Peace coalition holds night vigil to honor fallen

Kevin Kolus

Sam Langstaff, Kent Roosevelt High School junior, and his girlfriend Leanna Lostoski, Walsh Jesuit High School junior, gathered at the candlelight vigil on the intersection of Franklin and Main Street last night in opposition of the current war. Tracy Tuc

Credit: Ron Soltys

They stood on the corner of Main Street and Franklin Avenue, huddling in the cold, cupping white votive candles with their hands and sharing sentiments about the 4,003 U.S. military casualties of the Iraq war.

Eighteen men, women and children from Kent came out at 8 p.m. last night to a candlelight vigil sponsored by the Portage Community Peace Coalition. The organization has been holding weekly peace vigils since December 2001.

Patti Fridrich, 38, of Kent, wore a sign around her neck that read: “STOP THE KILLING!” She said it is her hope that the weekly vigils bring the community together and inspire discussion about the Iraq war.

“I think during the past year or so there has been a lot less media attention to the war,” Fridrich said. “We’ve got 4,000 dead and God knows how many Iraqis. This has got to stop.”

Sam Langstaff, 17, a junior at Kent Roosevelt High School, held hands with his girlfriend Leanna Lostoski, 16, a junior at Walsh Jesuit High School.

It was Lostoski’s first peace vigil, but Langstaff has been coming out since the war started.

“It is a way to express our feelings,” Langstaff said. “People say this isn’t patriotic. I say it’s the most patriotic thing you can do. I love this country and don’t want to see it go down.”

Lostoski nodded her head in agreement.

“That’s a good way of putting it,” she said. “I’ve never thought about it that way.”

Other local high school students were present. Eric Vaught, 17, a junior at Kent Roosevelt High School, said this was also his first time attending a peace vigil.

“I think that it’s terrific,” Vaught said. “Maybe it’ll give somebody something to think about. It’s easy for a lot of people to turn off their TV. This gives people driving by something to see.”

Some veterans who also showed up had differing ideas about protesting the war.

Having served in the military as a medic since the early 1970s, Ken Oberholtzer, 49, of Kent, said he believes that almost everyone serving in the military today supports the war effort.

Oberholtzer was part of the invasion of Grenada, an island nation in the Caribbean, in 1983 and continued to serve in the military until 1996. He said people shouldn’t protest because it lowers military morale.

“I see things and I hear things in the news and I hear people talk,” he said. “They don’t know how they’re hurting the individual soldier.

“I picked up babies. I picked up soldiers that were shot by 10 year olds. Unless you’ve seen it, done it, you don’t know how it is.”

Johnny Pollick, 42, of Kent, had a different opinion about what soldiers think.

Pollick served in Iraq for two years in the National Guard and left when the U.S. casualties hit 2,000, which he said at the time was “too much.”

“The ones that died upset me,” he said. “A lot of people in the National Guard thought they were only going for six month deployments. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.”

Contact public affairs reporter Kevin Kolus at [email protected].