August 31

Input from troops would help

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

August 31 Input from troops would help Happy when troops smile Letters entertainingSeptember 1 Think of the good works Where’s ‘Baldo’? Stop loss inexact in country AAFES lacking in Iraq

September 2 Water letter response Military death benefitsSeptember 3 Move on redeployment issues Join Guard for right reasonsSeptember 4 No sympathy for volunteers Yearning for substance Festival of fundingSeptember 5 Problems fixable if time takenSeptember 6 Mail clerk delivered ‘Part-timers’ plenty busy

Lately there have been many letters regarding troop discontent in the Middle East. Many letter writers have voiced complaints running a gamut of issues, from poor living conditions to not having end dates. Other troops have replied that servicemembers should suck it up and drive on. Both are right to a degree. We’re in a very hot, inhospitable land. It’s not pleasant to be here. But much of the discontent could be easily alleviated.

I’m an Army reservist. We’ve been activated for more than six months now. The first three months we spent at our home station and Fort Drum, N.Y. For the most part, those three months consisted of us sitting around doing absolutely nothing. This was extremely frustrating. We missed the war and our families, and by not getting in country promptly we extended our overall deployment. This was completely unnecessary.

Another complaint commonly voiced is the lack of redeployment dates. I find it hard to believe that the Army can coordinate the movement of millions of pounds of materiel a day, yet it doesn’t know when our planes are coming in. This is probably the most prevalent complaint I’ve heard.

It would be so easy to fix these problems. The deployment process should be streamlined, and the brass needs to start divulging information to the troops. Do I think this will happen? Probably not. The upper echelons seem not to care much about the troops. But they will be forced to care in the next few years when retention rates become horrendous.

Spc. Sean McCarthyKuwait

Happy when troops smile

I’ve been deployed here in Kuwait with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service since June. And like or unlike some people, I’m enjoying my time here. I enjoy meeting new people, hearing stories that soldiers are willing to tell, and offering an ear when they need someone to listen. Along with listening, I not only hear stories but also complaints and, sometimes, griping.

I agree with the Aug. 22 letter “Complaining the American way.” We all have a right to complain. But in the same sense, soldiers need to be aware that they signed up for our military knowing the risks. They knew that there was a possibility of going somewhere they wouldn’t want to go and being separated from their friends and families. They also knew that they might be right smack in danger’s way.

I hear them complain that they don’t want to be here. But whether or not they want to take responsibility, it was their own doing. I mean no offense to the soldiers who were aware of this, take personal responsibility and don’t gripe about the situation.

In return for the risk and sacrifice servicemembers have made, I want to thank them for being here, taking the risk and joining the military. No one really wants to be here, but we are.

I volunteered because I thought it was something I could do for soldiers here rather than sit at home and watch the news. I wanted to be over here surrounded by the people who’ve survived. I wanted to be here to wish them safety or to say thanks and that I’m glad they get to go home. It’s sad to say goodbye, but it feels good seeing the smiles when they know their planes are leaving in just a few hours. Thanks again!

Christina KupitzCamp Virginia, Kuwait

Letters entertaining

There’s nothing more entertaining to me than reading a letter that a grown man with a weapon has written that’s openly whining for all the world to read. I mean, who needs air conditioning, ice cream and the Internet when there’s so many complainers out there?

My four months of deployment have flown by thanks to all the free entertainment. If I’d had the chance to see Kid Rock, a Playboy bunny and Arnold Schwarzenegger, I’d have stayed in my hooch just to read the letters.

The writers are funny, even the writer of the July 27 letter “If one unit gets it, all should” with all of his demanding. I thought that was hilarious. Good luck on those phone calls, letter writer! He could always come to Camp Warhorse in Ba’qubah and play “dodge the mortar” or “rocket-propelled grenade hide and go seek.” Now that’s quality entertainment.

I wish all the writers the best of luck. I’m surviving this ordeal. I couldn’t care less about the Internet and ice cream.

Staff Sgt. Jimmy C. ComptonBa’qubah, Iraq

September 1

Think of the good works

After reading countless letters to the editor from complaining soldiers, two things come to my mind: First, we all volunteered to join the Army. Second is the Code of Conduct.

