Honoring the dead


Indiana veterans hold peace vigil for 3,500 American casualties

A small and solemn group of Indiana veterans gathered on the steps of Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis last Wednesday, June 6, to bear witness to the honor and sacrifice of the more than 3,500 American women and men who have thus far died as a result of the war in Iraq.

“Monument Circle is a war memorial to the Hoosiers who gave their lives in all the wars the U.S. fought from the Revolution up to and including World War I. It is hallowed ground and you can feel power there,” said organizer Harold Donle of Indiana Veterans for Peace.

The veterans were joined in their vigil by representatives of local clergy, families who have lost loved ones in the war, peace activists and passers-by who stopped to join the respectful and, at times, emotional ceremony.

It took several hours for the group to take turns ringing a bell for each member of the American Armed Forces who has died so far. Under the words “To Indiana’s silent victors” etched into the war monument, the gathered participants and spectators, which ebbed and flowed from between 30 to 100, stood quietly, some in prayer, to honor the dead.

“In silence we honored the dead and stood in opposition to the policies that have killed and continue to kill our troops in an ill-advised, ill-planned and ill-executed war of choice,” Donle said. “We held those who have fallen and their families close in our heart as we tolled them into heaven.

“After a little more than two and a half hours, we reached 3,503, having tolled the bell for each and every one of our military that had fallen in Iraq. Then we tolled the bell 100 more times for the Iraqi civilians who have been killed since the invasion. And then one last time to carry our prayers to God to end this madness.”

One hundred and twenty-six American soldiers died during the month of May, the third deadliest month for U.S. troops since the war began in March of 2003. In April 2004, 135 Americans died in Iraq, and in November 2004 there were 137 military fatalities. The first 10 days of this month has brought 35 deaths thus far.

Also during the month of May, 2,770 Iraqi citizens were killed as a result of the war, bringing the total of civilian deaths to a conservative estimate of 65,000-70,000.

Ninety-nine soldiers from Indiana have died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than 500 have been wounded.

Not everyone who showed up at the vigil supported Indiana Veterans for Peace or their chosen method of honoring the more than 3,500 dead soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians who have died thus far.

“One supporter of the war who read about the vigil on a blog showed up to observe, in his words, ‘what we were up to and what political agenda we would try to advance,’” according to Donle. “After about two hours he left rather disappointed, I think, because there were no speakers, no wild-eyed demonstrations, no signs of protest … he never bothered to ring the bell once, wasn’t interested, which I think clearly demonstrates his true support of the troops, those that have fallen and their families.

“About an hour before the vigil concluded, another gentleman wearing a Retired Navy Vet baseball cap with many ribbons and unit designation pins on it showed up. He took a seat on the stairs above where the vigil was taking place and observed, rather angrily, what we were doing,” Donle said.

“After the vigil concluded, I walked up to the gentleman, shook his hand and thanked him for coming. I told him though that the expression on his face told me he was not real happy with us.

“Tears welled in his eyes and he said, ‘Man I’m torn.’ I told him we all were and thanked him again for coming and being respectful.”

At press time, 3,512 American troops have been reported killed in Iraq, and while men and women are serving in all branches of the armed services, 98 percent of the dead are male, and more than 70 percent were between the ages of 19 and 25.

Veterans for Peace

Veterans for Peace is a national organization with over 120 chapters from all over the U.S. Founded in 1985, VFP members are men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations including the Spanish Civil War, World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars, as well as other conflicts. The group is an official non-governmental organization (NGO) represented at the United Nations.

According to the mission statement of Veterans for Peace, “We know the consequences of American foreign policy because once, at a time in our lives, so many of us carried it out. We find it sad that war seems so delightful, so often, to those that have no knowledge of it. We will proudly, and patriotically, continue to denounce war despite whatever misguided sense of euphoria supports it.”

For more information on Indiana Veterans for Peace, go to

veteransforpeaceindiana.org or contact vpind@gmail.com.


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