Letter at Length December 23

American values

I'm currently serving in the Navy as an explosive ordnance disposal technician deployed to Iraq. My wife is from the Rogue Valley, and my in-laws currently reside in Eagle Point.

After visiting 24 countries throughout my naval career, deploying to Iraq in a combat role four times, rendering safe hundreds of improvised explosive devices and conducting post-blast analysis in blood-soaked carnage, I'm scared for the first time. Your Dec. 7 article concerning the tree that Ms. Zundel removed from Bellview Elementary sent shivers down my spin.

Ms. Zundel conducted herself with professional conduct that she felt was correct at that time. However, it is the thought process by which she made her decision to remove the tree that scares me. For her to feel compelled to remove a revered historical symbol must have taken much courage, and for that I applaud her.

If it wasn't for our forefathers — the simple shopkeepers, farmers and teachers fighting for this country — we might not have ever been founded. However, those teachers, shopkeepers and farmers believed in principles that go beyond simply being politically correct. The principles and values they believed in were simple ones that haven't changed in hundreds of years: liberty, freedom from tyranny, contributions to society, shaping our children into model citizens, protecting our land and developing our economy.

These are the principles that Americans have adhered to for many years. When decisions are made based upon the foundation of those values, then, and only then, can we truly conduct ourselves with good intentions and not agendas.

I love this country more than most of your readers know. I'm sure Ms. Zundel loves this country more than I know, and she conducted herself in a way she thought was principled (no pun intended). However, let's show the town of Ashland and the United States that politically correct policies are not substitutes for American values.

Chief Petty Officer Ryan P. Burton

Virginia Beach, Va.

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