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Silent vigil for 2,000 lives

More than 250 gather in city in name of U.S. military deaths in Iraq War
By Chad Umble, Intelligencer Journal Staff
Intelligencer Journal
Published: Oct 27, 2005 9:06 AM EST

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - More than 250 people gathered Wednesday on the steps of the old Lancaster County Courthouse to silently mark the 2,000th U.S. military death in Iraq.

According to Associated Press reports, the 2,000th death occurred Tuesday, when the U.S. military reported the deaths of three soldiers.

Wednesday evening's candlelight vigil in Lancaster was one of thousands organized around the country to mark the milestone, which comes 31 months after the start of the war.

"It is important for it to be visible, that we're feeling the human cost of war. That it is not going unnoticed," said Matthew Smucker, coordinator for Lancaster Coalition for Peace & Justice, which organized Wednesday's event.

Vigil participants filled the steps of the old courthouse on East King Street and spilled onto the sidewalk. They stood quietly for 22 minutes while holding candles.

"It was a mood of both mourning but also standing for an alternative to the current policy," Smucker said. "We hold this administration responsible for the ravages of war."

The vigil drew several honks and shouts of approval from passing cars.

Sari Marsh, 18, of Lititz, said the near death of her 26-year-old cousin in Iraq made the U.S. casualties there seem real.

"These people aren't numbers; they are actual people, and it is horrendous that it is at 2,000," Marsh said.

"It is just a needless loss of life," said Matthew Davis, 29, of Lancaster.

Several participants carried signs declaring opposition to the war, including ones that said, "No More Deaths, No More Dollars" and "Blessed Are the Peacemakers."

"It has just become ridiculous. I thought it was a stupid idea from the beginning, but now it has gotten out of hand," said Yvy Meyer, 17, of Lititz.

"As peace activists, we think there are better ways to solve problems than by killing each other," said Al Claassen, 80, of Akron who attended the vigil with his wife, Gladys, 82.

But not all the crowd was against the war. Linda Morrow supports it, but she came to the vigil "to pay tribute to the soldiers that have passed on."

Morrow wore a T-Shirt with a picture of her son, Lance Cpl. Mark Morrow, who is serving in Iraq. Mark's picture was emblazoned on Morrow's shirt below the phrase, "Defending our freedom."

Yet Morrow said she wasn't put off by the anti-war sentiment of the crowd.

"It is freedom of speech," Morrow said. "It is freedom to have the choice of what you believe in, and I support my son."

Former Marine Lawrence Wilson, 30, of Lancaster returned in June from a year in Iraq. He attended the vigil in his uniform and said that while he supports the war, he understands the grief as the casualty count from it passes the 2,000 mark.

"Realistically, it hurts to hear such a number," Wilson said.

Vicki Albertson, 25, of Lancaster said she strongly opposes the war but sympathizes with those fighting it.

"I support the troops, but that doesn't mean they should be over there. I support bringing them home immediately," Albertson said.


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