It’s hard to believe that the person who wrote the editorial “Don’t fight to save BNAS commissary” (Aug. 12) ever served in the military.

In 1969, those who were in the military got there one of three ways: They volunteered, were drafted or were sentenced by the court.

Today the military is all voluntary. In 1969, enlisted income was around $115 a month. We did not have food stamps or any other assistance; we made ends meet the best we could and enjoyed life.

The writer wrote that the commissary was an amenity and not a benefit. That may be true, but how much federal assistance did other people get in order to go to college and receive an education while never serving our country in order to receive that assistance?

It is people like us — World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans — and our current active military personnel who ensure that everyone has the freedoms that we enjoy today.

The Defense Department has indicated that it hopes to save $2.1 million per year by closing the commissary.

The editorial writer failed to mention that the commissary sells its groceries and other goods at cost plus a 6 percent surcharge. So if they are selling groceries at cost plus 6 percent, then they are making money, not losing it.

Why shouldn’t the Maine delegation fight for the retired military here in Maine? After all, aren’t they elected officials who are supposed to assist all of their constituents? The writer feels that 10,000 Mainers are not enough to fight for.

Why can’t the retired veterans, disabled veterans and their dependents enjoy a little bit of an amenity like a commissary?

What about all of the active-duty personnel, reservists, National Guardsmen and Coast Guardsmen stationed here in Maine? Don’t they deserve the right to a commissary?

Dona R. St. Pierre

Master Sgt., U.S. Marine Corps, Retired

Portland

John Parker’s letter on military commissaries (Aug. 23) has a few errors.

I would like to clarify those without commenting on his opinions about U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, how modest his military retirement check is, whether or not his military medical plan is as juicy as what Congress enjoys, or which attitudes and practices have caused our present serious financial trouble. Those opinions are his own.

There is no commissary in South Portland. There is a small Coast Guard Exchange that has limited food items. This exchange’s size has recently been cut approximately in half as a cost-saving measure.

The food items are now approximately the same as what you could find at a neighborhood convenience store. The exchange service operates separately from the Defense Commissary Agency. The prices at the exchange are considerably higher than at the commissary.

Reading Mr. Parker’s letter leads one to think there is a military commissary every 30 miles in Maine. Other than BNAS, there are commissaries in Bangor and Kittery; both are small stores with limited stock compared to other commissaries and to Hannaford and Shaw’s.

These two areas are separated beyond the 30 miles cited. There is an armory in Caribou and one in Augusta where commissary case lot sales take place a few times a year.

The Defense Commissary Agency operates commissaries worldwide. All stores charge a 6 percent surcharge on all items. That 6 percent goes to help operate the agency and to help with store renovations and upkeep as well as replacement commissary construction, when needed.

While the original price of some items may be less than at Hannaford or Shaw’s, adding the 6 percent to all items may bring the total purchase in line with those stores.

As a commissary shopper, I can tell the world that I do not save $4,000 per year.

Mr. Parker is correct that a careful shopper can compete with commissaries on some items. Comparison shopping saves money.

Michael B. Turek

Scarborough

I was dismayed at Rep. Chellie Pingree’s Another View comment on Aug. 19. Either she is misinformed about the purpose of commissaries, or she is just another venal politician looking for easy votes. As she is my representative, I would of course prefer to believe the former.

I am also disappointed in my fellow retirees who are complaining loudly about the impending loss of the BNAS commissary.

I am quite sure that sometime during their careers they were informed that commissaries were a privilege for the retired community, not a right.

If it were a “right,” why are we not building these facilities all across the nation to accommodate clusters of retired military?

The primary purpose of the commissary privilege is to serve the families of active-duty personnel, many of whom are assigned to duty stations far from home. Some of these duty stations are in remote areas of the country.

Some are in foreign countries such as Spain, Japan, Germany and the Philippines. In cases where the service person is accompanied by family, the spouses can find the experience overwhelming.

It is vitally important that the services make life as easy as possible for them. Otherwise, the enlisted will not re-enlist and officers will resign.

I am afraid that some of my former brothers and sisters in arms have been infected by the same entitlement mentality that prevents our government from moving ahead on meaningful program changes to address our national debt and budget shortfalls.

The commissary is truly a budget cut that is appropriate and really hurts no one.

We are in fact recipients of one of the most generous retirement programs in the country — and we can afford to shop at Hannaford.

John Frothingham

Capt., U.S. Navy, Retired

Brunswick

U.S. debt mostly in hands of U.S. citizens, agencies

A recent letter lamented the size of our national debt and suggested that the Chinese held a substantial portion.

In fact, the Chinese now hold only $1.2 trillion, and about 40 percent is held by foreign investors in total.

This leaves nearly $10 trillion held by U.S. citizens or local, state and other federal agencies.

These statistics surprised me, but do not diminish the seriousness of the issue to any of us.

Hence, a clear majority of all U.S. debt supports individual investor retirement plans and a major investment vehicle in our collective futures.

Ray Whittemore

Sebago