Pacific edition lettersfor the week of September 7 to September 13, 2003
Serve with pride
Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)
September 7 Serve with pride In war, everyone’s ‘active’ Guardsman not getting paidSeptember 8 Reserve your criticism War isn’t summer campSeptember 9 True heroism seen in Fallujah Needing better phone accessSeptember 10 ‘But I’m not complaining’ Retention beef on the mark Respect reservists’ sacrificesSeptember 11 NCOs, listen to soldiers Static for phone feesSeptember 12 No morale left Enough already Heard enough Lynch not heroSeptember 13 Where are Army values? Iraq isn’t done yet
I’d like to say something about the Aug. 27 letter “War is not summer camp.” The writer is one outstanding soldier with whom I’d be glad to serve. His noncommissioned officers and officers need to commend him.
He was absolutely right. Servicemembers signed up. We are at war. They should deal with it. I volunteered to come out here. I’d have it no other way. Yeah, I miss my wife and daughter. But who doesn’t miss their families? All I know is that when I’m done over here and on my way back home, I’ll know that I served with pride and that the world is a better place because of it.
We should find the positive in any situation and, in the words of the letter writer and military personnel before him, “Suck it up and drive on!”
Sgt. Patrick SalmonCamp Fox, Kuwait
In war, everyone's 'active'
LetterLetterI’m an active Guard/Reserve soldier who’s been deployed for more than six months. While I’ve been in Kuwait, I’ve read Stars and Stripes when it’s been available. I’m tired of reading complaints from “professional” soldiers about how members of the Reserve and National Guard should be going home. They seem to feel that since they have jobs or are in school that they have more rights than active-duty soldiers.
In case they’ve forgotten, they’re now active-duty soldiers. Did they think that just because they joined the Reserve or Guard that they’d never be deployed? If so, they were naive. Perhaps they were forced to join the military? I think not. Possibly they joined so the military would pay for them to get college degrees. Or maybe Veterans Affairs gave them loans to buy houses. These are all nice things that the military provides for them.
This is the price they decided to pay the day they signed their contracts and took the oath. They took the chance that one day they’d be mobilized and deployed. That day has come.
I know there are some Reserve and Guard soldiers who aren’t complaining. By no means is this directed toward them. For the most part, soldiers have done their jobs and should be proud of what they’ve accomplished. Those who are unhappy should please get out. I beg them.
Staff Sgt. James HollowayCamp Arifjan, Kuwait
Guardsman not getting paid
LetterLetterI’m a member of the California National Guard. I’ve been activated since Feb. 7 and have been in the Middle East for about three months. I’m currently deployed to Kuwait/Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. My expiration, term of service date was June 28. But since I’m in the Guard I was automatically extended. Apparently no one told the finance department, because I was kicked out of the system. So I haven’t been paid since. It will be two months on Sept. 1 since I’ve received any money from the Army. I have a family. What am I supposed to tell my creditors? It’s not my fault the Army hasn’t paid me.
Instead of allowing me to go home to take care of my family and financial problems, my chain of command offered me Army Emergency Relief. If I’m not in the system, I should be allowed to go back to my job so I can take care of my family. I’ve been to the inspector general and the chaplain.
I have another question. Why is it that National Guard and Reserve soldiers are not allowed to ETS from theater? Regular Army soldiers are available to ETS from theater. What’s the difference? We’re all on Title 10 orders. I’ve even been told I have to re-enlist. Does anyone really think I’m going to re-enlist after being treated like this? If I can’t be put back into the system, then I should be sent home.
I thank Stars and Stripes for its concern about soldiers and their problems.
Spc. Frank KiperKuwait/Iraq
Reserve your criticism
LetterLetterOn behalf of all Reserve and National Guard soldiers and airmen serving on hardship tours around the globe, I’d like to thank the writer of the Aug. 10 letter “No surprises in military life” for sharing his low opinion of us and his disdain for our individual concerns. His extemporaneous wit and well-placed sarcasm — depicting our civilian lives, families and careers as nothing more than “frat parties” and “Mr. Bean’s sociology midterm exam” — really showed us the error of our ways.
