LONGMONT — News of the 2,000th U.S. military death in Iraq spurred a local vigil Tuesday night.
More than 20 people gathered in candlelight at Sixth Avenue and Main Street and listened to Joan Baez’s version of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” while they stood in the chilly autumn air.
“The theme is ‘not one more death, not one more dollar,’” said local organizer Shari Malloy.
She said a second vigil will be held today to coincide with vigils scheduled nationally by the American Friends Service Committee.
Deb Gardner, who attended the vigil, said the song was symbolic of her feelings on the deaths in Iraq, Americans or otherwise.
“I think I came because I am hopeful,” Gardner said, while taking a few minutes away from the circle of people standing around a set of burning votives arranged by those in attendance in the shape of a peace sign. “This song kind of explains it. We can imagine a better world. We can do better.”
According to The Associated Press, the soldiers, Marines and sailors who have died in Iraq came from every state — more than 1,400 cities and towns, large and small, across the country.
Dennis Sindelir, who is a member of the American Legion, said Tuesday night that he hadn’t yet heard the new statistic. He also worried that after serving in Vietnam and hearing the daily tallies of dying military servicemen there that he is numbing to the statistics.
Sindelir was among the Legionnaires gathered at the Longmont post Tuesday night for a flag-retirement ceremony. Per military custom, U.S. flags that are no longer in condition to be properly displayed should be retired. In this case, the honor guard inspected and burned the flags according to custom.
A Boy Scout troop assisted.
Bill Bohn, another Legion member, said the deaths in Iraq seem to be hitting home more than those from other wars, perhaps due to increased and more acute media attention on each of the reported deaths.
He said that when he returned home on leave from the Korean War, he told a reporter with a weekly newspaper that it seemed people at home hadn’t understood the gravity of the conflict.
“Anytime we lose any of our people, it is terrible,” he said.
Bohn added that those who serve in the military understand the risks that they are taking.
“That’s clarified in their swearing-in ceremony that they pledged to defend our country,” Bohn said.
Sindelir said he remains in the Legion to honor those who have served and died.
“The reason we are doing the flag ceremony is for that purpose,” he said of the honors.
Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.