DEAR ABBY: I am writing this letter from the Adams County Detention Facility in Colorado. I am sitting in here with about 600 other inmates, doing time for small crimes.

Why couldn't we be given a chance to prove ourselves to society by fighting in the Middle East? Just think, we are drug-free, alcohol-free and are in good physical condition because we work out seven days a week. We would be perfect for battle if given a chance.Why doesn't America give us a REAL second chance? Please print this in your column for people to see. - SERVING TIME, NOT SERVING OUR COUNTRY

DEAR SERVING TIME: After you finish serving your time, you may get the chance to serve your country, but not before. A high-school diploma is required for acceptance in the military, after which there is a minimum of six weeks' training.

The ability to conform to rules and regulations is vital to survival in combat situations. You could be the exception, but most people who are "serving time" have a history of being unable (or unwilling) to conform to the rules of society.

So, while I salute your patriotism, you must prove yourself to be a good citizen before you're given the chance to be a good soldier.

DEAR ABBY: I am divorced and have been approached by a divorced lady who apparently would like to go out with me. This lady has a very pretty face, but she is about 50 pounds (at least) overweight, and because of that, she doesn't appeal to me. However, before her divorce, she was very slim and attractive.

I could be very interested in her if she got her "old look" back again. Should I try to tell her this, or would I be better off just to forget about her? Also, am I a terrible person for not being able to get serious about a lady with a weight problem? - LIKES THEM SLIM

DEAR LIKES: I do not recommend telling a woman that you could be interested in her if she got her "old look" back. You are not necessarily a "terrible person" for not being able to get serious about a woman with a weight problem. Everyone has a right to his - or her - own preferences, but by your own admission, you are judging the book by its cover.

Why don't you invite her out anyway? And if she can overlook your shallowness, you may be able to induce her to slim down a bit.

DEAR ABBY: Can anyone out there give me some new ideas on what to give nurses and aides at holiday time? My mother is in a nursing home, and although I bring them candy, cookies, etc. to share, so does everyone else. - NEW JERSEY

DEAR NEW JERSEY: M-O-N-E-Y. The color goes with everything, and any size will fit into their wallets. Buy an appropriate card and slip a few dollars, or five - or whatever you can afford - into the envelope. It will be appreciated. Trust me.

DEAR ABBY: I live next door to neighbors who constantly and consistently dispose of their garbage in plastic bags days before garbage pickup. Well, rats tear open the bags and carry their findings up underneath my back porch and in front of my gate!

Because of the smell and the trashy mess, I am cleaning, sweeping, etc. constantly in front of my gate as well as theirs, disposing of the trash in the plastic bags and then into garbage cans.

I need help. What can I do? Talking to my neighbors would be a waste of time. My worst fear is to have rats in my apartment. It has been very hard so far to control the mice! - G.S. IN BALTIMORE

DEAR G.S.: Call your Department of Public Health and the Department of Sanitation - this problem falls within their jurisdiction - and inquire about the local regulations for refuse disposal. The laws vary from place to place, but no one should have to single-handedly combat rodent infestation.

Everything you'll need to know about planning a wedding can be found in Abby's booklet, "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054. (Postage is included.)