To answer the writer’s questions: Yes, we all signed up for military service because we thought the money was good. From my own personal experience, the military is a great source of supplemental income to my part-time civilian job shoveling animal excrement at the local zoo. It really helps when it comes time to pony up my share when our frat hosts another kegger.
After having served or watched colleagues leave to serve in Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, East Timor, Somalia, Desert Shield/Desert Storm and in other contingencies, it perplexes me that we were all so shocked to be asked to serve in Afghanistan and Iraq, too. I guess we should have taken the past 15 years of conflicts as a hint that another round of deployments might be around the corner. I can’t explain how we were all so naive as to believe that this time the Pentagon would pardon us from the obligation we agreed to fulfill.
I’d also like to express the shame and guilt we all now feel for placing our families in this situation. Since I feel my soldiers should share the same self-control and foresight as the writer, I’ve ordered all my married soldiers to file for divorce when they return home. This will allow their spouses to remarry people outside the military who can better provide for their families, lest we get deployed again. I’ve also ordered all of my married and unmarried soldiers to lead lives of celibacy from this day forward to ensure that they will not again place a dependant in a situation in which they don’t have at least some control.
I hope these ideas catch on in other units and in our sister services so that in the near future the military will appear to the casual observer as nothing more than a bunch of nuns and monks running around with assault rifles and machine guns.
I’d like to thank the writer again for so aptly illustrating how meaningless our civilian lives really are. His opinion has been heard! From the writer’s position at Misawa Air Base, Japan, where he’s allowed to wear civilian clothes, enjoy running water, shop at the local post exchange/base exchange, take in a ball game or get a beer with his buddies and sleep comfortably in his own bed at night, he of all people has earned the right to criticize.
1st Lt. Charles UngerCamp Speicher, Iraq
War isn't summer camp
LetterLetterI would like to comment on Sgt. Anne Lee’s Sept. 1 letter to the editor, “AAFES lacking in Iraq,” in which she complained about the lack of an exchange service at her base in Iraq. She wants life made easier so she can go shopping to buy all those things she thinks are necessary to make her happy.
She did say she was in “Iraq,” correct, not summer camp. She is in a combat zone, not a fun zone. But she is not the only one to complain about being in Iraq. Sometimes, every “Letter to the Editor” in the Stars and Stripes is from someone crying about the poor conditions at their location in Iraq. I really expect someone to write in complaining about the ice cream being too soft, or finding too many bones in the fried chicken.
Some of these folks have legitimate complaints, of course, but not all. Most of the complainers have to face reality: Wars are never fun, easy or convenient. Wars are not supposed to be comfortable. In the good old days, the world witnessed wars that lasted for years, even decades. Combatants were not sent home after a few months, but had to endure long commitments. To be honest, I believe that most of our troops are doing a great job in Iraq, and realize where they are and what they are doing.
If someone has time to complain about no shopping facilities, then they should look at how the local villagers are living, and try to help them. President John F. Kennedy once said: “If we cannot help the many who are poor, then we will not be able to help the few who are rich.” Look at the mirror and see which one is looking back at you.
If all someone has to complain about is the lack of an exchange facility, then life on the frontier is not as bad as we all thought. However, Lao Tzu said something to the effect that “To be comfortable in a war is to be suicidal.”
Clifton J. JesterKadena Air Base, Okinawa
True heroism seen in Fallujah
LetterLetterThe 120-degree heat of Fallujah has compelled me to write in response to all of the Pfc. Jessica Lynch hype. I have to agree with the Aug. 7 letter “Lynch used to promote war” regarding the Bronze Star being awarded to this soldier. If the rumors surrounding her capture and injuries are true, then I also must ask why she received this medal. Was it all a propaganda stunt to win American sympathy toward this conflict? Who knows? Furthermore, who cares? I don’t. I think it’s awful that a young soldier had to go through that ordeal due to the incompetence and inability of her leaders to properly navigate and read a map. But Pfc. Lynch is not a hero.
