January 5

Not far removed from fight

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

January 5 Not far removed from fight Shoe Box contains inspirationJanuary 6 S. Koreans exploited deathsJanuary 8 Who's running show at AFN? Ali serves as poor exampleJanuary 9 GIs' efforts merit better pay Applaud wives who supportJanuary 10 Closing bases opens wounds Conflict coverage is pro-IsraelJanuary 11 Army actions compound grief

I am so glad we live in a country now where you have the freedom of speech and do not get persecuted. I am replying to Spc. Lee Richardson’s Dec. 31 letter “Ali shouldn’t appear on AFN.”

If called upon to fight for your country, there should be no hesitation. There were several Afro-Americans who did answer the call of duty from the president. I say “Afro-American” because if you were not there during the times of the Vietnam War, you do not know the struggle of the Afro-American during the 1960s and ’70s.

It is written in the Constitution that all men/women are created equal, but it did not apply to the Afro-American people until the late ’70s. Muhammad Ali’s viewpoint on America was: “Why should I fight for a country that can’t even fight for me? Why should I go to another country to fight for freedom when my country won’t give me freedom?”

I don’t know where Spc. Richardson is from but, even though Afro-Americans were set free from slavery, it took a while — and it is still a fighting issue in some parts of America where Afro-Americans are not treated as equals.

I am proud to be a soldier in the best country in the world. But I am now also proud that I am fighting not only for the freedom and security of Americans, but have the insurance that my country is fighting for me.

Kirk L. KnockettYongsan, South Korea

Shoe Box contains inspiration

“To my Hero, thank you so much for risking your lives to make America a safer place. You will always be in our prayers.

Love, Raquel.”

This is a letter written by a schoolchild who took part in the Shoe Box program. These are care packages that were sent to deployed soldiers. They contained small gifts and other welcome reminders of home.

But it was this simple letter, written on pink stationery, that made a world of difference.

While our families have been sending their thoughts and prayers, and our command has been doing its best to keep spirits high while still performing the mission, it was nice to know that others were thinking of us as well.

This time of year can be lonely for us, and it’s hard to be away from our families.

Raquel’s letter and all the others have lifted our spirits and are very much appreciated during these difficult times.


Staff Sgt. Michael MurphyCamp Montieth, Kosovo

January 6

S. Koreans exploited deaths

I must apologize for my words but, in reference to the tragic death of the two young South Korean girls: Philip N. Chessman is an idiot. In his Jan. 3 letter “U.S. not needed in S. Korea,” he said the soldiers should be held accountable for the tragic event, then he said Army leaders are responsible: Which is it? Those two soldiers are no more to blame than you or I. The blame rests on the command.

Was Mr. Chessman there? He should try and place himself in the soldiers’ shoes. Does he think their intent was to kill those girls? Does he think if they could have avoided this, they would? How does he figure they got off “scot-free” as he says; won’t they carry this in their hearts and minds forever?

Tell me how a trial in South Korea with these two soldiers would solve anything. Will it bring the girls back? Mr. Chessman’s thinking is so typically Korean: Somebody has to pay. Good God, it was an accident. Mr. Chessman just don’t get it, and the South Korean public doesn’t get it.

This — in a “vibrant, successful” country, as Mr. Chessman calls it — yet they still eat domesticated animals, allow women to pour into the country for prostitution, don’t know how to drive or the meaning of “excuse me,” and are constantly looking to screw someone over.

My friend was killed here by driver’s neglect. He left behind a family of four. What did his family get from South Korea? Nothing. No “I’m sorry,” no compensation and, to top it off, the driver never did any time in jail and was never reprimanded. Where was the so-called South Korean justice then?

If anyone should be on trial, it should be the South Korean public for their rudeness and stupidity in the actions they have taken against the American public and soldiers here. U.S. soldiers don’t want to be here, and they didn’t ask for a status of forces agreement; the South Korean government approved it and now, suddenly — since it doesn’t benefit South Korea or its ideology — it’s wrong.

Granted there is an accountability issue here, but the South Korean media and general public have been very narrow-minded in their thinking.

This is a no-win situation for everybody and goes back to that old Oklahoma saying: “Now we know who our real friends are.”

Don MitchellCamp Howze, South Korea

January 8

Who's running show at AFN?

I have a comment about American Forces Network programming. Recently commercials have been aired at what seems to be twice the volume of the scheduled programs. I understand that it’s common in the States to run commercials at twice the volume of scheduled programs in order to get viewers’ attention.

