Remembering American Heroes
Memorial Day is a day for us all to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country, and Gainesville is doing its part to remember them all.
It has been more than seven years since the U.S. began Operation Enduring Freedom, and during that time, the U.S. has lost almost 5,000 military men and women.
If you can't put into perspective the number of lives lost of our servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, just ride along 8th Avenue in Gainesville.
You'll see 4,975 homemade tombstones, each representing an American loss.
Iraq War Veteran Micah Goulet said, "I think that it represents that price of war, the price that we as a country has paid so far."
Now, in its third year, the memorial stretches nearly a mile along 8th Avenue. For the first time, the number of deaths grew to be so many that the other side of 8th Avenue is being used as well.
Goulet compares this to the Department of the Army's Arlington National Cemetery.
"In my opinion, it's our little mini Arlington out here," Goulet said.
He served two tours of duty in Iraq. He lost five of his friends there, and now he makes sure they are never forgotten.
"They helped me make the best out of myself everyday because they didn't get a chance to live their lives and I think they should have and I think they were robbed of something," he said.
Veterans for Peace organized the memorial, and one Vietnam vet still has a hard time with the reality of it all.
"It's very difficult to assess the scope of things, but when you drive down, even when we conceived it early on, we thought it would stretch off to the distance," said organizer John Fullerton. "We didn't understand the drama of looking at something that goes to the vanishing point."
American flags were placed on the tombstones representing North Central Florida men and women who have died since 2001.
And for Goulet, he says he has become a better person because of the sacrifices of those who didn't return.
"I'm standing on the shoulders of giants," he said.