With a retired teacher strumming, “Where Have all the Flowers Gone” on a guitar, anti-war activist on Wednesday trod across the Teaneck Armory’s lawn and, one by one, placed orange, pink and lavender flowers on a military tank.
The gesture ended a two-hour gathering of songs and speeches by the Teaneck Peace Vigil to mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War and renewed calls for an immediate end to the war in Afghanistan.
“Ten years, we have been doing these vigils, over, and over and over again — and we’re still here,” said Paula Rogovin, lead organizer.
Since August 2005, the group — including current and retired teachers, military veterans and even parents of active duty military personnel — has gathered every Wednesday near the Teaneck Armory property to call for an end, first to the Iraq War and then war in Afghanistan.
Nearly 4,500 Americans service members died and more than 30,000 were wounded in warfare in Iraq before combat troops departed at the end of 2011. Troops are expected to remain in Afghanistan through 2014.
“War is madness,” Frank Wagner, 71, a Vietnam veteran from Bogota , said of why he’s attended the vigils for six or so years.
Six veterans held a banner reading, “Out of Afghanistan.” Others held signs decrying the use of unmanned drone aircraft equipped with missiles. Others urged “Bring Our Troops Home, Send the Politicians” and sang the song “Let There be Peace on Earth.”
A 94-year-old Rutherford resident paced the corner, shouting into a bullhorn that the troops should be brought home and there should be no more blood for oil.
Noting vigils held in all weather, Karen Decolle of Leonia said “I never believed in it [the war]. … Most people don’t even think about it or even remember that it’s happening, but it is … and people need to be reminded that this is happening and that we need to end it.”
Rogovin read a letter from John Fenton, whose son Marine Sgt. Matthew Fenton of Little Ferry died in May 2006 from injuries sustained in a vehicle bombing near Fallujah. Fenton wrote of the “tremendous hole in the hearts of the families” who lost loved ones and said he feared another war.
“I hope that I am wrong, but I believe you should hold onto your young children very tightly before it is too late,” he wrote.