A soldier needs many tools for daily survival, particularly when fighting a war that has now passed the two-year anniversary mark and shows no signs of slowing down.
In the desert heat of Iraq, our soldiers find comfort in care packages filled with sunscreen, foot powder and sweet snacks. They need armor, water and relief from the heat. And, like all of us, they need boots on their feet.
This sea of boots has come to represent the lives lost in a war that continues to fill us with grief. The boots are sad reminders that the loss of life continues on a daily basis.
When war strikes, we are bombarded with images that leave an indelible mark. We cannot turn away from these images, nor can we ignore the sorrow they represent.
The American Friends Service Committee, along with generous support from United States military family members, has assembled a memorial exhibit that represents the lives lost in Iraq and openly grieves the cost of war. This traveling exhibit, titled "Eyes Wide Open," arrived in the Pacific Northwest in early April. It was on display in Seattle this past weekend.
Comprised of pairs and pairs of boots and shoes side by side, the exhibit compels us to imagine the lives represented and lost in Iraq. The simple dignity of a pair of battered Army boots speaks of a life destroyed in battle. A pair of ordinary walking shoes illustrates an Iraqi life lost and a country now torn apart by war.
More than 1,500 U.S. soldiers and up to 100,000 Iraqi civilians and combatants have died in this war. These numbers continue to grow, while media attention and headlines disappear.
Through our exhibit we are reminded, as we hope to remind others, that we cannot and will not turn away from the loss of human life caused by war. We will honor those lives by examining the cost of war with our eyes wide open. And we will grieve together as we ask the tough questions about why we have allowed these lives to be lost.
Our country is filled with many people suffering in silence over the loss of humanity caused by the ravages of war. Many ask themselves questions that no one wants to speak: "Why my husband? Why my daughter? Why did it have to be my son? My wife?"
This grief cannot be easily answered, nor can it be hidden away. We must grieve together, and we must grieve publicly.
Public grief leads to tough political questions, and they are questions for which we need answers. "Why is this war really being fought, and what is the cost to both nations?"
The process is not easy and there are no quick solutions. But great nations must not be afraid to ask difficult questions. Together we might find answers that serve us better in the future.
The United States currently spends trillions of dollars on its military infrastructure and increasingly elaborate weapons systems. A tremendous amount of effort is devoted to war preparedness and countless resources are devoted to arming soldiers and civilians.
Envision a world where this money is instead spent on eliminating worldwide poverty. Imagine a world where the creative ingenuity, willpower and effort spent on a war is instead used to foster international conflict-resolution and genocide-prevention programs. Conceive of a world where our resources are used to create unified and effective international institutions that hold tyrants and dictators accountable.
This world is within our grasp, but we must have the courage to claim it. We have only to say that now is the time to end the historic cycle of violence, and use our spirit, ingenuity and strength to create a more-peaceful world.
Through "Eyes Wide Open," we mourn together, we question together, and we seek answers together. Let us move away from fear toward hope by doing everything in our power to prevent war from this day forward.
May we pledge as a nation to add not one more boot or shoe to this troubled sea before us.
Susan Segall is regional director of the American Friends Service Committee for the Pacific Northwest region. Stacy Bannerman of Kent is the wife of a Washington Army National Guardsman currently in Iraq. Susan Livingston of Blaine is the sister of Army Spc. Joe Blickenstaff, who was killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom on Dec. 8, 2003.
© 2005 Seattle Times