U.S. War Dead Honored At U.S. Courthouse

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Backers and critics of the war in Iraq joined Monday to plant 800 small American flags on the lawn of the federal courthouse to honor the U.S. soldiers who have been killed in Iraq.

"I think a lot of people feel divorced from the actual results of us going over there," said Betsy Gledhill, a member of the Sierra Interfaith Action for Peace, which organized the event.

"I think this helps us individually as well as makes a statement about what is happening," the retired school teacher said.

John Hadder, another member of the group, took about 45 minutes to read the names of the 800 victims as about 30 men, women and children stuck the flags in the courthouse's green lawn just south of the main casino district.

Jeanmarie Simpson said her son has been serving in the Navy in Iraq and is due to return home in July.

"He's almost done. But he could easily be one of these," she said, pointing to the small flags.

Simpson said she wanted to participate to help show Memorial Days is "more than just a sale at Macy's."

"It's particularly important to honor our most recent dead in this time when World War II is getting a lot of national focus," she said.

"I think it's pretty romantic for a lot of people at the memorial in Washington D.C. And that's fine. But that was 60 years ago and this is five minutes ago," Simpson said.

Ernest Villareal of Reno brought his two children, Desiree, 5, and Mark, 3, to the event "to teach them the real meaning of Memorial Day - to honor the fallen soldiers who have defended our country to protect our free speech and our right to vote."

Villareal was among those at the event who remains supportive of U.S. troops presence in Iraq.

"I think they're doing a good job over there. I'd like to bring our troops home but until the job is clearly done we need to help ensure the rights of the people there," he said.

John Frook, 68, Reno, a retired reporter for Life Magazine, was riding his bicycle past the courthouse with his wife when they stopped to watch the ceremony.

"I've seen lots of these, too many of these," said Frook, who worked as the magazine's Los Angeles bureau chief during the war in Vietnam and was part of the staff that developed a piece called "The week's dead in Vietnam."

"As a reporter, it was the most difficult think I ever did in my life to walk up to a door of someone I didn't know the day after their son had been killed and ask them for a photograph," he said.

"I'm afraid we'll come back next year and there will be an untold number more (war victims)," Frook said.

"This is not a country that remembers very well."