Arlington West, the makeshift cemetery honoring the U.S. servicemen and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan that’s shown up at various intervals on the beach at the foot of Stearns Wharf, will reappear this Sunday for perhaps its final installment. The occasion also marks the 10th anniversary of its first appearance on November 2, 2003 (pictured above). At that time, there were only 342 crosses laid out in the sand. Since then, the number of troops killed in the two conflicts has jumped to roughly 6,900. When that figure hit 3,000, Arlington West organizers and volunteers made the strategic decision to plant no more than 1,000 crosses.
During the height of the conflicts, Arlington West went up every week. As the wars dragged on, the memorial went up on a monthly basis. But with the wars either over or winding down and the volunteers running out of steam, a decision was made to take a hiatus. Although most of the organizers clearly have been critical of the two military campaigns launched in the aftermath of 9/11, they strove to create a solemn space, free of partisan rhetoric, where people could visit the symbolic resting place of a loved one or simply take in the moment. Over the years, 1,500 crosses were visited by friends or relatives, some multiple times.
This Sunday, volunteers will set up the crosses from about 7:30-10 a.m. State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, County Supervisor Janet Wolf, and others will make comments starting at 4 p.m. Candles will be lit by the crosses, and after the sun sets, Stephen Sherrill, one of the original organizers of the event, will deliver final remarks.