Teach-in seeks balance | TheUnion.com

Teach-in seeks balance

For Fred Bourgault-Christie, 18 is a special number.

It means he no longer must drive under a “provisional” or restricted status in the state of California.

It means he’ll have a stake in the Democratic presidential primary and local elections on March 2.

It also means that, under federal law, he must register with the Selective Service System in the event that a national emergency requires his military participation.

But Bourgault-Christie, who turned 18 Sunday, feels that young men should be aware of the options available to them, especially during times when the United States is at war.

Bourgault-Christie, a Nevada Union High School senior, is scheduled to be a panelist at a “teach-in” Friday at the Nevada County Library. The Peace Center of Nevada County is inviting Bourgault-Christie and military veterans to discuss options and alternatives to military service once young men and women reach 18.

The event is free and open to the public.

Jo Wamser, who is organizing the event on behalf of the Peace Center of Nevada County, insists that this free event is not to dissuade anyone from joining the military.

Young people should be apprised of alternatives available to them, she said.

“It’s not going to be a panel of pacifists,” she said. “What we’re looking for is a variety of backgrounds and perspectives that people can speak of.

“Because it’s an educational event, I don’t think we’re advocating anything but to be informed.”

The Peace Center is inviting current and retired military veterans and conscientious objectors to the event Friday.

Wamser said she invited military veterans to speak to counter a sales pitch from military recruiters who visit high school campuses, especially during a time the country is actively involved in a foreign conflict.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, high schools are required to provide the Defense Department with names and contact information of high school juniors and seniors upon request or risk losing federal funding.

“We want the veterans to talk about the realities of serving in combat,” she said.

Bill Larsen, 58, served in both the Marine Corps and in the Army, completing a two-year hitch as a medic in Vietnam and suffering two gunshot wounds in Cambodia.

A family therapist, Larsen said he has counseled dozens of Vietnam veterans who served in a conflict many Americans didn’t support.

“I really, really believe people should have information and have a choice,” he said. He’s against this war because he doesn’t believe Iraq to be the source of an overt attack on the United States.

Larsen and Marine Corps Col. Sean Metroka, who returned this summer after more than six months in Iraq, are two panelists at Friday’s teach-in.

Because of his Quaker upbringing, San Juan Ridge resident Bodie Wagner was able to serve his country driving supply trucks for Goodwill, providing a service when his beliefs clashed with serving in a war.

He became a conscientious objector in 1970, three years before President Richard Nixon created an all-volunteer military.

Because of his religious beliefs about serving in a war, Wagner, who will serve on Friday’s panel, had an easier choice to make than today’s young men and women.

He believes military recruiters shouldn’t make decisions for those turning 18.

“You shouldn’t give up your conscience or free will,” he said.

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