By KIRBY NEUMANN-REA
March 22, 2006
Honks and thumbs-up repeatedly greeted citizens who staged peace demonstrations in Hood River on Sunday morning.
Signs with expressions such as “No More War,” “PEACE,” and “War Has Two Losers” expressed the participants’ views that the United States needs to get out of Iraq and drastically alter foreign policy in the Middle East.
“I just don’t think there’s any reason for soldiers to be in Iraq anymore,” said Dana Tickner, 13, of Parkdale, who with her mother, Elise, joined about 100 people on the Exit 63 overpass in Hood River, holding signs and waving at motorists on Second Street and Interstate 84.
"I'm troubled about the war. I wish it would end. I think it was a mistake,” said Hood River’s Nikki Juras, who helped at a solemn “gravemarker” demonstration earlier Sunday, at Port Marina Park lawn, where a large sign read, “Honor The Dead, Heal The Wounded, End The War.”
The events marked the third anniversary of the date the United States and allies invaded Iraq.
Groups marked the day with “Bridges for Peace” events on overpasses in Cascade Locks, Mosier, The Dalles, and Biggs, in addition to Hood River. Hood River activists also marched up Second Street to a ceremony at Overlook Memorial Park.
Protesters were generally doubtful that their efforts would have an immediate impact on U.S. involvement in Iraq. But they wanted to take a stand.
“Someplace along the way we have to get the message to President Bush that ‘this isn’t the way, fella — stop it’,” said Don Hardin of Hood River.
“I don’t know if it will do all that much but people need ways to show their frustration with the administration. I’m just another number adding his voice,” said Martin Winer of Hood River.
“We’re sad,” said Mary Sullivan of White Salmon. “We’re sad about what is happening to our country, and that our leaders have brought us to this war.”
Her daughter, Kathy Von Mosch, added, “The actions over the past four years do not represent the ideals of this country, what with what it has done to our young men and women.”
Drivers along the interstate and Portway Avenue also could see 2,318 white pieces of paper, shaped like gravestones, symbolizing each of the American soldiers who have died in the past three years in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Patrick Rawson of Hood River organized the event, assisted by about 20 friends and some passersby.
“We were looking for ways to visually make people aware of the incredible losses from this war,” said Rawson.
“We wanted something that was reflective, and prayerful. It is meant to open dialogue and look at ways to end the war.
“We all recognize the need to honor those who have sacrificed for their country,” Rawson said. “This is a patriotic action. We're not saying ‘end the war now.’ There is room for discussion.”
Rawson opted for a static display because “numbers can be abstract,” he said.
“When people see something visual it brings it home. There's something powerful about individual grave markers,” he said, before making his second trip to Tum-A-Lum Lumber for six-inch nails to hold the gravemarkers on the lawn.
“It's been very sobering. It's beginning to hit home for me. Hopefully it will for other people.
Rawson, who works as a counselor, said working with the impacts of death is "a daily reality for me.
"It's not just one person, but a whole web of people affected by the deaths, whether it's military deaths or cancer deaths.
Fellow volunteer Carroll Davis concurred.
“These markers represent whole families, not just individual people.
“And it's not just Americans who are dying. There may be as many as 100,000 Iraqis, soldiers and civilians, men, women and children who are dead as well.”
Placing the gravemarks in long lines on the lawn was hard work. The physical effort added to the irony of the protest, volunteers said.
“There are so many metaphors we've found in laying these (markers) out,” said Paul Woolery of White Salmon.
“We started with a plan and after the second row the marks were no longer lined up. You plan something and you think you know what you’re doing and all it takes is one error to turn the whole thing to chaos. And you add violence and it just compounds a thousand fold.
“I'm really glad I helped do this. It helps me to think more deeply about the implications.”
Rawson is hopeful that the protest efforts will be worth it.
“I think there is a tide of people starting to change their minds. I think people are looking for a way to get out of there, even though they may have supported it at first and the reasons they were given are gone," he said.
The markers were removed Sunday afternoon. Rawson will put the paper and nails in storage.
“I have the feeling we’re going to have another protest, with more of these,” he said.