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Candlelight Vigil Honors 1,000 U.S. Dead

September 16, 2004|By Fereva Lawrence

Approximately 60 people, some of them grouped in families, gathered for a candlelight vigil last Thursday evening at La Cañada's Memorial Park. All came to mourn the 1,000 American troops dead in Iraq, which was announced by the media two days earlier, on Sept. 7.

The vigil was led by Conchita Marusich, who organized the grassroots gathering with Ellen Young. "I was watching a collage on TV of these people who are just?gone," Marusich said. "There were just too many young faces. It was horrible. I called Ellen and told her, 'We've got to do something.'"

Together, the women made phone calls and sent e-mails. Young created a banner that was draped along the park's gazebo outer wall stating, "In Memory of the 1,000 Dead Troops Killed in Iraq." The banner also featured a graph representing U.S. casualties, as well as press clippings describing the grim milestone.

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Marusich opened the vigil at 8 p.m. by addressing those gathered. "We are here tonight to honor the more than 1,000 men and women in our armed forces who have died in Iraq," she said. "This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It's about soldiers, many of them only 18, 19 or 20 years old, who are gone forever."

Young said, "These were young men and women who volunteered and excelled at their jobs. Now they're dead. Dead. It's important to remember they all had families, and that they performed their duties with honor and love." As with others present, Young was firm in her support of U.S. troops but troubled by the war.

Following her opening remarks, Marusich invited vigil participants to share their thoughts.

Curt Dody attended with his family. "My heart goes out to the parents who have lost their young sons. I can't imagine losing mine," he said. "I brought my boys who are not only against this war, but in six and seven years time, will become of age for an imminent draft."

Dody's comments echoed the concerns of several parents.

"Whenever I hear a big number, I try to find something to wrap my brain around it," Scott Solis said, shaking his head. "This would represent about 100 junior soccer teams."

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