Public Invited to the Dedication of Arlington Southwest
Big Bend Veterans for Peace invite the public to the dedication of their chapter’s memorial, Arlington Southwest, fashioned after Arlington National Cemetery. The dedication ceremony, including only a reading of the names of Texan military fatalities in Iraq and the playing of Taps, will take place on Veterans Day, November 11, 2007, at 2 p.m., at the memorial site four miles east of Alpine on Hwy 90.
The 354 tombstones, made of papercrete and fabricated by chapter members, friends, and supporters of the memorial, equal the number of Texan military casualties as of this date. Mark Battista and Tom Curry, the VFP artists overseeing the construction of Arlington Southwest, point out that the memorial also honors all victims of the occupation of Iraq.
Many Veterans for Peace chapters have established Arlington memorials but this will be the only one in the nation that is a permanent installation. Brian Kokernot donated the use of his family’s ranch land along Highway 90 for the Arlington Southwest memorial, hoping to create a reminder for Big Bend residents and visitors of the cost of war and our responsibilities as citizens to speak out publicly on issues with such grave consequences as war.
Big Bend participants in the Arlington Southwest installation believe they represent the majority of U.S. citizens who are against the Iraq war; they emphasize their diversity, including people with backgrounds in horticulture, architecture, teaching, construction, art, law, building trades, students, alternative building technologies, small business, physics, social work, a former school board member, and more.
Local Veterans for Peace members concur that Arlington Southwest is a necessary way to honor our troops because they note that our government has failed to honor its own troops by banning photographs of soldiers’ bodies being returned to the U.S. Members of the organization use the words “honor” and “respect” when they refer to their fellow veterans and find Arlington Southwest a place for grieving and sadness over the losses of war. When asked to specify the meaning of Arlington Southwest, several chapter members said they agreed with Vietnam War veteran Tom Curry’s statement:
“The reason for making Arlington Southwest, to me, is to show in a clear, dramatic way the cost and consequences of an unnecessary and illegal war started by leaders who have never seen military combat. If we could have made tombstones to represent all the U.S. troops lost and all the Iraqi civilians lost, it would probably cover most of the Kokernot ranch.”
The Big Bend group, chartered in 2007, is the 151st chapter of the national veterans organization, which was founded in 1986.
Big Bend Veterans for Peace, Chapter 151
P.O. Box 30
Alpine TX 79831