Letters from the Issue of May 24, 2007
How Vegetarians Fare
Not well: Regarding "Chew the Right Thing" (May 10) by Lee Klein: Thank you for your recent attention to vegetarian fare in South Beach. I was a little bummed your review of Michael's didn't mention what options they have for vegetarians. I went there for drinks and was disappointed to see a restaurant all about being pure and natural was very skimpy on animal-free options.
Check your facts: Regarding "Camilo's Retreat" (May 3) by Francisco Alvarado: I was a fellow squad leader (weapons squad) with Mejía during the initial part of our deployment (to Jordan). At the time of deployment, I was also one of the Active Guard Reserve (AGR) Full-Time Staff (FTS) members for the company. Mejía was selected to be a squad leader and later promoted to staff sergeant because he demonstrated the abilities to handle that job, at least during peacetime training. During our two months of force protection missions in Jordan, I was his first line supervisor. At this time, he did not seem to have a problem with the job at hand. He later was moved to another platoon just before our involvement in Operation Iraqi Freedom; therefore I have less knowledge of his combat performance overall while in the other platoon, as I had my own platoon to care for. There are several facts that are not exactly correct with this article, and I feel they need to be straightened out.
Any noncommissioned officer (NCO) who deserts the soldiers put under his guidance, mentoring, and leadership while combat operations are being conducted is a coward; there is no splicing, mincing, or softening this fact.
During our time at the mobilization site, when Mejía was selected as a squad leader, he had the option to declare himself a conscientious objector. We had one soldier do just that, and he was processed for separation. Mejía accepted his charge knowing we were going to war.
Mejía states that on January 14, 2003, when he was at the armory cleaning weapons, "there was a lot of chatter that our battalion was being activated." The fact is, we knew about the activation several days before and we were already completing the necessary paperwork, inventories, deployment rosters, et cetera, in order to deploy. We were given a couple of days to take care of personal business and left for the mobilization site on January 16, 2003. It was fast, but we had a very good idea a few weeks in advance, due to a sister battalion having already been activated. So there were no surprises.
The article states, "The battalion earned 24 Purple Hearts." Fact: The battalion received in excess of 54 Purple Heart Medals. Charlie Company received 25 of those.
"On March 15, 2004, on the first anniversary of the Iraq War ..." The Iraq war kicked off on March 19, 2003.
"Ten days after his sentencing, the 126 men from Charlie Company came home." This statement gives the impression that Mejía had the personal courage to turn himself in while the company was still deployed. The fact is, Charlie Company was demobilized and sent home on March 5, 2004. We only came home with 99 soldiers out of 129 that deployed. Various issues such as wounds received in combat, medical problems, family problems, and one deserter contributed to these numbers.
Mejía was tried and convicted by military court-martial (this is a trial, not a tribunal) for desertion. His one-year sentence by the military court means that Mejía is now a convicted felon. His current immigration/citizenship status should be in question.
These are some of the inconsistencies I have found with this article. This puts into serious doubt the credibility and integrity of both Mejía and the author. Reporters are supposed to research facts, interview sources, and maintain an objective view while at the same time telling the story. Quotes are supposed to be accurate and within context, not misconstrued or misused. This gives the reader an opportunity to form his or her own opinion and not that of the writer or the subject.
I feel that any responsible news organization would take issue with the way this article was presented. I do not know what actions should be taken, but this type of slanted and subjective writing should not be tolerated.
Francisco Alvarado responds: The letter writer is correct in highlighting errors on my part. However, "Camilo's Retreat" is hardly a one-sided account of Mejía's desertion, as evidenced by interviews with his commanding officers, who unabashedly questioned Mejía's courage and disputed his version of events when he was deployed in Iraq.
It wasn't the first goof: Really enjoyed Tamara Lush's articles ("Masterpiece Theater, Parts One and Two," April 12 and 19) on famous paintings.
As mentioned, the Bass Museum has had its share of problems with questionable artwork in the past. Back in the Fifties I found one of the questionable ones, The Departure of Lot and His Family from Sodom by Peter Paul Reubens, which made for a story in our now-local SunPost.
The problem was that there was another one in the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, one in a museum in England, and a fourth somewhere else in Europe.
The original ended up being in Sarasota. Reubens was quite the businessman and he often had his students copy his work.
There was also a work by Dali that was later found to be a fake.
Certainly the picture has brightened at the museum, but it really had a sordid past.
Ronald C. Rickey
Miami New Times won three Sunshine State Awards from the South Florida Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists this past weekend: Emily Witt's "Never Forget You" garnered first place for Non-Deadline Business Reporting, and she took second place in Serious Feature Reporting for "Band of Outsiders." Maria Blake's "Jesus Redux" was second in Religion Reporting.
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