Dedication to others redeems war's horror During the...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

May 05, 2001

Dedication to others redeems war's horror

During the Battle of Okinawa, I was an 18-year-old infantry rifleman, reared in a loving, Christian family, learning that war is not the cowboys and Indians games I had played with my neighborhood friends only a few years earlier.

As we fought our way down that island, almost yard-by-yard, we often came upon those peculiar Okinawan family tombs, with their plastered domes and walled courtyards and 2-foot-by-3-foot openings.

We routinely destroyed these with explosives, because Japanese soldiers sometimes used them as sniper nests.

On one such occasion, our platoon came upon a tomb with a plywood barrier over the opening. Our lieutenant had a Japanese phrase book and tried to induce whomever might be inside to come out.

Eventually a little old lady did come out, frightened out of her wits. We deduced from her incomprehensible and panic-stricken responses that there were one or more soldiers in the tomb, but no one else could be coaxed out.

The lieutenant ordered me to fire my rifle through the opening. When I did, a baby screamed.

We could not leave that tomb behind us, with possible Japanese soldiers at our rear, so the lieutenant ordered me to push down the plywood and throw a 22-pound explosive charge in.

I did, and I know that I killed innocent civilians.

When I came home from the war, I had many nightmares about this and other such events. Mother said I often woke in the middle of the night screaming, though I do not remember these nightmares.

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey is right that we cannot live paralyzed in remorse; we must make something good come of it, though the evil can never be balanced. I believe that in his Senate career Mr. Kerry has done so ("`I feel guilty' for attack in Vietnam, Kerry says," April 27).

In my case, my Christian beliefs enabled me to come to grips with what happened.

After all, the central Christian teaching is that we live because someone else died. We are not our own, the Apostle Paul says, we were bought with a price.

So my life is not my own to live for my own ends, it was bought with the price of those Okinawans I killed. I cannot repay them directly, but I can live for the well-being of the human family and ever since I have tried to do so.

May God forgive my failures.

John V. Chamberlain, Towson

Taxing the commuters could solve city's woes

Mayor Martin O'Malley is facing multiple crises. The principal ones concern the budget crunch arising from the city's diminished revenues and shrinking tax base. Bold and innovative solutions are required to address this issue.

A solution seems obvious -- one that would generate additional revenue while encouraging people to move back to the city. In the long run, it may help address the vacant housing issue and improve the safety of our communities and the quality of our schools.

I suggest the city work with surrounding counties and the state to enact a commuter tax.

This tax would not only increase revenues, but provide a financial incentive for people who reside in the suburbs, but work in the city, to move to the city. This would increase both city property and income tax revenues.

The same middle- and upper-class families who left the city for safer communities and better schools would then demand the same level of service they experienced in the counties.

With an increased revenue stream and the new political will to make the necessary changes, the commuter tax could pay many long-term dividends for the city.

Joseph J. Myers, Baltimore

It's time to buckle down and give back to "The City that Bleeds," which lacks the funds to meet its budget.

The solution is very simple: If you work in the city or receive a weekly pay check from a company that operates within the city limits, but aren't a city resident, you should be required to pay a city employment tax of $100 a year.

We must all do our fair share to keep the city up and running.

Larry D. Hutchings, Baltimore

Responsible leaders didn't merit rebukes

Portions of two recent items on The Sun's editorial pages were unfairly critical of two of the region's top elected officials.

Barry Rascovar's column "O'Malley takes easy way out" (Opinion

Commentary, April 19) argued that Mayor Martin O'Malley "missed a giant opportunity by not rushing whole-hog into the spending reductions" suggested by the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Presidents' Roundtable in its report issued last July, "Managing for Success."

The implication that Mr. O'Malley is ignoring the report is wrong; in fact, he has embraced it. Since announcing last fall that he accepted more than 80 percent of its recommendations, the mayor has been steadily implementing them. His current outsourcing proposals, for example, are among those recommendations.

The Sun's editorial on budgets for Baltimore and the region's counties was also off the mark in criticizing Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger for proposing a small property tax-rate reduction ("Staying ahead of fiscal curve," April 18).

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