Dance in them, drink from them, wear them to bed. As long as the military boots came home to Kent with her husband in them, Stacy Bannerman...

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Dance in them, drink from them, wear them to bed.

As long as the military boots came home to Kent with her husband in them, Stacy Bannerman doesn’t care what he does with them.
Because hundreds of pairs of boots have come home empty, their owners lost to the bomb blasts and gunfire of the war in Iraq.

You can read their numbers on www.icasualties.org. You can see their faces flash on the TV and hear the wilted words of mourning family members.

But it is another thing entirely to stand before 1,500 pairs of war-worn boots, as the region will do when “Eyes Wide Open” comes to Fisher Pavilion this weekend.

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The exhibit, sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, represents the American soldiers who have lost their lives; and 1,000 pairs of civilian shoes, representing Iraqi civilian casualties.

Bannerman’s husband, Lorin, 44, is a food broker, but also a sergeant in the National Guard. He came home March 11 after a year of serving as a mortar platoon sergeant in the Sunni Triangle of Iraq.

“It was not what any of them signed up for and certainly not what I signed up for,” said Stacy Bannerman, 39, a consultant for nonprofit and educational organizations.

And while she has never seen “Eyes Wide Open” in person (the exhibit has been traveling around the country since January 2004), Bannerman is urging people to go.

It may be the only way for those who have not watched a loved one leave for war to get a sense of “the human cost.”

And there’s this: The war in Iraq is the first long-term military engagement where the burden has not been more shared by those at home. No rationing. No war bonds. No appeals to make cutbacks.

Even the Vietnam War was more closely felt here, Bannerman said, “because the draft was operative.”

While her husband was in Iraq, Bannerman couldn’t open her blinds for fear of seeing a government vehicle pull up, bearing bad news.

“I was absolutely powerless,” she said.

She wants others to see the war beyond deployment and homecoming ceremonies.

“We are so geared to the ‘Johnny comes marching home,’ that we don’t want to see the millions of people left behind,” she said. Or the ones who never came home.

Bannerman imagines “Eyes” will be something like standing at Arlington National Cemetery’s Section 60, an area set aside for soldiers killed in Iraq.

Can she put that experience in words?

There was a long pause. The start of tears. And then:

“I don’t know that I will ever be able to. There is something unspeakably sad about a plot of land being set aside by our government, waiting for the dead bodies of our children and husbands and wives.”

Bannerman knows she is one of the lucky ones.

“He came back whole, and he came back alive.”

And his boots?

“They’re in the closet,” she said. Seems Sgt. Bannerman has re-upped.

“He’s using them still.”

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

She bets it will be quiet.