WASHINTON – There are 800 pairs of black combat boots lined up in rows. Attached to each pair is a label with a soldier's name,rank,age and hometown.
Each pair represents a soldier who has died in Iraq,and the boots are spread on a lawn across from the U.S. Capitol to remind lawmakers of the war's awful cost. Photos of each of the fallen soldiers sit on the grass in plastic sleeves.
The American Friends Service Committee is sponsoring “Eyes Wide Open: The Human Cost of War in Iraq” from Tuesday to Thursday. The exhibit,at the Upper Senate Park,includes the display of boots as well as a 24-foot wall listing the names,ages and cause of death for Iraqi civilians in the war.
Paul Vogel, who spoke at a press conference that opened the exhibit,is the father of a son who served in Iraq and is now safely home in Chicago.
Vogel traveled to Iraq in October to visit his son,who had been deployed five months earlier. Aaron Vogel's unit,the 652nd Engineer Company of the Army Reserves,took the most casualties of any reserve company serving in Iraq,Paul Vogel said. Two of the casualties came on Christmas night.
“I saw my son and comrades suffering,as well as Iraqi civilians,” Vogel said.
Paul Vogel does not consider himself to be a political activist,but a concerned American who knows the pain of a loved one risking his life in war.
“I am proud of my soldier but ashamed of our president,” Vogel said.
Marine Lance Cpl. Jesus del Solar,20,was killed March 27,2003,in Iraq when he stepped on a U.S. cluster bomb. After the death of his son,Fernando Suarez del Solar has taken an aggressive stance opposing the war in Iraq.
“The American people have the power to remove Bush from office,” del Solar said at the news conference.
Del Solar,who is from California,has traveled around the country speaking against the invasion of Iraq and the Bush administration.
The American Friends Service Committee carries out service and peace programs around the world.
“Peace,justice and humanitarian assistance represent the bedrock of our mission,” said Mary Ellen McNish,AFSC general secretary.
The organization has several programs and employees in Iraq. Another program aims to build awareness of the effects of war on Iraqi people,break down stereotypes and raise understanding of Iraq among U.S. citizens. The AFSC also collects material aid for distribution in Iraq.
The exhibit,which was created in Chicago,will travel to New England after its stop in Washington.