September 28

Guardsmen's perks don't do it

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

September 28 Guardsmen’s perks don’t do it Forced to (not) take medicineSeptember 29 Not all ‘frantic’ in the 105th For morals, give me MooreSeptember 30 Cured of doubts in the field Zoo trip not GIs’ finest hour Tiger’s death sends message A right turn of events R&R policy not cut and driedOctober 1 ‘Doonesbury’ met my marker Fight for right reasons Patriotism not flagging Down-to-earth motivation Tell about all ex-POWs equally Courage and power guides GIsOctober 2 Talk about teamwork Stolen mail like a bad movie Fairness should be a factor All signed up for this Treat reservists equallyOctober 3 Cut out the cardboard coins Unions can’t spare a dime? In over our heads GIs not up to Dad’s standards Dedication, respect paramountOctober 4 Finding defeat in victory We fight to prevent chaos Finish duty, go home Guardsman’s words shameful Comments imbecilic Some mail safe, some ruined

I’m a National Guard soldier currently serving in Iraq. I’d like to explain something to the writer of the Sept. 7 letter “In war, everyone’s ‘active.’” I’m by no means a “professional soldier,” so I suppose he won’t mind if I complain.

One thing the writer must understand is that we are still nothing more than guardsmen. We’re nothing more than the government’s little pawns who are used when active-duty soldiers are tired of doing their full-time jobs. This isn’t my full-time job, nor would I ever want it to be. How does that ad go? “One weekend a month, two weeks a year”? I guess I was young and naïve to think it would be so easy to get college money that way.

The writer spoke of all the nice things that the military provides. For guardsmen, maybe it’s those enormous drill checks every month. No. They’re far from enormous. Could it be the great signing bonuses? I wouldn’t know. I didn’t receive one. Or could it be that great GI Bill? Well, with the amount of money it takes to get a college degree nowadays, the GI Bill is nearly peanuts.

What it all boils down to is that the National Guard has done me absolutely no good. I didn’t sign up to be an active-duty soldier. So I don’t need to be begged too much to get out. Bring me the papers that say I’m done and free to leave this prison I call the Army. Tell me I can go home to my wife. Trust me, I’ll sign them faster than the writer can say “ETS.”

I suppose since the writer is at one of the worst duty stations in the region, he of all guardsmen has the right to criticize. Camp Arifjan resembles that of a Club Med vacation hot spot. Baskin-Robbins, Subway, Burger King and Pizza Time are among the eating alternatives to escape the chow hall monotony. E-mail and telephones are also luxuries found at Camp Arifjan that the majority of troops in the Middle East are living without. If the sun and heat are about to bring troops to their breaking point, a cool swimming pool is conveniently located outside the air-conditioned buildings.

Those stationed at Camp Arifjan are not only out of harm’s way, they also have many amenities that can be found back on our native soil. If we could all be there with the writer, a deployment would probably feel like a vacation.

So the guardsmen who think this is great should please go active duty. I beg them.

Spc. Chad KetchamBaghdad, Iraq

Forced to (not) take medicine

I’m one of the thousands of soldiers “lucky” enough to be living at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. We have two post exchanges, one of which is open 24 hours a day, two 24-hour gyms, a 24-hour Internet cafe, several well-known food chain outlets, a newly-constructed swimming pool and even a healthy patch of grass. This new installation has been touted as one of the most state-of-the-art installations, and it’s still growing. Included in our accommodations is the Troop Medical Clinic.

I’m a 20-year sufferer of severe migraine headaches. I deployed with my standard 90-day supply of medication. But with migraines, one never knows how long that 90-day supply is going to last. My unit arrived in theater April 22. By mid-June I’d exhausted my medication supply. Seeing that my supply was running low, during the first week of June I went on sick call for refills. I was told that my medication would be ordered and it might take up to 30 days to arrive.

As I write this it’s almost halfway through September, and the only medication that relieves me of these debilitating headaches has yet to arrive. I’m fairly sure that out of the thousands of troops here at Camp Arifjan who utilize our TMC, I’m not the only soldier who relies on this particular medication.

If Camp Arifjan is so advanced, why is it so difficult to obtain this fairly common and very effective medication?

Sgt. Fara FieldsKuwait

September 29

Not all 'frantic' in the 105th

I’m writing in regard to the Sept. 19 letter “Don’t use GIs as pawns.” I, too, am assigned to the 105th Personnel Service Detachment, and I disagree with almost everything the writer said. I haven’t heard people threatening to hurt themselves. Granted, I don’t spend as much time with other members of my unit as I could. But I feel there are better avenues than the press to deal with this.

