By Jon Silman
Staff writer, The Gainesville Sun
Beginning Friday night at midnight, the Gainesville chapter of Veterans For Peace set up makeshift tombstones along Northwest Eighth Avenue in the area Solar Walk — 6,446 of them. They go up the north side of the street and down the south, each representing a service member lost in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. This is the sixth year of the memorial.
“When we started it,” Camil said, “we didn’t realize we’d still be doing it in 2012.”
The tombstones are up from 6 a.m. Saturday until sundown on Monday. Members of Veterans for Peace are there through the duration to help friends and family find memorials for their lost loved ones — with a book of soldiers’ names.
Camil, 66, a veteran of the Vietnam War, got the idea for the memorial after Arlington West, a similar exhibit performed by VFP Chapter 54 at the Santa Monica Pier in California.
Viewers park at nearby Westside Park. Each tombstone includes the soldier’s name, date of death, age, branch of service, rank and hometown. They will be arranged by date of death.
“The only time you ever see something in (the) press is if someone dies locally. But basically someone dies every day, and people don’t really get to see that,” Camil said. “The idea is so people would see the impact of what they’re missing.”
Philip Morris, a veteran of the Army National Guard, looks at a tombstones forhis friend DeForest Talbert along the Memorial Mile along Eighth Avenue in Gainesville in this May 28, 2011 file photo.
Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun