November 24


Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

November 24 Gore plays situational politics Government needs God Bagging flap Gun control response

November 26 Can't crack AAFES' code What happened to military?

November 27 No pause for the cause

The editorial excerpt “Runaround on childhood obesity” (Nov. 17) and the accompanying editorial cartoon were timely commentaries on the health of not only our children, but our nation as a whole. I commend Stars and Stripes for highlighting such an important issue.

Obesity in children is at an epidemic level, as cited by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. The factors contributing to obesity are many: heredity, diet, exercise, education, and cultural and familial norms. One of these factors was given a full-court press in “The meal deal” (Nov. 17), which consisted of several stories in Stripes Sunday magazine that highlighted diet in the military. The statistics cited in these articles emphasized the increase in obesity in the U.S. military and the American public. The statistics are staggering. Not only is military readiness impacted, but the nation’s future health is jeopardized. Eventually, health care costs will skyrocket since obesity is the underlying cause of numerous medical conditions.

A recent issue of Health Magazine said, somewhat tongue in cheek, that Americans might not have to worry about the health of our Social Security program because too few of us will live to collect the benefits. But obesity is a curable condition. All is not lost. In one of the Stripes articles, contributor and health educator Maureen Mintzlaff said, “The only way to address the obesity problem is through incorporating regular exercise with a good diet based on sound nutritional principles.” It’s with this guideline in mind that we must look to our future: our children.

In President Bush’s educational effort, “No child left behind,” we must be mindful of not only the academic needs of children but also their physical education. The mind/body connection is one we cannot overlook. “Runaround on childhood obesity” asserted, “While recognizing that schools today attempt to cover a lot of ground … the educational process would be wise not to lose sight of the fact that a sound body is an important contributor to having a sound mind…”

The Parent, Teacher, and Student Association of Heidelberg Middle School in Germany is sponsoring a nationally-known speaker, Jean Blaydes, who will address the “mind/body” connection during a general membership meeting at the school at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 25. After having spent a day with the HMS faculty, Mrs. Blaydes will be available to parents and the public.

Mrs. Blaydes is a speaker who inspires her audience to laugh aloud, participate fully, and walk away humming tunes that connect concepts of brain research with educational performance and physical fitness. She’s beyond motivational — she’s inspirational. We cordially invite members of the military and civilian community to join us on Nov. 25. Together we may begin to understand how obesity is affecting our children and learn ways to combat, if not turn around, this epidemic.

Lynn MattinglyHeidelberg, Germany

Government needs God

This is in response to the article “Judge rules against monument” (Nov. 19). I believe a simple answer is available to all the crime, drug and alcohol abuse, vulgarity in the press/media, school shootings, sniper attacks and parents wondering what’s happening to their children. Our country was founded and our Constitution was written on the basis of several principles: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, etc. Our national motto is, “In God we trust.” The problem is that our judicial system has taken God out of America.

As Christians we stand up for people’s freedom of speech, religion, etc. Now our judicial system has taken a stand by saying that we must respect all other religions. But our children cannot recite the Lord’s Prayer in schools. We cannot display religious monuments in government locations anymore.

Other nationalities and ethnic organizations can openly display their national/ethnic flags, but the flag that represented the Confederate States of America violates others’ rights, so it must come down. This flag represents American heritage just as much as others do. Where is the freedom? One ethnic group disagrees with it, so it must go. What if others disagree with their heritage? The Constitution provides for freedom of speech, but not that one heritage can make the existence of another disappear.

Could members of other religions and fanatic sects be laughing at America because of what we stand and fight for? We condemn our own rights and allow others to trod on us. The answer to most of the problems in America today is to put “In God we trust” back into our daily lives, and most of all, back into our government!

Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth A. Cox (Ret.)Boeblingen, Germany

Bagging flap

I want to address the flap over youngsters bagging purchases at post exchanges. I’m a teacher, parent, and retired military member. My kids are grown. I’ve also been a sports coach, and I currently coach drill for JROTC. So I can look at this from many angles, and I still come to the same conclusion: to stop this activity is wrong!

We’re talking about children who struggle as it is to find things to do in Europe. The writer of the letter “Don’t beg just yet” (Nov. 15), who is obviously in the minority on this issue, wants the rug pulled out from under our kids’ feet. What kind of person is so self-centered and bitter at the world that he can’t see the good that this does? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this benefits the entire community.

