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Letters to the Stars and Stripes

Sometime ago -- I don't recall exactly when but I guess it was about the time the ramp up for this foolish war in Iraq had started -- I began reading the web site for the venerable Stars and Stripes , newspaper to the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

I've become especially fond of the Letters to the Editor  page. It's a fascinating peek underneath my blanket of stereotypes, particularly those regarding what life in the U.S. Military is like and what sort of people populate our armed forces. I don't know that you can draw any reliable conclusions from reading these letters. The letters published are a selected set, after all. We only see those from people who choose to write and, from that set, only those letters the editor chooses to print. Still, reading the letters leaves me knowing more than I did before about these  folks.

Should you choose at some point to take up this reading habit of mine, you will note that many of the letters are repeated on different pages. This appears to be an effect of the paper being published in different editions, a Pacific edition, a Mideast edition, a European edition, and so forth. Also, not all the letter writers show an indication in their signatures of their military rank. Sometimes it seems the writer simply didn’t include it; at other times it appears the writer is a relative of a sailor, soldier or airman. In other cases the writer appears to be a civilian unrelated to any member of the service. Obviously the editor welcomes letters from anyone who cares to take the trouble to write.

Here's a taste, a selected set in summary form, of some of the letters that have appeared in the last two weeks.

  • Staff Sgt. Chad Rodrigues, Camp Buehring, Kuwait, writes objecting to the suggestion of an earlier writer that a Christian "Inspiration Column" in the Stars and Stripes would be a good idea. He advises that he is "a spiritual man", and that he fully believes "in God, our Father, the Creator", but adds that as he sits there "in the middle of the desert fighting the same war that was started hundreds of years ago by some other fine Christians (the Crusaders), [he'd] like to take a second to scoff at Christian ideals and arrogance." He thinks "it's beautiful that after years of rule by the moral majority, America is finally starting to adopt a more liberal frame of mind". He begs Stripes to "please keep religion out of the paper" and says that religion "belongs in a church, or chapel, where those who feel they need it can get it 24/7."
  • Spc. Brett Eldridge, Camp Falcon/Ferrin-Huggins, Iraq, fires back at Staff Sgt. Rodrigues.
  • Thomas Lawler, Wiesbaden, Germany, a high school student and a football player at H.H. Arnold High School in Wiesbaden reads the paper's sports section everyday and objects that there is far too little coverage of high school sports.
  • Josh Turner, a middle school student also in Wiesbaden wants to see more coverage of soccer.
  • Maj. Scott DeLorenzi, Misawa Air Base, Japan, writes to wonder why the Stars and Stripes can't find anything better to write about than a Thai transvestite winning a beauty pageant.
  • Alicia Linse, Plymouth, Indiana, the wife of a soldier serving in Fallujah, says she is glued to her T.V., watching the coverage of the attack there. She worries about the news updates stating that the attack is "going better than planned and our forces not coming up against much insurgent activity". She wonders "where the insurgents have gone."
  • It being Thanksgiving time, there are a number of letters from civilians thanking the troops for their sacrifice.
  • We will pass over a number of letters engaging an ongoing controversy regarding which groups of soldiers should be awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge.
  • Thomas Kierstad writes from Bagram, Afghanistan, with his concerns about a proposed new uniform for the Air Force.
  • Sgt. Don Asher, Kirkuk, Iraq, writes on the subject of the group of soldiers who refused to carry out the fuel supply mission so much in the news a few weeks ago. He agrees with a previous letter writer who argued that somebody needs to be punished for the incident, but says “the people that may need to be punished aren't the drivers of the supply trucks.”
  • Sgt. David C. McGuire, Baumholder, Germany, calls those same soldiers cowards.
  • Staff Sgt. Walter Challapa, Baghdad, participated in four Olympics on the U.S. team, but says the U.S. Army is “the best team in the world.”
  • Chuck Mann, Greensboro, N.C., says “Jesus was liberal” and wonders “What's wrong with that?”
  • Capt. Scott Hollander, Friedberg, Germany, says Jesus was a hard-right conservative.
  • Gabriel Rodriguez, Yokohama, Japan, wants the results of the recent U.S. election investigated. “With widespread election irregularities, how can we as a nation try and impose democracy around the world when our own democracy is in shambles?”
  • Air Force Lt. Col. Chris Lowe, Brunssum, Netherlands, writes to defend the Electoral College.
  • Doug Schumick, Stuttgart, Germany, doesn’t like liberals very much. “The only time unity means anything to these people is when they have lost an election. Liberals are perfectly happy to have a divided nation as long as they are in charge of it. But when they are losers, all they can do is whine about how divided we are.” And: “If the Democrats were really so concerned about unity, why didn't they forgo the 2004 elections in the name of national unity? If unity were so important to the liberals they could have simply said, ‘Because we are interested in national unity, we choose to not further divide the American people with a contentious election. We cede the control of the nation to the Republicans until such a time as we are more united.’"