As a noncommissioned officer, the writer should be a leader we should have faith in. She should try to help soldiers who are feeling down, either through the chain of command, the chaplains or the mental health care professionals stationed here at Camp Wolf, Kuwait.

I agree that my unit works hard and does its job well. But the job is not that hard. The worst part for me is boredom during our 12-hour shifts. We must not be too bogged down since we’re being allowed to take rest and recuperation leave between now and when we go home for good. Almost all of us will be allowed to go home if we choose for up to 15 days. I’m very thankful that I can be home to see my son born at the end of October. If this extension means that I’ll miss the first few months of his life, I knew that was part of the job coming in. If the writer has a problem with our government leaders, then she should vote for whom she thinks will do a better job. That’s one right we don’t give up when we take the oath.

The writer’s complaint about a student missing another semester of school baffles me. Is our generation so self-absorbed that it thinks missing one semester of college is the worst thing that’s happening right now? The families of the men and women who are never coming home wouldn’t think it’s that important. Besides, nothing in life is free, and this is payment for all the free schooling, enlistment bonuses and even full-time jobs that people enjoy in the National Guard. I’d love to have an exact date for when I can go home. But that’s not always how it works.

I want everyone to know that not everyone in the 105th is “frantic.” We all want to go home, but some of us are willing to tough it out. Readers shouldn’t judge the entire unit by the ranting of one NCO.

Pfc. Anthony J. SchumanCamp Wolf, Kuwait

For morals, give me Moore

As a servicemember, I believe in the U.S. Constitution. We all swear an oath to “support and defend” it.

This country was founded by people who were fleeing religious persecution in their own countries. America was founded using religious morals as a guide for our laws.

We even practice some good old-fashioned biblical justice ourselves. The death penalty sounds a lot like the Old Testament’s “eye for an eye.”

I, as a servicemember, support Judge Roy Moore. I believe he is trying to instill some much-needed morals and values into our society.

How long will it be before “In God We Trust” is removed from our money?

I wonder if the liberals would mind having a stone monument of the Bill of Rights at that Alabama courthouse — after all, it does talk about “religion” in the First Amendment.

Sgt. Raymond AndrewsYongsan, Korea

September 30

Cured of doubts in the field

Recently U.S. and ROK forces conducted the Ulchi Focus Lens exercise.

This exercise is designed for the ROK and U.S. forces to practice the necessary skills needed in the event of hostilities on the Korean peninsula. This includes medical treatment of causalities. Now, unfortunately — or, in retrospect, fortunately — I required a surgical procedure during this year’s UFL.

My military doctor informed me that because of UFL there would be an opportunity to get my procedure completed sooner then projected, and there would also be a procedure available during UFL that could speed my recovery time. The only catch was that I had to volunteer to be treated at a field hospital, which was in support of the UFL exercise.

I had visions of leaking tents, muddy boots and mosquitoes everywhere but, needing the surgery and wanting a speedy recovery, I agreed.

I reported to the 121 hospital, and I and six other soldiers were moved to a helipad. A medevac helicopter complete with a flight medic and all the medical equipment necessary to treat each patient in flight picked us up. We were categorized and loaded onto the helicopter and flown about 20 minutes to the field.

When we landed, a medical team with litters, medics and nurses met us. We were accessed and quickly moved into the reception tent and then briefed on what would happen to us from there.

I was amazed at the site’s setup. Far from the leaking, dusty tent, this was a clean, well-lit and air-conditioned tent. It was quite obvious that a lot of hard work and effort had gone into preparing this tent to meet medical standards of sanitation and patient comfort. There were soldiers from Hawaii’s Tripler Army Medical Center who worked alongside U.S. and KATUSA soldiers from South Korea.

The ward noncommissioned officer in charge gave a tour of the facility, and he explained all the actions that would occur the following day as we went into surgery. The facility had everything, X-ray machines, a pharmacy and even a blood bank. The place was so clean and everyone so professional I could not help but feel lucky to be having my surgery there.

The night before my surgery I was allowed to relax and move around the compound on my own. I walked around with the critical eye of a sergeant major, and I could not help but be amazed at the effort that had been put into this facility. From the generator mechanics to nurses to the soldiers who cooked the meals, this was truly a professional operation.

I’m not a medical person but the field facility that was set up would rival many facilities that some countries have. I had my surgery, and I’m happy to have had the experience of a field hospital. The more important part is I want to let soldiers in South Korea know that should hostilities happen and they need medical treatment, the medical team in South Korea is ready to provide them with world-class treatment.

