March 07 Newsletter Vigil For The Fallen

A small, intrepid group of interfaith peace activists gathered at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in the shadow of the United Nations on January 30th for a prayer service to commemorate the lives lost or wounded in the Iraq War. As a biting wind off the East River snapped at an American flag, participants in the “Vigil for the Fallen” read aloud the names of the 3,000-plus US servicemen and women killed so far in the conflict, and remembered the countless thousands of Iraqi civilians lost, injured, and displaced.

Under a banner held aloft by members of Veterans for Peace, approximately twenty activists took turns reading from eight folders containing the names and ages, service and rank of the fallen. Discordant at first, the names—spoken one by one—quickly harmonized with the city's chorus of blaring car horns, wailing police sirens, and the rat-a-tat-tat of jackhammers.

Organized by Sensei Grover Genro Gauntt of the Hudson River Zendo, and Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara , in her role as co-spiritual director of the Zen Peacemaker Family. The "Vigil for the Fallen" also included prayers and benedictions from Ray Rivera, of the Bronx-based Latino Pastoral Action; and Adam Feder of the No Traces Zendo. Roshi offered a poem, which appears below. The memorial service lasted an hour, and after a final moment of silence, the group rolled up their banners and flags, hugged and shook hands, and dispersed into the bright afternoon.

Roshi reading her poem

Iraq Memorial Poem

Let's bring to mind all those who have gone over.
Remembering now that soldiers want to protect, to nourish, to serve
   and be of use in the world.
The wise ones say that in death we are freed from death.
And yet, the gifted young woman, eager to learn and to serve, goes over.
The hopeful young man, wanting a better life, to be strong, goes over.
The father, thinking of protecting, of the good life for his children, goes over.
The daughter filled with aspiration, to prove herself, goes over.
And it is over and over and over.

We bow our heads in solemn contemplation, in admiration and in love.
Oh that these courageous and open-hearted people,
Going over, might be appreciated, loved, taken into our hearts.
They have gone over now, too soon, and rest on the other side.
May their going over teach us all about love, aspiration, service,
    and help us to protect all living beings.

UN building

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