WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 17, 2011
BY ANDREA ALEXANDER, STAFF WRITER
Parents of children who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan joined veterans and other activists in front of the Teaneck Armory Wednesday to call for an end to the wars.
The group of more than 30 people gathered to mark the sixth anniversary of the weekly Teaneck Peace Vigil. Their message hasn’t changed much since a group of area residents began their regular gathering. Participants in the vigil want the troops brought home and to be taken care of when they return. They also want to see the money spent on military efforts abroad shifted to education, health care and other priorities at home.
“We have to stop these wars and bring our troops home and use the money for useful things, not killing people,’’ said Joe Harris, of Teaneck.
But some things have changed in the last six years. The jeers of passing drivers have stopped. The response to the vigil has become more positive. Drivers either honk in support or, at worst, pass by in silence.
“You can always see the climate of the country by looking at the reaction of people to the vigil,’’ said Paula Rogovin, a Teaneck resident who has been a driving force behind the gathering.
After 30 service members were killed in Afghanistan earlier this month, “there were more people honking in support of the vigil that week,’’ Rogovin said.
Participants Wednesday carried signs that declared “we need jobs and schools, not war” and “wage peace.” A man with a bull horn shouted at passing cars “bring them all home now – alive.’’
Activists handed out fake $1 million bills and asked people in the crowd to write down other ways to spend the money that has supported the war efforts. The group plans to deliver the dollars to the office of U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, D-Fair Lawn. Participants also put flowers on a tank in front of the armory to honor the soldiers and civilians who died in both wars, as well as the wounded.
For Rogovin and Anna Berlinrut, of Maplewood, the vigil is also about reminding those who pass by about the toll the war has taken on service members and their families. Rogovin’s son served two tours in Iraq. Berlinrut’s son served in Iraq and Kosovo and is currently stationed in Afghanistan.
When her son was in Iraq, Rogovin would turn on the radio first thing in the morning for news about casualties. She would listen for clues to try to figure out if her son was one of them, or if he was safe. She would brace herself when she turned the corner on her way home because she feared seeing a military van parked in front of her house waiting to give her unbearable news.
Berlinrut is frustrated because she doesn’t see the war getting the news coverage she believes it should.
“I would like people to put themselves in the place of military families,’’ Berlinrut said. “Think about their loved ones – their children, their spouses – and how they would feel if they were in harm’s way over and over again. Knowing how dangerous this is, knowing that they could be lost at any point, is this war really worth that?’’
Rogovin hopes that seeing the vigil will spur people to action.
“We want them to speak up in some way,’’ Rogovin said. “Write a letter to a member of Congress or to the president, make a phone call, send an e-mail, join a vigil.
“Even the people who are honking, I consider them part of this effort,’’ Rogovin said. “If they are with someone they will have a conversation, so even honking or giving a peace sign to support this vigil is important.’’