Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Driving down Madison's Speedway Road this morning, the grave markers went on forever
I took a detour on the way to work this morning. T had reminded me that Madison Veterans for Peace had put up their Memorial Mile along Speedway Road at Forest Hill Cemetery for Veterans Day week. I wasn't prepared for what I saw. Approaching from the West, I could just see a few distant white forms on the right, which resolved into symbolic grave markers as I drew closer. It just didn't seem that dramatic.
Until I crested the hill. Then, the markers seemed to go on forever, stretching all the way down the long hill, practically all the way to Highland and Regent. The sense of loss and waste was overwhelming, and yet there was nothing strident about the message. Just 4,800 mute white markers reminding us of the U.S. service personnel who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Signs marked the different years when the fatalities had occurred, and there were blue Wisconsin flags next to the markers for the 95 Wisconsin men and women who gave their lives.
I parked my car in the cemetery and just sat there for a moment, looking out at the endless line of tombstones. Then I walked over the information tent that was manned by a lone volunteer, Elton Tylenda, a Vietnam vet, peace activist and counselor for Vietnam vets. As we talked, cars drove by and beeped their horns in support. He talked about the meaning of the memorial Mile and its symbols of mourning and remembrance: "Mourn the dead, heal the wounded, end the war."