Along a stretch of the North side, there’s an exhibit of the Peace Ribbon, organized by Code Pink, a collection of cloth panels sewn by loved ones of those who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan. Three stands provide information, shade and some water.
The Memorial Mile display has been has been up five times by now, and each year the procession of markers is longer. The number of Gainesville people represented is now 5 times larger than it was at first. In fact, the entire mile space has been consumed along the South side of the Avenue, and the column of tombstones has had to turn back West along the north side of the Avenue. Scott Camil, Viet Nam vet, president of VFP Chapter 14 and Mile organizer, wonders if they will run out of room before these wars are over. Then what?
A small American flag distinguishes the tombs of those with local ties. This makes it easier to find them, and there is a complete catalogue as well. Some of the tablets have had special ministration from friends and loved ones, with flowers, candles, and, above all, messages, inscriptions of love, respect, solidarity, and longing. Promises, and emblems of their units.
Some anecdotes from the volunteers:
The aunt of a soldier who died in Afghanistan came to her nephew's tombstone and wrote: 'Your mom misses you very much.'
A father, of a soldier who had died in 2010, traveled to Gainesville and laid flowers at the tombstone of his son.
A visitor today said that if there was a display like this in every city of the country we could do away with war.
Some Buddhist monks on a pilgrimage stopped by and chanted and drummed for hours at the Memorial Mile.
Sources and image links:
Scott Camil, VFP volunteers Sheila Payne and Mary Bahr, links, and my hands and knees. Photos and video links here and here.
2:51 PM PT: The special characteristic of this Memorial is that it reflects the living nature of the collective sacrifice. In honoring the losses, the arrangement of the gravemarkers -grouped by year of death rather than by service or by name- reflects the war as an ongoing, developing process, not a static end point or repository. There is change over time, and there is political responsibilty for the decision-making. And this is respectfully alluded to in presidential quotes that punctuate the procession of gravestones.
Comments are closed on this story.