CHAMPAIGN – Empty combat boots will mark the human cost of war in Iraq in exhibits here this weekend.
"Eyes Wide Open" includes 77 pairs of empty combat boots tagged with the names of Illinois soldiers who have died in the Iraq war, as well as a memorial to Iraqi civilians who have been killed.
"Rather than a protest or a policy discussion, this will be a meditation on the cost in human lives," said Carol Inskeep of the Eyes Wide Open organizing committee.
"People in our country are really disturbed about the deaths and expense of the war. Instead of just arguing, this asks, what does it mean to have 20-year-olds die in the war?" she added.
There will be 50 volunteers staffing the four displays of the combat boots, working two at a time. A touring national exhibit with more than 1,800 pairs of boots was first created by the American Friends Service Committee.
Some 1,897 American soldiers have died in the war in Iraq.
The four exhibits are:
– 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today on the University of Illinois Quad.
– 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at West Side Park, Champaign.
– 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Douglass Park, Champaign.
– 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday at Carle Park, Urbana.
A volunteer will read all the names of the Illinois dead today at 11 a.m. and Saturday at noon.
Inskeep said the Iraqi memorial includes one pair of Iraqi military boots and 50 pairs of tagged shoes, about the proportion of military to civilian deaths among the Iraqis.
"Different people have different estimates of the actual number of Iraqi deaths," she said.
She said the memorial has generally met with a positive response. The American Friends, or Quakers, sent letters to family members of the American dead.
"Of over 1,800 boots, only 20 family members have asked tags to be removed," Inskeep said.
Sponsors include St. Patrick's Social Action Committee, First Mennonite Church, Friends Meeting, Activist Forum, Illinois Disciples Foundation, Community United Church of Christ, University YMCA, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, St. Jude Catholic Worker House, Union of Professional Employees, Muslim Women's Outreach, 85% Coalition, Channing Murray Foundation, School for Designing a Society, CU Citizens for Peace and Justice, McKinley Presbyterian Foundation, Prairie Greens, the Chapel of St. John the Divine, AWARE, Campus Greens, Unitarian Universalist Social Action Committee and the Episcopal Chapel of St. John the Divine.