  • Empress LeNoire, Camp Zama, Japan, fires back at Mr. Schumick.
  • 1st Lt. Billy Pope, USAF, Baghdad, recounts a lovely little story of almost being too busy, or thinking he was, to give “five scraggly looking U.S. Army soldiers”, the oldest no more than 22,  a tour of where he works. The soldiers “had just come in from the field and were resting before heading back out and they wanted to tour the palace that Saddam Hussein had once used as his hunting-and-fishing getaway.”
  • Richard Smith of Philadelphia grumps that if ‘Stripes must post opinion, it should post the opinions of our troops and their families.”
  • Capt. Joe Macri, Baghdad, vigorously objects. “We are a diverse country and a diverse military and as such there is no single one ‘opinion of the troops and their families’ (other than hoping we all come home safe) and I don't need anyone offering to give ‘my opinion’ for me.”
  • Sgt. Teresa Kennedy, Camp Virginia, Kuwait, relates the (sad) saga of getting her required flu shot.
  • Steven M. Roman, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, objects to the way third-country nationals ignore stop signs.
  • Nelson Harold, Garmisch, Germany, was “disturbed to see a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union appear on Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor reporting that the ACLU has successfully persuaded the Pentagon to forbid any further alliance of itself or its bases with the Boy Scouts of America.” He maintains “This has gone far enough. The ACLU has outlived its usefulness in our country. It is not American.”
  • 1st Lt. Bryan T. Andersen, Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, reminds Mr. Harold that “the power of the majority must be limited to ensure individual rights,” and that “your right to freedom of speech, equal protection, due process, your right to privacy are all rights that the ACLU protects.”
  • Judy Coomer, Vogelweh, Germany, says the kids at Vogelweh Elementary School need more time for recess.
  • Chuck Hayes, Ramstein, Germany, objects to the mismanagement of parking spaces at the commissary and base exchange.
  • Mark Ertz, Camp McTureous, Okinawa, heaps scorn on the people in charge of the Rising Sun Bowl, the Department of Defense Dependents Schools All-Japan football championship.
  • Charles Flint, Camp Doha, Kuwait, gives a history lesson to French President Jacques Chirac.
  • Capt. Darren W. Guillaume, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, in reference to the widely published photo of the “smoking Marine”, objects to the glorification of tobacco.
  • Staff Sgt. Michael Steele, RAF Lakenheath, England, is in shock over the “riot that took place during the Nov. 19 basketball game between the Pacers and the Pistons.”
  • Cpl. Mike Curt, Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, Okinawa, writes an encomium to Yasser Arafat. “The spiteful reaction by Israel to forbid Arafat's burial in Jerusalem was petty, for his spirit is free to roam, transcending Israeli border controls…. May Yasser Arafat rest in peace knowing that his work to see an independent Palestine will be achieved in our Creator's time.”
  • John Lambert, Baumholder, Germany, questions the morality of the GOP in reference to the Republicans changing the rules for DeLay, and for the recent flap over the bill granting “two committee chairman, and their assistants access to individual income tax returns. Hello, that's a violation of privacy. And this is the party that, after the election, trumpeted its moral superiority. Boy I can't wait to see what happens the next four years. Hypocrites.”
  • Mike Appell, Okinawa City, Okinawa, says the Kerry crowd got its comeuppance.
  • Colleen McInerney-Graff, Clarks Summit, Pa., says that on March 27, 2003, she lost her husband, Army Maj. Peter C. Graff, to suicide. “Like many members of our armed forces, he was afraid to seek the help he needed, believing the stigma associated with mental illness would ruin his career. How wrong he was.” She adds “Pete was a wonderful man, and it breaks my heart that he won't be here to help me raise our daughter, now 5, and our son, almost 2. He won't be there to help his colleagues, and he won't be there to give comfort to his parents as they age.” She thanks Stars and Stripes for running an article on depression, and how members of the military can find help in their struggle with it. She prays that “no one else ever goes through this kind of pain. I hope the article saves many lives.”
  • On November 17, 2001, Airman 1st Class Charles F. Eskew was found murdered in his military dorm room on Kadena Air Base, Japan. Three years later, Airman Eskew’s mother, Patti J. Eskew of Great Falls, Montana writes in the hope that others will remember her son. “His big smile, courage and his love for God and family will never, ever be forgotten.”

Thanks to all Americans serving their country, and thanks to their families. May those serving overseas come home safely. And soon.


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AS an old "STARS AND STRIPES" Veteran of WWll in Europe, I would like to get in contact with other "STARS AND STRIPES" Veterans.
TYLER W. PRYOR 38 644 762
6868 "STARS AND STRIPES" Military Unit

I would like to find a "STARS AND STRIPES" shoulder patch if possible

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