Naked City

Eye Opener on Iraq

Naked City

At the height of the Vietnam War, television news often featured the flag-draped coffins of U.S. soldiers, not to mention the notorious body counts of dead Vietnamese "enemies." The Bush administration's Pentagon has banned photography of returning military coffins, and the human toll of the Iraq War has been largely kept out of sight of the American public. To help put a human face on the war, the American Friends Service Committee has created a traveling exhibit commemorating the loss of human life in Iraq. "Eyes Wide Open," a memorial to the soldiers and civilians who have died in the current war, has toured throughout the country and will visit Austin Feb. 15-17, in a three-day event sponsored by the Austin AFSC, the Austin Center for Peace and Justice, and Friends Meeting of Austin.

The exhibit features more than 1,400 pairs of empty combat boots – one pair for each American soldier killed – and a 32-foot "Wall of Remembrance" featuring Iraqi names and incidents of Iraqi civilian deaths. Yvonne Montejano of the Austin office of the AFSC says the event is not meant to be overtly political, but rather a reflection on the human costs of war. "It's a memorial to all of the people who have died over there," she said. "It's not an anti-Iraq War protest. … We want to make this a space where people can just come and reflect on their own terms." Each pair of empty boots, as poignant as a gravestone, displays the name of a soldier, his or her rank, age, and home state. As this exhibition has traveled throughout the country, family members of fallen soldiers have sought out the pair of boots dedicated to their loved one, and the exhibition has become part of a national grieving process.

The free public memorial will take place at the Zilker Park Peace Grove from 10am to 8pm each day, with an opening ceremony at 7pm, Tuesday, Feb. 15, featuring Fort Worth state Rep. Lon Burnam, musicians, and a group prayer (bring a flashlight; rain date is Feb. 16). The organizers also need as many as 200 volunteers for help setting up and closing down; call Thad Crouch at 474-2399 or e-mail thad_crouch@yahoo.com. (For more information, see www.afsc.org/eyes, and click on Austin.)

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

American Friends Service Committee, Lon Burnam, Yvonne Montejano, Iraq War, Austin Center for Peace and Justice, Friends Meeting of Austin, Thad Crouch

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