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   from the issue of March 27, 2008

Buhs' clips document Iraq war toll with clips


The war in Iraq weighs on Eric Buhs.

WAR MEMORIAL - Eric Buhs stands by a portion of the U.S. soldier obituaries he posted outside his Teachers College Hall...
WAR MEMORIAL - Eric Buhs stands by a portion of the U.S. soldier obituaries he posted outside his Teachers College Hall office. Photo by Troy Fedderson/University Communications.

Since fall 2004, the assistant professor of Educational Psychology has started each morning with a cup of coffee and U.S. military obituaries printed in the Lincoln Journal-Star. He started clipping and posting the obituaries on a pair of bulletin boards outside his second floor, Teachers College Hall office. The clips now flutter on both sides of the hallway, spreading onto bulletin boards of a few agreeable coworkers.

"I started making myself read the soldier obituaries as a simple way to try and understand the costs and sacrifices of war," Buhs said. "What really struck me was how each death left a hole that extended from a family into the community."

The "Casualties of War" biographies are compiled monthly by the Associated Press. They are published by the Journal-Star throughout the month until all have appeared, with photos when available.

A manila envelope holds recent clips - Buhs estimates he has more than 3,000 soldier obits posted in the hall. He has also added another envelope, which includes a list of the more than 38,000 Iraqi civilian deaths tied to the war.

"This is not driven by any political statement or opinion," Buhs said. "I've tried to let the obits speak for themselves."

When he first posted the obituaries, Buhs said people would stop outside his office and read for a few minutes - a few brave individuals would pause and ask questions. After a 2004 story in the Daily Nebraskan, one student came looking for a lost friend.

"She came to read about a friend that died in Iraq," Buhs said. "She found his obit. That really emphasized how this war can strike close to home."

As the newsprint has started to fade, Buhs has noticed fewer people stopping to read about the soldiers.

"It's almost like the obituaries have become part of the normal landscape up here," Buhs said. "It's kind of disappointing."

The war in Iraq surpassed a five-year anniversary on March 19. The U.S. military death toll reached 4,000 soldiers on March 24.

Buhs doesn't believe people are less interested in the war. Instead, he thinks news reports have become like his memorial - "part of the normal landscape."

"Any time you have huge quantities of reporting on one topic, people become desensitized to it," Buhs said. "I think that is what is happening to all of us when it comes to the war in Iraq."

Buhs can't remember a day in which he failed to collect a soldier obit from the paper. His wife, Rose Holz, associate director of Women's and Gender Studies and lecturer in History, helps clip the obituaries each day.

"Cutting these out is just part of the daily routine in our house now," Buhs said. "Even for me, it's lost some of the significance. It's become hard to give it the level of attention that it deserves."

Still, the memorial remains important to Buhs. His plan is to collect the obituaries until the war is over, posting them when board space comes available or placing them inside that manila folder outside his door.

"I haven't thought about what I'm going to do with all these after the war is over," Buhs said. "I have a sense of responsibility to them now. I'm leaning toward putting them in an envelope and keeping them up permanently.

"I know I'll never just get rid of them. That would be too disrespectful."



Organ celebration
Buhs' clips document Iraq war toll with clips
Quilt museum grand opening is March 30
Research Fair opens April 1