Santa Monica memorial honors U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq

An American flag gently drapes over a coffin sitting in finely groomed sand, as a helmet and boots sit by its side. ?Taps? plays in the background, and the about 1,000 white crosses staked in the ground symbolize America?s newest fallen soldiers.

Since Feb. 15, the Veterans for Peace in Los Angeles have been showing their support for U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq by maintaining the display and going out to show their support each Sunday. Just on the north side of the Santa Monica Pier, the white crosses sit in military rows to honor soldiers killed.

?These are all of my brothers and sisters (who) are here,? said Peter Dudar of Veterans for Peace. ?Veterans for Peace began the honor of our fallen soldiers, not the government.?

Boards depicting photos of killed mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends and loved ones who served in the military line the sidewalk. Those strolling to the water read lists of names, ages, ranks, cities lived in and causes of death.?This is about life,? said Larry Alpert of Veterans for Peace. ?This country is not all about good. We are here to bring out the awareness and truth to the lowest common denominator of Americans that these deaths are not what we want.?For every one American soldier that is killed in this war, 60 Iraqis are killed as well, Alpert said. He added that if they were to acknowledge the number of Iraqi deaths during the war and ongoing conflicts, the whole beach would be filled with crosses.

Those that pass by and want to pay their respects to a soldier may do so freely with flowers and notes.The organization has been given a piece of the beach on which to show their support, but with more and more soldiers dying every day, they are running out of room. Veterans for Peace are replacing the white crosses, which represent one death, to red crosses, that each represent 10 deaths. In the front row, blue crosses symbolize the new deaths that occurred during the week.

John and Seakutu Riverson of Fairfax, Va., said it is a beautiful thing that people come out every Sunday to show their support for those who served our country.?We wanted to pay our respects to someone (who) we didn?t even know ? a soldier who died trying to save the life of another soldier who fell overboard in the water and never came back up,? said John Riverson.

Sally Marr, co-producer of ?Arlington West,? a film about the beachfront monument, said that the Veterans for Peace are trying to let people know what war is really about.

She said they support the peace process, but the fight is hard, especially considering the possibility of a draft, which has been disputed by both presidential candidates but which Marr fears is possible.

?This whole, ?There will be no draft? talk is a lie,? Marr said. ?We are told (so) by soldiers (who) come home talking about ? inside word of (an approaching) draft.?

Veterans for Peace said that about 98 percent of the people visiting the memorial have a positive reaction. But some feel as though this is a protest, and it?s not, she said.

?Some feel as though we should not be telling the general public about this, but the soldiers that have been there and know what it is like, appreciate it,? Marr said.

Karley Sorensen, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., left a nametag and flowers for a soldier she didn?t even know.?I found someone that was from my hometown off the board of names,? Sorensen said. ?All the families of these fallen soldiers are forever changed and traumatized because of this war.?