Exhibit reveals cost of war

Ryan Loew

John Dadisman of Canton reads the names of fallen Ohio soldiers displayed on 89 pairs of combat boots at the Eyes Wide Open exhibit outside the Portage County Courthouse in Ravenna this weekend. The display, co-sponsored by the American Friends Service Co

Credit: Jason Hall

RAVENNA – Daniel Deyarmin Jr. never wore the pair of combat boots lying in the grass outside the Portage County Courthouse.

But to a group of county activists, it’s more distressing that he never will.

Deyarmin was one of 89 fallen Ohio soldiers memorialized by the Eyes Wide Open display in Ravenna this weekend.

Cosponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and the Portage Democratic Coalition, the exhibit started Friday morning and ended yesterday evening. It also featured a candle-light vigil Saturday night.

Lined in rows across the courthouse lawn, the black boots had name tags and small photos of the deceased soldiers attached to them. Members of the coalition said 89 Ohio service men and women have died in the war in Iraq as of Sept. 30. One Ohio soldier is missing in action.

“They’ve given everything,” said Carol O’Laughlin, a member of the Portage Democratic Coalition. “This is the other side of war. These are the things you don’t see.”

The boots weren’t worn by any of the soldiers, but were just representations supplied by the American Friends Service Committee, said coalition member Christina Vaught.

But the exhibit is still just as poignant, O’Laughlin said.

“People are just blown away,” she said. “Every one of these represents a life.”

The display is the Ohio version of a nationally touring exhibit, which aims to “bring attention to the sacrifice that these young people are making,” O’Laughlin said. In Ohio, Eyes Wide Open has also gone to areas such as Newton Falls.

Among the 89 soldiers represented by the display, O’Laughlin pointed out two local casualties of war – Deyarmin, of Tallmadge, and Edward Schroeder II, from Streetsboro.

“It’s really hit close to home around here too,” she said.

Peggy Brandt, of Ravenna, stopped at the display while she was downtown, and as she looked at the names of the soldiers, she knelt in silence and cried. She noticed many of the soldiers were in their twenties.

“They should be playing football in the yard with the boys, swinging their children on a swing, thinking about what they’re going to do with college,” she said.

For those like Ravenna resident Scott Arnold, having family in the military made the display even more powerful.

“It’s very sad, a touch of reality,” he said. “When you see the boots and the men aren’t in them, it’s very disturbing.”

The exhibit also featured a pile of sneakers, women’s shoes and sandals to represent the loss of Iraqi lives from the war. As many as 100,000 Iraqis have died since the war began, according to the exhibit.

In the past two weeks, the number of Ohio casualties climbed from 87 to 89, O’Laughlin said.

“And that’s 89 too many,” she said.

Contact public affairs reporter Ryan Loew at [email protected].