I’m proud to serve in the Army. It’s my duty to protect American citizens’ freedoms. Patriotism is not just a word. It’s a duty that I live by. I humbly thank each soldier who I’ve served with and also those who I haven’t met. They should keep their heads up and be proud of what they’re accomplishing here.

Staff Sgt. Suzanne ThomasonCamp Spearhead, Kuwait

Where's 'Baldo'?

I’m a soldier currently stationed in Iraq, and I’m writing to ask Stars and Stripes editors a big favor. Stripes should please add the popular and funny “Baldo” comic strip to its comics. I don’t care much about getting faster mail delivery, better living conditions or a redeployment date. But I’d love to one day open up my Stripes and be able to read my favorite comic strip after missing it for more than seven months.

Spc. David GarciaCamp Cedar II, Iraq

Stop-loss inexact in country

This is in response to the Aug. 12 letter “Complaints cheered by enemy.” Although I agree with the writer regarding soldiers fulfilling their obligations without complaint, some soldiers have a legitimate reason to ask when they will be allowed to go home.

I refer specifically to the unit stop loss currently keeping guardsmen and reservists here in Iraq. For those not familiar with this policy, it states that Reserve component soldiers cannot ETS or retire even if they have no continuing military obligation. Active-duty units are sending ETS-eligible soldiers home while Guard and Reserve soldiers with jobs are forced to stay.

I served proudly here in Iraq during the Gulf War in 1991 with the 82nd Airborne Division. I served in the National Guard until 1998. After Sept. 11, 2001, I re-enlisted under the Army’s “try one” program for one year, during which I served on active duty. Six months later I was called and told that I was under the aforementioned stop loss and had to report.

Now, with the war “over,” I’m still not allowed to exit the service. As a police officer, I know that my department is paying thousands of dollars in overtime to cover my absence. I “followed the oath” and will always be proud. But even the soldiers mentioned in the letter were allowed to go home at the end of their tours.

Sgt. Dean R. AlexanderBaghdad, Iraq

AAFES lacking in Iraq

As a soldier in Iraq, I must say that I expected more support of troops from those who claim to be our first supporters. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service has seriously disappointed me and my fellow troops. “We go where you go” is indeed the overstatement of the year. My base camp outside Baghdad has been very disappointed in AAFES and its service to soldiers.

We receive expired chips and crackers that taste funny, yet we still buy them because we have nothing else to snack on. Some have resorted to buying from Iraqis as opposed to AAFES. Not only are the supplies old, they’re also limited to three or four items per kind of snack or soda. Our only alternatives are Iraqi vendors or care packages that can take two or three weeks to get here.

We’re in Iraq serving our country. Is it too much to ask for AAFES to make life easier by supplying the little things that boost morale? I understand that not everyone has a post exchange. That isn’t saying much because the post exchanges offer so little. But ours is run by soldiers who run to Baghdad International Airport to get supplies and are told what they can and cannot get.

So AAFES doesn’t go where we go. We go where AAFES is. Our chain of command takes care of so much already that it’s almost too much to ask it to also provide us with a PX. AAFES needs to catch up with soldiers and live up to its creed or it can expect no more business from us, even stateside.

Sgt. Anne LeeCamp Dogwood, Iraq

September 2

Water letter response

I’m responding to the Aug. 27 letter “Should be water under bridge.” I’m 11 years old. My dad is Staff Sgt. Hollingsworth, and he’s in Baghdad.

I disagree with the letter because:

1) A soldier is a grown man in the military fighting for our country, and a baby is a young person who can’t act or think by itself. Grown men shouldn’t be “weaned” from a water bottle. They can drink from anything they want.

2) I agree that soldiers didn’t have bottled water in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. They didn’t have it in World War I either. Bottled water was not invented at that time. But if it had been, then I’m sure that soldiers would have wanted to drink it.

