On March 27, 2003, Marine Lance Cpl. Jesus Suarez del Solar, 20 years old, stepped on a cluster bomb while serving in Iraq and died. Soon after, his father, Fernando Suarez del Solar, began traveling the U.S., speaking to politicians, government officials, media and the public, calling for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
After Jesus' death, in December of 2003, Fernando Suarez traveled to Iraq in order to see the site of the incident. He also visited hospitals in Baghdad and Fallujah while in Iraq, and was moved to advocate on behalf of Iraqi children-whether hurt by the activities of insurgent or coalition forces, it doesn't matter, says Suarez.
Suarez's goal as he travels the country is simply to bring awareness to the situation in Iraq. War, he says, doesn't bring peace. He believes that young people, particularly those in lower income brackets, often join the military in order to get money for school, and that downsides of service are often downplayed in recruitment. Suarez says that his own son, very young at the time of his enlistment, joined the Marines because of promises made to him about what he would be doing. He didn't expect to serve in Iraq.
Often, says Suarez, American youth perhaps don't realize and aren't fully informed that military assignments are subject to change. As he speaks to people about the war, Suarez says he's learned that many don't have good information about the danger of combat in Iraq. Calling military recruiting in high schools "immoral," Suarez wants young people to realize that they have alternatives to military service as they look for careers and means by which to attend college.
Suarez was invited to Idaho on the current speaking tour after his second visit to Iraq. He thinks of Idaho as being typically conservative, but has found the universities to be open places where people are receptive to his message: speaking out against the war while supporting the troops. Sponsored by the Idaho Peace Coalition, Suarez will speak in Idaho later this week for a four-day stint. Those interested have four chances to hear Suarez speak: on March 11, at the First United Methodist Church in Twin Falls at 7 p.m.; on March 13, at the Hispanic Cultural Center in Nampa from 3:30 to 5 p.m. and at Albertson College of Idaho in Caldwell at 7 p.m; and on March 14, at the Boise State Hatch Ballroom A/B at 7 p.m. All five lectures are free and open to the public. Suarez will speak in Spanish with an English translator.
When asked about his son's stance on the war, Suarez says that he discussed his anti-war views with some of Jesus Suarez's friends, young men from the same unit serving in Iraq. Both Suarez and his son's friends believe that Jesus Suarez would approve of his father's activism. They've thanked Suarez for what he is doing, Suarez says, and asked him to continue speaking out.
For more information, contact the Idaho Peace Coalition at 853-4435.