Marchers honor victims of Middle East conflicts

Thursday, July 8, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:15 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

Slowly and in single-file they walked together as in a funeral march. They proceeded behind a black coffin covered by a U.S. flag. They wore black and carried flowers, barely glancing up while honking cars blared in approval as they walked down the sidewalk.

Mid-Missouri Peaceworks held a memorial Wednesday to mark the loss of 1,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thirty marchers gathered outside the Military Recruiting Station at Broadway and Second Street and marched toward the Boone County Courthouse, carrying a makeshift coffin symbolizing the troops’ deaths and signs sporting slogans such as “Let’s work for peace.”

They ended their demonstrations at Broadway and Providence Road 30 minutes early to attend the memorial outside the courthouse. They placed a temporary tombstone near the memorials already in place to honor the loss of local residents in previous wars.

There they invited open comments; six or seven speakers stepped forward to protest the war and share their comments of grief for the loss of not just American lives but those of the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Just try to imagine 1,000 coffins,” said marcher Steve Friesen, “and multiply that times family, and multiply that times Afghans that lost their lives ... It’s overwhelming.”

But, Friesen said, “we can move beyond that. The truth is being hidden, and it will come out.”

The group listened as several marchers expressed feelings of fear and anger, holding the government responsible for the deaths of so many.

Summer Foote watched her son, Dylan, toddle around after he fingered a small helping of dirt. “As a mom,” she said, “I distrust this culture of aggression, violence and war that Bush promotes with his invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“I don’t want my son growing up knowing people are dying because of his country’s government,” Foote said.

Foote said the march is “one way to be proactive and change people’s minds about the war.” Mark Haim, director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, said the marchers were there to “grieve the loss” of those who’ve died. “We want to appreciate and to memorialize this loss of life.”

He said he hopes demonstrations such as the march will get people to take action and consider how they can influence government officials. Haim said he’d like to see people petition, write letters to the editor, demonstrate, just become “much more engaged.”

Haim and Mid-Missouri Peaceworks have been gathering every Wednesday since October 2001. He said that as long as the war and the occupation continue, “I don’t see us packing up our tents and going home.”

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