On Saturday, the one-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion in Iraq, about 80 area residents spoke out against the war by attending several events hosted by the Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace.
At 1 p.m., volunteers took turns at the All Veterans Memorial at the Crow Wing County Courthouse reading the names of the more than 570 American soldiers killed in Iraq and about 270 Iraqi civilian names that represented the approximately 10,000 Iraqi citizens also killed in the war.
A march and demonstration followed, with about 60 people, including children, braving the cold wind as they held banners and walked along Washington Street.
Many then attended a rally at the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center in Brainerd.
"We think that more people are aware today that what we said before the war was the truth," said coalition spokesperson Larry Fisk. "We're here to say it was wrong to start the war, it was illegal and immoral and we need to bring our troops home."
The coalition is a loosely based group, but Fisk said it has about 250 people on its mailing list. The group has seen increased support by area residents as the war has continued for the past year. Fisk said one high school student came up to him Saturday and told him he vehemently opposed the coalition a year ago but now has come to support it.
Pastor Deb Celley of the First Congregational United Church of Christ explained the Just War theory and how throughout history governments have used churches to support the war.
Sara Dunlap explained the Catholic response to war, information she received from Father Seamus Walsh, who was unable to attend the event.
Hal Kimball, a St. Cloud State University student and member of Veterans for Peace, served proudly for 11 years in the military before he said he began to watch his friends, Gulf War veterans, die of Gulf War Syndrome. Then he became a conscientious objector.
"I'm not saying Saddam Hussein is a good guy," said Kimball. "I wouldn't invite him out for a beer in St. Cloud. But I wouldn't invite George Bush either."
Kimball spoke of the high suicide rates of American soldiers in Iraq and the toll the war is taking on these soldiers. He said that many military personnel he knows are seeing a rapid decline in re-enlistments once these soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan and warned that a draft could be an imminent threat.
Saturday marked a Global Day of Protest where Brainerd demonstrators joined hundreds of thousands of people around the world to protest against the U.S. presence in Iraq.
"Personally, this day is depressing," said Fisk. "The death and destruction has done nothing to make the world safer."
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