I hope, and I’m sure it is true, that our fellow soldiers in harm’s way around the world are receiving the same treatment as I received during a training exercise here in South Korea. To all the soldiers who had anything to do with setting up and operating this field hospital, I salute you. Truly a job well done.

Sgt. Maj. Patrick O’ConnorSeoul

Zoo trip not GIs' finest hour

I read a news story today about U.S. soldiers going into the Baghdad zoo after hours — after they had had a few too many drinks — feeding a tiger and then killing it after it bit the hand of one of the soldiers.

A few questions arise from this: Was the tiger hiding weapons of mass destruction? Was it a threat to the multibillion-dollar war machine in Iraq? Will the soldiers be severely disciplined for this? Will Americans ever learn to stay the hell out of other people’s/animals’ business? Does a dead, caged tiger make up for the inability of the American mega-military to find Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden? Does the American military have to constantly live up to its World War II reputation of “Best fed, worst led”?

Vince HamerCalgary, Alberta

Tiger's death sends message

If all our troops in Baghdad have left to do is get drunk and take potshots at caged animals, what is going on over there? Where was their commanding officer? Who supplies the beer for the parties at the zoo?

I’d like to hear the Army’s story on this. I want to get our folks home safe and sound but things like this make our troops look more cruel and bloodthirsty than Saddam’s.

Bennett LilesStockbridge, Ga.

A right turn of events

Thanks so much for finally printing an opinion piece that was worth my time to read — referring to Chris Judge’s Sept. 26 letter “U.S. effort gave Iraq a chance” — and worth my money to continue receiving Stripes. I was to the point that I would just borrow someone else’s Sunday comics. I figured there were simply too many entrenched Stripes personnel still holding out from the Clinton era.

News is news, just depends on how it is reported. Thanks again.

Bob NicholsonCamp Zama, Japan

R&R policy not cut and dried

I am writing in response to the Sept. 26 article “R&R rotations begin for troops deployed to Iraq.” The article’s second paragraph reads: “The new ‘rest and recuperation’ policy, which kicked off this week, gives a majority of the estimated 130,000 troops deployed to Iraq a chance to get away from the combat zone, even if only for a few weeks.” With all due respect, this is not all together true.

My husband deployed to Iraq on March 31. Just a few days ago, we were informed through our Family Readiness Group that the R&R policy was put into effect. All of the waiting spouses, myself included, held our breath and waited for word of what dates our spouses would be home for their much-deserved two weeks’ rest-and-relaxation leave. This morning, 70 percent of our squadron had their hopes dashed when word came out that every three weeks only one soldier per troop would be allowed to go home.

My husband is in a troop with 30 soldiers. His troop only has seven-to-nine slots available, with the first three slots going to soldiers who missed the birth of their child due to the deployment. After that, the soldiers who have pressing matters at home, had a death in the family or health issues with family members are next. In other words, about 30 percent of my husband’s regiment will benefit from this R&R program. Those who do not get to go home may be allowed a four-day pass to Qatar, if there are slots open.

I am by no means speaking negatively of the U.S. Army or the regiment in which my husband proudly serves. I am a U.S. Army veteran. I understand that strategically and logistically it is impossible to allow every one of our more than 130,000 troops in Iraq the opportunity to come home for leave. I just would like the public to know that the majority of our soldiers in Iraq are not getting 15 days of leave, yet they will continue do their jobs with courage, commitment and honor: 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a deployment, with or without a “vacation” home. And spouses, such as myself, will still be at home raising children, working, waiting and proudly supporting these soldiers until we can be reunited with them once again.

Karin WindorskiKilleen, Texas

October 1

'Doonesbury' met my marker

I usually mail the comics home for my kids. I have never had to censor one before, but I brought out the black marker for the Sept. 7 “Doonesbury.” Why would Stripes publish such an offensive strip as this one? How many “young readers” are going to be asking their friends what m----------- is? I was sorely disappointed in Stripes releasing this particular “cartoon.” Stripes should please be more selective with what it prints as enjoyable media in the future. I can only hope that other readers who are parents would appreciate it also.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Pat HyattCamp Bondsteel, Kosovo

Fight for right reasons

I’m tired of reading letters — from people in Stars and Stripes and every other newspaper that we get — that we are fighting for America’s freedom. No great foreign army is invading my land nor am I on the roof of my house fighting off waves of advancing hostile attacks. I’m here in Baghdad fighting; my great country is a great distance away.

I am a paid killer; that’s what I do and I enjoy what I do. Please don’t candy coat what we’re doing here with a bunch of patriotic propaganda.

