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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Crosses set up in tribute to fallen soldiers

Associated Press

BOISE – Scores of volunteers hammered more than 1,850 white wooden crosses into the grass at a city park in Emmett this weekend, a stark visual memorial to America’s military men and women who have sacrificed their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Each cross bears the name of a soldier killed, organizers said. The display will be part of a Memorial Day ceremony at Emmett’s city park on Monday afternoon, about 30 miles northwest of Boise.

More than 70 project volunteers included active and former military members, Boy Scouts, business leaders and plain folks, said lead organizer Jim Olsen, commander of the local American Legion Post 49.

During the construction, a few passers-by have commented both for and against the effort. But the memorial is not intended as a political statement, Olsen said.

“This is strictly to honor the dead – nothing more, nothing less,” Olsen said Saturday.

Volunteer Lou Foruria, a 22-year National Guard veteran, told the Idaho Statesman that he has serious problems with the way the war has been handled by the Bush administration. But he supports the memorial effort, in part, because his son, Tony, is serving in Iraq.

“We know he’s over there in harm’s way and we pray for him every day, and his comrades,” Foruria said, peering across the growing mock graveyard. “It’s hectic because he could be one of these.”

Staff Sgt. Thomas Butler, a guardsman with the 116th Brigade Combat Team on leave from a tour in Iraq, also helped pound the crosses into place on a hot Friday afternoon.

Butler said he hopes Emmett residents will come away from the display with a better understanding of the dangers soldiers face as they fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“A lot of people think guys are dying over there for no reason. But there’s a lot of good things going on there that the public doesn’t see,” said Butler, a veteran of the Persian Gulf War who signed up for the National Guard after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Olsen said he did not know how many people would attend the 2 p.m. ceremony. He expects some of the town’s 6,000 residents to show up – those who haven’t headed into the mountains for a cooler holiday weekend.

But plenty of local media coverage could bring out more than Olsen originally expected. The image of all the crosses in perfectly straight lines has a dramatic impact, he said.

“When you see these, you wonder how the lives of the families are affected,” Olsen said. “If you’re not moved by it, you’re a pretty callous person, I suspect.”

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