by Gainesville Veterans for Peace
Gainesville Veterans for Peace will once again set up the Memorial Mile along the Solar Walk on 8th Avenue, east of 34th Sreet. The display will be set up on May 24 and will stay up through sunset on Memorial Day, May 26. While thoughts of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are unfortunately forgotten by the American mainstream media, there will still be at least 89 additional tombstones added, each one representing the death of an American service member.
“When we started this project in 2007, we could not imagine that we would still be fighting in Afghanistan in 2014, it is way past time for us to bring our troops home,” says Scott Camil, president of Gainesville Veterans for Peace.
Veterans for Peace encourage the public to stop by and walk the stunning mile at any time, believing this is the best way to take in the reality of these wars. Each tombstone representing individual Americans also represents the friends and family of the deceased who were and still are affected by these wars.
Memorial Day began as a simple, somber ritual of remembrance and reconciliation after the Civil War, then called Decoration Day. Since that time, Memorial Day has continued to honor U.S. service members who have died in all wars; by the early 20th century, this day was an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as ordinary people visited the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they served in the military or not — a far cry from the national “holiday” of barbecues, brewskies and beaches that many Americans celebrate today.
Memorial Mile will be made up of more than 6,782 model tombstones. Each tombstone remembers an American service member who died in Iraq or Afghanistan, and includes the service member’s name, date of death, age, branch of service, rank and hometown. They will be arranged by theater and date of death. Tombstones with American flags on the top represent service members with local ties whose tombstones have been visited by friends and family.
Veterans for Peace will have available, on site at an information table, a book that directs visitors to specific tombstones. Every year, people come to the Memorial Mile to place flowers and other expressions of love at the tombstones of their loved ones and friends.
This is the ninth year of Memorial Mile and the sixth year the display has crossed over to the south side of the street.
Veterans for Peace believes that these losses and the corresponding wars cannot be adequately understood with facts and figures alone. The visual impact of the tombstones conveys the reality of these numbers.
This year’s event will also feature the Peace Ribbon from Code Pink. This is an ongoing grassroots project in which individuals and groups make panels honoring the victims of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by creating a cloth memorial to fallen service members and Afghan and Iraqi civilians. The Peace Ribbon contains approximately 200 panels. To find out more about the Peace Ribbon, go towww.codepink4peace.org/section.php?id=17.
Parking will be available at nearby West Side Park. For information, visit vfpgainesville.org.