Any Given Sunday: Honoring the Dead in Santa Monica

Arlington West in Santa Monica

For the past nine years, Arlington West has been a fixture every Sunday on Santa Monica beach next to the amusement park on the pier. The memorial honoring American casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the work of Veterans For Peace and other volunteers. Each week they set out red, white and blue crosses, stars of David and crescent moons.The white markers represent one dead soldier; the red ones, ten. Blue markers signify the most recent casualties. In August a symbolic tombstone was added, commemorating the seven soldiers who take their own lives each week. In the  week ending August 19th, 11  American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. On Sunday, two symbolic coffins were carried out and 11 pairs of boots were placed in front of 11 blue crosses to honor them. 

I asked Arlington West volunteer Linda Marasa what changes she has noticed over the years. She told me the tone of visitors has changed. She seldom meets any passerby who is offended by the memorial. People seem to feel the need to bring the soldiers home more than ever. Veteran and antiwar activist S. Brian Willson, who lost his legs while protesting an arms shipment to the Nicaraguan Contras, thinks the memorial’s visual statement is a powerful reminder of the cost of war. He believes since there is no direct taxation for funding war and no draft, it is easy for most Americans to detach themselves from what is going on. But the memorial is a constant reminder that we are still at war. Willson thinks the memorial should be much bigger than it is, with markers for each dead Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani killed too.

The Veterans for Peace plan to continue setting up the memorial every Sunday until the war is over. They hope another war isn’t started before this one ends.

 To see more images and read more about Arlington West check out my set on flickr from years past.

Carrying out coffin

Bringing Attention to Military Suicides
Santa Monic Beach on Sunday
Visitor book
Adam J Crumpler
Anti War activist S. Ryan Wilson, who lost his legs trying to stop a train carrying weapons, visits Arlington West.

Visitor at Arlington West

Vietnam veteran Kenny White writing the weeks dead count 

Red crosses signify  ten dead; white signify one. Among the crosses are  stars of David and crescent moons.

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