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Letters to the editor: Abortion and equality

May. 29, 2013 - 06:39PM   |  
MCRD PI female recruit training
A staff sergeant reviews recruits during initial drill. A congresswoman writes that when the constitutional rights of women in uniform are restricted, 'that is a problem in search of a solution.' (Lance Cpl. Aneshea Yee/Marine Corps)
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Regarding your editorial, “Wrong fight, wrong time,” in the May 9 issue: I was dismayed to see the Marine Corps Times editorial dismissing the MARCH for Military Women Act as “a solution in search of a problem” and “a political football.” This is a misleading and unfair characterization that contributes to and is part of a military culture in great need of close examination.

My long history of work protecting members of our military speaks for itself, from my successful fight to recall 16,000 pieces of faulty body armor from Iraq that left our soldiers vulnerable to injury and death, to my advocacy in preventing sexual assault in the ranks, most notably the provisions of my Force Readiness Protection Act which became law in 2012, giving women in the military who are sexually assaulted access to a proper support network and the right to an expedited base transfer.

The MARCH for Military Women Act of 2013 would simply extend to women in the military the same rights civilian women have when it comes to their reproductive health.

When women tasked with defending our Constitution are having their constitutional rights restricted, that is a problem in search of a solution, not the other way around. Just last year, women in the military were granted the right to insurance coverage for an abortion in the case of rape or incest, thanks to provisions drawn from a previous version of this legislation.

It is unfathomable that it took until 2012 to treat our servicewomen in these circumstances fairly, especially since it is estimated that 300 military women become pregnant as a result of rape each year.

The MARCH for Military Women Act of 2013 will be an important step toward treating our servicewomen equitably by allowing them fair access to their constitutionally protected choice to use their own financial resources in seeking reproductive health care.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y.

Washington, D.C.


In regard to women taking ground combat roles in the Marine Corps [“Largest contingent of women set for July’s IOC,” April 29]:

If women are going to hack it, they must want it bad enough to train to standard.

The bottom line, for areas of infantry expertise, is that gender-specific Physical Fitness Tests are out; all one standard to accomplish the same job — including pullups.

I can do pullups, though I have had to train my body to do them correctly and efficiently.

Back in my younger days. I used the male Army standards as my base line so there was equal ground when we competed head-to-head. I still maintain those standards to this day. The only difference is that I’m perfectly fine not being in combat arms units. I work closely with them and will embed with them to accomplish a mission.

As a coach, mentor and fitness trainer, I don’t believe in shortcuts. If you want it, you simply have to work for it, but realize that some things are not for everyone.

Army Capt. Varinka T.

Barbini Ensminger

Lexington, Ky.


In regard to “The new fine line for commanders” [May 20]:

The former commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Charles Krulak (ret.), is quoted as saying, “You must delegate authority and responsibility. ... What you can’t do is delegate your accountability.”

I and countless other noncommissioned officers and staff NCOs remember from NCO School and other schools we attended the point being hammered home: You can delegate authority, but can never delegate responsibility.

Quoting from an early Guidebook for Marines, under Marine Corps Leadership: “The Commanding Officer has delegated a part of his authority to you (the junior leader), he hasn’t delegated responsibility. This isn’t done in the Marine Corps, by him, by you or by anybody.”

Has there been a change in leadership traits and principles?

Sgt. Maj. Joseph E. Bock (ret.)

Sugar Land, Texas


Seventy-five years have passed, but I can still picture him dressing for the parade: a stocky man, then about 57, ramrod-straight, a rough, black, wool shirt tucked into khaki breeches, laced leggings, a sweat-stained campaign hat framing the weathered face.

It was Memorial Day 1938. I was 8 and would march in my first parade hand in hand with Pvt. John Paxton, father of eight, carpenter, former soldier in the 1898 Philippine campaign and, best of all, my granddad.

This was Greenville, and every year this small Pennsylvania town paid tribute to veterans of wars past: Civil, Spanish-American and “the war to end all wars.”

Led by the American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps, these proud veterans and this little boy would march to Penn High School for a brief reading of Gen. John Logan’s Civil War orders. Then the crowd would listen as a town dignitary would extol the virtues represented in these proud men.

The parade would continue, stopping briefly again at the Shenango River Bridge, where Navy vets saluted fallen shipmates by tossing a floral wreath into the stream.

Then it was on to Shenango Valley Cemetery to honor all of Greenville’s fallen military.

When the Boy Scouts finished placing flags on each grave, the event became deathly solemn.

The mournful playing of “Taps” and the echoing refrain by Legion buglers would remind all of the sacrifice made by these local heroes.

During the next 10 years, I would participate with my granddad in this annual event, which took on greater prominence as our nation entered and won World War II and more flags were added to new headstones. Peace returned, yet the custom continued. Many times, though, I participated without giving much thought to what the day meant to my granddad.

Today, long after his death and my own 22-year Marine Corps career, my thoughts often return to this proud little town.

Now, I am considered one of the old soldiers. As I hear about the deaths of comrades from Korea, Vietnam or more recent times, I can only hope Greenville’s citizens are continuing this proud custom and that other granddads will see it goes on forever.

Capt. Jack T. Paxton (ret.)

Executive Director, Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association

Wildwood, Fla.

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