail and millions of dollars. Ali has also been a great ambassador for the United States on many occasions.

Some people may not agree with his beliefs, but Ali is truly a man of integrity and character who many people throughout the world continue to admire and look up to. The ignorance here is the attempt to assassinate this man’s character and integrity, as the letters “Ali shouldn’t appear on AFN” (Dec. 31) and “Ali serves as poor example” (Jan. 8) tried to do.

Gordon UscierWürzburg, Germany

... especially when era viewed

I’d like to respond to the Dec. 31 letter “Ali shouldn’t appear on AFN.” It was about Muhammad Ali being featured in a “To The Troops” segment that was aired on American Forces Network television. I’d like the writer to know that I’m black and by no means playing the “race card.”

First, the writer should understand the racial tension that was present during the 1960s and early ’70s. Ali rose to the challenge as a young and very outspoken world heavyweight boxing champion. He spoke out against the war in Vietnam, which irritated politicians. Since Ali was of draft age, what better way to shut him up and teach the uppity black man a lesson? Consequently, our government drafted Ali into the armed services.

Ali refused to serve. He said he had no quarrel with the North Vietnamese people. They’d done nothing to him. They weren’t the ones who had oppressed his people and treated them as second-class citizens for so many years and yet expected him to go off to a faraway land and confront an enemy that had done nothing to him or his people. The real enemy was in America.

There were those who had political connections and used college deferments to avoid the draft. And there were the financially well-off who just took off to Canada. For the most part, black Americans could barely get out of their home states, let alone get out of the country — unless they were headed to Vietnam.

Ali was more fortunate than most black Americans who served. He was the world’s heavyweight boxing champion. But he paid dearly for refusing to serve. Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title.

I’m not condoning his decision one way or the other. But I know that Ali has made his contribution to society, not only in America, but all over the world.

We all hurt for the less-fortunate people who had no choice but to fight and die in Vietnam, and for those who came back missing limbs and eyes. As far as returning home to the airport and getting spit on, the letter writer should have tried being a black American and attempting to fit back into society and finding out he was still a second-class citizen after returning from Vietnam. Been there, done that.

The letter writer shouldn’t be surprised when his state’s representatives decide that he needs to be in harm’s way during his tour of military duty. It just so happens that they may be among those who decided to come back from Canada when it was all over.

Command Sgt. Maj. J. Johnson (Ret.)Naples, Italy

Fairness is not in the cards

This is in response to the Dec. 20 article “Non-payment rate high for DOD travel cards.” There was only anecdotal evidence of cards being misused. Some guy who “knows of sailors who use it to buy beer, fix cars or gamble.” Punishment in such cases should be swift, regardless of rank. I cannot comment on the civilian side of this debate. But I was thoroughly disgusted with the subheadline, “Officials blame delinquency numbers on youth, financial inexperience.”

Readers may have noticed in the accompanying chart that the highest delinquency rates are in ranks E4 through E9. E1s through E3s don’t go on temporary duty as often and therefore don’t find themselves in a position to use these cards frequently. Those who are 01 through 06 go on TDY often but don’t have high delinquency rates. Wait. Aren’t they usually about the same age as E-4s to E9s? So is youth and inexperience really the problem?

Here’s the problem: Soldiers sometimes go away for two or three months on TDY. Balances are to be paid in full at the end of each month. Sometimes the end of a month’s billing cycle comes just days or weeks into a TDY. Soldiers are told they can file where they are. But how much spare time do soldiers really have at most schools? Enlisted people don’t have money to front for the government. So they usually wait until they return to file the paperwork. Then they have to wait a good month, if they’re lucky, to get paid so they can pay off the bill.

Officers are in a better position financially to shell out the bucks and just get reimbursed later. If the finance office is lagging and an E6 calls to complain, how fast do readers think the office will hop to help him out as opposed to an O6? Come on. The attitude some people have that enlisted servicemembers are too stupid to come in out of the rain has got to end.

Ruth RussellHeidelberg, Germany

January 15

Hagee matter a minor one

Every day on my way home, I stop at the same little blue paper machine. It’s in front of an old building that’s being remodeled. I always think of all the people and leaders who’ve walked in and out of that building and wonder what kind of soldiers they were. Recently, as I put my money in the machine and read the headlines, I had to check the name on the front of the paper. I thought it was one of those National Enquirer types or something like it. Once I got home and finally got to look at my news link to the world, I was very discouraged to see the story about Lt. Gen. Michael W. Hagee.

It said that in more than 30 years, he had a few ribbons on his uniform that he couldn’t find the documentation for. Here’s a man who’s put his life in harm’s way on many, many occasions. Here’s a Marine who’s been loyal to his country for more than half his life, and the only thing Stars and Stripes can find major news to report on is that his uniform had a discrepancy?

