May 4, 2005

Crosses honor soldiers killed in Iraq

Sacrifice `never forgotten'

`Arlington West' -- reminder of war, place to grieve -- visits Kent State campus
By Sandra M. Klepach
Beacon Journal staff writer

Between classes, Kent State freshman Ian Murray rested a yellow carnation beside one of 1,000 crosses memorializing soldiers and Marines killed in the Iraq war.

He attached a note: ``To all my brothers and sisters, never forgotten.''

Murray, 21, returned from Iraq in August after serving 19 months.

``The people that I served with, they're my chosen family,'' said Murray, an athletic-training major. ``There are people out there sacrificing not only their time but their lives for freedom.... That's generally right in front of people, but whether or not they realize it is up to them.''

Covering about 15,000 square feet of a field behind Taylor Hall, a representation of Arlington National Cemetery made its mark Tuesday at Kent State University -- a day before annual May 4 commemorations.

The dozens of red crosses in the field each represented 10 lives lost and the hundreds of white crosses are meant to remember a single life lost.

The display, Arlington West: On the Road, will visit 10 college campuses nationwide before ending its run later this month.

About 250,000, or half, of National Guardsmen and reserves attend college, said April Fitzsimmons, part of Veterans for Peace -- Los Angeles. Crosses displayed on a beach in Santa Monica, Calif., every Sunday since February 2004 inspired the tour.

``We try to keep the memorial apolitical because the other objective, in addition to reminding people there is a war going and distributing information to reservists, is to provide the community with a place to grieve,'' she said. ``There's a lack of awareness that there is still a war going on and we're losing (an average of) two people a day.''

Crosses took almost three hours to line up, said Kim Slowbe, 19, a volunteer with United Service Organizations of Northern Ohio.

``It hits hard. It hits really hard,'' said the sophomore nursing major as she viewed pictures overlooking the crosses of the first 1,000 soldiers killed. ``Thank God I don't know anyone on this board, and I pray that I never do.''

A metal sign gave passing students the figures: ``1,587 killed, 11,888 wounded.''

Russell Galeti, 24, who served in Iraq for 10 months, found the depiction fair; his brigade lost five people.

``It goes to show you that war shouldn't be taken lightly,'' said the senior history and political science major. ``I take issue with people linking May 4 to the Iraq War.... But I think, in the spirit of May 4, this is about inquiring, learning and reflecting.''

The display will continue through today. Veterans grieving or in distress can contact the Parma Vet Center at 440-845-5023.

Sandra M. Klepach can be reached at 330-996-3746 or

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