BayCitizen: Crosses of Lafayette Oct 23, 2010
Crosses of LafayetteAdithya Sambamurthy/The Bay Citizen
By HANK PELLISSIER
Published: October 23, 2010The Crosses of Lafayette project was started almost four years ago by Jeff Heaton, a local building contractor, to recognize American service members who were killed in Iraq. The white markers of the antiwar site dot the hillside and are easily viewed from Highway 24.
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Adithya Sambamurthy/The Bay CitizenHANK PELLISSIERPeaceful PalsThe Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center, Grandparents for Peace and the Lamorinda Peace and Justice Group joined Mr. Heaton to support the project. Volunteers erected 300 crosses on Veterans Day in 2006, and by Feb. 26, 2007, there were more than 2,000. The site is the property of Louise Clark, 85.Local OutrageBryan Welden of the Lafayette Flag Brigade, a community group that supports United States military members returning from tours of duty, opposes the project, which Mr. Welden called an Al Qaeda scoreboard that is very negative, it sends a message that we are being defeated. Mr. Welden characterized the volunteers as anti-military, anti-American, Jane Fonda types.”Secret AttackVandals removed the first 15 crosses. Later, Jean Bonadio, a retired Marine sergeant, publicly dismantled the sign at the site that lists the number of deaths. Two mosaic crosses by Connie English, an artist, disappeared in 2007 and were discovered a year later, smashed.Cemetery SymbolsService members who were Buddhist, Islamic, Pagan, or Jewish are noted by stakes topped with dharma wheels, crescent moons, pentacles or the Star of David. The hillside also contains tiny crosses, which indicate child victims, and atomic symbols, which mark the deaths of United States service members and Iraqi citizens from depleted uranium.Steady VisitorsSilent meditation and prayer is held at the crosses the first Sunday of every month at 9:30 a.m. At 10 a.m., volunteers arrive to maintain the site: weeding, repairing and adding new crosses.Unknown SoldiersOriginally, only Iraq war deaths were included on the hillside. But after parents and friends of service members who died in Afghanistan asked project organizers to commemorate their loved ones, 600 crosses were added. Mr. Heaton said that no one knows exactly how many crosses are currently on the hill.The General's CityLafayette is named after Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, a wealthy French general who fought in the American Revolutionary War, donated financial support and encouraged France's participation.