Beacon Journal | 04/30/2005 | Peace activists to set up 1,000 crosses
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Posted on Sat, Apr. 30, 2005

Peace activists to set up 1,000 crosses

Veterans group moved by Iraq war will bring display to KSU as part of tour of U.S. colleges

Beacon Journal staff writer

Sometimes the human costs of war can get lost in the hubbub of life.

So the Los Angeles chapter of Veterans for Peace will offer a strong visual reminder at the 35th annual commemoration of the May 4 shootings at Kent State.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the group will showcase 1,000 white wooden crosses in the field next to the Prentice Hall parking lot.

This is one of 10 stops the exhibition is making at colleges around the country to remind people that a war is going on.

``It's disturbing for some people, and at the same time, they can't look away,'' said April Fitzsimmons, an Air Force veteran and a coordinator of the exhibit. ``It's definitely raising awareness, which is our goal.''

The Los Angeles group got the idea for the Arlington National Cemetery-style display from the Santa Barbara, Calif., Veterans for Peace group, which began erecting crosses on the beach when U.S. deaths in the Iraq war were 300 to 400; the toll is now more than 1,500.

The Los Angeles chapter followed suit at the Santa Monica pier every Sunday starting in February 2004, when 540 U.S. troops had died.

This year, the group made a duplicate set of the stark crosses and took the tour on the road, starting with the University of Arizona the first week in April; it's to end at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., in the middle of May.

This takes Fitzsimmons away from her careers as an actor and writer, but she gets a lot of fulfillment from reaching out to veterans and raising their profile in the public eye, she said.

The group provides literature and counsels veterans it meets along the way. There are many to meet: She estimates that 1 million U.S. troops have rotated through the theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.

``It's an amazing way to dialogue with them, to make them feel welcome,'' she said. ``What we learned from the Vietnam War was that the men and women weren't welcomed home. We think it's OK to start acknowledging the troops now.''

Erecting all those crosses with measuring tapes and stakes is no small feat, though, and volunteers are welcome to help. Just show up at the Prentice Hall parking lot at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Information about the exhibit also is posted at

Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or

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