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Turning combat boots into ploughshares in Kansas City

Photo: AFSC
Photo: AFSC

What should the U.S. do about its bloated, counterproductive Pentagon budget?

On the eve of Veterans’ Day, the American Friends Service Committee's Kansas City program asked elected officials to:

...follow our example. Just as we are turning our symbols of war—combat bootsinto resources that will keep homeless Kansas Citians’ feet dry and warm this winter, we call upon our leaders to turn our wasteful Pentagon budget into the investments we desperately need to improve the lives of our citizens and our hope for the future—job development, healthcare, education, neighborhood development, housing, safety net programs...”

AFSC, with the support of Veterans for Peace, KC Chapter and Iraq Veterans Against the War- Kansas City, and Artists Helping the Homeless, held a final display of the Missouri and Kansas Eyes Wide Open (EWO) Exhibits and the Turning Combat Boots into Ploughshares: Boot Distribution to homeless veterans and other homeless area residents on Nov. 10, 2013.

The exhibit includes over 200 combat boots tagged with the names of Missouri and Kansas troops and shoes tagged with the names of civilians killed in the Iraq and Afghan wars. Between the fall of 2006 and 2012, the Missouri and Kansas Eyes Wide Open exhibits were displayed at dozens of colleges and universities, houses of worship, parks, conferences, and other venues, and viewed by an estimated 10,000 people.

In addition to the distribution of boots and shoes, Artists Helping the Homeless served over 120 meals and the Salvation Army distributed clothes and homeless resource bags at the event. And over 75 homeless men and women were give boots and shoes at the Turning Combat Boots into Ploughshares event. The remaining 150+ boots and shoes are being distributed to homeless and others in need by the Frank Williams Outreach -Wyandot Center in Kansas City, Kan., and the Salvation Army in Kansas City, Mo.

Prior to the retiring of the Eyes Wide Open exhibit, brief comments were made by Ira Harritt of AFSC's Kansas City program, Kar Woo, Artist Helping the Homeless; Pat McClelland, Vets for Peace; Will Steward Starks, IVAW and Dave Pack, AFSC Kansas City Committee Clerk.

[Video recordings of the comments can be viewed on YouTube.]

With U.S. military troops withdrawn from Iraq and all combat forces scheduled to be out of Afghanistan by the end of next year, AFSC’s Kansas City program decided to retire the Missouri and Kansas Eyes Wide Open exhibits in a manner consistent with the exhibit’s purpose—to highlight the human costs of war and stress that the best way to protect and safe guard our troops is to not put them in harm’s way.  

The event was powerful and sent a strong message about the need to care for the homeless, veterans, and all in need, and the necessity to cut wasteful, excessive, and counterproductive Pentagon spending.

AFSC expresses many thanks to Vets for Peace, IVAW, KKFI, Artists Helping the Homeless, Salvation Army, the Frank Williams Outreach Center for their support of this event.

The event received media coverage from the Kansas City Star (article also on “Stars and Stripes”) and by Fox Channel 4 TV.

Photos from the event can be found on Facebook.