My Turn: Save coffins for Halloween

Posted: Sunday, October 30, 2005

Thank you to Tony Carroll for his article "Some protest use of casket in anti-war demonstrations" in the Oct. 28 Empire.

I wholeheartedly agree with Sharon Parks in the opinion that the Veterans for Peace and Juneau People for Peace and Justice were extremely insensitive in their use of a flag-draped casket during their recent protest.

The protesters' timing in doing so adds insult to injury, as they did this just after two young men in the Stryker Brigade (my son's brigade out of Fairbanks) were killed in Mosul, Iraq. One of the young men was killed on his 22nd birthday when a sniper shot him in the head. I'm certain that if there are any protesters of the war in his hometown, they did not bring out a flag-draped casket to put on display.

Using simple logic, common sense and compassion, it should have occurred to the local protesters that there are many of us in Juneau with family members and friends currently in Iraq and Afghanistan who would most certainly be hurt and offended to see or hear about their sick display.

Just because we have loved ones over there does not mean we are against having peace. We all look forward to our loved ones coming home as soon as possible. Protesting will not bring our loved ones home any sooner. Every day we're praying our loved ones and their fellow soldiers come home soon and not in a casket. The sight of a casket draped with a flag automatically invokes for many the image of fallen military personnel. Our soldiers (and those of us left behind at home) deserve respect and support, not disrespect, mockery and indifference.

Whether on the home front or elsewhere, our soldiers fight for freedom and to protect us. And yes, this includes the right for people to protest. But the protesters should bear in mind that those of us who currently have beloved family and friends over there in the middle of the conflict know far more than they do right now about "the cost of the war." We carry it in our hearts every single day and night, and so do the young men and women who have had to carry their fallen comrades back to the base after witnessing their deaths.

The protesters' act of trying to "shock and awe" the rest of us with a flag-draped casket does not sit well. Mr. Dunker contends that opposition of his group's use of the casket isn't the prevalent opinion he hears. It is my opinion that to try and reason with people who would do such a thing would be a waste of time as the words would be falling on deaf ears, so who would bother with him directly?

I often send newspapers from home to my son but will not send this particular one, which shows the insensitive display on our own courthouse steps. It would most certainly be demoralizing to my son and his fellow soldiers. In my opinion, the protesters' act of using the coffin was most certainly anti-troop and showed total disregard for the soldiers' families and friends here at home. I say this as a mother to one of those soldiers currently at risk in Iraq. I hope I never have to actually see a flag-draped casket in front of me, whether as a sick stage prop for a not-so-well-thought-out protest, or in an actual burial ceremony.

My response to the protesters in this particular display is shame on you for conducting your protest in such a way. Protest with respect. (You'll have a better chance at gaining respect and sympathizers for your cause). And save your damned coffins for Halloween, without the flag.

• Juneau resident Lisa Viteri is a mother of a soldier in Iraq.

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