Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of August 30, 2010

Readers write in about going off the grid and the surge of returning US soldiers.

Off the grid

Regarding the cover story "Off-the-grid pioneers," (August 9): My husband and I had 16 photovoltaic panels installed on our roof last October. Aside from the minor monthly fee for connection to the local grid, we have paid $0 for electricity in the ensuing months. In our high desert home that gets plenty of sun, we will recover our installation costs in three to five years through the federal alternative energy rebate, local rebates, and those $0 bills. It's clean, it makes sense, and my hope is the others in sun and/or wind zones will take advantage of these natural forms of energy.

Bobbi Wallace

Grand Junction, Colo.

I would like to know what it is really like to live with alternative energy on a daily basis. If something does shut down, is it easy for a nontech person to fix, or is there a long wait to get someone qualified to do it? Do the systems require regular ­checking/maintenance? Also, how do these technologies stand up to extreme weather events such as ice storms, cyclones, or hurricanes?

Shelley L. Scott

Bellflower, Calif.

Helping soldiers at home

"The surge home" (August 16 & 23), by Michael B. Farrell, admirably discusses the challenges of combat veterans returning to civilian life but stops short of coming to grips with the essence of the problem and what can be done to solve it.

First, it must be recognized that combat veterans are different not only from their civilian counterparts but from the way they were before shipping out to a war zone.

Some of the changes are negative, but many are positive. Most veterans have matured; they've shouldered responsibilities that are unknown in the civilian world. Physically and mentally, they have become extraordinary individuals. The best strategy for helping them become civilians is to harness, not ignore, the strength that made them effective warriors.

It is no secret that combat veterans who have career aspirations and are working in those careers tend to find satisfaction and fulfillment. Those without such purpose and work find stagnation and disappointment that can grow worse. Getting combat vets on their career paths quickly is an important part of the "coming home" process; but it's neither easy nor can it be addressed simplistically.

It requires the help of a career-oriented psychologist to guide veterans through their likes and dislikes, strengths and weakness, and to understand what makes them happy and productive. The next step is education and training – this is already part of the GI Bill of Rights – and lastly an effective job placement service that will help individuals find a job that will propel them along their career path.

Rod Carlson

White Plains, N.Y.

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