REMEMBERING THE FALLEN
A step behind 

A Poulsbo woman hopes to create a memorial to fallen soldiers in Iraq with military boots, but few have answered her call. 

Chris Barron 
Sun Staff

April 16, 2004 

A call to support the fallen soldier in Iraq has thus far fell silent in West Sound.
But there's still time and plenty of hope, says Claudia Kilburn.

On March 1, Kilburn, a Poulsbo resident, began a boot drive at area stores, hoping people of West Sound would donate one pair of military-style boots for each fallen soldier in Iraq.

She was planning to display each pair of boots at an April 25 memorial on the Bremerton Boardwalk with a picture and small biography of each soldier who has died in Iraq.

Forty-five days into her venture, however, Kilburn has disappointingly had just 20 boots donated -- well short of the 687 soldiers who have died to date in Iraq.

And most of the boots have come from active-duty sailors or family members who have loved ones serving in Iraq. Few boots have come from the general public.

The project has been an emotional one for Kilburn, a 28-year Navy civilian. And although she's hopes people will donate boots and attend the memorial, she's been a little disheartened at the lack of interest in her project.

"I'm very disappointed," she said. "I think the American people need to care -- whether they're for or against the war doesn't even enter into this.

"Those soldiers are over there giving their lives for this."

The idea to honor the fallen soldiers came after Kilburn's son, Jeff, and his friend Juliet Albertson were talking on the ferry about the lack of support for those who have died.

After she talked with her son about his conversation, she said it was time to take action.

"We needed to do something," she said. "Being a mother, if I lost someone over there, and I didn't see the support I thought we should have, it would kill me. I can't imagine losing your child."

Thus far, one West Sound resident, Staff Sgt. Christopher Bunda of Bremerton, has perished during the war. He died Jan. 23 in Tikrit.

Two other West Sound families also have lost family members in the conflict. Support for those families has been high, especially for Bunda.

Kilburn's goal is to honor all soldiers in a nonpolitical way.

She simply wants to bring awareness and put faces to the names that people see daily on the news.

"At the beginning of the war, they gave the names of each soldier over the news, and then it became three more died, two more, one more," she said of each soldier becoming a number rather than a real person.

Kilburn and Albertson have been combing through Web sites for photos and short biographies of each fallen soldier.

"Doing the name placards, I feel like I feel the pain of their loved ones each time I do one," she said.

No matter how many boots are donated, Kilburn said she will display the placards of each fallen soldier at the April 25 memorial.

No speeches are planned for the three-hour memorial, just a silent tribute to those who have given their lives for their country.

"I guess my main goal is to have enough people come so some parent of a fallen soldier sees this and says, 'People do care,' " she said. "We just want to educate them, and we want them to care."

Reach reporter Chris Barron at (360) 792-9228 or at cbarron@thesunlink.com.