Let me tell readers about true heroism. My friend Mike Quinn was killed on May 27 at a traffic control point in Fallujah. He was shot during an ambush and killed because he wasn’t wearing his body armor. He had given his vest to a young soldier who didn’t have one. Mike’s unselfishness cost him his life and saved his soldier’s life. He was my friend, a fellow “master gunner,” and, most of all, a leader. He is my hero, along with Tom Broomhead and Bill Latham, two other noncommissioned officers killed from my troop. As a people, we need to seriously analyze what constitutes a hero.
Staff Sgt. Dave HarrisFallujah, Iraq
Needing better phone access
LetterLetterI’m writing in regard to the Aug. 12 letter “High AT&T rates uncalled-for.” The writer was correct. We do deserve better facilities in regard to phone access and rates. But what’s worse is that, although it’s nice to have, the 1st Infantry Division has a Burger King at the Baghdad airport. The problem is, where are the phones?
I’m stationed in an area where phone access isn’t even available. Noncommissioned officers have satellite phones, but those charge $1.25 to $1.50 a minute. This is no way to live: a Burger King before morale-boosting phone access.
I was deployed to Kuwait from May 2002 to November 2002 for Operation Intrinsic Action and also for Operation Desert Spring. Now I’m redeployed to Baghdad for 12 months. I just hope the NCO support channel and chain of command can resolve this issue soon. A lot of my brothers in my unit feel the same way and are beginning to feel the neglect of important issues by senior soldiers, some of whom served in the first Gulf War as E1s-to-E4s.
Spc. Christopher GormanBaghdad, Iraq
'But I'm not complaining'
LetterLetterThis is in response to the Aug. 16 letter “Neither time nor place.” I’m a 23-year veteran of the active-duty Army and National Guard. I’ve been deployed to Bosnia and places I wish to forget. I agree with the letter writer that as noncommissioned officers we need to stop complaining and whining. We need to act like leaders.
I’m stationed in northern Iraq. The writer is missing out on all the fun here. Too bad he’s at Camp Doha, Kuwait. Where else in the world can one sleep on dirt or wooden floors and watch insects crawl across the floors, tentmates and ourselves? But I’m not stating a grievance.
Air conditioning? Not around here. We have electric fans that move hot air around when the power is on. We’ve gone through six generators. It’s something about the dust and heat that’s caused them to stop working. Again, I’m not criticizing.
I spend quality time with my troops. We stand in line to eat, shower, use the latrine and shop at the post exchange. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. And if we don’t feel like eating in the dining facility, we can go over to Burger King. Oh, I forgot. We don’t have a Burger King. My mistake. But we do have sun-baked Meals, Ready to Eat. Oh, what a treat. But I’m not complaining.
I look after the morale of my troops. I make sure they call home when the phone is working or e-mail loved ones when the system is working. Both the telephone and e-mail are great devices when they work properly. I’m not whining either.
The local population entertains us with nightly mortar attacks, sniping and ambushes. They go through a lot of trouble to do that. But I’m not complaining.
The mail? Well, let’s not beat a dead horse. Once more, I’m not grumbling.
Live like a civilized human being? The thought never entered my mind. We have it so great here in Iraq that I feel bad for the letter writer. And to think we get paid to do this. But I’m not finding fault.
Did I mention the lovely aroma of burning waste? It makes my eyes water to think about it. The Korean rice fields have nothing over it. Again, I’m not being a grouch.
As I said, we NCOs need to support our chain of command by holding them accountable to correctly find out when redeployment is going to happen, inform the troops and then make it happen. We NCOs are the backbone of the Army, and this backbone is hot, sweaty and worn out. But once more, I’m not complaining, criticizing, expressing dissatisfaction, finding fault or bellyaching at all.
Sgt. John EppersonCamp Anaconda, Iraq
Retention beef on the mark
LetterLetterI’d like to comment on the Aug. 8 letter “One-year deployment too long.” The writer had the courage to write what the majority of us are feeling here in Iraq. He is absolutely correct about retention. When my contract expires, I’m gone. I know I don’t plan to let the Army take another year of my life. Six months can be forgotten, but a year will never be forgiven.
I want the writer to know that he indeed feels the true pulse of the troops. I appreciate the fact that someone does. I can only hope that he’s not punished for telling it like it really is.
