LAFAYETTE (CBS SF) — The last white cross has been hammered into the hillside memorial in Lafayette this week, memorial organizers said.

The memorial, which was erected in 2006, had placed a cross for each United States military death since entering Iraq in 2003. But with the growing number of casualties overseas, project organizer Baika Pratt said, “It’s too hard to keep track of.”

Dozens of American soldiers, including 30 Navy SEALs, who died when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan last weekend highlight the growing number of casualties that have made the memorial difficult to maintain.

Approximately 4,000 crosses, Stars of David and Islamic crescents blanket the hillside, and Jeff Heaton, who started the memorial, said it has become difficult for the dozen active volunteers to upkeep the land.

This core group goes out once a month to maintain the memorial by trimming grass, as well as repairing and painting fading crosses.

The memorial began with 300 crosses and a sign that read “In Memory of 2839 U.S. Troops Killed In Iraq.” The sign now reads, “In Memory Of Our Troops,” with the death total number from the Department of Defense.

Heaton continually sees people visiting the memorial, some of whom are relatives of fallen soldiers.

“It’s more for their personal need to find closure,” Heaton said. “I’m always finding more crosses being decorated.”

The total number of American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan stands at 6,198, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

“The war has gone on so long, it’s crazy,” Heaton said. “The crosses represent where we went wrong to begin with.”

“We think a statement is still being made,” Pratt said. “The statement is there are consequences for actions.”

The memorial across from the Lafayette BART station on Deer Hill Road has generally been supported by the Lafayette community and has seen the number of opponents fade, Heaton said.

“It’s a memorial and will always be a memorial,” Pratt said.

Organizers hope one day there is an official memorial for those lost in Iraq and Afghanistan similar to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“There’s no Iraq memorial like there’s a Vietnam memorial,” Heaton said. “(The hill) plays an important function.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (9)
  1. Peter B. Towle says:

    May we all thank God for the selfless sacrifice of these and all the men and women who gave all for our country and all of us fortunate enough to live in it.

  2. Robert Lockwood says:

    The crosses were originally a war protest- to get around the public protest of the crosses it was then called a memorial. The crosses are a eyesore and are not accepted by most of the Lafayette citizens. The protest/memorial is placed in Lafayette by people from other areas. It has made it’s statement- whatever it was – and it is now time to remove the crosses. If not now, when?

    1. Liza says:

      Maybe Robert and Dan should leave AMERICA and live in another country and By the way if it’s private property he can do as he please. Maybe we should send heartless people like you two over to the front lines.

    2. Perkins says:

      When its ok to forget that people died to liberate the oppressed. I apologize for the eyesore, it must be difficult to have to face that everyday. Those families have no idea what you go through, having to see that. You really do have it rough. OR maybe you could appreciate that men and women fought and died for the interests of OUR nation and have some respect for their families.

  3. Alex says:

    Thanks George W. I hope you sleep well at night.

  4. Young Lafayette says:

    Robert, you’re statement is exactly what is wrong with our community and is really a testament to the very old generation in Lafayette that is thankfully on the way out. Having grown up in Lafayette with all my friends, I can say that Robert and Dan’s words do not represent the majority of the community any longer. Go to Blackhawk or Alamo and just leave well enough alone.

  5. Victoria says:

    It’s unfortunate that service members are dying while idiots like Dan and Robert are allowed to take up space.

  6. Nancy Jones says:

    It’s lucky this wasn’t during the Civil War.

  7. Nick Peterson says:

    I think people forget why we went to war. These soldiers that paid the ultimate price would not want people asking why they died. They would ratherr have their name honored for what they did for their country. Soldiers sign up up knowing what the ultimate price is for their duty in the U.S. Military. So, instead of asking “why”….just say “Thank You”. I think this memorial is amazing. The least peole can do is think that it is too difficult to take care of the grounds that it lay on. Rather think what more can I do. Can you die for your country? If everyone could give everything for this great country of ours…..our nation would be so much better.

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