Someone needs a class on tact and respect. We should not bust out our leaders and make a mockery of them, nor should we for all servicemembers. I’m not saying that if someone sees a deficiency that he should not correct it. But it should be done with tact. I think Lt. Gen. Hagee has earned that respect many times over.

Tonight on my way home, I’ll stop at the little blue machine to get my Stars and Stripes. I’ll think about all the prior servicemembers who have walked into that old building and wonder what would have happened if their character and integrity was libeled on the front page of Stripes. This is a time to build confidence and trust that we soldiers and Marines should have in our senior leadership. It’s not a time to put it in question.

I can think of a lot more important things for Stripes to report on. Stripes shouldn’t pat itself on the back like it did for this story. Someone should be questioning Stripes’ loyalty to our country’s servicemembers. If Stripes needs a story, its reporters should get out and see how hard our soldiers are working in the motor pools and report that. If Stripes needs any more story tips, it should let me know.

Michael HaynesChief Warrant Officer 2Baumholder, Germany

Not all ex-spouses merit aid

I must take issue with some of the recently published views concerning support of ex-spouses. The Department of Defense and Congress have made considerable progress in providing employment support for military spouses. The educational benefits, along with résumé clinics and job fairs, provide ample opportunity for a spouse to maintain a career throughout a military member’s career, therefore negating the need for a military member to share his retirement income.

When I was in the Persian Gulf in 1990, I didn’t see a single spouse on any ship or in the desert. I don’t see spouses on my ship when we are under way, nor do I see spouses standing midwatches. But I read in Stars and Stripes about how ex-spouses are smacking their lips at concurrent receipt. One ex-spouse actually said she would have fought for this long ago had she known what it implied.

I don’t deny that there are some spouses who dedicated their lives to their loved ones’ military careers and ended up on the short side of divorce settlements. But there are far more who have fallen well short of the “military spouse” definition.

I propose that the federal government set and enforce a minimum time limit of 15 years of marriage, at least half of which should coincide with a military career, before any ex-spouse can be considered for support. The federal government should also bring state and local courts in line with this policy to harness “sympathetic judges” who rule otherwise due to their personal feelings. Making it a law would help. It would help cut out greedy, undeserving ex-spouses while still helping those who truly deserve their fair share.

Stephen JohnsonPetty Officer 1st ClassUSS Emory S. LandLa Maddalena, Sardinia

Trust that only firms benefit

Kudos to Stars and Stripes for publishing the article “‘Trusted computing’ threatens PC freedom” in its Jan. 5 Money magazine. Projects such as Palladium (Microsoft), LaGrande (Intel) and the more general “trusted computing” initiative claim they will benefit consumers by providing more-secure computers. But one must question the true motives of these initiatives.

Large corporations have fed consumers Trojan horses before. For example, the DVD platform in some ways restricts consumers rather than empowers them. The region codes and encryption techniques employed on digital versatile discs benefit the movie studios, not the individuals who pay money for discs. Most users remain ignorant of these subtle restrictions. But to consumers who wish to watch a video only released on DVD in Japan (a different DVD region than the States) or develop DVD-playing software, they can be infuriating. Likewise, trusted computing is poised to help industries such as those that produce movies, music and software while restricting consumers. In fact, “trusted computing” could easily make the restrictions of the DVD format look like child’s play.

Who will deem a piece of software “trusted?” Will small software publishers be able to get the magical “trusted” pixie dust sprinkled on their products, or will those who compete with large vendors get stuck in an endless certification bureaucracy?

I develop and distribute software. Would a large certification entity be bothered to deem my products “trusted,” full-fledged players in a trusted computing platform? How will a user’s fair-use rights be protected? Can the millions of lines of source code that make up today’s proprietary products ever be audited enough to fit into the secure model of trusted computing?

Is trusted computing really about protecting me, the consumer? Or would it be engineered to protect the business model (currently being rendered obsolete by the widespread propagation of high-speed networks and quality compression algorithms) of multinational corporations such as Sony and Disney?

Capt. Mike PetulloDarmstadt, Germany

Dollars don't make sense

The Jan. 8 article “U.S. troops risk lives for minimum-wage pay” said that a private E-1 makes about $15,480 a year. The story then inferred that this is too little money to be paid to go to war.

A recent Army Times article said that the “2003 Regular Military Compensation” for a private E-1 is $26,896.16. This figure more accurately takes into account such things as medical and dental benefits, the retirement plan, etc. But perhaps the real question is, how much money would make it worthwhile for a servicemember to go to war and risk his life? In May 1967, I went for less than $200 a month. But that was a long time ago.

