An open letter to the city manager of Steamboat Springs:
Recently, I attended a memorial service for a soldier killed in Iraq. This service affected us all, as it involved a fellow Routt County resident. Afterward, I came back to my office quite solemn.
As time passed, I noted a motto displayed on a plaque previously given to me by my employer. It read, "Freedom is the sure possession of only those who have the courage to defend it -- (from) Your friends and colleagues at the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office."
It was given to me in appreciation for military service in a recent deployment to the Middle East. I thought of Staff Sgt. Mark Lawton, the courage he displayed in defending our freedom, and how he truly lived up to the American Creed.
I couldn't help but think about the support I received from my employer. It's hard enough to be separated from your loved ones, no matter the circumstances. But to be 9,000 miles away and have to worry about pay and benefit issues for one's family -- what an impact would this have on our mission? Instead, I have an employer who said, "What does your family need?" and, "How can we help you?" Awesome support at a time of war.
In 1917, William Tyler Page wrote "The American's Creed," which states in part, "I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies."
I would like to express my appreciation for Steamboat Springs police Detective Dave Kleiber's efforts to defend America by participating in this global war on terrorism. Kleiber is preparing to deploy to the Middle East. He will make command decisions impacting our soldier's lives. It is not surprising to me that a cop who has sworn an oath also has chosen to make a significant sacrifice during a very uncertain time.
What does surprise me is the apparent lack of support from his employer, the city of Steamboat Springs. For Kleiber, being an active military reservist and Steamboat Springs city employee has been a constant uphill battle. Rather than taking a supportive roll as an employer, city officials are considering how they can cut back on paying benefits for Kleiber and his family. They are calling it "fiscal responsibility." I call it something entirely different. I truly hope that elected officials make fair and swift changes to these policies. After all, we wouldn't have such a wonderful place to live if not for our troops.
By his actions, we know what we can expect from this fine man who was hired by this city as a peace officer to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Now ask yourselves, what can Kleiber expect from us in return? In a word: support. That's a small price to pay for the freedoms we enjoy.
Our country has a tradition; we always have honored the people who fought for our freedoms on foreign soil. The ones who come home are revered and decorated and welcomed back with exuberant celebrations. The ones who have given their all to preserve our way of life are remembered in memorial services and spoken about in reverent and hushed tones.
This is as it should be. For when someone fights a war for his or her country, he or she deserves undying gratitude and admiration from the "ones who reap the benefit of their service." Now ask yourself, who benefits? Everyone in this great country, including the people of Steamboat Springs.
Isn't it interesting that in all this confusion and tragedy we are given a great opportunity? We have an opportunity to make a positive impact. If we make the right decision, we may directly support our country and make it a much safer place to live for our children and their children's children.
When this is over and we have won the war on terrorism, you'll have to ask yourselves a very important question: What did I do? Hold your heads up high and say, man, I am so proud of Detective Dave Kleiber and his service to our country. What an honor it is to have a hero on our payroll.
Staff Sgt. Ray Birch, USMCR/USAFR
This is a letter regarding Nick Foster of the Pilot & Today staff, who I have never laid eyes on. I also have failed to identify myself at the past two meetings concerning random drug testing for Hayden High School students. But anyway, Nick was able to quote and misquote me in two separate articles in the Steamboat Today. This is also a letter to try to clarify any misconceptions about my opinions.
I did not say that it is unfair for students to be tested and teachers not to be tested. I asked, "Why are teachers not drug tested upon employment, because I thought that most other public employees were?"
I did not say drug testing is unconstitutional because it is an invasion of privacy. I said that "I question the policy because I believe it may be an infraction of civil liberty."
I did not say that teachers should set an example; someone else at the forum did. I believe that teachers in Hayden have always set good examples.
I did not say that I questioned the notion (now policy) of school teachers policing drug abuse because I believe their job is to educate.
I have never stated that I am totally opposed to the random drug testing policy. I have questioned the policy to try to learn more about it.
I hope that the random drug testing policy will help, not hurt, the school's image.