The Art and Sad Beauty of the Crosses, and My New Year’s Wish for 2009: An End to the Madness that Necessitated Lafayette’s Famous Memorial

Rainy Friday.

Taking a drive around our lovely suburbs, including through Lafayette, the home of the now world-famous Lafayette crosses war memorial. Starting in November 2006, on a privately owned hillside, volunteers began erecting a cross for every US service man or woman killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As of today, the memorial shows 4,850 dead.

I’ve passed the memorial from time to time, but what struck me this morning was really noticing the way friends or family members of some of the deceased has decorated their crosses, often in incredibly beautiful, poignant ways–like the cross to the right, one of several of which is covered in a colorful mosaic of brightly colored tiles and mirrors.

There is also the cross dedicated to the memory of James Coon (below right). He was a 22-year-old graduate of Las Lomas High in Walnut Creek who was killed in April 2007 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Balad, Iraq.

James Coon’s father, Jim Coon, described his 6-f00t, 6-inch son as a “good-natured” guy. After graduating from Las Lomas in 2003, where he had been a punter on the school’s championship football team, he went to Diablo Valley College, according to an interview his family gave to the San Francisco Chronicle. He joined the Army, hoping to make enough money to buy a house when he returned. He had been in Iraq eight months before he was killed.

At the time of his son’s death, his father told the Chronicle: “I’m very proud of my son. … I would like everybody to support our troops.” But Jim Coon added, “I don’t support the government and what they’re doing with this war. I don’t believe the war is right.”

8 thoughts on “The Art and Sad Beauty of the Crosses, and My New Year’s Wish for 2009: An End to the Madness that Necessitated Lafayette’s Famous Memorial

  1. Note that such a display is no longer allowed in Lafayette. That display was grandfathered in. Reminds me of the previous ugly house post.


  2. In what way does it remind you of the ugly house post? Could you be more specific? You don’t like the crosses memorial, I take it. Meanwhile, I gather that you approve of monstrous, hideous houses? Or am I not reading you clearly? I’d like to learn more.


  3. Here is a very good post taken from, I know this is your site and I’m sure the WC Crazy in Suburbia lady is a friend of yours but her site doesn’t hold a candle to CLAYCORD. Her political rants are not only annoying they are usually misleading or downright wrong. Instead of a community blog she should just write for or some other wacko left wing site. People like CLAYCORD because it is current, relavant and informative. Crazy in Suburbia is more akin to a supercilious high school blog.


  4. How are the comments misleading or “downright wrong.” Exactly how? Perhaps she presents a viewpoint you don’t agree with. Hmm, don’t think it would be hard to find a lot of people who would think you’re “downright wrong.”


  5. What the first poster is saying is that the crosses are a slap in the face to the military, their families and those that support them. It is what those that supported it intend it to be: a protest against all things American and military. Where were the crosses for those killed in Bosnia or Somalia under Clinton? How about for the tens of thousands of dead Kurds and Kuwaitis killed by Saddam (or the millions of dead Iranians from the Iran-Iraq war)? Where are the protests over the hundreds of thousands dying in Congo and Sudan? Oh yeah, the evil Americans aren’t involved there so we just let the UN and the Europeans debate while people are murdered, raped and tortured. And of course no mention ever about Hillary Clinton, Polosi, Reed, Biden and all the other Democrats that strongly supported military action in Iraq. What a bunch of hypocrites. America makes plenty of mistakes (including Bush’s post war planning) but we are still the most stabilizing force in the world. Without us countries like Russia, Iran, Sudan, N. Korea and others would kill their enemies, support terrorists and other rouge countries and cause global chaos. The losers would be the poor and oppressed that could not defend themselves. Maybe things aren’t that clear in sunny Lafayette or Walnut Creek but the majority of the world isn’t so naive to think that with a few kind thoughts and hugs everyone would stop murdering each other because of their name, tribe, ethnicity or race.


  6. Speak for youself. I have friends and family in Iraq and home from Iraq (not as whole as when they left), and to me, those crosses are nothing but an honor. My heart melts every time I see them; for their quiet reverence of all who have served in this war (right or wrong.)How dare anyone not honor differences of opinion on this.


  7. I have very mixed feelings about the crosses and their meaning.I have four tours to the Persian Gulf and two to Somalia so I am not just an armchair quarterback voicing some unqualified opinion.The wars cost me emotionally and physically. I lost my wife -divorced, (two kids in child-birth), and a family member – deceased – while overseas. These are things in peoples lives that can not be replaced, and the emotional damage it causes to returning veterans is never discussed in public circles. (One of many dis-services to our veterans). Then there is the effects of combat itself.One of the things almost all veterans think about when “over-there” is nothing more then being back here. At home. When here – all they think about is getting back “over-there” to get back in the fight because they feel their experience is an assest. Espirit Decore`. “No one get’s left behind”. Even while personally it is costing them “untold” personally.It’s a Jekle and Hyde existance. Or “Damned if you Do – Damned if you Don’t”.One thing veterans do not like is this constant bantering about things like these crosses while “real veterans issues” get forgotten.You never hear news reports from multiple toured veterans like myself because we are not the bright eye’d world changing attitude that makes for good propaganda like we were when we were buck recruits or on our first or second tour of duty. You get jaded over time when you experience too many KIA or wounded. (There is over 30,000+ severally wounded in just this conflict alone that you never hear about either).Then you get the news report of some kid “locally” fresh out of boot-camp blown away, and everyone get’s on the band wagon. You never hear that about the “long-term” veterans, or very rarely. Their story is much different. Their lives may not “fit” the propaganda machine. Hometown kid, loving family, validictorian, etc.Some long-term veterans you may find in a bar, getting plowed, searching for some comfort. The family is broken, the dreams shattered, the anger pallatable. Not something that “fits” the propaganda machine. And it gets much worse. Over time they can become homeless, disenchanted, forgotten refuse; demonized by society because they no longer resemble the vision of freedom that they once represented. Almost half of all our homeless are veterans. One of America’s dirty little secrets. Some of them probably would even wish to rather be remembered as a cross rather then a bum but the media makes a good effort at making sure “you” the american public don’t hear about these things.War is not a TV show contrary to the prevailing attitude. War is dirty business. People get killed. Lives get destroyed. That’s the nature of war. That’s why so many countries around the world want to bring it to our shores to snap us out of this “game-show” mentallity. I don’t blame them.These crosses represent the “human-cost” of war. It brings to the fore-front the nature of who we are as a country, and what we are doing around the world to others. It pulls back the veil of secrecy, (the dirty little secrets). Like when the propaganda machine was trying to supress the photo’s of flag drapped coffins.I feel we need to re-constitute the draft so everyone’s kids get a fair shot at getting killed overseas. That way the voices of desention will finally be heard, and we will not be so quick to pull the trigger to effect political gains. Meanwhile the hill will continue to fill with more white crosses.God Bless our Armed Forces and all who serve.


  8. To those who commented,Thanks for sharing your different viewpoints, including those who are offended by the crosses, my posting their images, and my political viewpoints. It’s great to get different perspectives, including those who find these crosses an affront to soldiers currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Your dissenting viewpoints make stop and reconsider my thoughts. And a special note to Superior Firepower: That was a heartfelt, powerfully written comment, and I am deeply honored that you would share it on my blog. And, I’m so sorry for the losses you have suffered in your life. That you keep going and are willing to share a personal story that many of us need to hear should be an inspiration to us all. It is to me.


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