It’s bad enough that viewers in Europe are subjected to the same redundant, commercial-filled programs that we have absolutely no interest in. I feel as though I know them word for word, phrase for phrase and part for part.

But now, all of a sudden, they are at twice the volume. I don’t want to hear or see them at all, much less hear them at twice the volume. But if I want to watch American programs in English, I realize I have no choice.

If AFN isn’t making any money on commercials, why not show a movie in its entirety and then run the redundant commercials afterward? What’s to lose? I suggest a poll. AFN is here to please, right? AFN should throw it out there and see what kind of responses it gets.

And what about the scenes that repeat themselves at least twice during a program? I think I’ve seen one or more scenes of “The Practice” at least twice — once or twice before a loud, redundant commercial that’s repeated again once or twice. Why is this happening? Is there anybody monitoring the studio at AFN, or is it automated? Does anybody really work there? Is anybody really in charge?

I could go on and on about AFN’s problems, but I don’t think anybody is there to listen.

Robert DuncanGiebelstadt, Germany

Ali serves as poor example

I’d like to commend the writer of the Dec. 31 letter “Ali shouldn’t appear on AFN” for his honesty concerning Muhammad Ali, formerly known as Cassius Clay. Individuals who represent the true meaning of serving our country should be mentors of great character. Ali doesn’t fall into that category because he used religion as an escape route from serving in Vietnam.

I had a cousin who was killed in World War II by a sniper. My father served in the Korean War for two years. I had another cousin who was shot during the Vietnam War, and I served in operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. My family clearly understands the meaning of sacrifice. A broadcast of Ali put in the category of people who have served the military shows ignorance by American Forces Network’s management.

In the future, I hope AFN will choose more wisely who represents the U.S. government as a great mentor to our soldiers. Classifying Ali as a mentor is similar to Jane Fonda speaking at a South Korean convention for human rights.

Scott GwaltneyKaiserslautern, Germany

January 9

GIs' efforts merit better pay

Unless one has walked in the shoes of military personnel, one cannot make decisions on pay hikes for these folks. What people fail to realize is that there’s no amount of money that justifies what soldiers put out when wearing the uniform.

People don’t get rich in the military — not those lowly “grunts” on the totem pole. Top-echelon people are raking in the dough, but not the true soldiers. Decision makers should put on the uniform, leave the comfort of their homes and be away from their loved ones. They should work in uninhabitable places for six months and see how they would survive.

Military pay is not keeping up with today’s inflation. I’d like to know what pay grade these decision makers are working against. Are they World War I or World War II pay hikes? They need to put out the bucks for those who are sacrificing and working for a boss who is bent on going to war.

Patricia PayneNew York

Applaud wives who support

I’m the wife of a soldier in the U.S. Army. I’m proud to say that, and I don’t regret one decision made along the way.

My story no doubt resembles that of most military wives. We’re the wives who support our husbands. We’re the transient wives who tag along with our husbands from assignment to assignment, holding it all together. I’m by no means bragging or boasting. It’s by choice that I support my husband in his career. In fact, as the wife of a soldier, it’s become my mission to make sure that my soldier — my husband, my friend — has no stress.

My soldier’s duty is to be the best he can be and meet the high standards that are set for him and to protect our country. Those are responsibilities that are difficult enough to meet.

So here we are, the military wives who choose to take the long, hard road. It takes courageous individuals to keep it all together and not just be satisfied, but also be grateful. We move wherever our country sends us, and we find ways to make sure our families are pleased about it. We uproot our children from their schools on every tour, and we find ways to make it exciting for them. We change jobs from place to place, and we find ways to tell ourselves that it will better our own careers to work in new environments. We make and lose friends from post to post. But again, we find ways to get through it.

We move out of houses that we’ve made into homes to start over in new and foreign places, and we find ways to make it an adventure. We wait in our new homes while our soldiers are on deployments or in training schools, and we use that time alone to enrich the relationships we already have. We are away from our families for years at a time, but we use that time to fine-tune our letter-writing skills.

We military wives play an enormous part in the security of our country. It’s our responsibility to make sure that our soldiers know their families are safe and comfortable. If our soldiers are worried about us, they won’t be exceptionally worried about our country.

So I tip my hat to the rest of the military wives who are taking care of their soldiers so that my soldier has a unit he can count on.

Ronni M. WrightHohenfels, Germany

January 10

Closing bases opens wounds

An open letter to Defense Department officials:

I just want to know, what are you guys thinking? I don’t understand all of these overseas base closures. Are they designed to save money? I would like to know, in the long run, how much money you are actually going to save when you close a base, since you hurt the economy that is supported by that base. Then, if it happens that you have to reopen the base, it costs money; or, if you give the base over to civilians, you have the cost of building a new base. Why isn’t anyone thinking of that?

