Peace memorial bears names of fallen soldiers

Michael Lewis

Thousands of white, wooden tombstones memorializing soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan filled the Commons yesterday during the 36th annual May 4 Commemoration.

The Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition spent Wednesday setting up more than 2,750 markers to represent the human cost of war, honor the fallen and encourage open dialogue on the war.

Each memorial included an epitaph of the soldier’s name and a brief description of how the individual died. As of yesterday, 2,406 soldiers have been killed in Iraq and 285 soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.

Event coordinator Jeff Lenz said he wanted to put the names of the fallen troops in people’s faces for all to see. He apologized if it makes people feel uncomfortable.

“But each one of these is a human being — now they’re dead,” Lenz said.

Lenz said the memorial also honors the names of at least 3,760 Iraqi civilians who died during the American-led invasion.

Peggy Daly-Masternak, volunteer from Toledo, said she sees the tombstones not as a memorial, but as a peaceful protest against the war. She also said the coalition included the names of nearly 80 soldiers who committed suicide when they returned to the United States.

“You won’t find anybody here supporting the war, but we all support our troops dearly,” Daly-Masternak said.

Other reactions were not so supportive. One mother and father wanted their son’s name removed immediately.

Another volunteer, Steve Miller of Toledo, served in the Army from 1967 to 1971.

“You realize these people were moms and dads, aunts and uncles and sons and daughters,” Miller said. “In the morning, they combed their hair — now they’re dead.”

Contact safety reporter Michael Lewis at [email protected].