Vigils were held Tuesday in communities across the country - from West Bend, Wis., to Washington, D.C. - to remember the life and work of Marla Ruzicka, the 28-year-old woman who focused global attention on the fate of the thousands of civilians who have been killed and injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ruzicka's death, in an April 16 car bombing near the Baghdad airport, drew international attention. People around the world, including many folks here in Wisconsin, were drawn to the story of the California woman who gave up a career and a comfortable life in the United States to go to some of the most dangerous places on the planet. Her work in those places gave voice to the innocents who have been killed, maimed and impoverished by the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that voice was heard: As a result of Ruzicka's lobbying in Washington, Congress allocated more than $10 million to begin to compensate those who had lost family members, limbs and property.
Ruzicka's death alerted millions of new people to her work with the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), the organization she founded in April 2003 to count casualties, provide assistance and pressure the U.S. government to take responsibility for the innocent civilians harmed by U.S. forces. Now that awareness needs to translate into material support.
CIVIC lost both Ruzicka and one of the group's Iraqi allies, Faiz Ali Salim, in the car bombing. But the group is carrying on its vital work. At a time when civilian casualties in Iraq are mounting rapidly - estimates range from 24,000, according to the Iraq Body Count project, to 100,000, according to a study published in the British medical journal The Lancet - it is essential that CIVIC carry on.
"Marla's story is one of compassion and courage, and I think what she would want more than anything is for us to continue her mission and shine a spotlight on victims of war," says April Pedersen, the group's U.S. campaign manager.
We agree. It is difficult to think of anyone who did more in recent years to present the positive face of American humanity and generosity than Marla Ruzicka did with her work in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the best way to ensure that her legacy continues is by contributing to CIVIC at its Web site (www.civicworldwide.org) or by mail at: Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, 1605 Connecticut Ave. NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, DC 20009.
© 2005 Capital Times