Next will we ask that baggers be removed from commissaries and that the Combined Federal Campaign be removed from bases completely? Shall we stop passing the plate at religious services, too? What’s next?

Ralph MooreGermany

Gun control response

The writer of the letter “Gun control” (Nov. 21) protested the violation of his constitutional right to bear arms by a “foreign power.” He seems to have forgotten that in Germany it is we who are the foreign power, not the Germans. We are subject to German laws except where the Status of Forces agreement makes exceptions.

If the writer is a uniformed servicemember, I’m confident that the U.S. government will supply him with all the arms he needs to fight terrorism when the time comes. If he’s a civilian, then nobody forced him to come over here. He’s free to return to the United States whenever he wants and bear arms to his heart’s content.

Robert JordanStuttgart, Germany

November 26

Can't crack AAFES' code

I recently read the Nov. 2 story “Air Force probes fraud allegations at AAFES.” The story said financial ledgers should have revealed a loss of $740,000 in fiscal year 2001 in catalog and Internet sales, but instead the agency reported a $3.2 million profit. I can’t help but wonder if this may be the cause of overcharging by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. For instance, AAFES’ gas prices have risen drastically again, exceeding the prices being paid stateside.

Two years ago, I purchased an American Forces Network decoder and a satellite dish for close to $500 instead of renting a decoder for $25 a month. I was told that if I had any problems with the system that weren’t a result of misuse, it would be serviced free of charge.

A little more than two years later, the system’s power supply went out. I was told this is very common and that the standard rate to fix it is $85. I asked why I was being charged and was told it was because I had purchased the system and not rented it.

Is AAFES subsidizing its losses at consumers’ expense like all of the other money-grubbing companies around the world?

Charles C. JonesSchweinfurt, Germany

What happened to military?

When I first enlisted in 1979, the military was a tight-knit, family-oriented group. We had parties for people’s birthdays, promotions and weddings. We celebrated births and mourned deaths. We listened to each other’s problems and did what we could to help. We’d have little get-togethers. In short, we cared and we showed it.

One of the military’s biggest problems lately is retention. This can make or break a unit. If people are treated poorly, they’ll be lost. People don’t want to work someplace they don’t feel wanted. If people aren’t taken care of, they’ll probably be gone at the end of their enlistments. Then recruitment must outpace losses. Why not keep the people who are already in? If people in leadership positions are lost, new people have to take over. A person with years of experience is lost. That’s a rather bleak picture if it happens too much. Then there’s a bunch of folks trying their darndest to keep the ship afloat, but not really knowing what they’re doing.

I challenge every commander, first sergeant and supervisor to stop, take five minutes and think. What do they honestly know about the people assigned under them? Is there anything they could do to make the people under them feel more like friends of the family and less like employees? If so, why hasn’t it been done? Leaders should just ask their people how things are going. Really listen. Be honest. Don’t just tell them what they want to hear, and don’t give them “standard” military answers. If a leader says he’ll look into something, he should do it. It may seem minor, but to that person it may be monumental. Nothing will kill a person’s desire to follow someone faster than finding out that the leader doesn’t really have the subordinate’s best interest in mind.

I’ve been in the military for almost 24 years. I’ve seen a lot of new faces come and old friends go. I’ve also seen lots of new people leave after only a few years. How many of the new faces will be here next year? Is there anything I can do to help keep them here? Some I can help, and others I can’t. Good, hard-working, willing people are chased away because their needs aren’t attended to. They join voluntarily, full of energy, drive and enthusiasm. They leave like whipped puppies, and some get sour tastes in their mouths at the sheer mention of the military.

I’m a third-generation soldier and proudly followed my father’s example. He was a World War II and Vietnam veteran. He embodied everything I wanted to be. Today I hear, “It’s only a job,” and, “I’m doing my four years and then I’m out of here.” What happened to pride in the uniform? What happened to pride in serving one’s country? When did it leave? Can we ever get it back? I hope so. It’s up to all of us, but it has to start at the top. There must be leadership by example, because the people below will be tomorrow’s leaders.

Jeffrey DeibertLandstuhl, Germany

November 27

No pause for the cause

The United States — it is such a great land in which to celebrate life. We are free to work where we like and quit when we decide we need a change. We are free to vacation where we like and when we like. And we decide where to live. It is wonderful that we are able to say what we feel with no punishment. Freedom of speech is something I cherish. Without this right, I would not be writing this letter to my fellow Americans.