Chaplain (Col.) James HokeHeidelberg, Germany

January 16

Danger of 'go pills' is real

Regarding the use of amphetimines by Air Force pilots: If the “go pills” are so safe and effective, why not give them to all pilots all of the time? If the effects of taking the pills are like “a couple of cans of Coke,” as one report said, why not remove Coke from the BX and sell “go pills” instead? This would eliminate the need to recycle the empty Coke cans and would save on electricity — as the pills would not need to be served cold. If the use of the “go pills" is entirely voluntary, then why make them available in the first place?

The Air Force is attempting to have its cake and eat it, too. Amphetimines are a controlled substance under federal law. A commercial truck driver caught using amphetimines will (at the minimum) lose his driver’s license and spend some time in jail. Whatever “spin” the Air Force wants to put on this issue, the bottom line is that it should not be in the business of providing dangerous drugs to its pilots on a “voluntary” basis.

Tillman L. JeffreyManteca, Calif.

Change tactics in terror war

I must be one of the few people concerned about the fate of Western civilization in general and the United States in particular. I realize that it’s currently quite popular to think that our enemies hate us for our freedom. As a result, many seem to believe that once we’ve surrendered the last of our rights, Osama bin Laden’s next special delivery will be chocolates and a bouquet of roses with a little card reading “Let’s be friends!”

Instead of providing leadership and safeguarding our freedoms, Western governments (first and foremost, our own) have compounded the problem by only offering their citizens a choice between tyranny or terror. The war on terrorism is not a civil liberties issue. It’s a foreign policy issue. As such, I’d like to make the following foreign policy proposals:

1. End all military and dual-use foreign aid to all Middle Eastern countries.

2. Open government-regulated commerce of a nonmilitary/dual-use nature on an equal quota basis with all Middle Eastern countries. This would apply to both foreign aid and humanitarian missions.

3. Strip all dual nationals of Middle Eastern countries of U.S. citizenship, provided they voluntarily relinquish their foreign citizenship.

4. Ban immigration from Middle Eastern countries. America’s interests are not served by importing the conflict to our soil.

5. Seeing as there is no separation of church and state in these countries, and seeing that this conflict is both religious and political in nature, it’s a violation of our constitutional separation of church and state to allow religious doctrine to dictate U.S. foreign policy in support of one side or the other. Therefore, all religious groups favorable to one or the other of the parties involved in the Mideast conflict would be banned from giving political or financial support to any side in the conflict, including any effort(s) designed to influence U.S. public opinion in support of one side or the other.

Combined with a redeployment of our forces from overseas to North America to defend our borders, these policies could end the war on terror, now into its second year, within six months if properly executed. But I fear that we are so far gone as a people that these sane, fair and impartial proposals will fall on deaf ears.

Benjamin Franklin once remarked that those who would sacrifice their freedom for a little security deserve neither. What troubles my soul is that people tend to get the government they deserve.

Chass WaughBabenhausen, Germany

January 17

Not all heroes wore uniform

I’d like to address the writer of the Jan. 8 letter “Ali serves as poor example.” The writer seems to believe that the only heroes worthy of notice by our servicemembers are the ones who served in uniform. I take exception with this.

Muhammad Ali was, and still is, a source of inspiration for many American minorities. During the 1960s, when blacks were routinely denied their constitutional right to vote, they were still expected to fight and die for a country that didn’t respect them as human beings. They were lynched, bombed, sometimes burned alive, and if they were “lucky,” jailed.

Ali exercised his constitutional right to refuse induction on religious grounds — for which he was unfairly convicted. Ali represented “black pride” when many in America wanted blacks to “stay in their place.”

The writer doesn’t seem to have a problem with people such as our president and many members of Congress who found various ways to avoid the war in Vietnam, but who are now in positions of power to send our sons and daughters off to war. I guess it’s OK if someone else defends “freedom” as long as their children don’t have to die for those beliefs.

As an American and retired servicemember, I will defend the Constitution so all Americans can have the freedom to enjoy “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Some Americans seem to believe that if someone doesn’t share similar opinions, then he or she can’t be a true American.

A truly free society isn’t afraid of ideas counter to its own. Muhammad Ali stood for what he believed in, and for that he’ll always remain a hero — an American hero always.

David McGhee Jr.Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany

North Korea a serious situation

I am one of the 100,000 Americans (including my wife and three children) living in Japan. Now our lives are facing a danger, a nuclear threat, and we really feel our government’s priority should change from Iraq to North Korea.

Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s dictator, is without a doubt the most dangerous terrorist in the world. In 1983, he set off a bomb in Myanmar that killed 33 people, including four visiting South Korean ministers. In 1987, he blew up a passenger plane, killing 115 innocent civilians (including women and children). Now that this warlord’s country is starving and, having succeeded to develop nuclear warheads, it is ready to attack Japan (where we live) any time. On Nov. 27, North Korea’s Central Broadcasting Station said: “We just explained our basic position that we are entitled to possess nuclear weapons; if the United States violates their nuclear agreement and forces the country into a nuclear war …”

On Christmas Eve, North Korea’s Defense Minister Kim Il Chol said: “If they, ignorant of their rival, dare provoke a nuclear war, the army and people led by Kim Jong Il, the invincible commander, will rise up to mete out determined and merciless punishment to the U.S. imperialist aggressors with the might of single-hearted unity more powerful than [an] atomic bomb.”

Yes, they are ready for a nuclear attack and we really want our government to take action. Of course, our wish is not use of force, but to have a peaceful resolution as a civilized nation.

We are hoping that our government can take a lead role to overthrow the terrorist dictator and free the people in North Korea and us from the threat of nuclear war.

We sincerely hope the United States will act because Kim Jong Il is a bigger threat than Saddam Hussein and ignoring his threat consequentially can cost more American lives.

The Rev. William F. ParkinsonTokyo

Story a hit in the States

I would like to thank Stars and Stripes for putting the story and pictures of the boxers at Camp New York, Kuwait, in the Jan. 7 edition (“Troops in Kuwait take jab at boxing”).

My niece was one of the two women boxers. I have not seen my niece for a year and a half. She looks happy and fit. I know that she and all the other soldiers are working hard to help protect our country.

From a civilian point of view, I am glad to know that they can enjoy some rest and relaxation. Thank you for your articles, letters, information and pictures that Stripes puts on the Internet to keep us informed.

Cathy BruceVine Grove, Ky.

January 18

More than a paycheck

The Jan. 8 article “U.S. troops risk lives for minimum-wage pay” by Robert Sisk of the New York Daily News should have had a realistic analysis alongside it. Some readers in uniform and their families might just take Mr. Sisk’s report as fully accurate.

First, he got the base pay rates wrong. Correct are: private first class — $1,357, not $1,290; squad leader (staff sergeant) — $2,200, not $1,733 (an E-5 with two years); and second lieutenant $2,183 — he got that right.

That is not all that soldiers, sailors and airmen get paid. They get paid housing and subsistence allowances (or they get free housing and meals). They also get free medical care (free medical insurance); a clothing allowance; “free” retirement contributions made by the government; cost savings by shopping in the exchanges and commissaries; “free” basic legal help; low rates for government life insurance; and so on. Their allowances are not taxed as income; thus, that’s a pay advantage, too.

During my 20 years in uniform (starting base pay at $230.10 per month), I never felt underpaid — occasionally underappreciated, but never underpaid.

Today’s servicemembers do not have to worry about company downsizing, bankruptcy or surprise pink slips for Christmas, all of which civilians may endure.

Military and civilian pay are not equivalent, and the work environment isn’t equivalent, either. There’s no doubt in my mind that almost all in military uniform earn more than they are paid. If that is fixable, it may have to be at the voting booth and from communications from fully informed citizens/soldiers to their representatives in Congress — and not via misinformation such as Mr. Sisk’s.

In the meantime, members of our uniformed military can add their stalwartness, fellowship and variety of experience to their dollar compensation.

Robert D. DolemanLandstuhl, Germany

Roll with the changes

This letter is concerning the Jan. 3 letter “Caught in stop-loss shuffle,” about a woman’s husband who was involuntarily extended in the Army. My husband was active duty for eight years. Then he joined the National Guard to do the “one weekend a month” drill.

In July, he was activated along with the 28th Infantry Division based out of Pennsylvania as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The orders were for a minimum of six months with a possibility of extension of up to a year.

We certainly were shocked, surprised and even angry at times. But this attitude would not be conducive to my, or my children’s, well-being. We didn’t ask for this deployment, but I have learned how to be thankful to be living in a country that is willing to fight for continued freedom, protect our way of life as we know it, and view the importance of protecting U.S. military families stationed overseas.

I have taught my children that my husband and the other soldiers are protecting other families. Instead of being depressed at not seeing their dad for six months or more, they are proud of him and what he is doing for our country. I am proud to be part of a family support group that has adopted the same attitude and philosophy toward this deployment.

I understand the letter writer’s anger, and so do many other spouses, but I also think that there is a different approach she could take to her situation that would benefit her and her children. She should be: grateful her husband has a job in a country where layoffs are daily news; thankful we live in a country that cares about our freedom and the safety of our citizens; and proud of her husband. He is part of this great and powerful military — the best in the world.

Maureen FritzYork, Pa.

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