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McChrystal's ouster worries military families

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of the International Security

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and commander of the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. (Dec. 10, 2009) Credit: AP File

When Lucy Christiano heard that the architect of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan had been fired for making dismissive remarks about officials in President Barack Obama's administration, she wondered what the ouster of Gen. Stanley McChrystal would mean for her son, a soldier in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division.

Would a change in command lengthen the war, increasing the likelihood her son would have to serve there? Would it lead to a shift in strategy that could further endanger U.S. troops? Would it discourage candor among military leaders?

"My first thought was, how will this effect the troops?" said Christiano, of Holbrook, who is president of Long Island Blue Star Moms, an organization of some three dozen women with children serving in the military.

Across Long Island, families with ties to the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan expressed concern over Obama's decision Wednesday to replace McChrystal, the commander of U.S. troops in that country, after his remarks appeared in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

Several individuals said the firing undermines the nation's military leadership at a time when it is needed to win a war in Afghanistan that has grown increasingly unpopular.

Others said comments by the general and his aides in Rolling Stone threatened to erode America's tradition of civilian leadership of its military, which began in the earliest days of the country's history. President Abraham Lincoln's battles with one of his Civil War generals, George McClellan, whom he fired, were legendary, and President Harry S. Truman famously fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Dennis Wilkins, of Medford, whose son Eric has served two tours in Afghanistan, said he fears the shake up may temporarily slow progress, forcing American troops to remain in Afghanistan longer.

But he said, because several of McChrystal's subordinates were also quoted in the article, he appears to have condoned an unacceptable climate of insubordination. "There is no military if people don't follow the orders of the commander-in-chief, and that includes privates on up the chain of command," Wilkins said.

Aaron Greenberg, a lance corporal in the Marine Reserves, said Obama had little choice.

"I'm not surprised by the firing," said Greenberg, of Old Westbury. "If you publicly criticize a president's judgment call, unless it's an illegal order, you're crossing into dangerous territory."

But Terry Kruger, who has three children in uniform, was scathing in his reaction.

"Should he have said what he said to the media? Probably not," said Kruger, of Shirley. "But last I heard, this is America with freedom of speech. Most people speak out of line every day, and they don't lose their job over it."

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