Santa Monica has not been without locations for remembrance of military members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
A row of monuments at Palisades Park was erected to pay tribute to victims and service members of each of the branches of U.S. Armed Forces, and some who gave their lives in defense of the country have gravestones at Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery.
And veterans killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are honored each Sunday with a sea of crosses and other religious symbols in a memorial known as Arlington West on the sand north of the Santa Monica Pier.
But city officials are now considering an effort to specifically memorialize those who have called Santa Monica home and lost their lives during a wartime conflict.
City Councilman Bob Holbrook has proposed to have some form of recognition established in the city for Santa Monica service men and women who were casualties of the five major wars that occurred since the city was incorporated in 1886. A City Hall intern assigned to the project has thus far identified 97 names of Santa Monicans that fit that description.
The City Council voted unanimously Aug. 14 to direct staff to explore ways to create such a memorial or plaque, potential costs and possible locations where loved ones and visitors could pay their respects.
Holbrook explained that the idea for the monument came during the most recent Memorial Day service at Woodlawn Cemetery when he saw the graves of some World War II veterans and wondered about other Santa Monica residents who perished during wars but weren’t buried at Woodlawn.
“I looked at the graves, saw there were some who died in World War II and was thinking there were many more Santa Monicans who weren’t buried at Woodlawn Cemetery,” Holbrook remembered.
He discussed the issue with city staff and an intern working at City Hall took on the project of researching Santa Monica service members who were victims of wars dating to World War I, contacting each of the military branches and scouring various databases. After months of work, she compiled a list of 97 names, not all combat-related, from World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. Staff noted that if more family members come forward and other names are identified, they could be added to the monument.
“I thought it would be a good idea to memorialize those people… so when we have Memorial Day services people can remember those names because they were husbands, sons and daughters of Santa Monica,” the councilman said.
Some of Holbrook’s council colleagues praised the recommendation to place such a commemoration in the city.
“For years I’ve marked Veterans Day with the Arlington West crew from Veterans for Peace at the quite spectacular memorial in Palisades Park,” Councilman Kevin McKeown said.
“A more specific remembrance for those who defended our country but never came home will be quite welcome, and I hope its design reminds us that the purpose of their sacrifice was to end war, not fight in perpetuity.”
Councilman Terry O’Day called the memorial idea an “important recognition of the past.”
“I hope that once it’s produced, looking toward the future, we never have to add another name to it,” he said.
Resident Jack Walter, who has attended Memorial Day services, told the council he is strongly in favor of the project and hopes it could be located in a beautiful spot.
Michael Lindley, a past president of the Veterans for Peace, which erects the Arlington West memorial each week, believes having another war memorial in the city could make the recognitions excessive. A good option might be to find a way to add the names near the monuments that are already standing in Palisades Park, he said.
“I think that would be the place to do it because it’s recognized and it’s been there a long time,” Lindley said.
Mayor Richard Bloom said he encourages members of the public to get involved in developing the concept and determining its direction.
“Making this a project of the people of Santa Monica would make it all the more meaningful,” Bloom said. ¤