Message presented through the night

Published 6:56 am Monday, October 15, 2007

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily News
CASSOPOLIS – The U.S. spends $720 million a day – $500,000 per minute – on the Iraq war, according to the American Friends Service Committee in Chicago.
One day of the Iraq war equals enough money to provide 163,525 Americans with health care, 423,529 children with health care, 34,904 four-year scholarships for university students, 1,153,846 children with free school lunches, 84 new elementary schools, 12,478 elementary school teachers, 1,274,336 homes with renewable electricity, 95,364 Head Start places for children and 6,482 families with homes.
Every day.
That's the message "Eyes Wide Opens" offered behind Cass District Library with 143 pairs of empty boots sharing the lawn with falling leaves for a 24-hour anti-war vigil from 3 p.m. Saturday to 3 p.m. Sunday hosted by the Southwest Michigan chapter of WAND (Women's Action for New Directions).
The American Friends Service Committee calls for Congress to end the Iraq war and to redirect those funds to human needs here and to "real solutions" in Iraq, including alleviating its humanitarian crisis.
An online petition can be signed at
The boots of dead Michigan military personnel and 200 pairs of shoes (the number of civilians killed per death of one U.S. soldier) representing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed testify to the war cost in lives lost, while the economic costs total more than $1 trillion in the first four years of the 5-year-old war Congress could stop by refusing to fund it.
By the end of 2007, Michigan taxpayers will have contributed $12.1 billion toward the national expenditure of waging war in Iraq.
The AFSC says Congress and the Bush administration cut funding for vital services at home in the name of fiscal restraint.
Between 2002 and 2006, dozens of federal programs have been cut, including Head Start, the Community Food and Nutrition Program, youth job training, affordable housing and maternal and child health programs.
The official number of people living in poverty in the United States grew from 34.6 million to 37 million between 2002 and 2005, and 1.5 million people lost their health insurance.
For each fatality, experts estimate seven additional U.S. soldiers are wounded, with many losing limbs and other life-altering injuries.
Over 60,000 Iraqi civilian deaths have been documented and credible estimates put the toll at more than 650,000 in a country with just a little under three times the population of Michigan.
Boots represent towns across Michigan – Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Kalamazoo (Sgt. Matthew Soper, 25), Rochester Hills, Alpena, White Pigeon (1st Lt. Jonathan W. Edds), Clare, Sterling Heights, Hemlock, Mount Pleasant (name removed by his family), East Lansing and Lawton (Lance Cpl. Luis J. Castillo, 20).
Capt. Paul J. Cassidy, 36, of Laingsburg, died July 13, 2003.
Some boots have cards attached with details and photographs.
Army Staff Sgt. Donald N. Davis, 42, of Saginaw, was killed in Iraq on Aug. 24, 2004, when a tractor and tanker trailer rolled over an embankment in Fallujah, leaving a wife, two children and four step-children.
Army Specialist Craig S. Frank, 24, of Lincoln Park, died July 17, 2004, while guarding a convoy near Baghdad. His vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED). The National Guard police officer joined to pay off student loans from studying education at Eastern Michigan University. Home for his dad's open-heart surgery in early June, Frank returned to Iraq on July 3, 2004, for his second extension of duty. He was scheduled to be home on Aug. 11, 2004.
Army Specialist Richard A. Goward, 32, of Midland, died April 14, 2003. He served in the active Army from 1990 to 1996. After Sept. 11, the four-year corrections officer joined the Guard. He left a wife, Karen, and two daughters, Nicole and Tessa.
Staff Sgt. Sephen C. Hattamer, of Gwinn, was the second Upper Peninsula native killed. He died in a Christmas Day attack. Hattamer had been married to his wife, Karen, since 1983. They had three kids, Bryce, 17, Alyssa, 13, and Tyler, 12. He was an elder at Victory Lutheran Church.
Army Pvt. 1st Class Jason Michael Meyer, 23, of Swartz Creek, was killed in Iraq on April 8, 2003. He celebrated his wedding anniversary two weeks before his death.
Army Specialist Donald Laverne Wheeler Jr., 22, a 1999 graduate of Jackson Lumen Christi High School, also joined up after Sept. 11 to protect and defend his country.
Spec. Richard Trevithick, 20, of Gaines, was killed April 14, 2004, in Balad by an IED. The 2002 Swartz Creek graduate joined the Army two months after high school. An April 16, 2004, article in The Detroit News reported he e-mailed home to his family saying how deeply affected he had been by the children there.
The article also told how he planned for his wife, Kristin, to be informed if he died – roses would be sent to her.