Event appeals for peace

Demonstration recalls those killed in Iraq war

Posted: Sunday, March 21, 2004

For 75 minutes on Saturday afternoon in front of the Dimond Courthouse, 40 people took turns reading the names of the 568 American service members and about 330 others - a selection of coalition military personnel, Iraqi civilians and journalists - who have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq a year ago.

About 100 other people stood around the circle of readers on the breezy, 38-degree afternoon. American flags and a United Nations flag fluttered. Some attendees carried flags emblazoned with a painting of Earth.

The demonstration, part of an international effort, was sponsored locally by Juneau People for Peace and Justice and the Juneau chapter of Veterans for Peace.

"I think it was a solemn ceremony that recognizes that people can support the troops without necessarily supporting the war," said Ed Hein of Veterans for Peace. "We honor the sacrifice but we hope there won't be many more that have to make the same sacrifices."

Glen Ray, whose son Forest served as a medic in Iraq, told the attendees that he opposed the U.S. occupation of Iraq but is proud of his son for taking responsibility and following a heartfelt conviction. Forest Ray joined the Army after the Sept. 11 attacks because he wanted to help, Glen Ray said.

Gary Waid, a Vietnam veteran, told the crowd that his experience there turned him from being pro-war to anti-war.

"Today, we're here to commemorate," and he paused to collect himself, "these young men and women who have fallen in battle, and we're here to remember them as the young men and women who trust us to make the right decision for them."

Signs displayed on a grassy slope at the courthouse read: "$130 billion spent on Iraq war so far," "Iraq war is not a just war," "Bring the U.S. troops home, transfer control to United Nations."

K.J. Metcalf, one of the readers, said he was at the courthouse a year ago for a vigil when the war started. Peace groups have been meeting periodically since then.

"You feel sometimes so hopeless and helpless, and yet by being active and speaking out - that gives you hope. Being in a group that feels the same way, supporting one another, is as important as anything," he said.

The war wasn't just, Metcalf said. Now, he'd like to see the United States be part of a coalition through the U.N. to stabilize and rebuild Iraq.

In a press release, Gov. Frank Murkowski marked the one-year anniversary of what he called the Iraqi campaign in the global war on terrorism, with a statement citing the valor of American troops and the end of Saddam Hussein's tyranny.

"What we've seen, so far, is a nation reborn from the ashes of tyranny and oppression to the light of freedom and liberty," he said.

Americans don't have the right to say President Bush did something wrong, said Margaret Hunt, whose son Army Spc. Lester Hunt Jr. returned to Juneau on Thursday from a year in Iraq.

"I didn't want my son to go," she said in an interview from her home. "I was terrified every day. I know when he came home justice was served over there. ... We have freedom here in the United States. And why wouldn't we want that for the rest of the world? It's not fair to protest against it when they deserve to have what we have too."

Paula Sutton said she attended the reading because she stands for peace.

"I just think our international military activities promote more terrorism, and that's my big concern," she said. "I think we need to change - a paradigm shift toward peaceful resolution of conflict."

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