Don’t get me wrong, though: I love my country and I’ll do whatever I can for her. I have proved it with my six years in the Marine Corps and my two years in the Army. I’m here because I’m paid to fight and I like to fight and raise hell. I am not fighting for any politicians or the thousands of millionaires who live in our country but could care less about this war. I do not fight for the homeless Americans who have nothing, or for my family and friends.

I fight for my soldiers, my friends, my buddies. I fight for the less fortunate people of this ancient land and the masses of starving children. I fight for the innocent people (especially my soldiers) who are killed unjustly and are demoralized by these scumbag thugs who are to afraid to come out during the daytime and get an old-school real-American ass-whupin’.

I see the pain and hurt in a father’s eyes, when he doesn’t know how he is going to feed his family, I see the the small children digging in trash dumps with a million flies buzzing around and they have nothing: no clothes, no shoes, no food, no hope. I try to help as much as I can so I bring what little food I find, that soldiers might throw away. But it’s hopeless: There’s just too many hungry children and I will never to be able to help them all.

These kids are special; they are the future and I will do whatever I can to protect them. The children, in a lot of ways, remind me of my own 3-year-old daughter. So, first and foremost, I am here for my buddies; they watch my back and I watch theirs. Second, I am here to help and do what I can for the suffering children. Third, I am here to do a job that I am paid to do. I don’t care about the living conditions, the continuous work, lousy food, using the latrine in a field, drinking bad water, wearing all this gear in a 120 degrees of heat or picking up dead bodies. Things could be a lot worse, like being burned to death in a skyscraper.

To American servicemembers serving in Iraq: Remember that no one is innocent; sometime in your life, you’ve probably done something really bad and it has finally caught up to you. Sometimes, in a place like this, that’s the only way you can look at it; it makes thinking of death much easier to handle. Sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug. Take care of yourselves and, in the future, if you do have to complain, write something more interesting.

We already know about the water, food, toilets, heat, living conditions and separation from family. Quit stating the obvious; we already know Baghdad and Kuwait sucks. Be men and quit crying like little children; all you’re doing is needlessly upsetting people back home who think that we are suffering and have it so bad. We don’t, at least we’re alive and at least we’re fed.

I come from a good company and a great battalion and they teach us to be hard because the minute you think it’s safe, that’s when you get whacked.

Not everyone thinks like me, but that’s OK, I’m here for higher purpose. Most of the soldiers are doing a great job here. This letter is for all the crybabies in the military who don’t rate to be called men. Long live the fighters!

Sgt. Joseph M. LynchBaghdad, Iraq

Patriotism not flagging

On Aug. 29 I was told by our battalion command sergeant major to take down the American flag that was flying over our company command post. According to a policy letter that couldn’t be produced, soldiers serving in Iraq aren’t allowed to fly the red, white and blue.

These are the same colors that my ancestors fought for. They symbolize the freedom we fight for every day. Soldiers have fought, bled and died to preserve what these colors stand for, and now we’re being told that we can’t display them with pride.

I don’t ask for more pay. I don’t ask for more time off, and I seldom ask for better working or living conditions. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to hide the American flag instead of flying it with pride over our company. I didn’t sign on the dotted line because I needed a job. I signed on the dotted line to serve in defense of our country and what it stands for. It’s stated on the Army Values card, under “Soldier’s Code V.,” to be proud of our country and its flag. I am.

Capt. John M. RichardsonIraq

Down-to-earth motivation

I’m a big history buff, so it struck me (while I sweat to death out here in Kuwait): Why not do what the German army did in World War II — i.e., to motivate their troops to invade Russia, they promised each soldier a parcel of land? Now what I am suggesting is that the oil companies now pumping oil out of Iraq (and making money) might perhaps share that wealth with the forces serving in the Middle East; each soldier would either get a certain amount of money or free gasoline for life. I figure it’s our blood, sweat and tears that’s helping to secure President Bush’s oil, so why not then share the wealth?

Scott HolstCamp Spearhead, Kuwait

Tell about all ex-POWs equally

I want to thank Stars and Stripes for its vigilant coverage of the American hero Jessica Lynch. The information Stripes has provided has been matched only by NBC, CBS, FOX and CNN.

In lieu of Lynch’s importance, I think it might be prudent to follow the lead of all the news networks during the Iraq war and embed a reporter in Lynch’s life. In fact, the networks might want to find every living former U.S. prisoner of war and embed a reporter into their lives. By including a reporter in the daily lives of all these POWs, our nation would be reminded of the fact that our country has had quite a few thousand people who have spent time in the hands of our enemies.

