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The real-life horrors of war

More than 1,000 empty combat boots with the names of fallen U.S. soldiers and a 24-foot “wall” of names, stories and shoes documenting Iraqi civilian casualties make up Eyes Wide Open, an exhibit that will appear Saturday in the Marshall Center Room 101 and the Martin Luther King Plaza. It will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and there will be a press conference in addition to the opening of the exhibition.

Eyes Wide Open is co-sponsored by the Model United Nations and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker Peace and Humanitarian Aid Agency. So far, it has traveled to 20 cities and towns, including Boston, Cleveland and Washington, D.C.

According to the Eyes Wide Open Web site,, “(It) is a multimedia journey through the words, images and sounds of the Iraq war, (and) visitors move through a vivid memorial to the war’s soldier and civilian victims, a searing exposure of the statements told to the U.S. public to justify the war, a compelling outline of what the war is costing us at home and finally to an interactive, easy way to contribute their voices to changing our country’s course toward peace.”

Lt. Col. Joseph Kools of ROTC said visitors should view the exhibit with the proper mindset.

“America is a great country. I’m glad we can have such content, but it should be taken in the correct context,” Kools said. “Each life is a tragedy. I’ve served for 20 years, been deployed and lost people under my command…Each pair of boots represents a great American.”

In addition to the combat boots, the shoes, names and stories of Iraqis will be displayed. According to a Web site linked to Eyes Wide Open,, the number of civilians killed ranges from the “minimum” count of 14,160 to the “maximum” of 16, 289.

“Although a majority of Americans now believe this war is a tragic misadventure, the human cost of the Iraq war grows every day. How many more boots will be standing at silent attention before this war ends, before Iraqis and American soldiers are out of harm’s way?” Mary Ellen McNish, the general secretary of AFSC, wrote on the Web site. “This traveling exhibit is a memorial to those who have fallen and a witness to our belief that no war can justify its human cost.”

According to Oct. 28 statistics from Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, the United States has lost 1,111 soldiers since March 20, 2003.

“You’ve got to take this in perspective,” Kools said. “In one day, 24 hours, 40,000 American lives were lost during the invasion of France, and France lost 40,000 people in the eighteenth century when they helped us defeat the British. It’s dangerous not to be cognizant of all reality,” he said. “We’re darned lucky.”

“And I’d like to hope there’s no more boots next year,” he added.