Surely there has to be better ways for the government to save money than by closing bases. The military is shrinking, and I don’t think it’s necessarily for the better.

Tammy LitzRamstein Air Base, Germany

Conflict coverage is pro-Israel

Associated Press reporter Mark Lavie presents a one-dimensional view of Palestinians as gun-toting supporters of al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein in his article “Defiant Palestinians march in support of Fatah movement,” which appeared in Stripes’ Jan. 3 South Korea and Okinawa editions. While Mr. Lavie reports that Palestinians deny al-Qaida is active in Palestinian areas, he fails to mention that Rashid Abu Shabak, Palestinian Preventive Security Service chief, reports Israel instructed Palestinian collaborators to highlight the existence of an al-Qaida cell in Gaza to justify further Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s allegations that there were al-Qaida cells in Gaza and southern Lebanon came only a few hours before the Israeli army carried out a massacre of eight Palestinian civilians in Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

Regrettably, Palestinians’ efforts committed to nonviolent resistance against Israel’s 35-year military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip go unreported in the U.S. media; one reason may be that few reporters venture out of Jerusalem, and reports of what’s really happening on the ground in occupied Palestine come from the brave international activists who go to the area to protect Palestinians against the excesses of a brutal occupation.

The International Solidarity Movement, an organization founded by Palestinians and committed to nonviolent resistance, reports that on Dec. 29 more than 50 Palestinians, as well as 17 internationals, attempted to deliver food and medical supplies to Mawasi, a Palestinian town behind an Israeli checkpoint that is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements. Soldiers responded to the demonstrators emptying two ambulances full of medical supplies by firing rounds of live bullets without warning. A co-worker of Mr. Lavie’s, a Palestinian AP photographer, was wounded in the head by shrapnel.

While Mr. Lavie reports a number of events that occurred Jan. 1, including that a child carried a poster of Saddam Hussein, that a marcher in the Jabaliya refugee camp wore belts of machine-gun bullets draped across his chest, and that Palestinians fired homemade rockets at nearby Jewish settlements, he failed to mention that the occupying army, the fourth largest army in the world, frequently fires missiles from F-16s in Palestinian neighborhoods.

Unmentioned also was that Angie Zelter, a prominent British human rights activist, was deported from Israel on Jan. 1. She had come to Israel to testify against a settler who had assaulted her, spat at her and destroyed her camera — which contained film depicting Israeli war crimes against Palestinians. Declared “persona non grata,” she was not given an opportunity to testify before the deportation.

Mr. Lavie also failed to note the Jan. 1 statement by Shulamit Aloni, Israel’s former minister of education: “We transformed ourselves into barbarians; we turned 3.5 million human beings into hostages; we turned every town and village into a detention camp; we destroy ancient buildings dating back 800 years in order to build a park … we allowed an officer to decide to destroy an entire neighborhood with a mere hand signal.”

Nancy AlmendrasCamp Foster, Okinawa

January 11

Army actions compound grief

I hope this letter will be read, but more than likely it will be trashed — like my son’s heart was. My son, a sergeant in the U.S. Army, was deprived of the chance to see and tell his grandfather goodbye (and that he loved him) before his grandfather passed away.

His grandfather helped raise him and his brother and sister; he is also his grandfather’s namesake.

We tried for three days to get him home, with the help of the Red Cross, and for three days his grandfather fought for life to see his grandson. Well it was a battle that all of us lost because the U.S. government didn’t think it was important enough to send him home.

I have two sons in the Army: One was told to go home and see his grandfather; the other was told that he could not go see him. I knew in my heart that even if my son was sent home, he would never make it here before his grandfather died, but he would at least be here to say his final goodbyes at the funeral.

Well, now he will not be home for that, either. Sure, the U.S. government is letting him come home now that his grandfather has passed away, but he’s in Kosovo and he just called me at 5 this morning to let us know that the Army was letting him come home. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he still wouldn’t be able to see and tell his grandfather goodbye and that he loved him, because he still would not make it home before the funeral.

He will be home for two weeks and we can’t wait to see our son, but it will be a sad two weeks because the U.S. government has no compassion for love and families. I guess the reason I am writing is in hope that maybe something can be done to prevent other families from having to feel the heartbreak that we are feeling now.

Both of our sons will more than likely be fighting in one of these wars going on now — fighting for a country that will not let them see their dearest loved ones who are dying here at home.

Randy SmallwoodGriffin, Ga.

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