For a man who sings his own praises so confidently (a West Pointer, a Rhodes Scholar, a fighting man and an "instructor designee" at West Point), Capt. Rick Waddell is surprisingly tone deaf as he warbles his praises of Oliver North and Richard Secord {Free for All, May 30}.

To reduce Waddell's flapdoodle to plain language: academy cadets and military officers should revere North and Secord because these two men saw what had to be done and did it, despite a law ("of dubious constitutionality," the good captain reassures us) and a Congress (a fine institution but apparently peopled by "lamebrains," says Waddell) that told them not to do it. That about it, Rick? Well, here's one Army officer who finds little inspiration in Waddell's sorry "role models."

Like many combat arms officers, North and Secord (and, I suspect, Waddell himself) are adolescents at heart: the military feeds them, dresses them, gives them an allowance and shields them from the outside world; a paternal chain of command discourages them from taking independent action, keeping in check their boyish dreams of patriotic adventure and fostering in them a lively contempt for civilians (witness Secord's prickly behavior at the hearings -- general officers aren't used to being questioned by public servants). No wonder such juveniles go wrong when they finally leave home.

Although Waddell claims that North and Secord are model citizen-soldiers, martyred "in the ethical pursuit of democracy," he seems actually to be saying the reverse: that North and Secord are godlike patriots whose refined lungs should not have to breathe the ordinary air of democracy. -- David Finnell The writer is a major in the U.S. Army.

Rick Waddell defends the actions of Oliver North and Richard Secord by making a distinction between contempt for the "democratic institutions of Congress" and "contempt for certain members of Congress and their short-term, lamebrained policies." How fortunate we are to have officers like North to determine which acts of Congress are "lamebrained" and which are truly deserving of respect!

In case Waddell has forgotten, the members of Congress are the legally elected representatives of the American people. Like it or not, that makes all of them -- not just "certain" members chosen by the military -- worthy of respect. That the Boland Amendment represented the will of the American people and not that of a treacherous coterie in Congress is demonstrated by the fact that no poll has yet been taken in which a majority of Americans has approved our government's policy in Nicaragua.

If the amendment was of such "dubious constitutionality," as Waddell claims, why did the Reagan administration publicly profess obedience to the measure rather than challenging it in the courts? -- Rock C. Wheeler III

Rick Waddell asks: " . . . if Secord broke any law in favor of the contras, should his actions be viewed any differently from those of Amy Carter (and others) who have broken laws {for} the Sandinistas?" He answers his own question with: "North and Secord provide superb examples of personal and professional sacrifice in the ethical pursuit of democrary."

Wrong. The government is charged with making the laws and enforcing them. Amy Carter (and others) challenged those laws, and were arrested, as private citizens. North and Secord chose to break the laws not as private citizens, but as agents of one part of the government, the office of the president, acting in opposition to another part of the government, Congress. They were not seeking to challenge the laws, but to continue an outlawed policy by covert means. They were attempting the alteration of our system of constitutional checks and balances by eliminating a check they found inconvenient.

-- Alexis A. Gilliland