Traprock Peace Center
103A Keets Road, Deerfield, MA 01342 (413) 773-7427 www.traprockpeace.org
Together We Explore Nonviolence, Foster Community, Work to end war, Promote Communication & Take Initiatives on Environmental and Justice issues
Eyes Wide Open, Turners Falls, Massachusetts
- August 4, 2004
photos @ 2004 Susan Callahan, Sunny Miller and Charles Jenks 8/5/04*
The "Eyes Wide Open" Exhibition, a memorial to the victims of war - honors both the US soldiers who have died and been wounded and the approxinately 11,429 -13,298 (as of August 5, 2004) Iraqi civilians killed during the war and occupation. The exhibit is a moving testimony to the real costs of war. A central part of the exhibit are the 921 pairs of boots (a number that grows daily) that represent the US soldiers killed in the war. This, of course, is an underestimate of the true numbers killed. It does not include (and how could it keep track of) the soldiers who have committed suicide after returning from Iraq (as did a young soldier in Belchertown, MA) or who have died of their wounds or injuries after returning.
The exhibit was created by American Friends Service Committee (AFSC in Chicago). Traprock Peace Center organized the exhibit's showing in Turners Falls, MA, with cooperation and help from Western Mass AFSC, which organized the tour of this exhibit through Western Massachusetts. Traprock thanks many people in Turners Falls, including the Board of Select People for granting permission for the using the lovely park at the Discovery Center in downtown Turners Falls, Leo Parent, for his early support and help; and David for making the Great Falls Discovery Center a welcoming place. We also thank the many people who helped in setting up, and, sadly, in taking down this exhibit. The Greenfield Recorder wrote a article on the exhibit - please see it HERE.
To host this exhibit in your area, contact AFSC in Chicago HERE. For numbers of Iraqi civilians killed, see Iraq Body Count and for military fatalities and wounded, see Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. See also breaking news on Iraq from AFSC. And see dates in NYC during the Republican National Convention.
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The number of dead (again, not reflecting those who died or committed suicide after returning from Iraq) had rised to 921 by the time of the exhibit.
Unpacking the boxes.
Sunny Miller, Executive DIrector, Traprock Peace Center with her counterpart from Western Mass AFSC, Jo Comerford.
Reading aloud the names of the fallen.
Volunteers who had helped set up gathered for a circle of sharing.
People started to come early, and a continuous stream of people, from town and from other towns, came throughout the day.
* Photos in "DSC" series by Susan Callahan, except where the number ends in "s" - these are by Sunny Miller; photos in the "IMG" series by Charles Jenks.
August 5, 2004
Empty boots bring home costs of war: Mother adds
son's boots to exhibit
By KAREN P. CHYNOWETH
TURNERS FALLS -
For the first time in almost a year, Kathleen Belanger went
up to the attic to go through her son's things. Specifically, she was looking
for a pair of size 91⁄2 wide, black combat boots. The ones with Sgt.
Gregory Belanger's name and social security number sewn on a tag inside.
She took his boots to Turners Falls Wednesday and set them down in place of the ones that had been symbolically assigned to him in the nationally touring exhibit "Eyes Wide Open."
"The (other) boots were too small and they had someone else's name in them," she said and lamented the anonymous pair will go on to represent another person's child.
The American Friends Service Committee of Chicago created "Eyes Wide Open" and debuted it on Jan. 23, only a couple of days after the 500th casualty was reported.
The Traprock Peace Center of Deerfield arranged to bring the boots to Turners Falls in a display called "A circle of reflection."
As of Wednesday, 921 U.S. soldiers had been killed in Iraq: 921 pairs of boots bearing the names of the dead were arranged in a circle on the Great Falls Discovery Center lawn.
Belanger's boots will continue on with the exhibit, representing just one of the hundreds of U.S. soldiers killed in the war in Iraq. Originally from South Deerfield, he died Aug. 27, 2003 from injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device blew up his vehicle in Al Hallia.
A tag affixed to each pair of boots introduces visitors to those dead soldiers who might otherwise be nameless.
Spc. Israel Garza, 25, from Texas was killed in Baghdad in April when Iraqis attacked his unit with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire. Sgt. Keicia Hines, 27, of California was killed in Mosul when a vehicle struck her on Mosul Airfield in January.
The names and ages of these men and women are sometimes forgotten in the blur of news stories arriving from the Iraqi battlefields. The boot exhibit is meant to remind people.
Rick Regan of Gill was just passing by when he noticed the memorial.
"It's moving," he said. "A lot of the things you see on television are so distant; it doesn't put a face on it. In this case, it puts a boot on it. It's sad, whatever side you take on whether we should be there."
Veterans Agent and Director Leo Parent was one of the volunteers who set up the boots. He repeats the number of dead and wounded like a mantra - 921 dead, 5,804 wounded. He keeps track of the number each day and posts it on a sign by the Veterans Memorial on Avenue A and adds a corresponding flag to the memorial beside the library.
But the names and ages -19, 20, 21 - on so many boots brought back memories of when he was that age and his friends were dying in Vietnam.
"You just look at the boots and it's the face of the human being, you can read the name," he said, pausing solemnly. "I think (the exhibit) is good. As of today, 5,804 of them wounded, 921 of them lost their lives defending the country in Iraq."
Volunteers scattered civilian shoes of varying styles in the center of the exhibit and around the edges to represent the more than 16,000 Iraqi civilians killed during the war.
Sunny Miller, director of Traprock Peace Center, didn't want the shoes arranged in any order because she said that doesn't represent what the Iraqi lives are like.
"Their lives haven't been in order for 10 years. Their lives haven't been in order since we blew up their bridges and roads and water treatment plants," Miller said.
She said the paired soldiers' boots also painted too clean a picture.
"Putting the boots in pairs doesn't represent the legs blown off, the lives torn apart," Miller said.
But Kathleen Belanger believes you can't let the pain destroy you, and the mothers, fathers, friends and fiancees that have lost a soldier should continue living and learn to enjoy life again in order to honor their deaths.
It has been almost a year since Gregory Belanger was killed. His mother is dealing with the pain by talking with and bonding with the mother of a soldier who made it home alive.
She left an American flag, two photographs and a Yankee Magazine article about her son to travel around the country with the display, reminding people a soldier once stood in those boots.
She said it meant a lot to her to see ordinary citizens honoring the deaths of American soldiers.
"When I was young, Vietnam vets were not honored the way our men are," she said. "The pain will always be there. So many lives have been changed forever, but I'm still proud of him."
The exhibit will be in Easthampton today, in Holyoke on Friday and Springfield on Saturday.
You can reach Karen P. Chynoweth at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (413) 772-0261 Ext. 253
Sites for Eyes Wide Open in New York City
August 28 – September 6: Republican National Convention and New York City
Saturday, August 28th
"Cherry Hill" in Central Park
72nd Street between "Strawberry Fields" & Bethesda Fountain
Sunday, August 29th - Tuesday, August 31st
Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square South
Wednesday, September 1st
14th Street & Broadway
Thursday, September 2nd - Monday, September 6th
Judson Memorial Church
American Friends Service Committee
1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia PA 19102
Tel: 215/241-7170 / Fax:215/241-7177
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