Letters: School Shooting, Female Troops, Aphorisms

Michele Norris and Robert Siegel read from listeners' letters and e-mails. We hear feedback on our coverage of the shooting at a Nickel Mines, Pa., schoolhouse, women in combat, and aphorisms.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

On Thursdays, we read from your e-mail. And we begin today with our story about the anniversary of the attack on an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. An attack that killed five girls a year ago.

NORRIS: Susan Eikenberry(ph) of Stockton, California said: I want to commend Joseph Shapiro on a story on the forgiveness and healing aspect of the Amish school shooting. As a former resident of Lancaster County, I experienced his account as sensitive and thought provoking.

SIEGEL: I listened with tears in my eyes, writes David Poleski(ph) of Seattle. A year later, and I still cannot comprehend a more tragic horror than losing the child to such senselessness. I drove my empty school bus back to the lot for the evening contemplating these remarkable, grace-filled and generous people.

NORRIS: My series of stories on Women in Combat has also prompted letters. On Monday, military sociologist Brenda Moore told us in the early stages of the Iraq War, women didn't have training for ground combat. Helen Benedict, a journalist from New York City, wrote to point out that at that time, nobody was being properly trained for the kind of warfare they meet in Iraq.

SIEGEL: Benedict adds that America is not necessarily in the lead when it comes to women in combat. In Eritrea, she writes, women and men are drafted and must fight alike. Also in guerilla wars all over the world, and throughout history, women have fought side by side with men.

NORRIS: We also heard from John Whitmore(ph) in New Berlin, Wisconsin. His daughter, Specialist Michelle Whitmore(ph), was killed in action in Baghdad. He took issue with comments made by our guest yesterday about women filling support roles in Iraq.

SIEGEL: Mr. Whitmore writes, in April, his daughter was in the gunner turret of her Humvee manning a machine gun capable of firing 750 rounds per minute. She and her squad were convoying to a police station that had been the target of insurgent attacks. Their mission was to protect the station.

NORRIS: The letter continues, on the way, they drove into an intense ambush. As Michelle positioned the gun to return fire, she was hit. The bullet passed through her heart. Does any of this sound like a support role to you? She was a soldier - a real soldier.

SIEGEL: On September 25th, we reported on the work of the U.S. Army's 23rd Special Troops during World War II. The report said members of the unit were told not to talk about their wartime experiences. However, some were not. And that leads us to this clarification.

NORRIS: Jack Masey was one member of the 23rd interviewed for the story. We reported Masey told his family and friends about his wartime experiences. Masey wrote to us to say he felt that, quote, "the broadcast implies that I improperly revealed classified information." Masey says he was never ordered to keep his work with the camouflage unit a secret, which is why he felt free to discuss it after the war ended.

SIEGEL: Many listeners wrote to say that they were not laughing at Bruce Kluger and David Slavin's parody of Justice Anthony Kennedy's role as the swing vote on the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week.

NORRIS: Anna Herrick(ph) was among them. Nothing more than an embarrassing depiction of cliched stereotype, she writes.

SIEGEL: Ruth Bader Ginsberg, looked fetching overbearing Jewish mother.

NORRIS: Antonin Scalia, a Mafioso.

SIEGEL: And Clarence Thomas, the gangster street thug.

NORRIS: It's especially sad to hear something this stupid coming from NPR.

SIEGEL: In yesterday's story about Fred Thompson campaigning in Iowa, we referred incorrectly to the Cedar Falls School as Northern Iowa University and NIU.

NORRIS: It actually UNI or the University of Northern Iowa. Makes a big difference to the Panther fans.

SIGEL: And my conversation with James Geary about his "Guide to the World's Great Aphorists" inspired some of you to share your own aphorisms. Here's one from Claude Lite(ph) of Alpharetta, Georgia. The meaning of life is to give life meaning.

NORRIS: And there was this from Thomas McLaughlin(ph) of Honolulu. Pull yourself together is seldom said to anyone who can.

SIGEL: Aphorism, syllogism or criticism, send it by going to npr.org and clicking Contact Us at the top of the page.

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