Capitol display counts war dead

Tuesday October 18, 2005



OLYMPIA -- Kristine Fallstone of DuPont brushed tears from her face as she surveyed the about 1,980 corrugated plastic crosses and tombstones that were set up Sunday afternoon near the Tivoli Fountain on the Capitol Campus.

"It's very difficult to see, especially when I think of the actual marker on my son's grave," she said. "These are all plastic, but my son's marker is real."

The white markers, which contain the names, ages and hometowns of U.S. service men and women who have died during the Iraq war, are scheduled to be on display until 5 p.m. today.

This is the second year that the traveling Arlington Northwest Memorial has been set up on the Capitol Campus. It was sponsored by two Veterans for Peace chapters and the Evergreen Peace and Justice Community.

"I think it's powerful," said Elizabeth Falzone, 31, of Seattle, whose cousin David was killed in action in Iraq. "I think the visual has an impact that words don't have."

On Sunday, brown and yellow leaves whirled through the simulated miniature cemetery as organizers read aloud the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Some of the 12- to 15-inch markers were decorated with the Star of David to signify veterans of Jewish faith. Some featured a crescent moon to symbolize those of Muslim faith.

The event began with a march from Heritage Park to the Capitol Campus. Organizers carried the markers and a long, flag-draped box representing a dead soldier's coffin.

Once all of the markers were in place, two buglers played taps.

Becky Sisler, 56, of Olympia said the tribute was touching, regardless of a person's views on the war.

She served in the Army for eight years.

"It's so important to recognize, honor and grieve the loss of our service men and women," Sisler said.

The traveling memorial's next stops will be in Anacortes and in Seattle's Green Lake neighborhood, according to Judith Shattuck, an organizer with the Evergreen Peace and Justice Community, a King County-based activist group.

The group's first tribute was set up during the summer of 2003, with about 500 markers, Shattuck said.

Each time a service member dies, a new marker is added to the collection.

Fallstone's son, Spc. Alexander Fallstone, 23, was deployed to Iraq with the Stryker Brigade in November 2003.

"I was so against the war and so afraid for him," said Fallstone, 56, who works at the Lacey post office.

She said her son knew he was going to war against her wishes. And he knew she planned to protest the war in Iraq, just as she had protested the Vietnam war decades earlier.

"He said to me, 'Mom, you raised me -- I know how you are, and I'm fighting so you can say whatever you want to,' " Fallstone said.

When her son returned home safely, she thought everything was going to be OK.

"We just exhaled," she said. "Everyone was praying for him."

But on Jan. 31, 2005 -- less than three months after celebrating his homecoming -- Spc. Alexander Fallstone died in a Stryker training accident at Fort Lewis.

"Every time I hear 'Stryker,' it just breaks my heart," Fallstone said.

As she talked about her son, Fallstone grasped a gold pendant engraved with the words "To Mom with Love." It's a Christmas present he gave her the year he finished basic training.

Fallstone said she supports the U.S. troops, and she's proud of her son's service to his country.

But she opposes the war in Iraq.

"I thank God every day that he didn't die over there," she said.

Steve Bloom/The Olympian
Corrugated plastic markers fill a lawn on the Capitol Campus on Sunday, honoring each of the nearly 2,000 service personnel who have died in the Iraq war. The display is part of a 24-hour vigil sponsored by Veterans for Peace Rachel Corrie Chapter 109.

Steve Bloom/The Olympian
A plastic marker bears a photo of Kristine Fallstone's son, Alex, who died in a training accident at Fort Lewis after returning from a year's deployment to Iraq.

Steve Bloom/The Olympian
Judy Linehan adds a tombstone to a row of markers identifying each of the nearly 2,000 service personnel who have died in the Iraq war. Linehan's son, Colin, an Army major, returned from his deployment.








As of Sunday

Service members who have died in Iraq-related military operations since March 2003:

United States 1,976

Great Britain 96

Italy 26

Ukraine 18

Poland 17

Bulgaria 13

Spain 11

Slovakia 3

Denmark 2

El Salvador 2

Estonia 2

Thailand 2 

The Netherlands 2

Hungary 1

Latvia 1

Kazakhstan 1

U.S. service members injured in Iraq-related operations:

From hostile action: 14,902

Estimated minimum number of Iraqi civilians reported killed since March 2003: 26,568