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2,000 U.S. soldiers dead in Iraq recalled in vigil at Capitol


Participants highlight the war's effect on families
MATT MONAGHAN and MICHAEL ROSE
Statesman Journal (Oregon)

October 27, 2005

Mid-Valley residents gathered Wednesday to call for peace and to commemorate the 2,000 U.S. service members killed in Iraq.

More than 100 people gathered on the Capitol steps for a candlelight vigil. The names of the dead were read with a somber cadence. People standing in a circle said it was important to remember the war's toll on U.S. families.

"People think of war as something impersonal and over there, but it isn't," said Renee Stringham, a Salem physician and a Quaker who objects to the war on religious grounds. She is part of another group that gathers every Wednesday in downtown Salem to protest the war.

"I support the people who serve their nation, but I don't think they are being well-served by their leaders," said Margaret Strong, one of the organizers of the vigil. Strong was at a vigil a year ago when the U.S. war dead reached 1,000. Her husband did a stint in Iraq with the Oregon National Guard.

Sue Billet of Salem said that the war never should have happened and that it's time to bring the troops home. Calling attention to the number of casualties is an act of patriotism, she said.

Rob Bjornstad, a pastor with Peace Lutheran Church in Salem, said he opposes the war but doubts that U.S. troops will be able to leave soon.

"We have an obligation because we have made a mess, so there are probably more names we will have to read before it's over," he said.

Earlier in the day, a small group of protesters affiliated with Oregon PeaceWorks met at Court and High streets NE in Salem.

"The war was a fabricated event, and we got sucked into it because we had people leading us that had no compunction about lying," said Frank Lawton of Salem.

Alex Gori of Salem said he wouldn't call 2,000 deaths a sacrifice.

"No one sacrificed their lives; they were killed," Gori said. "No one went there and said, 'I'm going to sacrifice my life. Go ahead, shoot me! Kill me!'"

Today's protest will be Gori's second demonstration against the war. Gori and his wife, Joyce, also marched in London shortly before the U.S. invasion.

Susan Trueblood-Stuart held a sign reading, "2,000 dead. Is your child next?"

mmonagha@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6744; mrose@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6657

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