Atlanta church's ribbons remember war dead


By Courtney Ficken*
September 19, 2011 | ATLANTA (UMNS)

U.S. Army Capt. Brooks Askew takes a moment to study the thousands of gold, blue and green ribbons across his church’s front lawn. Askew is a member of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, Atlanta, where the Prayers for Peace Memorial is displayed.

The memorial honors the 6,400 members of the U.S. military who have died in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Askew is all too familiar with one of the names on the memorial.

“I had a job as a casualty notification officer/casualty assistant officer to inform a family that their son had been killed in Iraq,” Askew said. “I can’t imagine having to get that news because it’s probably the worst day of your life.”

The idea for the memorial came after Peachtree Road’s director of evangelism and programs, Susan Marshall, happened to visit a similar display in New York.

Marshall returned to Atlanta with the inspiration to involve her church in developing a plan to replicate the New York memorial that honors the fallen and represents prayers for peace throughout the world.

U.S. Army Capt. Brooks Askew looks through gold ribbons at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in  Atlanta. UMNS web-only photos by Courtney Ficken.

‘Dreaming big’

“Through working on this project, I’ve realized that it’s not a pipedream to think about peace for all of us,” Marshall said. “This project has touched the congregation in one of the deepest ways I have ever seen. We have been reminded that we never want to stop dreaming and praying and working for peace. We are excited about what’s possible and we are dreaming big.”

More than 750 volunteers, both in the church and throughout the community, participated in creating the display, which features three significant colors of ribbon.

Volunteer and church member David Metzner explained the differences in the ribbons starting with the gold, which represent members of the military who lost their lives.

“Attached to each is a dog tag," he said. "The dog tag displays their rank in the respective armed forces, their name and their age. The blue ribbons represent praying for peace for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq that don’t have their freedom. … The green ribbon represents prayers for peace.”

Volunteers worked tirelessly for months to create the display. Amy Peil and other church members helped.

“I have a 19-year-old, and this idea just tugged at my heart,” Peil said. “I think of all the fallen soldiers, and many of them were so young. I felt like as an American and as a Christian, it was the least I could do.

‘Dedicated to peace’

“Prayer is a part of my daily life, and I know with the Lord, anything is possible. All these wars and all these young lives. What a wonderful thing if we really could have peace.”

 The congregation continues each week to honor the fallen by reading the names, ranks, ages and hometowns of the men and women of the armed services as they die in the wars. Church members like Arch Kennedy are grateful for the way the church honors the sacrifice of these men and women as it takes a stand for peace.

“Our church is a very giving church and this project means a lot to me,” Kennedy said. “We want peace in the world, and this shows that we are dedicated to peace.”

The next step for the church is to begin contacting family members of fallen troops to tell them about the memorial.

Susan Marshall is coordinator of the Prayers for Peace memorial.

The Prayers for Peace memorial was dedicated Sept.11, 2011. More than 1,700 people, representing six churches and other members of the community, attended the event. The display will remain on the church grounds indefinitely.

*Ficken is a freelance journalist based in Watkinsville, Ga.

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