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A hard milestone

June 25, 2008

Re "War claims its 500th Californian" and "Boy, 16, fatally shot at bus stop," June 21

I read with deep compassion The Times' account of Joy and Steve Retmier's loss of their son, Marc, in Afghanistan. My thoughts and prayers go out to them and all the other families that have suffered this ultimate loss.

I could not help but also notice the story of a 16-year-old boy killed in a drive-by shooting in Hyde Park. This teenager must be about the 1,500th gang-related murder in Los Angeles since the start of the Afghanistan war.

Whenever we read a tragic personal story, we also need a broader perspective that allows us to understand the challenges we face in our everyday lives. Deaths in war are tragic, but so are deaths on the home front.

Steve Rahm

Whittier

Like Retmier, my father was a 19-year-old volunteer Navy hospital man. Dad survived his war, however, and did return to become a doctor and the father of two children.

I can't say whether World War II was necessary, but I'm certain it could have been avoided. "War is the health of the state," as essayist Randolph Bourne put it so perfectly during World War I. Many people profit from wars, from heroes to politicians to manufacturers. And lives are the currency, not just those of battle victims but those of future generations. My heart goes out to Marc's parents and all those losing children to this tragic mistake.

Jon K. Williams

Goleta

I think to give one's life for the cause in Afghanistan is one of the few worthy causes the United States has engaged our troops in over the last 50 years.

Unfortunately, Bush took our eye off the mark with his foolish excursion to Iraq. He has allowed the Taliban to set up shop again and use its insane fanaticism to cause havoc all over the region. We must rid the world of these religious bigots.

My hat goes off to Retmier for his courageous service. And my condolences go to his family for their great loss.

Steve Baker

Los Angeles

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