(Toledo, OH) I spent some time today thinking about the people who have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the reality of which was reinforced by the Arlington Midwest memorial on the Lucas County Courthouse lawn. I quickly regretted leaving my coat behind in the car, as temperatures dropped into the thirties overnight.
I became briefly acquainted with some people like Army Specialist Travis R. Vaughan, originally from Reinbeck, Iowa. This 26-year-old soldier died in Afghanistan on February 18, little more than a month ago.
At the Memorial I met soldiers like Nicholas C. Mason, from King George, Virginia. He was a 20-year-old Army National Guard specialist killed on December 21, 2004 in Mosul, Iraq.
I also learned about young men like Army specialist Kyle Ka Eo Fernandez, from Waipahu, Hawaii. Fernandez died at the age of 26 in Afghanistan on October 14, 2004.
The Arlington Midwest memorial forces you to consider the human costs associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I struggled to take a picture that would capture the effect of viewing thousands of symbolic headstones.
Even with a wide-angle lens it is difficult to include all of the rows of markers, unless you stand across the street and settle for a picture that looks like a sea of tiny white dots. When you stand in front of the marker of soldier William Davis - a Michigan man who died in Iraq March 20 and who had a wife, a 3-year-old daughter and a baby due next month - you see a human being, someone with dreams and a life somewhere far removed from the bloodshed overseas.
While I was talking with one of the memorial's volunteers, word came in of the deaths of three more U.S. soldiers. What an odd sensation; one minute we were discussing the history of the memorial, and the next we had to silently watch three new markers get placed, each of which carried carried the briefest pieces of information:
Iraq - NAME NOT YET RELEASED
The cold March wind continued to blow, downtown motorists went about their business, and three more American troops were dead. My missing coat now seemed pretty trivial.
The Arlington Midwest memorial will remain in front of the Lucas County Courthouse through Saturday. There will be an event sponsored by the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition called "Peace Sounds" at 6:30 this evening, featuring live bands and poetry readings.