Sgt. M. CrescitelliKabul, Afghanistan

Courage amd power guides GIs

I’m a soldier with Company B, 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment. This is in response to complaining by servicemembers. We all know that it’s not easy serving in Iraq, especially when the temperature rises above 130 degrees. I want to believe that if we put all our efforts together, we’ll have the courage and power to handle it.

I’m praying that God will protect all of us, and it will be part of our life stories. The longest journey begins with the first step. I encourage everyone to complete this historic mission.

Moriba AmbroseIraq

October 2

Talk about teamwork

As a veteran of all four branches of the military over the past 18 years (Army and Marines active duty, Naval Reserve and Air National Guard), I’ve seen many changes in the military. Yet one thing remains locked in the past — communication.

The Sept. 13 letter “Where are Army values?” obscures the fact that a large operation like Operation Iraqi Freedom is mired in miscommunication every day. If a troop gets the short end of the stick, then he’s apt to be sore. The guardsman who complained about his deployment and subsequent extension in Iraq was expressing genuine concern for his future.

Unlike the letter writer, many guardsmen have another life to worry about. They entered service with the notion of part-time commitment. Additionally, the notion of “one team, one fight” doesn’t always apply. Many people are getting the short end of the stick, including me. I was sent to the theater of operations with only four days’ notice. I got the short end of the stick.

To have teamwork, we need commonalty, and there’s not a whole lot of it around right now.

Staff Sgt. John HaranAludeid Air Base, Qatar

Stolen mail like a bad movie

I’ve been deployed to the Middle East for five months and have been on active duty for seven months. I’m with a bridge-building Reserve company from Wisconsin and Marquette, Mich.

Being over here is hard on a person for several reasons: being away from family, pay loss, being in a war zone, etc. But I recently found another reason that it’s hard.

I’d been waiting on a DVD player to come in the mail. I walked into my tent and finally saw a package with my mom’s name on it, and it said “1 DVD player” on the customs slip. But when I opened the package I found that my mail had been tampered with. I received everything but the DVD player. Somewhere between my hometown post office and Baqubah, Iraq, someone took the DVD player and left only the protective box it used to be in.

I’d like to remind civilian and military people in the mail system that tampering with mail is a federal offense. It greatly brings down the morale of people who are eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Spc. Jennifer HarrisBaqubah, Iraq

Fairness should be a factor

I understand the complaints and concerns that all soldiers have with the current deployment to Iraq and Kuwait. The treatment of soldiers across the board needs to be considered for who stays and who goes. No single soldier or company or unit or battalion or group or brigade or division should have priority over another.

Everyone here in Kuwait has families, children, jobs and homes. We’re all away from the things that matter the most to us and keep us focused. There are soldiers here who have missed their children’s school graduations. But we’re all here for a purpose. It’s not so much to help people who in most cases are far worse off than ourselves, but to try to ensure that future generations won’t have to endure what we are now.

I pray to God that my son or daughter won’t have to go to a distant land to fight for an unnecessary cause. But this cause is necessary and just, which is why we’re all here. The freedom to live as we want and to say what we want without being criticized is the basis for who we are. Just the fact that we have the Stars and Stripes letters forum without reprisals should make us glad to be soldiers today.

I’m a reservist with 19 years, and I’ve seen my share of deployments. Each one was different from the other. I’d be lying if I said they were all good. But one has to make the most of time spent performing the mission. Our actions have global effects. There will be some good that comes from all this.

Family and friends will worry about our safety. We should cherish the time spent calling loved ones. That’s who we’re fighting, working, sweating and sometimes even bleeding and dying for.

Like others, I’ve been extended until 2004. But we’re going to continue until the job is complete and then return home to our other lives.

God bless everyone who serves. They should be strong and keep the faith.

Sgt. 1st Class Marlon BrooksKuwait

All signed up for this

I’m with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment in Tikrit, Iraq. I’m writing in response to the Aug. 28 letter “Active duty should take over.”

I was in the Marine Corps for eight years, and now I’m in the Army. I know for a fact that active-duty and Reserve personnel take the same oath upon enlistment and re-enlistment “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Does that sound familiar? Nowhere in the oath does it say that reservists will only deal with floods. And nowhere does it say that reservists only have to participate on weekends or if they’re not in school or if their employers say they can go to war.

The writer seems to think that reservists and guardsmen are the only people who have jobs or go to school, not to mention have families and contribute to their communities. I received my bachelor’s degree while on active duty in the Marine Corps while working with the Toys for Tots program three years in a row.

