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Not All Are Helped in the Transition From Military to Civilian Life

I read the article "Armed Forces Going Extra Miles to Ease Exit From Services," Feb. 26, with great interest. On Feb. 24, I and several other officers were directed to retire before Sept. 1. While most of us are scared and hurt we are the lucky ones because we at least get to retire and draw a pension.

There are many more service people overseas being encouraged to volunteer to separate rather than face involuntary separation, but the worldwide support system does not reach Naples and many other places. There is no computer network for job referrals or resume distribution here. In fact, people have been waiting a month to learn if there is a terminal in Italy. What looks good to the people in both San Antonio and Arlington, Texas doesn't exist here.

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These young men and women will have to seek work by mail, which averages about two weeks for an exchange of letters, or wait until they get back to the US. There is no provision to return them to the States until just before they separate. So while the people at home can use leave and off-duty time to start the job search, the troops over hear are out of luck.

You do your readers and these service members a disservice by making it sound as if everyone is getting lots of help. It is going to be difficult for all of us who are being forced out and for those at smaller overseas locations, it will be even tougher. The reward for winning the cold war will be a career cut short. So far, the steps taken to help are nowhere near enough to help ease the transition.

I believe it is too late to help the people forced out this year. But your readers could help the thousands that will follow by telling their elected representatives to make the Department of Defense set up a system that helps everyone, not just those stationed at large stateside bases.

How this draw down is handled will determine the caliber of the people who will be willing to make the sacrifices America will demand of its armed forces, no matter what their ultimate size. It must be done right. Lt. Col. John M. Callen, Naples, Italy

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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