At Christmastime, remember the military

Published December 24, 2006

There has been a lot of discussion of support for the troops, especially during the holiday season. All of this conversation takes me back to Christmas 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia. It was my second Christmas in the military spent away from home, only this time it was an ocean away rather than a state away.

I was a member of the 24th Infantry Division 24th Military Police Company, and my platoon was assigned to the quick reactionary force. The starvation and devastation of a country and its people will forever remind me that I live in the greatest country ever and make me thankful for all my blessings.

I will never forget the solemn mood that Christmas morning as my fellow soldiers went about our daily tasks with expressionless faces, minds on loved ones they would not see this Christmas. A spot at the family Christmas dinner table would remain empty. Home-cooked food and time with those we love and adore would have to wait.

But we knew the importance of our work and the lives that depended on it and that we stood strong in the face of danger for those same loved ones gathered together on the 25th of December. We took great comfort in knowing that we were thought of that Christmas Day, and that we swelled the hearts of our family and friends with pride.

This Christmas, place a yellow ribbon somewhere on your tree or house to remember the thousands of men and women who will give up their holiday celebrations so that millions of Americans are free to enjoy theirs in peace. If you have a loved one serving overseas, set a place at the table so they can be there in spirit. It is a comfort to us during these times that those dearest to our hearts for which we step into harm's way recognize our sacrifice and appreciate our efforts. Merry Christmas and God bless.

Steve Grice, Winter Springs

Too quick to imprison

Meg Laughlin's article about Ian Manuel, who is in prison for a crime he committed when he was 13 years old, was quite eye-opening. To read that prisoners can be put in solitary confinement for such minor infractions as not making their bed makes one wonder if we have a humane, just system. Should teenagers be put away for life under any circumstance?

This report comes on the heels of the botched execution of Angel Diaz in which he suffered due to a flawed injection. Not to mention that Diaz was sentenced to death for a murder in which there were no witnesses, and the prosecution's main source recanted his story.

The United States has 2.2-million people behind bars, the highest incarceration rate in the world. This suggests that we either have more bad people than any other country, or we have a system that eagerly imprisons people. Either way, we clearly have a system that is flawed, at best. Where's the "compassionate conservatism"?

Chris Ernesto, St. Petersburg


Outrageous situation

Does separation equal suffering? Dec. 17, story

If the conditions described are not cruel and unusual, the words have no meaning. That a 14-year-old has been arrested repeatedly with no realization that he has problems which should be addressed is outrageous.

To decide that a 14-year-old is beyond redemption and sentence him to life without parole is outrageous.

To put a 14-year-old in prison with adult men is outrageous.

The only one who seems to be thinking rationally in this whole sorry situation is the victim.

Marcia Mitts, Bradenton


Development wins

When dry is wet Dec. 17, a Times investigation

Florida Republican Party vice-chairman Allison Defoor's claim that mitigation banking is doing "the Lord's work" is delusional. At best the practice is a compromise; at worst a scam.

The Lord's work would be true preservation of our beautiful state: effective growth management laws that are enforced, communities planned with sustainability in mind, a population that constantly endeavors to minimize its "footprint" of impact.

The system now in place just enables those whose goal is profit at any cost, with development whenever and wherever they choose, and the health of the environment be damned.

Jan Allyn, Largo


Local Libertarians

Call them Liberaltarians Dec. 17, column by Robyn Blumner

Robyn Blumner should not speculate on what Libertarians ought to do but take account of reality, and discuss where Libertarians are already working in coalitions with Democrats and others right in her backyard on issues such as voting reform. Go to: http://www.ERCPinellas.org.

M. Gilson-De Lemos and R. Swanson, Libertarian Club, Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg


Carter's contribution

Jimmy Carter, pressing peace Dec. 17

Thank you for the John Freeman interview with Jimmy Carter, which I saw as a worthy counter to the recent rant of Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz strongly objects to Carter's recent book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. It's an emotionally charged issue with a supercharged title and creating much controversy.

I'm a rather ordinary American, one who struggles to understand the Middle East. It is a challenge. Clarity is clouded by injustices on both sides, religious differences, history and geography. It is almost impossible.

Simplistic as it may sound, it seems to me the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a state is stalemated by the "massive escalation of Israelis to colonize ... the entire area of the West Bank," and the wall that Israel is building, creating, Carter asserts, a policy of strangulation. (A majority of Israelis agree that the Palestinians deserve their own homeland.)

Each complex issue usually finds a focal point, and for me it is our own public policy. Is U.S. financial support for these settlements helping or hindering? In my humble estimation, it is hugely contributing to the problem and we should cease.

The consequences reach far beyond our treasury; far beyond the territories directly affected.

I say, keep up your great work, President Carter!

Norm Bungard, St. Petersburg


Mideast myopia

Two recent examples in your paper - hate filled anti-Muslim rants from some readers and your belated and tepid treatment of former President Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid - provided insight into the current low ebb of the Times editorial vision of balanced and thoughtful conversation about the issues of the day.

Most credible Mideast analysts and experts are unanimous in saying the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is the single highest contributor to unrest and instability in the region. Carter makes the point that the shabby and callous treatment of the Palestinians in their own territories by Israel is actively and openly discussed and debated in the European and Israeli press. Sadly, any attempt to openly discuss the issue in the United States is completely blacked out in the mainstream press, including your paper.

No criticism of Israel is tolerated in this country, no matter how thoughtful. If politicians dare to do so, they are labeled kooks and/or anti-Semites. Journalists should have the courage to keep us informed in spite of these pressures.

Ken Cooley, Tampa


Off-color caption

Fa la la la la, ha ha ha ha Dec. 17, caption contest winner

I can't believe you would stoop to printing the "winning caption" referring to wrapping Wally in the cartoon showing the two women standing over a man on a gift-wrap table.

Trying to emulate the National Enquirer are we? Clean up your act please. That was a bit off-color for a family newspaper.

G. Williams, St. Petersburg