2nd Lt. Nicholas BradfordIraq
Respect reservists' sacrifices
LetterLetterResponse to Spc. Jim Jennings’ letter “No Sympathy for Volunteers” (Sept. 4):
You are a soldier first — you made that choice. Your other part-time job is a second occupation. For the reservists, their “soldiering” is a second occupation, yet, would you give as much to your second occupation? Would you endanger your career and risk your livelihood on these part-time jobs? Would you gamble with your children’s education? Would your “part-time jobs” be enough to support you and your family? Make your house/car payments? Pay medical care? That’s what the reservists are talking about. They are being asked to do this. Know what? They are doing it! Many of these folks are self-employed and have lost their businesses — yes, they volunteered, but did anyone foresee what the future would hold? I bet you didn’t. Many others were businessmen and women whose entire future is now murky. Yes, they are guaranteed there will be a position in the company (if they return within two years), but they are not necessarily guaranteed it will be the same job. They are doing it! There are countless companies that match the reservists’ pay (i.e. the difference between the military pay and the reservists’ civilian pay is made up by the company). I salute them — they truly support the reserve war efforts. Unfortunately, most companies do not! This means that reservist serving alongside you is in danger of losing their home, their car, their life insurance because they can no longer afford the premiums. Why? Because they are losing $10,000 a month! Yet, they are doing it!
What are you doing? You are complaining because your combat patch is a Reserve patch! You are complaining about jobs you interviewed for, but didn’t even have yet. You should be ashamed of your selfish attitude and be proud to be associated with those folks who are living up to their volunteer agreement and making sacrifices along with everyone else.
To quote your article: “The bottom line is that those who complain should at least know what they’re complaining about.”
Karen ZinkKadena Air Base, Okinawa
NCOs, listen to soldiers
This is in reply to the Aug. 16 letter “Neither time nor place.” There’s only one point in the letter that’s justified: Noncommissioned officers should use the chain of command to report unit status and morale. At the same time, officers need to paint a true picture of their units’ status and morale to higher headquarters. The easy answer to superiors is that we’re motivated and prepared to go the distance and that everything is fine.
As for “the whole freedom-of-speech thing,” what is the writer really fighting for? The Constitution isn’t a “thing” to be taken lightly. It’s who we are and what we’re about. The very second we take it for granted and reduce its importance is when we stop being American soldiers and start being mercenaries.
The soldiers here in Iraq have every right to complain and should be allowed to do so, if for no other reason than to blow off steam. They’re being shot at and blown up, and some of them die every day. We’ve had our fill of battalion formations centered on a pair of boots, a rifle, identification tags and a helmet. If letters of complaint make soldiers feel better, then let them write. Write 10 of them. They should say their peace and say it proudly because it’s their right.
The enemy doesn’t need to sway public opinion to gain ammunition against us. It has all the real ammunition it needs. We who’ve been on the receiving end of that ammunition know this all too well.
As a combat veteran of two Gulf wars, my advice to NCOs is to listen to their soldiers, give them reassurance, strive to improve their living conditions, and always focus on getting them home alive and as soon as possible.
Staff Sgt. Robert S. WilkenAbu Ghraib, Iraq
Static for phone fees
LetterLetterI’d like everyone to know about AT&T and the military. I’m currently assigned to the 253rd Transportation Company from Cape May, N.J., that’s serving in Iraq. While in Mosul I was able to use the telephones to call my family in the United States. Now AT&T has removed those phones and put in a new tent with phones. But these phones have connection fees. With a 100-minute phone card I’m only able to make a six-minute call. We don’t make a lot of money and shouldn’t have to worry about phone fees.
AT&T doesn’t help soldiers. Instead, it’s running a business as usual. Unfortunately, we don’t have a choice of which phone company we can use.
We’re doing an important job here by keeping our freedom and fighting for the greatest country in the world. But we don’t have good sources of communication when we want to call our loved ones.
Spc. Orlando MirandaIraq
No morale left
I joined the Reserve so I could be a part of the great “Army of One.” But the “Army of One” is only for active-duty soldiers. It hasn’t been so great for us here in Kuwait. As a reservist, I should be treated like an active-duty soldier. Therefore, active-duty or Reserve soldiers who were deployed for six months or longer should be able to leave when their time comes. Active-duty soldiers shouldn’t get to leave first and then the Reserves may go after everyone has gone.
