Wednesday, December 13, 2006
"The toll of war is measured here on an acre of Pacific sand, where each Sunday volunteers array handmade wooden crosses in regimental columns to honor U.S. service members lost in Iraq.
The white crosses — each with a small American flag at its base, some decorated with photographs of the fallen — recall the gravestones of Arlington National Cemetery in a place usually reserved for sunbathers and tourists.
Now, as the nation approaches the grim milestone of 3,000 war fatalities, the seaside memorial in one of California's most popular coastal destinations has reached a crossroads of its own. The group of veterans that organizes the weekly tribute has decided to stop adding crosses because it is struggling to keep pace with the tally of death.
"It's getting out of hand," said Stephen Sherrill, who builds and paints each cross in his garage. "I wish I could keep going, but I'd need a lot more help."
The display has grown as the national mood has soured on the war. The first crosses went into the sand on Nov. 2, 2003, when they numbered 340.
The display started as more protest than commemoration, when the public and the media appeared to pay little attention to the dead. In time, organizers sought to emphasize respect for fallen soldiers and bring attention to the cost of war, while veering around overt political statements.
Now the crosses, which numbered 2,928 as of last weekend, weigh more than a ton."