Those Still Missing in Action in Vietnam
Editor: As a family member of an American servicemen still missing in Southeast Asia, I am outraged at The Sun's editorial suggestion (July 20) of ''the likely presence in Vietnam of Americans who defected or choose to live there.''
One need only glance at the characteristics of the 2,300 MIAs to determine that this claim is ludicrous. The majority are well-educated and highly-trained Air Force and Navy pilots. The comprehensive training and advanced knowledge required of pilots attest to their character and commitment.
It is laughable to suggest that men of this caliber, with this degree of education and ability, chose to remain in the jungle environment and more primitive culture of Southeast Asia.
I would remind The Sun that the pilots were shot down during the Vietnam War's intense air campaign. They did not walk away from the country they serve, their service responsibilities or the families they love.
Consider, for example, my cousin, Air Force Capt. Thomas M. Kilcullen. Tom is a graduate of Pennsyvlania State University and its ROTC program. An accomplished and enthusiastic athlete, he competed on several of Penn State's varsity teams. He is the oldest of the four children of a career Army officer. He loves to fly and relished flying an Air Force F-4C.
Married just six months before being sent to Vietnam, Tom was so anxious to complete his tour and return home that he volunteered for additional missions. In the 58 days he was stationed in Vietnam, he flew 55 missions. This, The Sun suggests, is a man who chose to stay in Vietnam.
During his 55th mission on Aug. 26, 1967, Tom's plane was shot down over Dong Hoi in North Vietnam. In what was standard procedure at the time, no rescue attempt was undertaken. A day later, the North Vietnamese paraded a downed American pilot through a neighboring village.
Newspaper reports of the era and more recent reputable publications acknowledge that due to their technological training, knowledge and skill, American pilots are the prisoners most highly valued by the underdeveloped countries of Southeast Asia. Evidence indicates they are prized as pawns in the never-ending chess game between the governments of these countries and the United States.
The agony of MIA reports is minuscule compared to the agony created by the inaction of the United States government, the suppression of critical information by the Pentagon and other agencies and careless comments such as The Sun's.
Long before any rewards were offered for the return of American POWs and MIAs, the U.S. government chose to ignore, discredit and/or suppress evidence that American prisoners are still being held in Southeast Asia. For the families of Tom Kilcullen and his fellow MIAs, this is the agony.
Editor: I write in support of the July 27 article by Christopher M. Leighton written in response to the publication of the so-called ''Baltimore Declaration.''
As an Episcopal priest who has become involved in interfaith dialogue with members of the Jewish community, I have become painfully aware of the legacy of hate and tragedy which has been sown by Christians who succumb to a shallow triumphalism.
In the light of what Christians have done to Jews in the name of the Gospel imperative to mission, I do not think it out of line to suggest that we might put such efforts ''on hold'' for, say, 1,000 years and then evaluate the situation.
A sensitive, caring Christian witness is one in which we honor ourselves by honoring the faith and tradition of others.
Rev. William P. Baxter Jr.
The writer is rector of St. Thomas' Church, Garrison Forest.
Learning to Serve
Editor: It would appear that Roger Simon's Aug. 2 column on the compulsory community service in Maryland's public schools would be an argument for educators to preserve the status quo.
So just what will the public school's role be in the '90s and on into the next century? Could it be that a school system's support in providing structure for ''citizenship'' could provide the most valuable lesson a child could learn? After all, what really is the value of reading, writing and arithmetic if children aren't encouraged to treasure life?
With two children approaching school age in Baltimore, I have done a lot of thinking, talking and learning about the future of public schools. I've been told that you can teach only someone who's willing to learn.
It may be that this ''compulsory'' community service project could provide an environment for learning which far surpasses any classroom experience. The choice of which project to pursue must be left to the student and an astute and caring adviser.
It may be that the experience of working with others in a setting foreign to them will create for young people a broader picture of life and, more importantly, a greater sense of self. Very few accomplishments are as real as contributing to another.