At EMU, a veteran’s witness against war
Student who served in Iraq brings display of boots worn by soldiers who diedBy Kelli Yoder
HARRISONBURG, Va. — Eastern Mennonite University made it onto Evan Knappenberger’s radar in 2003, with the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
After graduating from high school in nearby Charlottesville, he enlisted in the military three days after the war started, passionate about serving his country.
“I was aware that these crazy Mennonites were trying to stop the war, and I had a problem with that back then,” Knappenberger said.
Now he’s attending EMU, studying philosophy and theology. His goal is to “explore theology that can end all war and do it from a veteran’s perspective,” he said.
He’s been working toward it since returning from Iraq and leaving the Army in 2007. Studying peace theology led him to EMU.
As the president of the central Virginia chapter of Veterans for Peace, he helped show a display called “Eyes Wide Open” throughout Charlottesville during Veterans Day weekend. He arranged for it to come to EMU.
It took some convincing to bring “Eyes Wide Open” to EMU, Knappenberger said.
“There was a lot of concern that it would be seen as militaristic,” he said. “Which is exactly the opposite of what we got at the Catholic church [in Charlottesville].”
But for seven hours on Nov. 12, hundreds of EMU students and faculty came to view and discuss the outdoor display, made up of 200 pairs of boots worn by Virginia soldiers killed in combat. The soldiers’ families donated the boots to the exhibit, put together by the American Friends Service Committee.
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