San Diego Veterans for Peace honor the fallen on Memorial Day

San Diego Veterans for Peace honor the fallen on Memorial Day
The group San Diego Veterans for Peace brought its Hometown Arlington West Memorial to a grassy spot on the waterfront. The names of the fallen are on the faux headstones. The black headstones represent military personnel who committed suicide. (Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times)

The names were read slowly: name, rank and age -- each followed by a ceremonial ringing of a bell.

The tourists walked by, some glancing over at the faux headstones with the names of sons and daughters of Southern California killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.


"We don't expect to end war or to change the world," said David Barrows, president of San Diego Veterans for Peace. "But we just want people to get thinking about the costs of war."

The group, Barrows said, is not anti-military. Barrows, now 75, served six years in the Army, his father was an officer.

"We know that we need a military," he said. "But we just want people to think about other ways to settle disputes."

And so every Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and sometimes days in-between, the group erects its Hometown Arlington West Memorial in honor of those killed in the nation's two most recent wars.

Some of the headstones are black - symbolizing military personnel who committed suicide.

"It's another cost of war," Barrows said.

The city names on the headstones are like a roll-call of Southern California, large and small: Los Angeles, San Diego, Calexico, Brawley, Long Beach, Bell Gardens, Fontana, Glendale, Chula Vista, Downey and more.

The site this year of the memorial display was a grassy patch on the San Diego waterfront, near the carrier Midway museum.

Even as Islamic State militants continue to grab portions of Iraq, Barrows and his group stop short of saying that U.S. military personnel died in vain.

"They were doing what they felt was right. Is it a waste? Yes," he said. "But I don't want to blame them for the choices they made."

A steady stream of tourists wandered by - some on their way to the Midway museum, others to a nearby seafood restaurant, some just enjoying the newly renovated waterfront.

The reading of the names, and particularly the ages, caught the attention of many, particularly how young some of those killed in action were. Some were 19.

"They're very young, aren't they?" said Millie Braun, visiting San Diego on vacation from Northern California. "We should remember that, all of us."

Twitter: @LATsandiego