Soldiers work hard for the money
This is a reply to Steven W. Brennan’s Dec. 21 letter to the editor, “Soldiering on (and off).” I am addressing his letter because Mr. Brennan apparently has no experience in the Army.
He rails against the so-called half-day schedule awarded soldiers during Christmastime. First of all, this half-a-day-off policy is not something created after President Bush allowed a half-day holiday for federal workers. This is a policy the Army tries to accommodate every year. I say “tries” because not every unit can enjoy such a schedule.
Does he think the soldiers in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bosnia or other places are enjoying a half-day schedule? They are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week protecting our country.
Let’s consider that the average federal civilian employee works eight hours a day, while the average soldier puts in 12-hour days (in an “easy” garrison assignment). When the clock strikes 5, the civilian heads home to his or her family; the soldier stays until the mission is accomplished.
How about the soldiers on freedom’s frontier in Europe or Korea or elsewhere? Their families do not accompany many of them, especially those in Korea. Soldiers often go six months to several years at a time without seeing their families.
Mr. Brennan writes of the “gratuitous 10 days off a year facetiously called ‘training days.’” A soldier spends two weeks in the field on a training mission (336 hours total with an average of four hours sleep per day, not necessarily in consecutive hours.) That soldier has put in more hours than a civilian works in two months. The training holiday is an attempt to repay the soldier for the soldier’s time and dedication. In this case, time with one’s family and time to relax and unwind is most valued.
How do I know all this? I am a retired airborne infantryman. During our first eight years of marriage (my last eight years in the Army), my wife and I spent a total of two years on different continents. This doesn’t include time apart for two weeks here and 30 days there on training missions. My wife is still an active-duty soldier. She leaves the house by 5:15 a.m. and returns no earlier than 6 in the evening. Readers shouldn’t think these time frames are unusual; they are, generally, the norm for all the services.
Mr. Brennan does have one thing right, however: The Army does want “more, more, more” from the soldier for “less, less, less” in resources. A private makes about $1,000 per month and is expected to be a soldier 24 hours a day, seven days a week and go wherever and do whatever he is ordered to do. This comes out to $1.42 per hour at 24 hours per day. That doubles if one thinks a soldier “only” works 12-hour days. If Mr. Brennan would like to get in on this lucrative field, I suggest he contact his local Army recruiter.
On another point, Mr. Brennan gripes about the extent to which the reserves are being called upon. Unfortunately, this has become necessary because the Clinton administration cut the military by about one-third while tripling the worldwide missions. This is exacerbated by the current national security needs of the country.
The Army is a great way of life, but in no way is it going to make a soldier rich in a monetary sense. It can make the soldier rich in memories, in feelings of having accomplished something daily and knowing that he is one of the few who has volunteered to “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies.”
SGT. CHRISTOPHER J. VAN LOON (retired)
United States Army
Fort Meade, Md.
Poor little town of Bethlehem
Scarcely eight months ago, “Islamofascists” from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization commandeered the Church of the Nativity and held 150 Christian worshippers hostage for 39 days, during which time these barbarians despoiled one of Christianity’s holiest and most sacred shrines.
Altars became toilets, holy texts and Bibles were turned into toilet paper. Mr. Arafat’s complicity in this desecration has been proven: A Palestinian paper trail subsequently uncovered by Israel revealed that he directly approved payments to the ringleader. Even bringing Mr. Arafat’s checkered headdress to midnight Mass, as was done two days ago in order “to drape his empty chair” - the Israelis have banned him from Bethlehem - constitutes further sacrilege of this holy place.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Christian pilgrims stayed away in droves (“Bethlehem has ‘saddest Christmas ever,’” World, Thursday). Israel’s current occupation of Bethlehem in response to a recent suicide bombing that killed 11 innocent Israeli civilians had nothing to do with Bethlehem’s “saddest Christmas ever.” Residents of that sorry city have only themselves to blame.
Setting Israel’s terror-record straight
In his response to my Dec. 16 letter “Journalists’ ‘first priority,’ ” William G. Garrett calls on me to demonstrate integrity and truth (“Blind to half of the truth in Israel,” Letters, Dec. 22). In my view, this requires me to point out where his Israel-bashing arguments fail.
Mr. Garrett criticizes the Irgun and Stern gangs, which carried out terrorist-type attacks in the early days of the state of Israel. However, these gangs never operated with the support of the Israeli government.To the contrary, when they refused Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s demand that they disarm, Mr. Ben-Gurion ordered the bombing of their supply ship Altalena and outlawed the groups.
Compare this with the conduct of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who not only pioneered the craven practice of terrorist plane hijackings in the 1970s, but who today funds and provides weaponry and safe haven for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and his own Fatah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Tanzim. Indeed, Israel’s treatment of the Altalena contrasts strikingly with Mr. Arafat’s attempt to smuggle 50 tons of weapons of terror to these groups aboard the supply ship Karine-A last December. Moreover, when Israel raided Mr. Arafat’s compound earlier this year, it found receipts proving that Mr. Arafat had personally funded specific terror attacks that maimed and murdered Israeli civilians.
Regarding Israel’s offer at Camp David, Mr. Garrett refers only to then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s initial offer at Camp David, and not his final offer which, incidentally, several of Mr. Arafat’s lieutenants, including his second-in-command, urged him to accept let alone Mr. Barak’s even more conciliatory concessions in subsequent talks at Taba, Egypt.
As for Israel’s conduct in the current campaign, there is perhaps no more telling statistic than the percentage of women killed on each side. More than 30 percent of Israelis killed in the conflict have been women, including 5-year-old Danielle Shefi, murdered by a terrorist in her parents’ bedroom. By contrast, less than 4 percent of Palestinian casualties have been women, and this figure includes many female Palestinian suicide bombers who died by their own hands in the course of murdering their Israeli “targets,” as well as women executed by Mr. Arafat’s order as alleged “collaborators.”
STEPHEN A. SILVER
Shame on state senators who hold up terrorism legislation
As a pilot who captained American Airlines Flight 77 many times, I was utterly dismayed by state Sens. Leslie Byrne and Mary Margaret Whipple’s reluctance to pass legislation in Virginia requiring proof of legal U.S. residency for driver’s license renewal. According to “Virginia a mecca for license fraud?” (Editorial, Friday), their concern centers on the fact that a current bill being proposed would “require the [Department of Motor Vehicles] to help the Immigration and Naturalization Service do its job.”
Since the tragic events of September 11, it has become quite evident that government agencies failed miserably in sharing valuable intelligence. These two state senators need to understand that such a bill represents a concerted effort to fight terrorism. My friends were on board Flight 77 when terrorists crashed it into the Pentagon that horrific day. So as to not forget their terrible fate, these two senators should recognize that we must all work together to fight terrorism and pass this legislation.
CARMEN D. VILLANI JR.