Couple Remember War Dead with Yard Display In an upper middle-class suburb of Kansas City, a couple displays one small American flag on their lawn for every American servicemember who has died in Iraq. They began the practice late on the night of July 4, and they have updated the count every Sunday morning since.
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Couple Remember War Dead with Yard Display

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Couple Remember War Dead with Yard Display

Couple Remember War Dead with Yard Display

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This morning in Kansas City, Missouri, Ann and Don Bender pushed 19 small American flags into the grass in front of their house. The new flags joined more than 3,600 already on their lawn to mark the number of U.S. military dead in Iraq. The display is in an affluent section of a reserved Midwestern city where political yard signs are rare.

NPR's Jason Beaubien visited the Bender home this morning and filed this report.

JASON BEAUBIEN: Driving north on state line into Kansas City, there's a moment as your cross the hill when the knee-high red, white and blue flags appear to stretch on forever. The flags are arranged in a long strip, ten flags wide, between the Bender's white fence and the road.

Mr. DON BENDER (Resident, Kansas City, Missouri): We have to kind of keep a space here. We couldn't get too close to the street. And what I ended up with was if I did 10 across and 360, that gives us that kind of centers it in the, between the street and the fence.

BEAUBIEN: Don Bender has a huge yard but he's almost run out of space.

Mr. BENDER: We have to talk to our neighbors, see if we could expand into his yard if we have to.

BEAUBIEN: As Don adds more flags, his wife Ann is updating the pair of simple black-and-white signs which bookend the rows. The new total is 3,632.

Ann and Don Bender both grew up in Kansas City. Ann says they were hesitant about putting out the display. She notes that this is the Midwest where people usually don't like to call attention to themselves. And they've never done something like this before. But she says their frustration with the war in Iraq finally overcame their inhibitions.

Ms. ANN BENDER (Resident, Kansas City, Missouri): Our children, you know, they hear us talk about it and we express our unhappiness with what's going on. And we finally thought, they need to see us doing something, take a stand in some way.

BEAUBIEN: They originally put the flags out in the middle of the night on July 3rd. They planned to take the display down after the Fourth of July, but they got so much response, all of it positive they say that they've decided to leave it up.

Veterans have stopped by to thank them. People have left notes. Ann has found it surprisingly moving for her, too. One night, a storm knocked many of the flags over. She and Don went out to straighten them.

Ms. BENDER: It was my first exposure to starting at one end and working our way down. And I just became so overcome by every flag's got to be straight. And every one of these is somebody who's died over there and their mothers would want their flags standing up straight and I just - it just makes it more personal. I mean, you think it's easy to forget because we don't know anybody who has a family member in Iraq.

BEAUBIEN: Neither of them claims to have the answer for the war in Iraq. The Benders aren't calling for an immediate pullout of U.S. troops. They say they simply don't know what the solution is to Iraq, but in the meantime, they hope people who drive past their house each day remember how many American soldiers have died in the war.

Jason Beaubien, NPR NEWS, Kansas City.

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: One other note from Missouri, the city of Saint Louis. Some 200 people were trapped inside the Gateway Arch for about two hours yesterday because of a power outage. Some were stranded in the trams that tourists take to the top of the arch; others were stuck on the platform of the stainless steel monument, 630 feet in the air, overlooking the Mississippi River. Power was eventually restored and those on the platform were spared the long trek down the stairway.

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