Friday, July 22, 2005

Des Moines

This note comes from Celeste Zapalla, a mother who lost her son Sherwood Baker in the Iraq War. Sherwood was the first National Guard soldier from Pennsylvania killed in war since WWII.

"I was in Des Moines, Iowa with other military families during the National Governor's Conference. The American Friends Service Committee sponsored a display of the empty boots of the 233 National Guard who have died thus far.

The hope of the event was to get the Governors to focus on the terrible conditions the Guard are experiencing and the fact that these decent people who signed up as the homeland guard are being used up by this war based on deception. Good and decent people, all ages, races, men and women young kids and grand-dad -- their names attached to the silent boots spread on the nearly treeless side walk
in unforgiving heat.

A Mom and her two daughters, aged 8 and 17 whose Dad is in Iraq from Military Families Speak Out was there, the little girl braved the heat all day, with such devotion to the picture of her Dad that she carried, alternating between her little girl courage and her deep sadness. Kids should not be in such a position, her wonderful Dad has made it very clear that the pretenses and conditions of war in Iraq are betrayal to him and his fellows. Little Mary was his witness.

We had invited the Governors to join us during the two day event, to pay respects or to read the names of the fallen. We were grateful for the fine people who came out to support us and the press coverage was pretty thorough.

However, the only governor who attended was our Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. I was surprised and grateful that he came on Saturday to pay respect, and to tell us that no matter how anyone feels about the war, the consequences -- represented by those boots -- have to be recognized, reckoned with and accounted for. We stood together and stared at the boots with Sher's name and the last picture of our family with him alive. In that hot silence the anguish of all the families was overpowering -- and All of us are witnesses to that great sadness..."

with peace and hope

This is the story from the Des Moines Register, with Mary's picture.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Reflections from Iowa

An AFSC staff person writes hurriedly from the road:

The boots display is awesome and inspiring. I wish I had the time now to tell you about the wife, grandparents, "buddy" and cousins who stopped by the display in Iowa City - the tears, the "thank yous", the questioning looks.

Strangers came by throughout the day and sat and listened as the names
were ready, occasionally dabbing at tears. Those who were there at the
end of the day, as we started placing the boots back in the bags to
transport to our next stop, came forward with offers of help: "Give me a
bag", I can help.

This display touches deeply and seemingly calls people into supportive

Saturday, July 16, 2005

National Guard Memorial in Iowa City

As the National Guard Memorial stopped in Iowa City, a local volunteer writes this account:

"The most heart felt moment for me was a Canadian Native American who knew nothing about the exhibit until he and a friend passed by. He was moved to go back to his living quarters and bring back a drum and asked if he could sing a lament for the dead and a blessing song for those still in Iraq. It was a beautiful Native American chant-song that he sang as he accompanied himself on his drum. The only words that I could recognize were " Soldier boy, soldier girl" that came through as a refrain, the rest being in his native language.

I could hardly speak as I thanked him, I was so choked up. Others who heard it were deeply moved.

We have had many verbal and written words of thanks . The last being a neighbor here at my retirement residence who sent me a clipping of the event from the paper and the words "Bless you" written across the bottom."

National Guard Memorial in Iowa Debuts

A memorial of 230 pairs of combat boots each tagged with the name, rank, age and home state of National Guard soldiers who have died in Iraq made its debut in Iowa this week. AFSC staffer from Des Moines took the memorial to Devenport, Cedar Falls and Iowa City before ending at the National Governor's Conference in Des Moines yesterday.

The Memorial is drawing attention to the high rate of loss among National Guard troops in Iraq. These men and women signed up for domestic duty and their families do not have access to the same kinds of health benefits available to reserve and regular military.

Pierrette Wolfe of Clinton, one of the peopke attending the Memorial in Des Moines, has a 40-year-old son who's a career member of the Guard. She believes her son will eventually be called to active duty in Iraq. Right now, he's in Iowa City, training Guard members who work in ambulance crews that she says "will go over and mop up the carnage." Wolfe says she's "O.K." with what her son's doing, but she worries that it's just a matter of time before he is sent to Iraq. Wolfe accuses President Bush of using "trumped up" evidence of weapons of mass destruction to go into Iraq. "We had no legal right to go in there and invade a country," Wolfe says. "There's no way that you can bring democracy through the barrel of a gun." [from a report on Iowa radio]