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Remembering the fallen

Steve Benson

First thing every Monday, a group of local citizens gathers at Carbondale Town Hall to read the names of American service members killed in Iraq. Before they begin, the United States flag is lowered to half-mast – where it remains for the rest of the day – in honor of the dead. “People weren’t recognizing the ultimate sacrifices these young men and women have made to their country,” said Ed Perregaux, a member of Wake Up Now, a local activist group that is opposed to the Bush administration and its handling of the war. “[The administration] has hidden them, they don’t show the casualties,” he added. The readings, which include 70-120 names per week, began in January. To date, the group has read all of the names of the dead at least twice. “It’s kind of a silent protest against the war, but at the same time it’s in favor of the troops,” said Jane Baker Veit, founder of Wake Up Now, which comprises mostly senior citizens. “It started with a few of us just discussing the war,” she said. “And now it’s growing like crazy.” Perregaux, who organizes the weekly readings, said it’s unfortunately one of the only ways left to honor those who’ve died. In June, the U.S. Senate upheld the Pentagon’s policy that bans media coverage of war dead returning home. Draped in American flags, caskets are unloaded from cargo planes at various Air Force bases around the country in privacy. The vote to overturn the ban was defeated 54-39 on June 21, at a point when the American death toll in Iraq had reached 845. As of Wednesday, ### Americans had died since the start of the war. In an article from The Associated Press on June 21, Sen. John Warner, Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the ban is needed “to preserve the most important priority, and that’s the privacy of the families.” Perregaux doesn’t buy that argument. It’s obvious, he added, that the ban is in place to prevent the public from seeing the harsh realities of war. “If they showed this it would personalize [the war],” he said, adding that the administration doesn’t want that to happen. “I think it’s a tragedy that a democracy that was supposed to have freedom of speech and freedom of press is so restrained as to what can be shown,” said Wake Up Now member Cathleen Krahe. “I hope more people remember that these young people are dying everyday.” The readings usually last about 10 minutes, depending on how many people join in. Some weeks, there are as many as 30 people in attendance. Perregaux said Wake Up Now has notified several families who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq about the readings. “We’ve received correspondence from people all over the country thanking us,” Perregaux said. “They say nobody has done anything like this for them.” Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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