Secretary of State John Kerry's 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report ranks 188 countries on their efforts to combat human trafficking, including the United States ("U.S. puts Thailand, Malaysia on its human trafficking blacklist," June 20).

This incredibly important diplomatic tool is compiled each year by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office). Countries that fail to deal adequately with their human trafficking problem can be placed on "Tier 3" and face U.S. sanctions. To protect the integrity of this report from other political or diplomatic concerns, I believe the TIP Office should be upgraded to a State Department bureau, which can be done without any added cost or bureaucracy.

The enduring crime of slavery is so monstrous — and sadly, so prevalent, with nearly 30 million slaves in the world today — that this office needs to be of the same stature as other State Department bureaus that address issues like arms control, the environment and narcotics. I strongly support legislation being considered in the House and Senate that would make the TIP Office a bureau, and I hope our entire Minnesota delegation will cosponsor this bill and push for its passage.

Rachel Jeffries, Chanhassen


Take it from one who was there: No war

Steven Boyer's commentary on the horrors of a wartime burn unit is an important piece that I would like to expand on from another perspective ("Horrors of the wartime burn unit," June 26). As one of many drafted and sent to Vietnam, I saw the horror and fear firsthand. I was not physically wounded; however, the fear left a lasting psychological impact. I watched as men around me were wounded. I never knew what became of them after they were medevac'd out for care.

What I witnessed affected my attitude toward war. For a decade plus, as I visited the VA hospital, I was told to talk with other vets about our experiences. I could not talk. I only wanted to forget. I kept my stories to myself and wrote of my fear and hatred in notebooks. I guess that was my release. It took decades to come to terms with my experiences. When I hear Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's story, I recall that I, too, thought of walking away, but I also knew to walk away would make no sense. I waited anxiously for my tour to end.

It is hard to believe that politicians who have had war experiences themselves want to wage war time after time. How many American lives are they willing to risk? Take a look at the result of the last 10 years. The VA hospitals are overburdened and Congress is not willing to fund better care, but is willing to spend enormous amounts of taxpayer money to wage war. We need to stop feeding the military industrial complex and emphasize domestic concerns.

Thomas Sanchez, Chanhassen

• • •

I had an appointment at the VA Hospital this week. It felt like nothing has changed; it is business as usual. I expected something different. I saw a specialist on this visit. I told him I wished he was my primary doctor, because it's always so difficult to get into the primary care clinic. I don't even know if my primary doctor remembers me. My doctor indicated that he understood that there's still a lack of funds to operate the primary clinic. There are all these stories about how things are going to change at the VA to help the veteran. Perhaps funding primary care would be a start — and do it today, not tomorrow. If we can fund rebels in Syria with $500 million, can't we find some money so I can get my blood pressure checked without waiting a month?

Tim Connelly, Richfield

• • •

I was appalled at the recent flood coverage from Harriet Island in St. Paul. I witnessed my living and breathing U.S. flag in peril from floodwaters. I have witnessed my living and breathing U.S. flag with our soldiers' blood on it flying over combat outposts in war zones that were raised and lowered each day and kept from harm's way. Whoever is in charge of those flags on Harriet Island should be ashamed of themselves. Read the code of the flag that my friends have died for and then try and tell me I'm wrong.

Mike Stevens, Menahga, Minn.


Program highlights reading to very young

Thank you for highlighting the importance of reading to infants and young children in the article "Reading to baby now docs' order" (June 25). As the article states, disparities in the vocabulary shared with children in low-income families, who hear 30 million fewer words by the time they're 3 years old, has been cited as a leading cause of the gap in school success.

The Parent-Child Home Program is a national initiative that bridges this "preparation gap" by helping families challenged by poverty, limited education, language and literacy barriers, and other obstacles to school success. Jewish Family and Children's Service of Minneapolis, which serves people of all backgrounds, is the only organization to offer it in Minnesota.

Our trained home visitors begin work with children ages 18 months to 2½ years and their parents two times a week for two years. Each week, they bring a carefully selected free educational book or toy to the families' homes and help parents devise creative ways to teach and play with their child.

We have seen tremendous results with the hundreds of families who have participated in the program. For a small investment, programs like this yield a huge return to Minnesota at large in the form of higher graduation rates, added jobs and increased earnings. We must focus on addressing this gap in children's reading skills — studies show the time to do it is years before they even start kindergarten.

Judy Halper, Minnetonka

The writer is CEO of Jewish Family and Children's Service of Minneapolis


Beyond Green or Blue, it's about whole system

People are complaining about the new Green Line's lack of passengers, yet the Green Line isn't meant to get new passengers — it is meant to create the foundation for public transportation in the metro. People are not going to stop buying cars because of one rail line; they need efficiency and accessibility. They won't ride light rail unless it provides metrowide coverage. So the plan is to keep building light-rail lines. For every line we add, we exponentially increase the number of riders. Not only will we have people who have access to the Southwest Corridor's stops, they will also have complete access to the Green Line's stops. So yes, individually the Green Line is a complete waste of time and money, but a full scale light-rail system is not. To leave you with a question: Who would use the subway in New York if they couldn't get anywhere?

Ian Black, Golden Valley