War exhibit moves spectators

 

(Published October. 16, 2006, 2:38 p.m.)

By Chris Schultz -Week Staff

LAKE GENEVA-The exhibit filled the Smith Meeting Room at the Lake Geneva Public Library, yet it remained small and intimate.

About 30 people viewed the "Eyes Wide Open" war memorial exhibited Thursday at the library. The memorial is presented by the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization.

Featured in the memorial were pairs of empty boots - in this case 60 of them - arranged at parade rest in the center of the meeting room. Each pair represents a Wisconsin service person killed in the Iraq War.

Clustered in front of the boots were 50 pair of civilian footwear, representing Iraqi civilian dead.

Silently, in twos and threes, visitors walked among the empty boots, reading some of the letters and mementoes left with the empty footwear by relatives and friends.

No more than a dozen people were in the room at 5:30 p.m. for a 40-minute memorial ceremony. The Rev. Mary Ann Moeller-Gunderson of Lake Geneva offered a prayer for the fallen, and the names of the Wisconsin soldiers were read-echoed by names of Iraqi civilians also killed.

Kathy Kehoe of Elkhorn wiped away tears as she and her son, Brent Derounin, 13, viewed the exhibit. She said she has another son, Michael Isaacson, 22, who is serving in Baghdad.

"As an American citizen, I felt it was my duty to take just a few moments of time for those who lost their lives," said Judy Ahlstrom of Milton. "It's a visual way to actually see the price that we've paid," added Karen Heller of Janesville, who accompanied Ahlstrom to the memorial.

Heller said her son, Matthew, was in the Navy and went to Iraq twice. Her daughter, Kathy, is still there, serving with the 1158 Transport Company of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. "If you don't feel something when you leave there, you don't know what's going on," said Pete Douglas of Elkhorn.

"It was completely overpowering," said Gay Howe of Burlington, who visited the memorial with her husband, Greg. "We're hoping to bring it to Burlington," added Greg, a Vietnam War vet. "This war has gone on as long as the second World War, and that was the defining event of that generation," said Tom Spellman, a Lake Geneva alderman, after viewing the memorial.

Marge Tully of Elkhorn, a social worker for the state of Wisconsin, said she and several friends decided to bring the exhibit to Walworth County after seeing it in Illinois. Joining Tully in organizing the event were Jackie Kaufmann and Kristy Cowles of Lake Geneva and Kay Harrod of Genoa City. Some of the boots belonged to the fallen and were donated by the families, Tully said. Others are representational.

Pictures, letters and flowers laid with the boots were donated by families to be part of the memorial, she said. The Lake Geneva exhibit was set up for just one day. But Tully said she hopes to find other venues for it in Walworth County and maybe in Racine and Kenosha counties, as well.

 

 

 

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