Americans scandalized by the poor conditions at Walter Reed

I write in reply to your March 7 editorial, "The right response to Walter Reed."

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is the only one I have heard of who is acting as a true leader in coming to grips with this problem. This did not occur overnight but was years in the making, and the commanders during those years are at fault. To hear the past commander of Walter Reed and the Army surgeon general accepting responsibility and apologizing is pitiful. Excuses for the medical center's poor conditions ring hollow, for there is no good reason for this problem to have arisen.

Mr. Gates is correct in saying that we should not be focusing on pointing fingers, but rather, on fixing the problem. But we must also find the cause, afix blame, and correct the deficiencies in leadership that were made so visible by this problem.
Thomas Adderley
Sgt. Major, US Army (Ret.)

In response to the March 5 article, "Army scrambles to clean Walter Reed": We can be sure that if any member of Congress had to go to that hospital, it never would have fallen into such disrepair.
Jerome Greer
Richmond, Calif.

In response to the March 7 article, "How decay overtook Army's lead hospital": The outcry over the unmet healthcare needs at Walter Reed is well placed, but where is the immediate action for the unmet needs of the more than 45 million uninsured among our fellow countrymen?
Geoffrey Page
McHenry, Ill.

Alaskans endured near slavery for years

I was very interested to read the Feb. 21 article, "New fight, old foe: slavery." It might be of interest to readers to know that the US government had what amounted to indentured servants up until the 1960s.

The Aleuts of the Pribilof Islands in Alaska were needed by the US government to harvest the northern fur seal, which provided funds to the US Treasury.

Not until the '60s did Aleuts gain nearly equal status to that of other federal workers. The Pribilof Aleuts eventually filed a suit against the US for damages. The case was settled in 1978 with the US government paying $8.6 million in partial compensation to Pribilovian Aleuts alive at that time.

In "A Century of Servitude: Pribilof Aleuts under U.S. Rule," Dorothy Jones wrote, "[A]s an extreme case, the Pribilof story highlights some of the processes of deprivation and oppression that operate less visibly in other parts of the United States – in urban ghettos and rural backwashes where people are held in fixed economic and social traps."
Karin Holser
St. George Island, Alaska

The things postal workers see

The Feb. 21 article, "The check really was in the mail," about burnt-up mail, reminded me of what I saw indoors during 20 years of work for the US Postal Service. As a processing and distribution clerk I saw three full dinners on paper plates (one a day for three days collected near a high school), a live but harmless two-foot snake, broken glass, lots of sodden mail to be dried out, stolen wallets (minus the money), nonmail mistakenly dropped in a mailbox, children's homework, the odd glove or mitten, and rocks and dirt in the freshly collected mail.

I've also seen what ridiculous things people and businesses put in letters that jam mail processing machines. All of this – and fire too – are nonetheless statistical rarities!
William A. Meier
Canaan, N.Y.

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