Campus remembers fallen soldiers

Oscar Abello

The Oreo was overtaken for two days this week by over one hundred pairs of boots, each representing one deceased soldier from Pennsylvania who was lost thus far in Iraq, as part of an ongoing tour sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee.

Current members of the Villanova community, along with future members visiting campus guided by members of the Blue Key Society, had the opportunity to take note of the toll the war has had on both our fellow Americans, and also the Iraqis. Fifty pairs of civilian shoes, representing the number of Iraqi civilians that die per U.S. soldier, surrounded one pair of boots.

“The human costs on both sides of this war are shameful because our leaders are still looking for ways to justify it,” Jason H. Brown (’06) noted. “It’s an injustice that the families of 2,477 dead American servicemen and women, as well as the 100,000 dead and innocent Iraqis, that our country continues to pretend that this was in any way a war fought for just ends through just means.”

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) was founded in 1917 by Quakers to allow conscientious objectors an opportunity to aid civilian war victims. In 1947 it was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with its British counterpart, the British Friends Service Council.The exhibit began in 2004 with 504 pairs of boots on display in Chicago, and as a national project has gained widespread support as the number of pairs has increased with every new casualty, now numbering in excess of 2,400. Along with the boots, a memorial wall tours with the national exhibit to memorialize the Iraqis who have died, now listing over 11,000 names. Observers have often left tags, notes, letters, flags or other forms of remembrance on the pair of boots of a lost friend or family member, and these also travel with the boots around the country now as part of the tour.

University Vice President Dr. Helen Lafferty passed by the exhibit, struck by sadness in its sight and yet uplifted to see students also being affected by such a powerful display of the costs of war.

“You, the students are my hope,” Lafferty said. Other staff, faculty and administrators joined Dr. Lafferty in her sentiments. Among those students is Brown, who will be moving on to become part of the Augustinian Order of the Priesthood. “I think it’s fantastic that this exhibit can provide common ground for people on both sides of the war debate to meet on and actually hear each other,” Brown added.

“But I think that any kind of statement that does not demand answers from our government on the war issue would be a failure. I think this exhibit does both wonderfully. It’s both a way to stand up and constructively call for the troops to be brought home, and demand accountability from this administration.”

The display of boots was sponsored by Villanovans for Peace, as part of this year’s Peace and Justice Awareness week.

Events were arranged throughout the week encompassing a diverse set of issues, such as Darfur, world hunger, the ethical treatment of animals, supporting impoverished single mothers, the wind power campaign for Villanova and economic justice particularly in Latin America. The University celebrated Fair Trade day was this past Thursday, bringing Catholic Relief Service’s Michael Sheridan to campus for presentation and discussion. Sheridan is the director of the CRS Fair Trade Coffee Program.