Photo essay: 11-11-11 -- Veterans for Peace Arlington West Memorial: 8 years and counting

Photos and text by James Rodríguez, Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California

November 11, 2011 --, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with James Rodríguez's permission -- The armistice that ended World War I was signed on November 11, 1918. Since then, many allied nations have adopted the date to commemorate members of the armed forces who have served in a war. In the United States, this day is observed as Veterans Day.

This year’s holiday marks the eight anniversary of a unique commemoration carried out by the Los Angeles chapter of Veterans for Peace (VFP) on the sands of world-renowned Santa Monica Beach. Every Sunday since Veterans Day 2003, numerous VFP members and volunteers have erected a temporary and symbolic cemetery aptly named Arlington West Memorial. White crosses represent one fallen Iraq or Afghanistan war veteran, while red crosses represent 10 US servicepeople killed in action in these two wars.

The setup begins at dawn and it is taken down before sunset.

Jerry Van, a Vietnam War veteran, son of a World War II veteran, and a member of the Los Angeles chapter of Veterans for Peace, helps set up the Arlington West Memorial on November 11, 2011.

Arlington West takes its name from Arlington National Cemetery located in Washington D.C.

Steve Davis, resident of Santa Monica, tries to help with the set up just about every weekend. “I am not a veteran, but I believe in the cause. It is important to show the cost of war.”

Besides the crosses, crescent moons and stars of David, symbolising Islam and Judaism, respectively, are also placed in order to represent non-Christian fallen soldiers.

A troop of US soldiers marches by Arlington West before sunrise.

Michael Lindley, Vietnam War veteran and Arlington West co-coordinator, states: “I do it because it needs to be done. The public needs information… This whole idea of war to solve issues is not the way to go… The human and economic costs of war are outrageous. There is no good answer to a war. We could fund the entire Los Angeles Unified School District for a year with what we have spent on these wars in one day. And so we have classrooms with 40 kids in them.”

According to a February 2011 article by Agence France-Press, “the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq will allow for a reduced US defense budget in 2012 but the war in Afghanistan still costs the United States close to 300 million dollars a day.” [1]

For more statistics on the economic cost of the wars, please visit the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation’s funding chart as well as the website Cost of War, managed by the National Priorities Project.

Lisa Green, resident of Venice who has ran for congress for the Green Party and is a recurring volunteer, states: “We need to expose the fact that wars are corporate driven. The amount of human suffering has devastating effects on our societies and our planet, which is our home.”

The Arlington West Memorial displays numerous signs with updated statistics. Besides US military servicepeople killed or wounded, it also brings attention to the more than 1.5 million Iraqi and Afghan civilians killed since 2001.

When asked about why he wears Bradley Manning pins on his hat, Michael Lindley replies: “Bradley Manning is a hero. He took the opportunity to share information with the public that we needed to hear.” Bradley Manning is a US Army soldier who has been accused of allegedly passing classified data to WikiLeaks and held in solitary confinement since July 2010.

Pepe Romero, resident of Santa Monica who migrated from Mexico in the 1970s, helps out every week. “I jog every Sunday morning, so since I saw this, just feel like I need to chip in.”

In addition to the red and white crosses, flag-covered coffins with blue crosses are displayed in order to represent the fallen military personnel for that week.

Friends and family members of fallen US soldiers often use the memorial to place flowers and messages to their loved ones.

The website records the official numbers of US soldiers killed since 2001: Iraq: 4483 and Afghanistan: 1833. Nevertheless, these numbers pale in comparison to those who make it back and are permanently scarred physically or psychologically: 33,183 veterans have been wounded or injured and CBS reported in 2010 of a suicide epidemic among returning veterans with 18 taking their own life every day.[2]

Arlington West Memorial home page click here.

For a slideshow click here.

For’s photo essay on Arlington West in 2006 click here.

Versión en español aquí.

[1 ] "Afghan war costs $300 million a day: Pentagon"

[2] Keteyian, Armen. “VA Hid Suicide Risk, Internal E-Mails Show”. July 30, 2010.

2011-11: Veterans Day at Arlington West - Images by James Rodriguez