Tombstone display honors Iraq, Afghanistan fallen soldiers

11074393_10206199526854367_7752921689650873715_nVeterans for Peace will be displaying more than 6,827 tombstones from dawn on May 23 through dusk on Memorial Day on Eighth Avenue just east of 34th Street as part of their Memorial Day Weekend event to remember those who have died in the wars in Afghanistan since 2001 and in Iraq since 2003.

The tombstones will line the street along Eighth Avenue just east of 34th Street, where the Solar System Walk is located. This is the ninth year VFP has set up the display, and in 2008 we had to cross over to the North side of Eighth Avenue due to the continuing number of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Veterans for Peace feel that these losses cannot be adequately understood with facts and figures alone. The visual impact of the tombstones conveys the reality of these numbers.

It is with great sadness that we announce that this year may be the last year of our event known as Memorial Mile. For the last eight years, Memorial Day Weekend is the event that Veterans for Peace has had the most interaction with the public. Because the City of Gainesville has decided to do away with the grass strips that we use for the tombstones, we will no longer have a place to display them. We have looked at alternative sites around the city and county but have not been able to find a site with parking, bathrooms, and easy access to the display, uninterrupted by driveways, and visible to traffic.

Last year the display, which is also known as Memorial Mile, was made up of more than 6,782 tombstones. This year at least 38 will be added, each one representing an American service member whose life was lost since last Memorial Day. We continue to build the tombstones as confirmed losses are reported.

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 and theater of operation.

Veterans for Peace places American flags on tombstones of local service members and on those visited by the public. VFP maintains a Directory at each end of the display, which allows us to help visitors find the loved ones who they have come to visit. Each year, people come to the Memorial Mile to place flowers and other expressions of love at the tombstones. VFP cleans and cares for the tombstones year round and tries to preserve messages that loved ones have written on the tombstones.

In addition, we’ll have posters depicting the cost of war as well as the Peace Ribbon from Code Pink, a collection of memorial panels sewn by loved ones honoring the victims of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq including civilians of those countries.

“When we started this project in 2007, we could not imagine that we would still be fighting in Afghanistan in 2015, it is way past time for us to bring our troops home,” says Scott Camil, president of Gainesville Veterans for Peace.

Parking will be available at nearby West Side Park. For more information, visit the websites listed below.

Gainesville Veterans for Peace Web site:

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