One thing no one is looking at is that active duty soldiers will always have jobs and the means to support their families. But reservists have only their jobs to support their families. When I joined the Reserve, I realized I was never promised anything. But it just seems to me that if I’m willing to give my life for something I believe in, then maybe someone should be able to realize the problems we’re facing and be willing to say something. They shouldn’t tell us it’s our problem, because how do they expect soldiers to do their jobs when back home things aren’t working out too well?
A lot of readers may think that I should stop my complaining and crying. That’s OK, because I deserve to complain and cry. So before judging me, readers should please put themselves in my reservist boots and then see if I have the right to complain.
It’s already hard to focus on being here for six more months. They told us that they were working on a window of six months or a little more to get us home. But once again that turned out to be just another rug pulled out from under us. So now we’re stuck here until January 2004 or thereafter. By then, of course, I’ll be unemployed. So how can we keep up the good work like everyone is telling us?
I have no morale left in me. The 38 soldiers in my unit are slowly losing any faith they had in getting home before Thanksgiving or Christmas. I hope no other reservists or guardsmen will ever have to go through what we’re going through.
I say enough already to all the people taking issue with the complaints from soldiers in Iraq about how long they’ve been serving. I have all the respect in the world for veterans of previous wars. But in World War II, servicemembers knew that when Germany, Japan and Italy were defeated, they’d go home. In Korea, soldiers knew that when they stopped North Korea, they’d go home. In Vietnam, they knew that when they stopped the North Vietnamese, they’d go home.
So can anyone tell me at what point the war on terrorism ends? Terrorism has been around for as long as man has fought man. So those criticizing the complainers should please stop saying that the troops will come home when the “war on terror” is over unless they can tell the soldiers who are fighting the war when it will end.
I don’t know about the rest of those in the military, but I only intended to sign up for 20 years and then retire. I never planned on serving for the rest of my life.
Spc. Scott AustinEagle Base, Bosnia
LetterLetterI’m writing about all the people who are telling deployed troops to stop crying about the Iraq deployment. I’ve heard enough. I’m sick and tired of people pretending everything is well in Iraq and that it’s not supposed to be any other way because there are “certain circumstances” that come with deployments.
I’d like those who say our troops complain too much to think about how often they shower each week, how often they have hot meals that don’t say MRE on the package, how often they write e-mails to friends, and how often they telephone loved ones.
I’d also like them to think about how many days they work without at least a couple hours of sleep, how often they get to shut a door behind themselves to have a minute to themselves, and how often they sit somewhere in an empty building on a stakeout or stand on top of a bridge to guard a road in bright sunlight for 12 hours.
I believe the people who say soldiers complain too much don’t do these things. I bet they phone their loved ones a couple of times a week and have Internet access.
My husband has been deployed with the 1st Armored Division since April. We talk by phone about once every three weeks for 20 minutes. Some of the letters I write never get to him, and Internet access works the same way as the phones. My husband hardly gets any time off. His letters break my heart. He’s sick and tired of being down there. He’s getting burned out, and there’s nothing I can do to help him.
I have fears every day that my husband is getting his head blown off up on that bridge. Letters take a long time, if they get here at all. When I read them I know that he was doing as good as he could two weeks ago. But what about today or yesterday? Every time I talk to him he sounds more tired and worn out.
Please don’t tell me the soldiers in Iraq shouldn’t complain. We’re into the fifth month of them being gone and “issues” don’t improve at all. Instead they get worse.
I believe more people should complain about our troops’ quality of living, if that’s what anyone wants to call it, and shout for improvements. How are things supposed to change if nobody points out the problems? With all the things going wrong, I won’t be surprised to see the Army shrink by the end of this deployment.
All the deployed soldiers who point out stuff that’s going wrong should keep doing it and pray for improvements. They should keep their heads high. They’re doing a great job considering the circumstances. They’ll all be home in no time, and we’ll be here waiting for them.
