Letters for January 6-12, 2005

Seabees Are Battle-ready

Barton's probably not:First allow me to congratulate Eric Alan Barton on a well-written and touching portrait of the realities of war ("The Deadliest Day," December 30). However, I feel that he has failed to do his homework, and as a result, has done a great discredit to his own Seabees and to the thousands of Seabees serving around the world. To quote Barton's article, "None of the Navy reservists from Mobile Construction Battalion 14 was supposed to have been anywhere near the fighting. The men were part of a Jacksonville-based unit of construction workers called Seabees. They're heavy-equipment operators, welders, and drywall specialists, more likely to be carrying tool belts than guns." This theme is repeated throughout the article.

I served more than 30 years in the Navy, 22 active-duty years and 12 Civil Service years, including nine with the Seabees. The Seabees and in particular the Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCB) are the Navy's elite combat engineer battalions. They were forged in the combat of World War II and are designed specifically to provide direct combat support to the Marines and other combat units. The Seabees and Navy SEALs are the only units specifically organized and trained for direct ground combat in the Navy. They are routinely stationed with the Marines and, in fact, are trained to provide for part of the perimeter security of any large Marine combat base they are assigned to.

I do agree that our current NMCBs and in particular the Reserve NMCBs have not received the level of combat training they should have. However, this is true throughout our reserve and National Guard system and reflects political influence.

Keep up the good work, and keep the pressure on to ensure that all our troops have the proper training and equipment when we choose to send them in harm's way.

Donald R. Justin

U.S. Navy (Retired)

Flint, Michigan

Abuse? He's On It.

Just keep it out of Lauderdale Lakes: Regarding "The Lobbyist Who Wasn't There" by Bob Norman (December 16): An excellent job of investigative journalism, as usual. I am pleased that Norman and others in the profession still care enough to keep the public informed concerning the abuses of political power.

Articles like Norman's restore faith in public servants who are trying to do the best they can for the people they represent. It's not always easy.

Commissioner David Shomers

Lauderdale Lakes

Together Again

Serious scars:I've lived in Lake Worth nearly my entire life and grew up a block from a close friend who was a "patient" at Growing Together about four or five years ago. After reading Trevor Aaronson's December 9 article, "Suffering Together," I called up my friend and asked if any of this stuff was true. His reply, with a maniacal laugh, I might add: "Hell, yeah, that place left me with some serious scars, man!"

My friend is about six feet tall, weighs close to 200 pounds, and at the time he was in the program was a pretty pissed-off individual, so he said he didn't get messed with too much. But he knew all about the stories of the "Naked Crusader" and physical violence. He also said he'd heard rumors of male and female clients being raped or forced into sexual acts by other clients.

Now, all this is word-of-mouth from someone who spent 14 months in the program. He said he signed himself out when he turned 18 and was allowed to do so as an adult. Over this time period, my friends and I had brief encounters with him. One of the times, we were told by someone who saw him that he was in the latter stages of the program and was thus allowed to attend school for part of the day at Forest Hill High School. So one day, a friend and I went to the school during what we knew was the lunch hour and found him sitting all by himself at a bench eating his lunch. We walked up and sat down; with a blank stare, he told us that he wanted to talk to us but that if anyone told the program he was talking to anyone, especially his old friends, he would be "demoted." So he asked us to leave. This is from one of my best friends, whom I had known for ten years at the time!

Now my friend lives a normal, sober life (with no help from them, he ended up abusing drugs for another year after he left), but he says he'll never get over some of the stuff that went on there, which he wouldn't detail.

Hollan Bell

Lake Worth

Lust Is Good

Just trying to get your attention: I loved "Scripps Script" by Bob Norman (December 2). This type of article is why I read New Times. I love columns that inform us but also have that cynical New Times bite. It is the edginess that I, as a blue person in a red state, lust for.

Nancy Lee

Via the Internet

Old and Almost

A protagonist's wife responds:Most of the information reported in Trevor Aaronson's July 14 story "Bombs for Babies" is correct. The only misinformation is about my son, Noah. Steve never hit Noah in the face. The witness had a vendetta against the church.

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