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Boots, hats represent fallen in Iraq

by: Photo By Susan Matheny - J. Olson, right, who travels with the Eyes Wide Open exhibit, comforts a visitor to the exhibit, Erin Sweedon, a counselor who works with Warm Springs veterans. Some of the visitors were overwhelmed by the representation of those killed in the Iraq War.


   Sixty-five pairs of combat boots, seven contractor's hard hats, and 100 pairs of street shoes were spread across Friendship Park Saturday in the Eyes Wide Open exhibit honoring those who have died in the Iraq War.
   Organized by the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker-based group, the shoes and hats represent the 65 Oregon soldiers, seven Oregon contractors who have been killed, and the estimated 600,000 Iraqi civilians who have died.
   Pat Shields, who travels with the exhibit, said the purpose is "To build awareness about the war in Iraq and what it costs America in terms of dollars and lives, both American and Iraqi. We'd like people to discuss what the display means to them."
   Shields said she personally polishes and tags all the boots with the names of the Oregon soldiers killed, their ages and towns they are from. A pair of boots at the front of the rows in which a red carnation was placed was marked in honor of Pfc. Thomas Tucker from Madras.
   The civilian shoes are also tagged with actual names of Iraqis who Shields has been able to verify were killed by military action.
   Strung in rows along the park's fence were prayer flags, with the goal of recording personal messages to each of the 2,770 American soldiers who have died in the war so far. Viewers could make a prayer flag or write in a comment book.
   "We want to honor the people who have died. It's so easy to forget them," Shields said, noting the exhibit has been to six towns so far, with four more stops scheduled.
   Visitors to the display were each given 10 pennies to place in slots to vote on where tax dollars should be spent. Choices include military, health, interest on debt, education, vet's benefits, housing, and others.
   Two students, Bryanna Piper, 14, and Lennie Hudson, 9, came to see the display because one of their teachers had mentioned it.
   "I can't believe how many civilians were killed, and even a baby ... that's sad," Lennie said.
   At 6:30 p.m., a candlelight vigil was held, with volunteers bringing up pairs of boots and reading the names as a gong was rung.
   Madras resident Coralee Popp, who helped with the exhibit, said one of the most moving moments of the day was when she observed a young Madras man on crutches looking for a particular pair of boots.
   "When he found them, he told me that he was the replacement for the young soldier who once filled those boots ... he was supposed to leave Iraq and go home. Shortly afterward, while he was with that soldier in a truck with three other soldiers, they hit an explosive device," Popp said, noting the soldier who was due to go home was the only one killed.