A line of red and yellow flags has lined the sidewalk of the campus quad this week, in an effort to show the impact that two wars have had on the nation.
The flags were used to display the names of over 6,000 men and women who have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The groups who worked on the project were the Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Against the War and several K-State chapters, including Young Americans for Liberty, the Ambassadors for Peace Club, Amnesty International and Students for Environmental Action.
“It’s shocking at a point of impact,” said Greg Covington, project sponsor for MAPJ and 1990 graduate of K-State. “It’s the real human tragedy side of any act of war.”
The flags will be standing side by side through Thursday, each listing the name, age and hometown of a soldier who has died during the wars. Yellow flags symbolize those who were killed in Iraq, and red flags are for the casualties from Afghanistan.
Covington said the memorial was something MAPJ was instrumental in developing three years ago with the help of K-State students affiliated with the organization. They started with around 3,500 flags, but over the years have added to the collection. There are now 6,488 of them.
People like Clareen O’Connor, sophomore in family studies and human services and president of the Ambassadors for Peace Club, worked to clean and prepare the flags for display. O’Connor said she felt the memorial was a good cause and wanted to be able to get involved with other clubs at K-State.
While there are many different opinions on the war, its purpose and other issues facing America, didn’t stop groups with different ideologies from reaching out to one another and getting involved.
“I think it shows how important this issue is; that we’re able to put aside our differences, to find common ground and to make progress on these issues,” said Jonathan Nebel, sophomore in economics and president of K-State’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter.
YAL, an organization that emphasizes libertarian ideas and the importance of applying constitutional values to the government, takes the stance that intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq needs to stop.
“The longer we stay in there, the greater problems we’re going to create,” Nebel said. “We advocate as soon as possible to pull out.”
Covington said while the MAPJ is not something you would normally see working with a libertarian group, it is important to acknowledge that they have found common ground and can cooperate.
“We can stand together even if we disagree about other issues,” Covington said. “We can all say as multiple groups that we don’t like wars of aggression, we want to support our troops and we want to keep them home.”
Recently, Covington said groups at Wichita State University and the University of Kansas worked for the same cause.
William Stewart-Starks, the vice president of KU’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter and an Iraq veteran himself, said they focus on the cost of war, not only monetary, but the lives lost and those who will have to deal with life-long injuries.
“We have a lot of vets who are exposing the system for what is it,” Stewart-Starks said. “When we go to war, there are a lot of sacrifices that are going to be taken, there’s a lot of collateral damage and lives displaced.”
Stewart-Starks said there is also currently an interest to mobilize an Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Against the War group in the Manhattan area.
Also on board for helping with the memorial display was Students for Environmental Action. SEA promotes the education of environmental issues as well as action that can help protect the planet.
Zack Pistora, senior in political science and president of SEA, said war is an unhealthy relationship between us and the environment.
“War has a negative impact on people and the relationship with each other and the planet,” Pistora said. “We’re touching weapons on grounds that were habitats, and warfare has led to pollution of water.”
Pistora said he thinks it is important that different kinds of groups are working together toward the same goal. He said while these clubs have different priorities, they all have the same values and should start cooperating.
“We’re all in the same world together,” Pistora said. “When you see the flags in the quad, you’re getting a small glimpse at what our actions have done.”