Fallen Soldiers Honored

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Plaza Vaquero took on the aura of a memorial park Nov. 8 with hundreds of gleaming white crosses spreading from the Administration building walkway up to the cafeteria. A recreation of the Arlington West display held every weekend in Santa Monica, the 856 crosses that lined the grass, some draped with flowers and American flags, represented fallen American soldiers in Iraq.

This powerful memorial, erected in remembrance of the 2,055 dead and 14,902 wounded American soldiers in Iraq, was one part of the Day of Remembrance celebration put together by the GCC Justice Coalition, Veterans for Peace and the Iraq Veterans Against The War (IVAW) as a timely commemoration of Veterans Day.

Members of these organizations set up the crosses by hand, one by one, earlier that day. A program composed of speeches and poems representing anti-war sentiments was held at the Plaza at noon.

“We’ve been preparing for this since October,” said Elisa Felix of the Justice Coalition. “We specifically wanted it [held] on this week since Friday is Veteran’s Day.”

The Justice Coalition, according to member Freddy Moncada, who opened the program with a short speech, is an organization that aims to make students “aware of what’s going on around the world” through the activities they promote.

Kathleen Miner, another member of the organization, enumerated several facts about the war in Iraq.

“The cost of the war is $203.3 billion,” said Miner. She “$1.2 billion [dollars] will be spent in 2006 on ballistic missiles and-defense.” Miner added that the amount should be spent on funding 134 elementary schools rather than on weapons of destruction.

Miner went on to mention the names of soldiers from California who had been killed in Iraq.

“It’s widely known that the government does not report all the names [of dead soldiers],” Miner said, explaining that only numbers, and not the deceased soldiers’ individual names, are made known to the public. “What kinds of lives would they have had? It’s unfortunate that we are never going to know.”

A few veterans from previous wars also made speeches protesting armed conflict in Iraq. One of them was Marcus Eriksen from Veterans for Peace, a veteran from the first Gulf War.

Eriksen shared an experience from the Gulf War in which he reached under the driver’s seat in an Iraqi tank and pulled out a pair of binoculars. He saw that it was the exact same pair as the one he was using; it was also American-made. According to Eriksen, the same is true for weapons used in war.

“How many Americans were killed by this American weapon?” Erikson asked his audience, referring to American-made guns used by Iraqi soldiers. “This war is a business.”

A Vietnam War veteran, Mark Scully, spoke on how the war changes the lives of its victims, particularly the soldiers. “Veterans are wonderful people, but they’ve had horrible experiences,” Scully said.

Scully went on to remind listeners about other wars in the past century, beginning with World War I, which he compared to more recent wars such as the one in Iraq when it comes to its effects on the lives of soldiers.

“We’ve been looking at the same war since 1908,” he said. For Scully, the war is a “ripple in the water,” acting like a cycle in the lives of veterans.

A GCC student, Gabriel Acosta, whose brother is a soldier currently stationed in Iraq, expressed hopes that the soldiers could soon come home safely.

Two other students, Maya Rumble and Alejandra Morataya, also read poems promoting peace.

At the end of the program, there was a moment of silence. The names of American casualties of the Iraq war were then called out one by one as students laid flowers and flags in front of the crosses.
“We need to overcome apathy,” said Tim Goodrich of the Iraq Veterans Against The War. “A lot of the troops are against the war too. They want to go home.”