There was a tragic accident in South Korea in the spring. It involved two U.S. soldiers who were driving a large military vehicle. The vehicle ran over two Korean children and they were crushed. The U.S. military and South Korean police cleared the soldiers of any wrongdoing in this incident. However, after protesters threw dangerous materials over the gates of the military installations, threatened a U.S. soldier at gunpoint to read a statement at their demonstration, carried signs, distributed fliers that included Sgt. Mark Walker’s picture and offered a reward for his capture, and forced the military to lock down some installations, the military decided to charge the two soldiers. Sgts. Fernando Nino and Walker were charged with two counts of negligent homicide.

Nino considered civilian counsel, but decided to have a military attorney represent him at trial. This was his choice. Walker chose to secure a civilian attorney since the military attorney he was assigned had less than six months’ experience. This was his choice. Had the military not charged the soldiers for something that was clearly an accident, there would have been no reason for these choices. But that’s another story.

Since good legal counsel is expensive (the representation, trips to Asia, etc.), it was necessary to raise funds to retain lawyer Guy Womack. There was a Tupperware fund-raiser (selling special items for 21 days), a car wash (the manager has yet to send the promised donation), a dine-in at a local Georgia restaurant (and this check is also slow in getting to the fund) and a free concert.

The concert was scheduled for Nov. 16 at Hobgood Park in Woodstock, Ga. It was rained out and rescheduled for last Saturday at the American Legion hall in Marietta, Ga. There were seven bands who donated their time and talent, more than $1,500 worth of door prizes, food, postcards to Any Soldier, a duck pond for the kids and, did I mention that it was free?

The Walker family was at the hall early this morning. They had worked for months to prepare this event. But they set up, cooked the food and were ready to thank everyone that walked in the door with a smile and hearty handshake. Only problem is … no one walked in the door (with the exception of the six people from their Sunday school class). There was no one to enjoy the talents of Georgia’s wonderful bands. There were no children to fish out a duck and delight at their prize. There was no one to eat the food. And the door prizes were given out to the bandmembers and the few who came to help with such worthwhile event.

Say you can’t recall seeing it advertised? CNN, The Marietta Daily Journal (Phil Giltman), The Atlanta Constitution (Ron Martz), The Army Times (Jane McHugh), Stars & Stripes (Tim Flack), Sgt. Mark Walker’s Web page, “The Kimmer Show” — all of these outlets brought information about the event to the public. And they were gracious enough to do it for free (and we are grateful). How could anyone have missed this?

You see, we are free to work where we like, vacation when we want and live where we choose. You enjoy that freedom because of soldiers such as Sgt. Mark Walker. The soldiers cannot work where they like. They are assigned to a unit, good or bad. Vacations are few and far between for soldiers. They must go through a process of having the leave approved (and that is only done if there are no missions), have the funds (this is difficult since pay is not the best in the military) and, of course, they have to fill out forms giving the command a complete accounting of where they will be at all times while gone.

“Live where you choose” is not even a consideration in the military life. A soldier hopes for the best and ends up with wherever the military chooses to send him or her. Most of the time, that’s not close to “home” and lots of times, it’s far away from home and family.

South Korea is no vacation spot; in fact, it isn’t an assignment that is usually chosen. But, U.S. soldiers have been there for 50 years. Right now, there are 37,000 U.S. servicemembers assigned to South Korea. Sgt. Mark Walker is one of them.

Now, I feel so sorry for all the hard work the Walker family did to arrange this free event. I feel bad because the weather did not hold out for the first scheduled event, yet they were committed enough to reschedule immediately. I feel so terrible that Sgt. Walker will be coming home next week to learn that no one in Georgia cared enough to come and support him, even when it was free.

However, you can still help to make the homecoming sweeter. You can send a donation to:

• The Sgt. Mark Walker Defense Fund, a/c 3210971564, National Bank of Commerce, 6199 Highway 92, Suite 176, Acworth, GA 30102;

Mark’s Fund, P.O. Box 2573, Acworth, GA 30102; or

via Paypal at

Georgia is a fine state. I recently visited Acworth, Marietta, Woodstock and Atlanta. I met so many nice people. And I know that there had to have been something urgent to keep everyone busy and unable to attend the fund-raiser. However, I have faith in the folks from Georgia. I believe the kind people of Georgia will meet the needs of this soldier. And, for all those folks who made the event happen, a big thanks!

Sue VoganAransas Pass, Texas

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