3) The writer said soldiers should only drink from the water buffalo and that two bottles of water a day aren’t needed. I agree that the water bottles aren’t needed. They are wanted. It’s OK that they’re only wanted. The soldiers deserve bottled water because they’re fighting for the freedom of others. The soldiers are risking their lives. They sleep on cots and don’t get to eat good meals. So the least we can do is give them bottled water.

The writer thinks they don’t deserve bottled water at all. I think they should get four bottles a day if that’s what they want. I know that my dad is hot and tired most of the time, and I feel sad about that. I think he deserves water that doesn’t have to have Kool-Aid mix added to be enjoyed.

Autumn HollingsworthFriedberg, Germany

Military death benefits

The survivors of the 9/11 day of infamy victims stand to collect up to $3 million. The survivors of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing stand to collect up to $10 million.

Now we have the survivors of military personnel killed in Iraq, who stand to collect up to $6,000 (of which $3,000 may be taxable income), maybe up to $200,000 if he/she purchased an policy from Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance and made payments. This is unfair to the families of military members, their spouses, their children and their relatives who would have to render support to make ends meet. Leave no family behind.

I propose that $1 billion be set aside in a fund to support a new military death benefit. Upon death of military personnel, a $1 million trust fund should be established to support that family, providing the interest on the trust fund in monthly payments. This would provide for stability of the family home and future education of the children up through college. Upon completion of college by the children, the remainder of the trust fund would revert back to the military death benefit pool.

Before going to war, the number of deaths expected would necessitate that the military death benefit pool be adjusted upward for the expected new deaths (added cost of war). Many of the young soldiers having families of one or two new children don’t make enough money for decent off-post housing, feed and care for the family. If they are killed while on duty for the liberty and freedom of all of us, why would we doom their families to a life of poverty? Leave no family behind.

Yale WeatherbyFlower Mound, Texas

September 3

Move on redeployment issues

My husband has been deployed since February, just weeks after our first child was born. My husband was only able to see our son for the first week of his life. At the time, we were in the States for the holidays. I get so upset with the whole situation. I hear people griping. I hear people say, “They know what they signed up for.” In the end, I don’t know what to feel.

I read letters saying how much this all hurts, and it does, especially for all of us who have children caught in the middle of this whole ordeal. The children are the ones who truly suffer. No matter how long our soldiers are gone, no amount of money can change the fact that they’re gone. It just seems that we’re doing a lot of talking and there’s no action.

Our leaders — and God knows I support them — say they’re trying to get the soldiers who’ve been there the longest rotated out. Well, I see all these soldiers around us coming home, but not my husband’s group. I’m so happy for the children who get to see their parents. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. But a small part of me is so angry at them that I just can’t watch.

I don’t understand why the soldiers left back for rear detachment are single. Why not leave those who have families sitting in a foreign country? Yes, we could just go back to the States. But what would that say about us? Are we weak? No. Can we not afford it? No. We stick it out because we’re hanging onto the small chance that our fathers, mothers, husbands or wives will get word that they’ll be coming home. Call me a wishful thinker, but the redeployment issue seems to change every month, and the way I see it, it’s bound to change for the better.

So all those who are left behind and waiting for their soldiers to come home should stay strong and never give up hope. We love them all, soldiers and civilians. We’re all Americans!

Brianne RichDarmstadt, Germany

Join guard for right reasons

I’m writing in response to the Aug. 28 letter “Active duty should take over.” As a fellow Reserve component soldier, my advice to the writer is to get out of the National Guard. We don’t want or need soldiers of his caliber.

I know that it’s hard in Iraq. I know that he has a family and a job and misses many other aspects of his civilian life. But who doesn’t? What makes him special? I guess a specialist in the National Guard is fully qualified to decide which units need to be in which theater and at what time.

The writer said that many National Guard soldiers are “involved with organizations such as the Cub Scouts.” Well, maybe the writer should get out of the Guard and go join the Cub Scouts.

As a member of the National Guard deployed to the Balkans, I know what it’s like to leave a new wife and a great civilian job. But not once has my wife or I ever doubted my mission or call-up. I know it’s not Iraq, but we, too, have been away from home for more than eight months with only more deployments on the horizon. People who join the National Guard only to earn some extra money or learn a job skill are obviously in it for the wrong reasons.

