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Solemn ceremony at Capitol marks five years of Iraq war

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(AP) - A pair of boots for every Minnesota soldier killed in Iraq stood in the Minnesota Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday to mark the war's fifth anniversary.

      Anti-war groups organized the display and a somber reading of the names of all Minnesota, American and coalition troops killed in Iraq, as a gong sounded between each name. About 100 people gathered to listen. Some cried. Others hugged.

      Rick Hanson of Minnetonka came to the Capitol wearing a baseball cap with a peace sign. His youngest son, Eric Hanson, has served two tours in Iraq's Anbar province, and the father said he can't believe the war is still going on.

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      "The reality of what we're doing up there, they're facing it every day," he said.

      Former state Sen. Becky Lourey displayed a photograph of her son, Army helicopter pilot Matthew Lourey, as she criticized the war and the Bush administration in a speech. Matthew Lourey's helicopter was shot down almost three years ago.

His mother said the anniversary of the war's start was "laden with pain."

      "It is sad that Americans have become accustomed to the backdrop of ongoing killings in the war in Iraq as they struggle to make ends meet," said Lourey, a Democrat and former gubernatorial candidate who said the war is hurting the U.S. economy.

      The reading of the names began with 59 Minnesota troops killed in Iraq.

      "Private First Class Joshua Anderson, age 24, Jordan," said state Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul. "Specialist Randy Pickering, age 31, Bovey. Sergeant First Class John Tobiason, age 42, Bloomington."

      The list included Jonathan Schulze, a Marine whose suicide after a tour in Iraq helped focus national attention on post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues among returning soldiers.

      A St. Paul anti-war group called Merriam Park Neighbors for Peace organized the event, which also included clusters of shoes -- tennis shoes, sandals, flip-flops -- tagged with the name of Iraqi civilians killed in the war. The tag on a small pair of black-and-white sneakers said, "Tamara Mahdi Alankome, age 1."

      Some of the soldiers' boots were decorated with American flags, photographs and personal items including a Fort Bragg, N.C., bumper sticker and a cross.

      (Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)