- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Why are the military families the only Americans making a sacrifice during this war? Everyone else seems to go about his or her daily life, going shopping or going to the beach. I think it’s about time that the “leaders” of our country make a sacrifice. I believe our elected federal politicians (president, vice president and Congress) should take a 10 percent pay cut and do away with their annual COLA to show support for the troops. If the cause is important enough to send troops into harm’s way, then those who voted for war should help pay for it. Sacrifice should start at the top and trickle down. Before there are cuts in veterans health care, Medicare and other needed programs, let our “leaders” cut their pay by 10 percent. This show of support for the troops will save more than $9 million a year. Before the politicians raise the national debt to $9,000,000,000,000, they should cut their pay by 10 percent. Who would think those 12 zeros would add up to so much money? If our “leaders” are not willing to make a small sacrifice for America, then they should explain to the troops why they are not.

What do you think your readers would think of my idea? Please ask them and our “leaders” in Washington for the troops and me. Thank you for your service to our country.

Alan R

Austin, Texas

Dear Alan:

I suspect that there will be no clamor of volunteers taking your suggestion. There are, however, many Americans who support our troops and their families. For instance, communications company Tandberg has signed on as a major sponsor for the Army’s 22nd annual 10-mile run.

In partnership with Freedom Calls, a not-for-profit organization, Tandberg (www.tandberg.net) will enhance the race weekend experience for many military families by enabling deployed service members to see their loved ones face-to-face during race weekend.

Spouses of deployed members of the military can go for months without talking to, much less seeing, their loved ones. Tandberg works with Freedom Calls to try to alleviate this by providing videoconferencing for families at three military installations in Iraq. Together, they deploy state-of-the-art technology to keep troops visually in touch with their families at no charge. Not only can separated families speak by phone, but they can also see each other using videoconferencing equipment provided by Tandberg.

Bringing families together through the use of this technology is important and helps shed light on the sacrifice that American military men and women and their families are making for this country.

Also, best-selling author James Patterson is sending more than 5,000 complimentary copies of his paperback novels to Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) stores throughout Iraq, Afghanistan and all points in between.

Mr. Patterson’s books, bearing labels that read “Gift from James Patterson and Time Warner Book Group,” are being sent to exchanges from AAFES’ Atlanta Distribution Center. The most recent shipment was sent on March 28 and is scheduled to arrive at AAFES contingency exchanges by June, with an additional shipment already scheduled for November.

“Mr. Patterson’s generosity was accomplished through AAFES’ extensive logistics and infrastructure systems,” said AAFES Marketing Design Manager Lauren Vargas.

Mr. Patterson has had 15 consecutive No. 1 New York Times best sellers, including “Kiss the Girls,” “Along Came a Spider,” “Third Degree” and “Lifeguard.”

Published authors aren’t the only people who can leverage the exchange system on behalf of deployed troops. In fact, any American can buy a book, soft drink or other comfort item for troops serving downrange with a”Gift from the Home Front.” Those wishing to send a gift certificate that can be redeemed at any one of the more than 55 exchanges that AAFES operates as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom can log on to aafes.org or call 877/770-4438. A “Gift from the Home Front” can be sent to a specific service member or distributed to “any service member” through the Air Force Aid Society, American Red Cross, Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, Fisher House, Operation Home Front, Operation Interdependence or United Service Organizations.

For the CAUSE

There is a group of volunteers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center called Comfort for America’s Uniformed Services (CAUSE).

CAUSE was founded by four West Point graduates and Vietnam War veterans and their wives shortly after Operation Iraqi Freedom began in March 2003. CAUSE began its outreach by providing personal care items and clothing to troops arriving at Walter Reed from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

CAUSE operates a digital library that allows servicemen and women and their families to check out DVDs, video games and video-gaming equipment for free.

If you want to learn more about CAUSE, and support this wonderful endeavor, their Web page is www.cause-usa.org.

Perhaps in lieu of the president’s and Congress’ taking a 10 percent pay cut, they could better show their support for veteran’s and their families by enacting HR 4992.

Under current law, Medicare-eligible veterans are not allowed to use Medicare coverage at Veterans Affairs hospitals. Instead, they are forced to decide between receiving medical care at a VA hospital without Medicare to help them make their bill payments or using Medicare at a non-VA hospital and losing the personalized veterans care of a VA hospital.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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