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Beyond these boots,
the human cost of war

Display urges onlookers to leave behind politics and honor the fallen

 by Kyle Snow
 published on Tuesday, February 27, 2007

EMPTY BOOTS: Army boots representing those who have lost their lives as a result of the war in Iraq were displayed on Hayden Lawn Monday.  The anti-war memorial was presented by Eyes Wide Open./issues/news/700027
Andrea Bloom / THE STATE PRESS
EMPTY BOOTS: Army boots representing those who have lost their lives as a result of the war in Iraq were displayed on Hayden Lawn Monday. The anti-war memorial was presented by Eyes Wide Open.
 

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The bell rang out as the name of each fallen Arizonan soldier was read aloud Monday on Hayden Lawn.

Eyes Wide Open, a memorial for National Guard soldiers who have died in the Iraq War, drew the attention of passersby as more than 400 pairs of empty boots and civilian shoes lay on the green grass. The exhibit will continue today.

The boots represent the hundreds of fallen National Guard and Arizona military soldiers who died in Iraq, said Cheri Lippman, Valley coordinator for Eyes Wide Open. The 50 pairs of civilian shoes symbolize the average number of Iraqi civilian deaths every day, she said.

Some students stopped to listen to the names of the Arizona soldiers and speeches, but many simply looked and kept walking.

A few students, like accounting junior Nick Jennings, were drawn in to the center of Hayden Lawn, where they were completely surrounded by empty shoes.

"I don't think there's much to say about [the memorial]," he said. "All you can do is just stand silent and reflect on what it all means."

National Guard soldier Glenn Ray, who is an 18-year veteran of the service, spoke at the ceremony, urging people to honor the soldiers and forget about political and personal biases.

"This new Band of Brothers [must] go into harm's way, not alone, but with our support," Ray said. "We must show them that their lives are more important than our petty political or personal biases."

The memorial is about the soldiers, not the politics, he said.

People often forget about the actual soldiers in times of war, he added.

"To a soldier, honor and integrity are immune from the distractions of arbitrary authority or political bias," Ray said. "They are there for each other - the buddy that serves beside them, the people they are trying to defend."

The boots have the names of the fallen soldiers and some have personal memorials from the family, said Chris Guy, a participant in the ceremony.

"Boots are boots," Guy said. "But when families start leaving memorials and tokens with the boots, it adds an immeasurable gravity to the representation of a father or brother."

This approach is designed to catch people's attention, said Sherry Bohlen, a member of Military Families Speak Out. Bohlen spoke at the ceremony.

"We just want people to recognize the human price of war, and this is a very simple and direct way to do that," Bohlen said.

Seeing boots lying across the lawn is a very profound and poignant gesture to draw attention, English junior Matt Watkins said.

"I don't think it's that people don't care, but I think people don't want to be bothered with this [reality]," Watkins said. "It's easier to be apathetic."

The memorial is an effective way to get attention, he said.

"It makes you look at what's going on, and it tugs people out of their apathy," Watkins said.

Guy said that many people like to avoid the reality of war.

"A lot of people want to avert their eyes from this because it's reality," he said. "It's not just a video game - people do die. You can't just load in a couple more quarters and start over again."


Reach the reporter at: kyle.snow@asu.edu.



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