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Sounding off: There is no need for military diversity

| Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, 3:27 p.m.
Cadet Simone Askew, of Fairfax, Va., center, who returns from a 12-mile road march from Camp Buckner to West Point Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, has been selected first captain of the  U.S. Military Academy Corps of Cadets for the upcoming academic year, in West Point, NY. This marks the first time in history that an African-American woman will take the top position in West Point's cadet chain of command.
Cadet Simone Askew, of Fairfax, Va., center, who returns from a 12-mile road march from Camp Buckner to West Point Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, has been selected first captain of the U.S. Military Academy Corps of Cadets for the upcoming academic year, in West Point, NY. This marks the first time in history that an African-American woman will take the top position in West Point's cadet chain of command.

In the letter “Strength through diversity,” the writer takes issue with the president's ban on transgender people serving in the military, the cost of medical treatment being one of the main reasons. He states that “the military already pays for all types of medical procedures to support servicemen and women.”

The military provides remedial and preventive health care for members using taxpayer dollars. Cosmetic and elective procedures such as plastic surgery and breast implants are not permitted (and rightfully so). This includes sex-change operations and associated complications.

With regard to diversity, the military is not a club, college campus, civic organization or social experiment. There are no ethnic, political or religious quotas. Furthermore, diversity is not a factor when evaluating an individual's physical or mental ability to serve in defense of the nation.

The simple fact is that diversity has no impact whatsoever on military organization, leadership, training, strategy, tactics or unit performance, and it has absolutely nothing to do with a unit's ability to function or accomplish an assigned mission.

Leo Patterson, Derry

Saturday, Oct. 7

Free speech is a pillar

Regarding George Will's column “Steep costs come with ‘cheap speech'” : As much as we've idealistically viewed the public square as a well-guarded fortress of free speech in America, too often it isn't. Every venue — campuses, halls of government and the streets — has increasingly harbored myopic thinking.

The Enlightenment thinker Voltaire pushed back against such parochialism and intolerance; his biographer, Evelyn Beatrice Hall, penned these words famously summing up Voltaire's belief: “I don't agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”

The spectrum of conservative and liberal ideas has at times been robbed of unhampered expression because of blinkered opponents. That's a disservice to both streams of thinking — ideas whose churn might otherwise enrich our national well-being.

Benjamin Franklin prophetically pronounced, “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government.” Any rebuff of this pillar threatens the foundation of a constitutional, free nation.

Franklin got it right; surely, we can figure out how to follow his lead.

Keith Tidman, Bethesda, Md.

Monday, Oct. 2

Library users should pay

In his letter “Not obsolete in Westmoreland,” Cesare Muccari, executive director of the Westmoreland County Federated Library System, stated that in 2016, the libraries had about 115,000 cardholders. Funding problem solved: A $10-per-card charge would bring in $1,115 million, and a $5 fee for programs would be appropriate.

Why should property owners pay for these services? Many senior citizens do not use the library, and many do not drive. I help many senior citizens with their taxes and drive them to doctors' appointments. For many, their income is only $1,355 a month in Social Security. Is your income more than $1,355 a month?

Most seniors seldom see a raise in their checks. These people cut pills in half and put off doctor visits. Every time property tax goes up, some other necessity is eliminated. Food becomes a luxury; SNAP (food stamps) programs give them $19 a month.

Cardholders use the libraries, so they should pay for these services. Senior citizens and property owners are not responsible for free library services.

Add to the property tax; that seems to be the answer to every spending/revenue problem. We don't have a future if spending in the USA is not managed.

The government, including libraries, cannot give anybody anything that is free without first taking it from somebody. Stop taking from our senior citizens. They cannot afford more property taxes.

Madeline Smutak, Greensburg

Tuesday, Oct. 3

Help veterans in crisis

The VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System's highest priority is the health and well-being of veterans, especially veterans in emotional distress and considering suicide. One veteran suicide is too many.

But we can't do it alone. You don't have to be a medical professional to save the life of a veteran in crisis: You just need to care. Anyone — friends, family, neighbors, co-workers — can be there for a veteran who may be contemplating suicide.

Help us help veterans. If you know a veteran in distress, reach out. Talk to him or her. Help veterans connect with our suicide prevention coordinators, Frank Moore and Heather Walls, at 412-360-6515 or the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1).

Take time to visit www.veteranscrisisline.net to learn the warning signs that a veteran may be in crisis. They served us. It's our turn to serve them.

Karin L. McGraw, Oakland

The writer is director of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

Wednesday, Oct. 4

Single-payer: Been there

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wants a single-payer health-care system, one where a government-run plan provides health care to all Americans.

All Americans would have health coverage and pay nothing out of pocket when they visit the doctor, which includes dental and vision — more generous than what is available in other single-payer countries.

The U.S. already has experience in government-run health care. It is called the Department of Veterans Affairs.

An old soldier once intimated that a veteran takes his life in his hands twice — once when he enters military service, the second when he enters a VA hospital. Recent news headlines validate that comment.

Sanders goes into great detail about the type of coverage but provides no clue how the “free” health care will be paid for. Sanders' plan is like ObamaCare — we first have to buy the poke before seeing the pig with lipstick.

Much like taxes, everyone is for or against health-care premiums, just so they do not apply to them. If you think your health-care coverage is bad and expensive now, wait until we get the civilian VA. New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia was right: There are no free lunches.

D.A. Scandrol, Lower Burrell

Thursday, Oct. 5

Cops on Route 28

Regarding “Lance: To Route 28's reckless speeders” : Why are state troopers saturating Route 28 only on certain days of the month? How about some consistency? How about a consistent presence? You want to curtail speeding? Do it every day.

Dave Chelko, Lower Burrell

Friday, Oct. 6

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