Stefanie SpearsBüdingen, Germany
Lynch not hero
LetterLetterAs a decorated Vietnam veteran with the 1st Cavalry Division from 1966 to 1968 and a member of a Pennsylvania National Guard infantry unit serving in Kosovo — yes, Vietnam veterans are still serving in infantry units — I held my emotions until I read about Jessica Lynch’s $1 million book deal.
For Lynch and most others in her “lost patrol” to receive the Bronze Star is an affront to all Bronze Star medalists who earned their medals. The Bronze Star has now been reduced to the rating of a scouting merit badge.
Instead of receiving medals, all the patrol members with Lynch — except the one who did act as a soldier and put up a fight — should have been recycled to basic training to relearn map reading and basic soldiering skills. Their sergeant should also have been reduced in rank for incompetence.
Perhaps the Army should tell the true story, as we all know Lynch’s vehicle was not hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. It crashed into the vehicle in front of it. This was a vehicle accident at most in a combat situation, not the “hero” spin put out by the Pentagon and the media.
The book’s profits could go toward Veterans Affairs outreach programs. When I was wounded and hospitalized on several occasions, my family was not flown to my bedside. I took a bus home, not a helicopter. Lynch is no hero.
Sgt. Mike FeeneyCamp Monteith, Kosovo
Where are Army values?
LetterLetterI’m very disappointed that National Guard servicemembers are complaining and causing dissension among the services when asked to fulfill their duties and obligations as soldiers. These soldiers are not living up to the seven Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. All soldiers were trained to live by these values at all times and should be ashamed of themselves for not having the discipline to do so.
Our current mission is to conduct combat operations to secure Iraq. In Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division (Iron Dukes), this mission will be completed with the highest level of military professionalism.
The writer of the letter “Active duty should take over” (Aug. 28) is a prime example of a soldier who doesn’t abide by the seven Army values. He doesn’t deserve to wear the uniform if he isn’t able to serve with honor and uphold the Army’s tradition. All who wear the uniform should be professionals in their fields of expertise and live honorably by the seven Army values.
Pvt. 2 Shakim WhiteBaghdad, Iraq
Iraq isn't done yet
LetterLetterI’m an Army Reserve soldier serving in Iraq, and I just read the Washington Post article, “Parents of Troops in Iraq Fight to Get Them Home” (Aug. 14). It mentioned the “Bring Them Home Now” campaign.
I’d love to go home. I’ve put in a leave request to go home for two weeks. I need to go home. I have a lot of things that I need to take care of. All servicemembers need to be home with their families and contributing to their communities.
But Iraq isn’t done yet. The international forces here haven’t finished what we started. It would be irresponsible for us and the rest of the world to abandon Iraq now at this crucial point. We have a moral obligation to help people in need.
Iraq was devastated long before we invaded. Iraqis have no concept of how to live in a free society. If we leave now, we leave a vacuum for someone more evil than Saddam Hussein to fill.
Iraqis remind me of latch-key kids whose parents are drug addicts – they have enough survival skills to get through the day, but they can’t see past tomorrow. That’s not just Arab culture, it’s dysfunction. We have to take these people by the hands and show them how to grow and mature into a country that contributes to the worldwide community.
We can’t leave Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, or the Philippines. We need to send more people to Liberia and every other nasty little hot spot that pops up in Africa. We need to work to overthrow the extremist Muslim regime in Iran before any more people there die. Every day that we delay in taking care of Iran, another person in that country dies in the name of Allah.
We need to be everywhere there are jihadists or other extremists willing to kill people based on their religious or ethnic or tribal affiliations or for having an independent thought. We need to be everywhere there are corrupt leaders keeping their people crushed down under the weight of their own greed.
If that means I have to live another year or more in Iraq, then so be it. If it has to be 10 more years, then I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make it right here. If that means that other families don’t have their soldiers home with them for a while, then that’s just how it has to be. I’ll sleep out in a dirt field and live without all of the comforts of modern living for the rest of my life if that’s what it takes to eliminate the threat to freedom and ensure that we never have to come back to finish this job again.
I’m willing to pay more taxes, spend more time deployed, and even sacrifice my life if that’s what it takes. Freedom costs, but it’s worth every penny and every drop of blood.
Staff Sgt. Brenda MontagueCamp Babylon, Iraq