On April 22nd and 23rd, Young Americans for Liberty of El Camino College reminded students of the costs of war during the event, “Generation of War: The Cost of War”.
The goal of the event was to emphasize the costs that are often forgotten, the largest of all being lives. To honor the fallen US service members who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, our chapter put together a memorial.
Since our generation who has spent more than half our lives growing up with war, thus often being desensitized or disconnected from the realities of war, we aimed to humanize our service members. Rather than just displaying the estimate number of lost veterans (which we did—6,518), we wanted our fellow students to see that those in our military who face endangerment every day are people; they are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters… They might have even been our classmates, walking on our very own campus.
To do this, we used boots to symbolize each fallen soldier whose hometowns were from Torrance and the surrounding South Bay cities; out of the 700+ in California alone, there were 20 in total. To help us memorialize them, we laced tags onto the boots with their names, rank, age, and photo (which we got from LA Times’ “California’s War Dead”). The reactions to the memorial were mixed: while some students felt it was too shocking, the overall reaction was of grief, respect, and realization. And while our chapter also has a few veterans, other veterans on campus stopped by to connect and express their appreciation for our work.
We also set a memorial for the innocent children of Pakistan and Yemen who have lost their lives to US drone strikes. We could not leave out this aspect on the cost of war: for every one suspected terrorist killed in a drone strike, there is an estimated 50 civilian deaths, many of them being children.
To memorialize these children, we displayed an incomplete list of their names and a number cut-out of the estimated child deaths, 234 (compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism). Small shoes, flowers, stuffed toys, and tea light candles were placed around the numbers.
Next to this memorial, students could test themselves by playing the Pin the Drone on the Warzone game, where they place a pin on the countries that have been invaded by the US, have US military bases, or have been bombed. This game was easy for many international students who instantly knew to select, “MY country.”
Surprisingly, many countries that the US has bombed were never identified by other students. After students curiously took a look at the answer key and learned just how expansive our military involvement in other countries has been, they were shocked and disheartened, especially with the realization that our interventions take a toll on both sides.
Lastly, to show the cost on liberty, we highlighted the existence of Guantanamo Bay by sharing prisoner Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel’s accounts on hunger striking at Gitmo which was published in the New York Times just a week prior to our event.
Overall this event was successful in that it opened thought-provoking discussion and students appreciated the insight. We ran out of Generation of War themed palm cards in just one day, and we got 12 new sign-ups!
For more photos view the Flickr set here.
View the video slideshow here.Published in