Each marker carried the name of a service member killed in Iraq, like Spc. Dominic Rodriguez of Klamath Falls, Ore., who died last June in Baghdad from non-combat-related injuries.
Or Spc. Rasheed Sahib of Brooklyn, N.Y., was killed in May 2003 when another soldier’s weapon misfired, striking Sahib in the chest.
Or 2nd Lt. John Vaughan of Edwards, Colo., who fatally wounded during a patrol in June 2006.
Row after row of markers bearing the names of soldiers killed in Iraq fill Marine Park on Tacoma’s Ruston Way this weekend. The markers, made of whiteboard and resembling gravestones, are part of the Arlington Memorial Northwest, a memorial that travels around the state.
"This is a memorial for all the dead and wounded service members who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Ray Nacanaynay of Veterans for Peace Tacoma Chapter 134, which organized the event. "We’ve got more than 4,000 markers, but I’m not sure if we’ll have enough room."
The memorial has been erected at communities across Washington since June 2004.
"When we started, there were about 750 markers," said 64-year-old Tom Brookhart of Renton. "We thought, ‘Well, we’ll go to 1,000 if we need to. But hopefully it won’t get that far.’ And then it became 1,500. It just continued. Now we’re over 4,000.
"It’s a reminder that we have a war going on. And there’s a cost to that war. There’s a real cost. And we don’t want people to forget the sacrifice."
Organizers arrived at 6 a.m. Saturday to begin setting up. It will remain on Ruston Way through tonight and next moved to Olympia next weekend.
Each memorial carries a fallen service member’s name and often includes other details like rank, hometown, age, date of death and how they died.
The tribute moves 50-year-old Liz Biber of Gig Harbor. She opposed the war before the invasion, and she said she looks at the names and imagines what each life held.
"You look at some of these placards, and you see that the (soldiers) are 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids," she said. "And some are 47 or 48. How many kids did they leave behind? And then you think about not only these guys, but the wounded – the guys coming home with no arms or no legs. And then you think about all the Iraqis who died. It’s troubling."
The symbolism of the display resonated for three Fife High School students who were jogging along Ruston Way.
"I think it’s a cool place to have it," 17-year-old Laurie Kilcup said. "A lot of people notice it here."
"A perfect place," 16-year-old Haley Shaw said. "And it puts in perspective how many people there are who have died in Iraq."
"Yeah," 17-year-old Shelby Hutton agreed. "There are a lot of gravestones over there."