The price of war

FI-EditorialGreenwich has never been a community that’s shy about its patriotism. Displays of the American flag are both common and welcome in town. For the next few weeks, though, there’s one that’s a little bit different that needs to be sought out.

Outside the Second Congregational Church, right at the intersection of East Putnam and Maple avenues, there’s quite a sight to behold. There are 6,801 small American flags planted in the ground there. This wasn’t done by hardworking volunteers at the church because the flags make a striking visual or because they wanted to start the Fourth of July festivities just a touch early this year.

The flags have deeper significance.

Each of the flags represents the life of an American soldier lost in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s a traveling exhibition that has gone through Connecticut and several other states since 2005, and in those years the number of flags has risen by the thousands. From now until April 19, they will be in Greenwich in front of the church until being moved to Newtown and then to Somers, where the exhibition originated nine years ago, to be retired.

This exhibition is a powerful reminder of war. It’s easy to sit in a Washington, D.C., think tank and pen op-eds about the need for Americans to go to fight or sit behind a desk and give an order, but it’s the soldiers and their families who bear the weight of those decisions. Wars cost lives and leave holes in the lives of the families and loved ones of those killed in action. It’s so easy to forget and so important that we don’t.

Even now, as American troops are at low levels in both Iraq and Afghanistan, our soldiers are still in harm’s way. It was reported this week that there were no American casualties in Afghanistan in March, something that should be easy for us to accept, except that this is the first month like that since 2007.

What’s particularly powerful about this exhibit is that it does not advocate a position for or against the wars. The “debate” over the lead-up to the war in Iraq remains a painful wound for this country, but this display of flags does not refight that. Instead, it allows people to bring their own feelings and let their own experiences shape how they see it.

That’s exactly what the Rev. Maxwell Grant, senior minister of the church, wants, too. He is insistent on not having one message represent the display. Instead, he lets his diverse congregation decide how it feels and discuss it, not only with clergy but with the veterans in the congregation as well. He said he hopes for a rich discussion, with people’s views having perhaps evolved from the time the exhibit began to when it leaves in two and a half weeks.

This shouldn’t stop there. Greenwich has excelled in the kind of patriotism that goes beyond just condescending displays. Our residents have shown time and time again that they care deeply about the men and women in our armed services. So they, too, should visit this display and bring with it their own experiences and beliefs.

This is not limited to the congregation of the church or the volunteers who spent hours setting the flags up, including Tony Izzi, who single-handedly replaced thousands of broken flags after a rain and windstorm. This is for everyone in Greenwich to experience for themselves.

This is an important display, not just something that looks good in the spring. There’s only a limited time to appreciate this, and Greenwich should get the most out of it while it can.

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© Hersam Acorn. All rights reserved. The Greenwich Post, 10 Corbin Drive, Floor 3, Darien, CT 06820

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress