It’s hard to ignore the blue signs in front of the homes on West Broadway. In a few words, the signs declare what seems to be a growing sentiment in the United States: “End the Occupation, Bring Our Troops Home.”
The signs are found on almost every corner of Columbia and serve as reminders that while President George W. Bush declared major combat over on May 2, Operation Iraqi Freedom continues to put demands on the country’s troops.
Mark Haim, director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, which makes the anti-occupation signs available to the public, hopes the signs remind Columbia that Veteran’s Day initially recognized the end of World War I.
“We must remember that Nov. 11 was initially celebrated because that’s the day the killing stopped,” Haim said. “While we started out celebrating peace, in recent decades this meaning has been lost.”
Dwight Rieman, a World War II veteran, lives on South Garth Avenue and is “very glad” to display his “End the Occupation” sign. “It’s a small protest, but I think we have to do what we can where we are,” Rieman said.
Rieman said that his sign, along with others on his street, has been stolen or vandalized on a few occasions since the war began. All the anti-occupation signs on South Garth Avenue were stolen on a single night about a month ago, Rieman said.
Rieman, also a member of Veterans for Peace, believes that the war in Iraq was a mistake and that the occupation should be supervised by the United Nations and NATO, not the United States.
“The war was conducted very efficiently, but we were very unprepared for the peace-building process,” Rieman said. “The troops should be withdrawn, and the military should be supervised by a neutral organization like NATO, not us, because we are the conquerors.”
Jennifer Craven put her anti-occupation sign in the front yard of her Aldeah Avenue home a month and a half ago. She said America needs to bring its troops home.
“We didn’t exhaust diplomatic means beforehand, and soldiers keep dying,” Craven said.
Despite the increasing call for the United States to withdraw from Iraq, more troops are being ordered in. Thousands of reservists and National Guard units have been notified to prepare for mobilization. On Monday, four Missouri National Guard units received mobilization orders.
Ashland resident Darrell Crews served in Kuwait and Iraq with a Navy Special Warfare Unit during the Gulf War for 11 ½ months. Crews, 31, has noticed the anti-occupation signs around town, and isn’t particularly happy about them.
“They just need to serve their country, and they’ll understand better,” Crews said of the anti-occupation crowd.