by Gainesville Veterans for Peace
Veterans for Peace will be hosting a virtual Memorial Mile this year to remember those who have died in the wars in Afghanistan since 2001 and in Iraq since 2003. The virtual commemoration can be viewed at http://www.vfpgainesville.org/ starting on Saturday, May 29, through Memorial Day, May 31, at dusk.
This is the 14th year that VFP has held a commemoration, as there are a continuing number of deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2019, the last year before the pandemic, VFP displayed 6,965 tombstones along NW 8th Avenue during Memorial Day Weekend. As of April 2021, there have been 7,028 American deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2007 we put up 470 tombstones for American soldiers killed in Afghanistan. In 2021 there have been 2,442 American deaths in Afghanistan, and 1,972 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since we started this project.
In 2007 we put up 3,906tombstones for American soldiers killed in Iraq. In 2021 there have been 4,586 American deaths in Iraq, and 680 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq since we started this project.
In total, 2,652 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since VFP started this project in 2007. We can see nothing that these deaths have bought for our country.
Veterans for Peace feels that these losses cannot be adequately understood with facts and figures alone. The visual impact of the tombstones conveys the reality of these numbers. The virtual commemoration will include videos made over the years of the line of tombstones, including photos of those tombstones with written messages on them from loved ones who visited their friend or family member’s tombstone. It will also include testimonials from VFP members and others impacted by Memorial Mile and its message of remembrance. Original music will be provided by Bob McPeek.
Each tombstone includes the soldier’s name, date of death, age, branch of service, rank, and hometown.
Veterans for Peace places American flags on tombstones of local service members and on those visited by the public. 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 display posters depicting the Cost of War. VFP intentionally works to end war and grieves for those civilians also caught up in the ravages of war. We also want to bring to the public’s attention that the cost of war also includes dollars spent on war that could be better spent for education, housing, healthcare and more in the U.S. and abroad.
See more at http://www.vfpgainesville.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/472493060473225.