Staff Sgt. Joshua N. FryCamp McGovern, Bosnia

September 4

No sympathy for volunteers

I’d like to respond to the Aug. 28 letter “Active duty should take over.” I’m in an active-duty unit tasked out to a Reserve unit in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since May. This comes after spending two months in the same situation in Turkey. Under reservists, adding insult to injury, our combat patch will be a Reserve patch.

I have no sympathy for the writer sitting around at a stateside installation for three or four months waiting to move out while we were already overseas. At least it was possible for family members to occasionally meet with the soldiers awaiting deployment.

The writer also said, “We didn’t volunteer for this.” Did they ever find the guy who held a gun to the writer’s head and twisted his arm to sign up for the National Guard?

My last gripe is the writer’s comment that for active-duty members, “it’s their only job,” meaning that active-duty soldiers’ only job is the military. At my last duty assignment, I worked two part-time jobs at the same time. I’d get off from one and go to work at the other, all while still active duty and newly assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C. Shortly before our deployment I had several successful job interviews for various part-time employment, half of which were managerial positions.

The bottom line is that those who complain should at least know what they’re complaining about.

Spc. Jim JenningsCamp Wolf, Kuwait

Yearning for substance

As a soldier deployed in Baghdad, I look forward to the 3- and 4-day-old copies of Stars and Stripes that my unit gets for news and current events. Being detached from modern news media is part of the job, and I expect Stripes to be abreast of the world’s happenings.

In the Aug. 11 issue there were multiple articles on serious international issues in Liberia, Indonesia, Iraq and on the Israelis and Palestinians. But I was more than disappointed to see that the most important thing to Stripes wasn’t these issues. It was the story “Air Force back on track for fitness test” (Aug. 11). It was about the Air Force’s new physical training program.

Does anyone really care so much about the Air Force getting a new PT program that it should overshadow world events, including American soldiers in combat? Since Stripes caters to servicemembers, does Stripes really think they want to read about airmen running laps above current events shaping the world around them?

Most soldiers tolerate Stripes because it’s the only media we can get ahold of. But I think Stripes’ values need to be reevaluated. Deployed soldiers yearn for substance in Stripes. Instead, it’s filled with human-interest nonsense that doesn’t affect anybody — except, apparently, the Air Force.

So when Stripes’ editors get together and decide what to print and where to place it, they should please keep in mind the readers who want newsworthy articles instead of pages filled with airmen on treadmills.

Spc. David C. RatliffeBaghdad, Iraq

Festival of funding

Let’s call things as they are: Friendship festivals at U.S. military bases in Japan are promoted as an opportunity for our gracious Japanese hosts to enjoy a bit of America and our culture and food. But in reality, it’s an opportunity to take advantage of our hosts by selling them overpriced drinks and food that organizations purchase for a lot less on base. What a rip-off!

Rick AndersonTokyo

September 5

Problems fixable if time taken

I’m writing in response to the Aug. 27 letter “Act like the best.” It was written by a sergeant in Mosul, Iraq. He said everyone should stop complaining about being over here because it’s their job. That’s true. It’s our job to be here and to fight terrorism and all the other evil in the world.

I’ve been deployed since February, and I wish I could go home. But I understand that the Army needs me here, and I have no problem doing what I signed up to do. In defense of the complainers, yes, it’s an all-volunteer force. But when these people volunteered, they were never told that they could be involuntarily extended past their expiration of term of service dates. There are soldiers over here who have been serving going on two years past their original ETS dates. I’m quite sure they volunteered for service. But I’m also positive that they were never told that they could be involuntarily extended to serve for an additional two years past their ETS dates.

So the sergeant who hates to read complaints in the letters section should relax. Soldiers complain. That’s what they do when they’re disgruntled. It’s one page in a newspaper. These soldiers have every right to complain, specifically the soldiers who have been extended involuntarily for so long past their ETS dates. Some of these soldiers have probably been here and will probably be here longer than the writer has or will ever be.

