An ocean of over 4,000 crosses swells across the sand beside the Santa Monica Pier every Sunday, erected faithfully by Veterans For Peace. Conversations recorded here display the entire spectrum of viewpoints about how our own military is currently feeling before and after being in the combat zone, and how our military families are handling the greatest loss, a child killed in war. It is a tribute to our fallen U.S. soldiers.
Flag draped coffins rest forefront, beside an 80-foot long board that names the dead servicemen and women. Visitors are invited to write the name of a soldier, any personal comment, and with a fresh flower, place an identity to each lonely cross. The film opens with an electric guitar gently weeping taps while we hear the voice of Gold Star Mother, Jane Bright, who lost her son in Iraq. We see the newspaper headline declaring that the Pentagon banned all photos of flag-draped coffins returning from war.
Next, a visit is paid to Steve Sherrill's shop, a Carpenter in Santa Barbara, who sought a way to acknowledge our American dead. “They agreed to lay down their lives to protect and defend our country. And the only thing we owe them in return is a promise; that their lives will not be wasted.”Friends and families drive for hours or fly in from across the nation to place photos of loved ones.
The film ARLINGTON WEST allows all to witness the poignant thoughts, dramatic revelations, silences, personal experience, and share the tears with those who are paying the highest prices for war. A full array of opinions and sentiments are presented: Active Duty Soldiers and Marines, Military Families, Veterans, and Children are featured in this revealing 74-minute encyclopedic documentary.
EXCERPTS FROM THE 105 INTERVIEWS
“The Pentagon put out a directive that the Press shouldn’t be allowed to enter Federal property to film either the caskets, funerals, or the body bags that come home as they are off-loaded from the planes: They now call them ‘Transfer Tubes.’” —Veteran Lane Anderson of Veterans For Peace.
“We do this memorial every Sunday, honoring the soldiers in this way, to give an opportunity for their families and their friends to have a place to come and grieve.” —Veteran Chuck Nixon of Veterans For Peace
"It was the one year anniversary of his death, and I just remembered, the Army called and asked me what I'd like to do with his arm and ear." —Gold Star Mother Jane Bright talks about her son.
"You might have a used book or your classroom might not be as nice, but we're in Iraq, suck it up." —a 19-year-old female Marine talks about money spent on war vs. education. She was en route to her first war zone.
"The chemicals will go into the future and destroy the Earth." —a 9-year-old boy speaks about war.
"I'm against the Patriot Act. We're supposed to be protecting Rights, not taking them away." —a Gulf War Vet who transported our dead and wounded.
"It's weird, he could be one of these crosses out here." —a 15-year-old girl talks about her 17-year-old boyfriend's recent deployment to Iraq.
"Dad, we're not fixing or rebuilding, we're building new bases in Iraq." —Bill Mitchell tells of his son, a tank mechanic, who volunteered to ride machine gun and died only days before his tour of duty finished, and was to be married.
"No, no, I let others who are braver and tougher than me fight my battles." —a middle-aged man tells of his military service after suggesting that the Veterans for Peace, who install the crosses on the beach, be tried in Baghdad with Saddam.
"It's an everyday thing to see military recruiters walking around our school." —a High School JROTC girl shares.
"The military lied to me about my son." —Gold Star Father Fernando Suarez, whose son Jesus was among the very first Marines to die in Operation Iraqi Liberation. Jesus stepped on a U.S. Cluster-Bomb, a weapon banned by the Geneva Convention.
"Out of 600 members of Congress, only one has a child in the military." —an Iraq War Veteran who helped begin an organization called Iraq Veterans Against the War.
"We killed hundreds of innocent civilians. I opened up car doors to see whole families." —Ivan, who recently finished his tour of duty, tells how the U.S. hand signal for “STOP” means “HELLO” to the Iraqis. His twin brother, also a soldier, was killed in Iraq.
"My family doesn't have money for me to go to college. I joined for an education." —a limping soldier about to be re-deployed to Iraq. He placed nametags on two crosses for fellow soldiers...one who was killed without ever seeing his baby, the other leaves behind three young children.
"We're the greatest nation this Earth has ever seen, and it's only going to get better, guaranteed." —a young Marine machine-gunner en route to Iraq for the first time.
Tourists from all over the world come to the Santa Monica Pier to dine by the sea, ride the Ferris wheel and roller coaster, frolic in the Pacific and bask in the bright sun. But as they descend the steps from the pier's playground, an ever-growing tribute of crosses is there to greet them between the fun zone and the boundless ocean.