Since 2007, families and friends have visited Gainesville’s Memorial Mile to remember their loved ones who died in the Afghanistan and Iraq war. The mile of grave markers will not be on display this Memorial Day weekend due to construction on 8th Avenue.
Memorial Mile was intended to occur from May 28 to May 30 with more than 6,800 tombstones on display for loved ones to visit, sign and place flags on.
Gainesville Veterans for Peace Chapter 14 President Scott Camil said when they first started in 2007, nobody was signing the gravestones. By the end of last year’s Memorial Mile, 386 people had written messages.
Camil said the area, which was once 42-inches wide, is now going to be constrained to 36 inches. They searched for months for other areas that meet their requirements, a 3/4- mile road with a sidewalk and grass, but were unsuccessful.
“Now that we only have 36 inches to work with, there’s not enough room between the tombstones,” Camil said.
Camil, a veteran himself, is looking into different ways to continue the event.
“We’ve talked about the possibility of remaking the almost 7,000 tombstones, which is a large expense and a tremendous amount of work, so they would fit in this smaller space, and we’re not sure that we’re up for that,” he said.
If they have to remake them all, the existing messages would also no longer be part of the exhibit.
Camil said he hopes to continue Memorial Mile in 2017, but it will depend on the availability of an appropriate space.
“I can’t tell you for sure that we’re going to be back next year,” Camil said.