Santa Barbara Veterans for Peace allied with the national and international grassroots War Moratorium Movement to continue their struggle against US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The organizations held the monthly Teen Memorial on the picturesque Santa Barbara City College West Campus Lawn last Friday, July 17, constructing a mock cemetery to highlight a portion of the toll taken by the wars.
Although many mock cemetery memorials have been constructed across the nation-including Dos Pueblos and Ventura High School-this one has a unique focus. “The Teen Memorial at SBCC is one of the first to concentrate on 18- and 19-year-olds to put the cost and devastation of the war into perspective for the youth of our nation,” said Gilbert Robledo, a member of the Santa Barbara Veterans for Peace. “We hope that hgigh school and college students will look at alternatives to war and refuse to volunteer to fight in illegal wars for the profit of the oil and military industrial corporations.”
Starting at 10 a.m., volunteers installed 319 “tombstones” representing the number of male and female teenagers killed during the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Passersby were asked to visit the tombstone-covered lawn and place a placard, containing a colored photo and information about the teenage casualty, on one of the tombstones, which are in alphabetical order. “To go there and see the 319 plastic tombstonesof babiesmakes it nearly impossible to not ask yourself, what was it all for?” responded passerby Marissa Nuckles, a 23-year-old Santa Barbarian.
The organizations’ volunteers also sought to inform students about repercussions of the Solomon Amendment, which they characterized as a tool for military recruiters to contact students individually without their consent. Passed by Congress in 1996, the Solomon Amendment gives incentive for colleges and universities to divulge personal information to military recruiters, on pain of removing federal aid. “The students have the legal right to withhold this information through the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act of 1974,” Robledo added, “but the colleges do not inform them that they have this right. That is why Veterans for Peace is getting this information out to students at SBCC and throughout the nation.”
Students who attended the event had the opportunity to prevent the release of their information by filling out forms for non-disclosure of information. The veterans will continue their effort every third Friday of the month in coordination with the Iraq Moratorium.