It’s not even a big sign, but on Superior street in Duluth, Minn., a scorecard of soldiers lost in Iraq is at the center of a community divide.
“I thought it would be welcomed because it says, ‘Remember our fallen heroes,’” says Scott Cameron, the man who put up the sign. “It’s a pro-veteran sign, not an anti-war sign.”
Cameron took enemy gunfire aboard a helicopter in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. He put the sign in the office of a Democratic candidate for governor, where he’s a volunteer.
It’s right next door to an Army recruiting station.
Staff Sgt. Robert Harder served two tours in Iraq and is one of the recruiters who see the sign as less than neighborly.
“The deaths are not just a tally for them. It’s more of a ‘Hey, that’s my friend’ or ‘That’s my soldier I lost over there,’ or ‘That’s my buddy’” says Staff Sgt. Staff Sgt. Gary Capan, another U.S. Army recruiter. Sgt. Capan wants the sign down — and his neighbors don't agree.
On the surface, it’s just a dispute between workers in two ordinary offices on a small stretch of sidewalk in the upper Midwest. But in many ways, what’s happening on Superior street is a dramatic example of the debate being waged in communities like this all across America—from Cindy Sheehan’s protests in Crawford, to vigils in support of the war.
In Duluth, they mix it up over breakfast in the Amazing Grace cafe. Regardless of their views, most residents told me they support Cameron’s right to his.
“It’s just a quiet statement and I think it should be left that way,” says Duluth resident Beverly Martin.
It’s a placement issue for Bob James, who has a son and daughter-in-law in Iraq. “It would be like putting a bar right next to an Alcoholic’s Anonymous facility,” argues Jones. “It just isn’t right.”
On Superior street, it’s a fragile agreement to disagree— a still peaceful debate over an increasingly divisive war.