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On a crusade against land mines - Denver Post

Survivor seeks to enlist youths in battle to eliminate deadly devices.

A land mine destroyed Ken Rutherford's legs, but that didn't stop the University of Colorado graduate from launching a global effort to rid the world of the devices.

Rutherford helped start the Landmine Survivor Network and won the support of Princess Diana. Rutherford was also part of a group that won a Nobel Peace Prize for trying to eradicate land mines forever.

Rutherford's campaign brought him before more than 180 of the Front Range's brightest middle- and high-school students Thursday in hopes of enlisting them in the fight against land mines.

"This is a time when you can speak up and act against this," said Rutherford, speaking at the Adams 12 Five Star Schools administration building.

A football and basketball star at Boulder's Fairview High School, Rutherford never thought much about land mines even when someone tossed a grenade into his office in Somalia in 1993. He was there working for the International Rescue Committee helping build the financial infrastructure in the war-torn nation.

On his way to a refugee camp, his jeep was rocked by a land mine that eventually cost him both his legs.

Rutherford suffered pain beyond belief, but he later learned he was actually lucky: "I was an American, I had good artificial legs, and I lived."

Most land-mine victims live in poor countries, lack basic medical services and are women and children, Rutherford said. Land mines are in more than 80 countries in the world, left over from wars and other conflicts.

They kill about 28,000 people a year.

"They are an indiscriminate killer," he said.

Princess Diana brought international attention to the issue of land mines even as governments - including the United States - simply ignored the problem, Rutherford said.

"She was a singular person who used her celebrity for good," he said.

Many of the students who listened Thursday - all enrolled in higher-level International Baccalaureate programs - were moved by Rutherford's story.

Still, the sad history of land mines was not news to students at Aurora's Hinkley High School, which has made land- mine elimination an annual project.

"There are still so many problems in the world," said senior Kevin Bell. "But this is an issue we can do something about."

Posted: Monday, February 12, 2007

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