Are US soldiers patriots or just in it for the pay?

Concerning Jeffrey Shaffer's July 1 commentary, "Give our warriors a raise!": Our active duty military has got to be the highest paid military in the history of mankind. The press seems to focus on the lowest possible numbers: the base pay of junior enlisted personnel.

I think that if the American public could see the total benefit package (e.g., pay, allowances, incentives, bonuses) for an enlisted person with more than a few years of service, they would be surprised at what someone with a high school diploma or GED can earn.

As for the $1,000-a-day contractors - those guys are typically from elite fighting forces and are not your average support personnel, which make up the majority of our military.

My personal concern is that our government is buying a mercenary force as a way to avoid at all costs another draft. My comment is not to disparage our active-duty forces.

I'm retired with over 24 years active duty in the Army and Air Force. I only wish for a more balanced perspective on the issue. How much money is enough? At what point does the serving patriot become a mercenary? This issue, like so many, seems to be exceedingly polarized.
Richard Caplett

US laws do not start with 'thou shalt not'

Your June 28 editorial, "Limits of Religion in Public Life," praises the recent Supreme Court rulings on government promotion of the religious text known as the Ten Commandments. You gush that, "The rulings recognized the historic role of religion in the foundation of this country and its laws."

However, reading our founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Federalist Papers, I see no evidence of duplication of or even inspiration from the Ten Commandments. Those ancient declarations are clearly religious laws from alleged revelation, whereas our nation's civil laws derive authority from the consent of the governed. What makes our Constitution so remarkable is that it is an entirely secular document.

The Ten Commandments may well be part of our cultural history, as are automobiles, Mark Twain, and popular music, but the claim that biblical edicts were the foundation of our laws is totally spurious.
Timothy M. Ruppert
New Orleans

Small museums: what history books miss

In response to the July 1 article, "Museums by the foot": I wish you had noted new museums that are not art museums. They are popping up all over.

One fairly new and small museum that I have visited is the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park museum in Cumberland, Md. One somewhat older and also small museum is the Marie and Eugene Callahan Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Ky. I would guess there are a thousand small museums that are gold mines of lore.

There is much to be learned about American history that only museums can teach us, for the history books often ignore "sidebars" that have made our life what it is. The above museums that I have mentioned are simply ones I stopped at on the road to somewhere else.

Unfortunately, the big bucks go almost exclusively to art museums or grandiose history projects that take at least a half a day to visit. The short and simple annals of the average Joe are neglected. And these small museums are seldom crowded, so one can get to understand the subject pretty thoroughly without being poked in the ribs by somebody else.
Roy Lechtreck
Alabaster, Ala.

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