“6,402 Americans dead in Iraq and Afghanistan,” reads a headline. But few of us reading the news have any concept of what that number actually means. It is an arbitrary figure that is supposed to inform us but really jut misleads us.
6,402 seems pretty low compared to the number of American deaths in past wars like Vietnam, Korea and World War II. It’d be easy to discount those deaths if your understanding never went beyond the facts and figures.
This is why Gainesville Veterans for Peace will be displaying more than 6,400 tombstones from dawn on May 26 through dusk on Memorial Day to remember those who have died in the wars in Afghanistan since 2001 and in Iraq since 2003.
Memorial Mile will line the street along Eighth Avenue just east of 34th Street, where the Solar System Walk is located. This is the sixth year VFP has set up the display, and it is the fourth time that the tombstones will have to line both the north and south sides of Eighth Avenue due to the increased number of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The visual impact of the tombstones conveys the reality of these numbers.
Last year Memorial Mile was made up of more than 6,000 tombstones. This year more than 400 will be added, each one representing an American service member whose life was lost.
Each tombstone will include the soldier’s name, date of death, age, branch of service, rank and hometown. They will be arranged by date of death.
Soldiers with local ties will have American flags placed on their tombstones so that they may be located more easily. Veterans for Peace will have a list available on site at an information table to direct the public to specific tombstones. Last year, people came to the Memorial Mile to place flowers and other expressions of love at the tombstones.
Parking will be available at nearby West Side Park.