Back when I was studying for my first Master’s degree in History, I took a course on public memory, that is, how regular people choose to remember, commemorate, or celebrate history. This can range from roadside memorials to plaques on historic buildings to calendars to living history museums, and everything in between. It was because of this course that my obsession with cemeteries got elevated to an entirely new level. That said, I hadn’t really thought about this particular class and how public memory manifested itself until I came across this memorial in the sand at Santa Monica Pier in California.
Clearly, this isn’t a real cemetery. It’s a non-permanent memorial that appears once a week. But it had a big impact on me and the others who came down to the beach to look at it. This cemetery was for the military men and women who have died in recent conflicts – either on duty, or afterwards, as a suicide. It was a really poignant reminder of the casualties of war. And one could look at it more deeply too, with the sand of the beach reminiscent of the deserts where the U.S. military are currently stationed; it even echoes back to other battles, like the D-day invasions on the beaches of Normandy.
This transitory memorial has appeared every Sunday for the past 13 years – quite a testament to the men and women involved in helping us remember about the impact of war on all of us.
Cemetery: Veterans for Peace: Arlington West Santa Monica
Location: Santa Monica beach, beside the pier
Hours: Sundays only