I have three words for the letter writer: Suck it up! None of us like it here. The conditions are miserable. But guess what? We all signed up for this, whether the writer wants to believe it or not.

Spc. Curtis RawlinsTikrit, Iraq

Treat reservists equally

What happened to the saying “Army of One”? I’m a reservist in Kuwait and was just extended until April 2004.

The Army wants us to believe that this is an “Army of One.” But how can this be an “Army of One” when reservists and guardsmen are extended and our orders are being changed daily? We have to serve 365 days in country even though we’ve already been here for six months.

Why can’t Congress make it so that reservists get the same benefits that full-time people get? We have wives and children. Now we’re also being told that we can’t receive midterm leave. We’re the ones who are supposed to be at home. Reservists and guardsmen have jobs and families who need them at home. The full-time people need to realize that this is their only job, or should I say the main source of income for them.

We part-time personnel are often put down by full-time personnel. Who twisted their arms to go full time? I sure didn’t, and no one here did either.

If this is an “Army of One,” let’s act like it. If we have to serve, give us the same treatment given to these so-called full-time people who pitched a fit to get home. The truth be told, they are the ones who really need to be here. They get paid the big bucks to be over here, and they’re sitting at home.

It’s not fair for Congress or President Bush to change the orders of soldiers who have been here for six or seven months and were supposed to be going home. Is this an “Army of Two” or will it be an “Army of One”?

Sgt. John WhiteCamp Commando, Kuwait

October 3

Cut out the cardboard coins

The post exchange gives us stupid cardboard substitutes for coins at my base in Kirkuk, Iraq. Surely thousands of consumers have passed through the PX tent here and received these cutouts as change in lieu of real money. I understand that it’s costly to transport and maintain coins. But the post office is doing it, so why can’t the Army and Air Force Exchange Service? Not only do these paper coins force servicemembers to spend that money at the PX, it’s also insulting that our real money is exchanged for something that might as well be Monopoly money.

AAFES is reaping thousands of dollars in additional revenue from servicemembers who must spend this money at the PX or otherwise discard the paper cutouts. I don’t believe this is legal tender minted by the U.S. government, so what gives AAFES the right to use these paper coins? AAFES puts real meaning into the phrase “nickeled-and-dimed.”

Sgt. Alex BokdeKirkuk, Iraq

Unions can't spare a dime

I was a member of the Teamsters union at UPS in Nashville, Tenn. I was notified that my union membership has been canceled due to nonpayment of dues. During my research I found out that there’s no provision in the union charter for deployed reservists or guardsmen. My attempts at contact have yielded no response.

The time has come for all U.S. labor unions to put aside partisan politics and protect the re-employment rights of the more than 20,000 citizen-soldiers whose deployments have been extended in Iraq. It’s their patriotic duty.

Spc. Joseph M. LangfordKuwait

In over our heads

I’m a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard stationed in Kuwait, and I’d like to send a special thanks to all the people who had a hand in deciding that guardsmen and reservists will spend one year in country. They can keep us here as long as they want, considering that we have absolutely no rights compared to our active-duty Army counterparts. But I will thank them personally, along with a lot more guardsmen and reservists, next year at election time.

Whatever happened to taking care of soldiers? When I attended the Primary Leadership Development Course and the Basic Noncommissioned Officers’ Course, the first thing they taught us was to take care of our soldiers no matter what. I don’t see this happening, considering the way we’re being treated when it comes to redeployment.

Let’s face it: We’re in over our heads. Yes, we removed Saddam Hussein from power and destroyed his Iraqi regime. But why are we losing so many soldiers each and every day? This is not a war on terror, as the newspapers are saying. It’s a war to protect America’s vital interest, which is oil. Why are we lying to the American public?

Maybe we’re instilling fear in them by saying this is a war on terror and the terrorists could strike our homeland. The only terror I’m hearing is in my family members’ voices every time I call home. It seems that every time they turn on the TV, they’re hearing about how convoys are attacked, and they worry that it may be one of us.

We’re never going to be able to stop the killing of Americans while we’re here. How many American lives are the price of oil worth? The Iraqis want us out, and I, along with many guardsmen and reservists, feel it’s time to get out. I don’t believe in what we’re doing here, and when I get home and my ETS is up, I’ll end my 14-year career because of the way we were treated.

Sgt. John C. LaczkowskiCamp Arifjan, Kuwait

GIs not up to Dad's standards

Not too long ago an Army private wrote the letter “Put Army values before gripes” (Aug. 15) about all the complaining by deployed troops. I agree with him that Army soldiers are too soft, and I want to encourage the complainers by telling them about my dad.

