Unitarians to Retire Human Toll of War Ribbons
Friday, May 18, 2012 • 11:11am
After four years, members of The Unitarian Church in Summit will observe Memorial Day by removing a wall of 4,000-plus ribbons from the front of the church that has honored the members of the U.S. military killed during the war in Iraq.
"Most American troops have now been withdrawn from Iraq, and at this point, we think it’s appropriate to retire the ribbons,” said Glen Pritchard, a member of the church’s Moving Toward Peace group. Moving Toward Peace spearheaded the creation of the Human Toll of War display, which was raised onto the church columns on May 24, 2008, as a visual statement of the congregation’s stand on ending the war.
The display, designed by Pritchard and Pat Obst, was handcrafted by members and friends of the congregation, including children in religious education classes. All worked together to cut the ribbons into two-foot lengths and write the name of each lost service member onto each ribbon. The ribbons were then attached to grid-like frames. which were mounted on the Springfield Avenue side of the church building.
Within the next week, the frames with the ribbons attached will be removed and carried to the congregation’s Fellowship Hall. After May 27 services at 9 and 10:45 a.m., members and friends will cut the ribbons off the frames and deposit them into a handmade box, lined with newspaper front pages from March 20, 2003, the day the Iraqi war began. The box, created by artist Helen Kaar, will be buried in a Peace Garden the congregation expects to establish on its grounds.
"It will be a little strange to see the church without its colorful yet somber ribbons," said Rev. Kim Tomaszewski, assistant minister. "Yet it's time to move on to other ways of supporting the veterans who have returned to civilian life." Rev. Tomaszewski will preach on the topic "The Memorial Day Story" on May 27.
Moving Toward Peace is shifting its focus to the thousands of veterans who have arrived back home with serious physical injuries or with psychological wounds that prevent them from a smooth reentry.
On June 2, the group will show The Welcome, an award-winning documentary about how post-traumatic stress affects vets and their family members. The free showing begins at 7 p.m. and will be followed by small-group discussions. The film is set at a five-day healing retreat and contains frank, openly emotional language. The public is welcome, but the film is not appropriate for young people under the age of 16.
The Unitarian Church in Summit draws members from various religious and cultural backgrounds who join together in their individual quests for truth and meaning. There is no creed or test of membership, but the community is bound together by principles, shared values and a desire to serve. We are a member congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.