Mid-Michigan Group Rallies For Peace, Mourns Fallen Soldiers

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Just steps away from where a Jackson group was marching for peace Sunday, Rick Cieslack stood back and watched; their words made him think of his son, Army Sgt. Andy Eckert.

"He died from a roadside bomb," Cieslack says.

Andy Eckert is one of nearly 3,200 American troops who have died in Iraq since March 2003. And as the war nears its four-year mark, the Jackson Interfaith Peacekeepers are calling for peace.

"We're honoring not only people from Michigan and the United States, but Iraqi citizens as well," says organization president Bob Lewis.

"For me, personally, it's not an anti-war stance-- a lot of good people are putting their lives on the line, that's the issue," says Jackson resident Jim Benedict.

The peacekeepers read out loud the names of nearly 50 Michigan soldiers who've died this year. On little slips of paper, the ralliers saw the faces and life stories of Michigan's fallen heroes.

"They're just so young," says rally participant Rosalyn Anderson.

The peacekeepers have been coming to Jackson's Withington Park, a veterans memorial, for four straight years. There's only one reason they'd want to be here in March 2008.

"I want to be here to celebrate their lives again and be thankful it's over," Lewis says.

"I don't want to be back here again," says Benedict. "But I think we will be."

But Cieslack returns every day; he walks past the memorial on his way home. It's a striking reminder of his son-- and all the lives that have been lost.

"I cry all the time, and I'm not ashamed to say it," he says. "I miss Andy. We're coming up on four years in war. It's time [to come home.] It's just time."

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