To mark 10 years since U.S. military troops invaded Iraq, a number of Bay Area residents are highlighting the war’s impact today.
In the East Bay, a Lafayette hillside dotted with crosses has served as a visual reminder of the U.S. lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. The memorial, located along state Highway 24 near the Lafayette BART station, was erected in 2006 and also includes Stars of David and other symbols.
Volunteer memorial coordinator Jeff Heaton said the memorial now includes about 4,000 crosses. He said visitors come to see the crosses on a regular basis, but that days like Veterans Day and Memorial Day draw larger crowds.
Heaton said that unfortunately, today’s date is not as entrenched in the public’s memory as those holidays.
“A lot of people are not aware that this is when the war began,” he said.
The war officially ended in December 2011, but violence in the country continues, including a series of car bombs that killed roughly 60 people in Baghdad and other areas today, according to initial reports.
Heaton said the future of the crosses is not clear. He said there is talk of turning the site into a permanent war memorial, or creating veteran housing there.
In San Francisco, a group of anti-war activists is holding a midday demonstration at the Federal Building at 450 Golden Gate Ave.
Siri Margerin, of the Civilian-Soldier Alliance and Iraq Veterans Against the War, said the 10-year anniversary won’t draw the crowds seen in 2003 when thousands marched and protested the military invasion.
Margerin said the groups she works with are calling for reparations for the Iraqi people from the U.S. government and increased health services for the soldiers who have returned.
She said Americans as a whole were sheltered from the effects of the war, and that when the war ended, many switched their focus to the economic crisis.
However, for service members who served in Iraq, the crisis is “so far from over,” she said.
Richard Becker, West Coast regional coordinator for the ANSWER Coalition, or Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, said today is a day to reflect on the important lessons from the conflict.
He acknowledged that although there is waning activism on the streets compared to the movement 10 years ago, “I don’t think people have forgotten the war.”
In the decade since, Becker said “there’s a substantial number of people in the county who don’t think the war was worth it.”
President Barack Obama released a statement today to mark the anniversary, honor the 1.5 million service members who served tours of duty in Iraq, and commemorate the nearly 4,500 American causalities.
He said those service members “made the ultimate sacrifice to give the Iraqi people an opportunity to forge their own future after many years of hardship.”
The president said the effects of the war are ongoing, including for the roughly 30,000 wounded Americans back at home.
“On this solemn anniversary, we draw strength and inspiration from these American patriots who exemplify the values of courage, selflessness and teamwork that define our Armed Forces and keep our nation great,” Obama said.
Sasha Lekach, Bay City News