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San Diego Peace Protest Memorializes The Cost Of War

Jim Brown reads the names of the dead while Stan Levin rings the bell at Vete...

Photo by Steve Walsh

Above: Jim Brown reads the names of the dead while Stan Levin rings the bell at Veterans For Peace Memorial, May 28, 2018.

The San Diego chapter of Veterans for Peace has marked Memorial Day with a somber reminder of the cost of war with Hometown Arlington West for the past 15 years.

Part protest, part vigil, Veterans for Peace began commemorating the service members killed after Sept. 11, 2001. The events started in 2003, the same year the Iraq War began, by showing all of the troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Once the casualties went beyond 2,000, we couldn’t deal with the logistics," said David Patterson, a Vietnam veteran who volunteered to serve in 1971. "Eventually we decided it was too big to deal with anyways so we went down to the local hometown one, which is the lower four counties of California, which is more manageable but still powerful.”

That are still more than 300 markers, spread out Monday along a park on Harbor Drive, just across from the USS Midway Museum. Each one of the markers represents someone from Southern California who was killed since Sept. 11, 2001. Black markers represent someone who committed suicide.

What began as a protest has evolved into a solemn remembrance of fellow veterans who died. Family members began leaving mementos at these makeshift memorials. Patterson remembers one event 10 years ago.

“It covered the whole green. There were some people who went there and left these notes about what these people’s children were doing….it was very personal,” he said.

The group actually hangs onto everything left at the memorial.

“There is an anti-war component of this, but we are personally moved by it and serious about what we do here.”

Not everyone appreciates the gesture.

“Occasionally we get someone who says 'that cross or that tombstone has my husband's name on it. He wouldn’t want to be in this display because he wanted to be in the fight.' So we give them the cross or give them the tombstone and say take it home,” Patterson said.

Most people are respectful. During the height of the two wars, Veterans for Peace staged this type of protest roughly once a month. Hometown Arlington West now takes place on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

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