He grew up in Washington state, a fair-haired boy roaming his family’s farmland and the nearby woods with a rifle in his hands. He dreamed of becoming a doctor. But after joining the Army, World War II changed all that. No complaints. Still in his 20s, he married, and my mom was two months’ pregnant when my dad was deployed to New Guinea. My older brother was 20 months old when my dad returned more than two years later.

I’ve read the letters my mother saved. No complaints. Only love, hope and encouragement. Many years after the war, my dad told me about the time he was in the jungle and had to evade detection by sitting motionless in a tree for three days while the Japanese enemy made camp below.

My dad was near starvation more than once and resorted to eating monkeys at times. The men there had to deal with leeches, extreme jungle heat, disease and hand-to-hand combat. For years my mom saved a blood-stained Japanese flag that my dad took from one of the enemy he killed. My father was not the kind of man who, if he were alive and serving today, would have allowed himself to be indoctrinated by the mediocrity of a “politically correct,” kinder, gentler Army. He knew what it was to be an American soldier.

I remember a World War II photo of him. He was skinny with a big smile and, of course, a rifle.

Dad would sit at our kitchen table, shirt sleeves rolled up, with his Camel cigarettes and coffee. He’d tell me how to care for some small injured animal. In our vegetable garden, he’d show me how plants grow.

In his 40s, Dad spent time in and out of Veterans Affairs hospitals due to war-connected injuries. Still, no complaints. I’ll never forget as a teen seeing another veteran in one of those hospitals. Rudy, tall and slim, was still goose-stepping up and down the hospital corridor, clicking his heels and rendering the German salute. He obviously was conditioned that way while in a prisoner-of-war camp. I saw this with my own eyes. Yet some of our soldiers deployed today complain about the mail being slow.

My dad died at age 53, 100 percent disabled, and not once did I ever hear him complain about his duty or his country. It’s my hope that all the troops currently deployed in danger zones in foreign countries measure up to my dad’s standards and remember that they are American soldiers.

Marilyn WillettHeidelberg, Germany

Dedication, respect paramount

I’m amazed and confused about what “citizen-soldiers” believe their role should be in today’s Army. I spent 14 years on active duty and two and a half years in the Reserve. In that two and half years, I’ve spent 18 months deployed. I have a life and a family. But I also have a dedication and respect for our nation that allows me to wear the uniform and the support of a family that enjoys the freedoms that come with service to the president and the United States.

I’m currently in Bosnia, and every day I wake up proud of my country, my unit and my uniform. Just because we join the Reserve doesn’t mean one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer anymore. The soldiers whining about deployments and retention don’t deserve to wear the uniform. We have a job to do, and Uncle Sam has asked us to step up to the plate. If the uniform is too much of a burden to wear, they should take it off and keep it off. Maybe they should never have joined to begin with.

I’ve spoken to many soldiers here in Bosnia, and we agree that it’s time for patriotism to be retaught to our soldiers in the active-duty, Reserve and National Guard components.

Sgt. 1st Class Ralph HurleyBosnia

October 4

Finding defeat in victory

This is in regard to the Sept. 25 letter “Bush misleading Americans.” Four and a half months into the stunning liberation of Iraq, and the neoliberals are prepared to surrender. Once again the neolibs insist on snatching an enemy’s defeat from the jaws of an American victory. These part-time generals and Monday-morning diplomats are the ultimate conclusive arguers. They write as if they were part of the administration’s inner circle. They note dates of meetings, who was there and what was discussed — then argue against their own ridiculous straw man.

Neolibs are born with white flags in hand and French accents. They would rather trust American security to the likes of the Third World-dominated United Nations than an American president. They see a conspiracy any time two government officials meet to discuss American security. They don’t mind seeing America shrink within herself as long as the French and United Nations are not upset. Their idea of defending America is adopting a Rodney King world view and foreign policy of, “Can’t we all just get along?”

In order to discount the possibility of cooperation between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, neolibs rely on stereotypical behavior among Arabs (this group hates that group so they could not possibly cooperate against a common enemy). If the Department of Homeland Security used this neolib logic to screen airline passengers, the neolibs would have a fit.

Neolibs note that American soldiers are dying in Iraq, as if it’s the first time soldiers have died in war and as if it would be better if the fighting were taking place on the streets of New York defending the U.N. building there rather than in Baghdad. Neolibs argue that our soldiers are fighting to protect one another rather than to defend America. A soldier’s bond with his comrades has existed since the first time men joined in battle as units. This bond is the essence of esprit, of the band of brothers: “For he who sheds his blood today with me shall be my brother.” What neolibs don’t get is that by defending one another, our amazing armed forces are defending America as well.

