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Use ‘rigorous standard’ to justify war

At the recent teach-in on the Selective Service System, the Madelyn Helling community room was overflowing with local parents, teens and young adults who care deeply about this issue and came out to learn about individual rights under the SSS.

Sean Metroka’s slide shows were noteworthy events, but there is another viewpoint the public needs to consider, and this was offered when Sean and other veterans gave their time and effort to participate in a presentation representing nothing less than the democratic process at work.

That’s right, Sean Metroka sat on this panel, stating publically at the conclusion that he felt the event was conducted with an attitude of mutual respect and no “military bashing.” Jo Wamser deserves a lot of credit for organizing an event that was nonconfrontational in spirit, educational in purpose, and truly inclusive of all concerned. What a class act, all the way around!



As a combat vet who also sat on this panel, I would like to offer a personal perspective on ascertaining the validity of any war. The premise here is that political decision makers virtually never consider the true value of “human suffering” when sending troops into combat. This is not because they are evil, but because they simply lack experience of the horror into which they send our people.

Consequently, as in the present war, our fellow citizens are too often sent into combat by congressional members who have never experienced combat (and whose children are rarely called to serve), under a president also lacking this personal experience and risk to his loved ones.




I am not a pacifist, but I do have a rigorous standard for sending human beings to war. I call it the “Mike MacParlane Taste Test.” This takes a bit of explanation, so please bear with me.

While serving as a combat medic in Vietnam, I had a best buddy with whom I connected on a heartfelt level unimaginable in any other setting. We covered each other’s backs and shared each other’s deepest fears. Yes, his name was Michael MacParlane.

One day, a squad was ambushed while crossing a small clearing. Everyone got out of the clearing except two guys, one shot in the head and one shot several times through his extremities. Called to the scene, I crawled out to make a “house call.”

Actually, the only thing I could do was slap on a few bandages and return fire in the hopes of keeping our wounded from being wiped out. This worked for a couple of minutes, and then Ð BANG Ð a bullet struck my chin, breaking my jaw in half and leaving me face down in a pool of blood.

A lifetime later, I awoke to the sound of someone calling my name.

Focusing toward this sound, I saw Mike crawling toward me with a rifle in one hand and a field dressing in the other. The NVA also saw him and opened the gates of hell, unleashing all their dragons. But somehow Mike made it to my side. He released his rifle, and was reaching out with the field dressing to bandage my wound when Ð BANG Ð a bullet tore through his left eye, squirting blood and bodily fluids across my face and into the gory cavernous hole that used to be my mouth.

For the next hour or so, I watched my friend die, suffocating on his vomit, as I tasted his blood and eye tissue on my lips.

That’s it, the “Mike Macparlane Taste Test.” It is applied every time a mother gazes into the face of her dead son; whenever an orphaned child cries for his stricken father; at every instance a “grunt” watches his buddy mutilated; in every moment of pain, sorrow and post-traumatic suffering that follows soldiers home after the war.

If “the cause” isn’t clearly serious enough to justify this ultimate sacrifice – and is not absolutely the last alternative to our own destruction – it fails this standard. If you can’t fully imagine your loved one splattered like dog meat on foreign soil and can still say, “Yes, this particular ’cause’ is worth the cost,” it probably isn’t.

Please, consider this standard rather than the words of politicians when asking our loved ones to make this ultimate sacrifice. It is the first and deepest obligation we face in fulfilling our sacred duty to “support the troops.”

Bill Larsen lives in Nevada City.


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