Veterans for Peace will display more than 6,959 tombstones on 8th Avenue just east of 31st Street from dawn on Saturday, May 25 through dusk on Memorial Day, May 27. The display is part of their Memorial Day Weekend event to remember soldiers who have died in the wars in Afghanistan since 2001 and in Iraq since 2003.
The tombstones will line the street where the Solar System Walk is located. This is the eleventh year VFP has set up the display. In 2008 they crossed over to the north side of 8th Avenue due to the continuing number of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Veterans for Peace feels that these losses of life cannot be adequately understood with facts and figures alone – that the visual impact of the tombstones more clearly conveys the reality.
Each tombstone includes a soldier’s name, date of death, age, branch of service, rank and hometown. They are 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. A directory at each end of the display helps visitors locate the tombstones they have come to view.
Each year, visitors place flowers and other expressions of rememberance at the tombstones. Veterans for Peace cleans and cares for the tombstones year round and, if possible, preserves any messages that have beem written on them. Posters depicting the costs of war will also be displayed.
During two years, Veterans for Peace wasn’t able to set up the display: in 2016, 8th Ave was under renovation; in 2018 it was rained out. This year, if the weather calls for rain on Memorial Day, the display won’t be set up, since wet tombstones can’t be put in storage as the cloth labels will mold.
Learn more at the Gainesville Veterans for Peace website at: http://www.vfpgainesville.org/