The writer also said that being over here doesn’t give soldiers the right to complain to the media. I beg to differ. Above all else, this definitely gives them the right to complain. They’re out here dealing with it the best way they know how. We fight for the right to express ourselves. There are limits on how we should express ourselves and about whom we express our feelings. But they still have the right to express their feelings to a certain extent, complaining or otherwise.

The writer also said the U.S. military is acting like a bunch of spoiled kids. I don’t recall a bunch of spoiled kids taking Iraq. I could’ve sworn that a bunch of grown men and women stomped into Iraq with a purpose and succeeded in ousting an “evil” regime. Put up or shut up? I’m quite sure that the U.S. military definitely put up and is continuously putting up.

Soldiers will always complain. It’s our job as leaders to try to help them the best way we can. We’ll never be rid of complaints, but leaders can help soldiers deal with their problems instead of writing about them. Leaders have to deal with complaints, prioritize them and deal with them on a case-by-case basis.

Instead of saying he doesn’t want to hear the complaints, maybe the writer should listen. He’d be surprised how fast complaints can die down when a caring leader addresses the problems. Most problems are easily fixed.

Sgt. 1st Class Dennis StrubhartKuwait

September 6

Mail clerk delivered

I’m a soldier with the 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor from Fort Riley, Kan. Like many readers, I’ve endured the frustrations regarding our mail. But I’m not writing to complain. I’m writing to express my thanks to our mail clerk, Spc. Sevey. This soldier truly went above and beyond his duty to serve his unit and the Army.

Those of us who were here all remember how bad the mail was in the early stages of the war. It was basically nonexistent. While everyone gave up hope of ever receiving a letter or package, Spc. Sevey never quit. Day in and day out, he would ride out into hostile territory, sandstorms and God knows what else in search of mail.

Because we were attached to several different divisions, Spc. Sevey had to make four, five and even six different stops to find our mail, often coming back empty- handed. But he always remained positive and would be pleased to pick up even one letter. He endured our constant complaints and bad attitudes, even when they were wrongly directed at him.

Spc. Sevey is probably the best mail clerk in the Army. He belongs on a tank. But nevertheless, he accepted and performed his mission flawlessly and with dedication.

In a few short weeks Spc. Sevey will be leaving 2-70th Armor to pursue bigger and better things outside the Army. I want to thank him for all of his hard work and his positive attitude. We’re losing a great person and a great soldier. I wish him nothing but the best.

Pfc. Mark LaucksBaghdad, Iraq

'Part-timers' plenty busy

My Army Reserve military police company, with fewer than 100 MPs, arrived here in Iraq a couple of weeks after the 3rd Infantry Division.

We’ve transported and guarded thousands of enemy prisoners of war, worked mass-grave sites, escorted numerous VIPs and protected civil affairs and Criminal Investigation Command teams. We’ve searched numerous buildings, trained Iraqi police and, of course, executed the never-ending convoy security missions.

We guard prisoners in Balad, Baghdad, Dogwood and Nasiriyah, even though there are tens of thousands of active-duty troops in these places sitting in camps. Now we even man listening posts/observation points that were manned by an infantry battalion. The members of the unit we replaced just got their Combat Infantryman Badges.

There’s no such thing as a CIB for Reserve combat MPs, only a paycheck. Our ranks are made up of ex-Marines, ex-active-duty MPs, city, state and federal law-enforcement officers and, yes, even a few college kids.

Even though our readiness numbers hover around 70 percent, we still have no plans to go home, only rumors of extensions. We’ve watched aviation units, Marines and now the 3rd Infantry Division go home. Next I’m sure we’ll watch the 4th Infantry Division and 1st Infantry Division roll south to redeploy.

Our story is typical of Reserve and National Guard units in this war. Small units from small towns all over America with no generals, no pretty patches, no political clout and no rotation schedule home.

I’m sure some active-duty first sergeant on “deployment” to Germany or Kuwait will respond to this letter with the usual “shut up and drive on” dogma.

But full-timers should choose their words carefully, because without us “part-timers” they might actually have to go to war.

Spc. Mark PetermanNasiriyah, Iraq

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