Doug SchumickStuttgart, Germany

We fight to prevent chaos

What if all soldiers deployed in foreign lands protecting U.S. interests said in one collective voice: “We won’t do this anymore!” Imagine what would happen. Terrorists would run wild, shouting joyous sounds of victory. Men in hiding would come out and “play.” Governments would fold, lifestyles would change and lawlessness would prevail.

What would happen if freedom was taken from us in the same way lives were taken on Sept. 11, 2001? Would we stand and fight, no matter the costs or hardships? Or would we constantly remind ourselves how bad things are and how long we’ve been away from our homes and families? What if there were no soldiers willing to take a stand and spend time away from their homes and families for the sole purpose of providing a better future for our children?

I thank all the soldiers serving our great nation. I can’t say it enough. They are the reason I have freedom of choice. They are the reason my 4-year-old son will grow up and be whatever he chooses. They are the reason I was able to marry my wonderful wife. They are the reason I can send this letter of my own free will. They are the reason I will die a free man and love the life that was given to me by the brave men and women who sacrificed so much for others.

I know things must be hard for deployed soldiers who can’t see or touch their families. Some soldiers have children who they haven’t even seen. Other soldiers who’ve given their lives for their country have children who will never see them again. I offer the tears in my eyes for comfort. I say a prayer that all soldiers will be reunited with their families and have lifelong happiness. They have earned it and have given it to so many others. They are doing a job that requires separation, hardships and faithful understanding of their purpose. God will truly bless them for their time and efforts, as will those of us who benefit from their sacrifice. I can say this with a grateful heart and pounding patriotism: I live free!

Spc. Casey HowellEagle Base, Bosnia

Finish duty, go home

I’m writing in response to soldiers who are past their ETS dates and who complain about their living conditions, etc. Everybody here in Iraq complains. We don’t like this place or the war. Nobody does. But it’s our job, and I’d rather do it than have my kids or grandkids do it. I have three kids, and I miss them very much.

I got here March 19, minutes after the war started, and I’m still here. I miss my family and everything back home that I took for granted. Sometimes our living conditions are bad. But this war isn’t over. We get hit by mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades almost every day. What do we do? Drive on.

Some of my friends have been hurt, but I have a mission: going home. First finish my duty here, and then go home. I love the Army and what I do. Soldiers should stop complaining, finish their jobs and go home. They should ETS or PCS and stop putting other people down with their complaints.

We are very lucky the draft isn’t in place. I had hoped to go home soon, but I still have until March of next year. It’s not bad for soldiers. At least they’ve done what some others can’t do. They should be proud, keep their heads up, stay safe and go home.

Sgt. Jose R. GarciaSamarra, Iraq

Guardsman's words shameful

This is in reference to the Sept. 22 letter “‘International guard.’” I realize that the writer is upset because he’s in the National Guard and can’t PCS or ETS. But he really shouldn’t be upset. Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers have fought in many previous wars. To call himself an “International guardsman” is an insult to his comrades and his unit. He should be ashamed of himself.

In addition, for the writer to claim that he’s in “a transportation unit that outperforms any of our so-called active-duty transportation units” is not only conceited, but also wrong. I’m in the 51st Transportation Company. We were there on Feb. 2 and crossed the berm on March 20. We’ve been there ever since. The writer should do us all a favor and keep his negative comments to himself.

Sgt. Ronold H. WahlBaghdad, Iraq

Comments imbecilic

This is in response to the Sept. 16 letter “‘The Waaaah Page.’” I think the writer has some growing up to do. His comments were imbecilic and juvenile. They were not becoming of a college-educated, commissioned officer or 15-year military veteran. No wonder our soldiers complain if this is how leaders of the National Guard conduct themselves.

Spc. Noah W. BarkerCamp Arifjan, Kuwait

Some mail safe, some ruined

One of the packages that I received in the mail recently in Iraq was crushed. Another one was perfectly fine. Why was one of them damaged? I’m in a line unit, and the only morale booster that most of us get is receiving mail. This sort of thing greatly damages what little morale we have.

The food contents inside my crushed package were spoiled, so now I have to choke down more Meals, Ready to Eat. We’ve had to eat MREs for the past six months. My CDs and DVDs were also crushed. I was hoping to have something to do on my rest and recuperation trip.

Postal workers should please be more careful with our mail. It’s all we have right now.

Pfc. Jeremiah L. MinorIraq

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