Saturday, January 5, 2008

Defacing the marine's grave, pummelling the father, military families of all stripes deserve more respect

Where does this kind of vitriol come from and what satisfaction can be gained or statement made from the act of vandalizing the young marine's gravesite because said young marine's father dares to protest the 'death by Iraq' of his son?

From Amy Branham's blog entry reporting on the incident, Amy, herself being a Gold Star mother:

Walpole, Massachusetts – In a Boston suburb, vandals defaced the gravestone of a 20-year-old Marine who lost his life to a sniper’s bullet while on his second tour of duty on Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lance Corporal Alexander Scott Arredondo, USMC was laid to rest on September 4, 2004 in Rural Cemetery located in Walpole, Massachusetts, and the site of a family-owned plot. "The vandalism took place sometime prior to September 28th", according to Carlos Arredondo, Alex’s father who last visited the gravesite days before.

Arredondo Senior frequently visits the cemetery to keep his son’s plot decorated and neat. On Sunday, October 28th, 2007 an Iraqi American doctor, a videographer and two Viet Nam war veterans requested that Carlos and his wife, Mélida lead them to a visit to Rural Cemetery to pay homage to Alex. "All of us were stunned and saddened by this act of desecration," stated Mélida Arredondo.

The Walpole police department was called immediately and a report was filed. Carlos and his son Brian Arredondo returned to the gravesite the following day to clean the tombstone and to sand the scratches out of the granite. The pictures above were taken prior to cleaning. If you have information on this matter, please contact the Walpole Police Department at (508) 668-1095 or by sending an email to

Alex, as friends and family called him, was 20 years and 20 days old when he was killed while part of the siege in An Najaf, Iraq on 08/25/04.

A second troop who was killed while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom is also buried at Rural Cemetery. No sign of vandalism or disturbance was noted at that or any other gravesite.

This certainly seems to be yet another swipe at Lance Corporal Alexander Arredondo's family, particularly his father Carlos Arrendondo, who has in the years since the death of his son become a familiar figure at activist events protesting the war in Iraq around the country. Carlos paid a visit to us here in Washington state early in 2007. Carlos brought with him the memorial to his son he brings with him to these public events when he came to the U.S. Army base of Fort Lewis in Tacoma, WA last year to stand in support during the first court martial of Lt. Ehren Watada.

I met Carlos in Washington DC in Sept 2005 at the culmination of the Bring Them Home Now tour. I had not met him prior to that, but I knew of him, due to the compelling news story of his actions upon learning the news of the death of his son. It was one of the stories I blogged here, 'His Scream' at this blog in August 2004.

-- The three Marines showed up at Arredondo's home to inform the family that Lance Cpl. Alexander Arredondo, 20, had died Tuesday in Najaf. What happened next shocked the Marines and Arredondo's neighbors. After getting the news, Carlos Arredondo walked into the garage, picked up a propane tank, a lighting device and a can of gasoline. He then proceeded to set the Marines' van ablaze while he was inside. --

Meeting Carlos for the first time was a humbling experience for me. With the dawning of recognition that this was the same man I'd read about among those early news stories of U.S. troops killed in Iraq, it was an honor to meet him in person. His manner was quiet, yet very focused. His mission was clear, he intended that the death of his son not go unacknowledged or for that matter, unchallenged. He quietly thanked me for my questions and concern about his own healing from having set himself on fire back in 2004. He then showed me the hundreds of copies of a letter from his son that he was making available at the cross that was to represent his son in the Arlington display of crosses erected at the DC site of the 2005 protest march.

At that time Cindy Sheehan had gained media attention with her vigil at Crawford, followed by the 4 week Bring Them Home Now Tour from Crawford to Washington DC to join with the hundreds of thousands who came to protest war in Iraq that weekend of Sept 24, 2005. Having participated at the vigil in Crawford in the beginning of that month long vigil, and having then joined the bus on the BTHN tour, I had by that time met many of the Gold Star families. I was finding it was increasingly more difficult to find ways to contain the empathy I felt in my exposure to that much grieving. There were times I thought my heart would explode, and I had to find ways to move back into my head and out of my feelings. The two in our family who had been deployed in Iraq had returned, and I was beginning to feel the weight of 'survivor guilt' in the disparity between having returning loved ones while these families would not ever again see their loved ones return.

Meeting Carlos put me back in the frame of mind of why military families - especially - even more so than non-military families, need to support other military families, no matter their positions on Iraq war. It is an extension of the principle of what it means to be a community of military families. When one talks to Carlos, one feels the form and shape of his grief, more than hears the words he attempts to share. It is not possible or likely to leave a conversation with him without feeling the decency of empathy and compassion he deserves, he and his family. Even with the polarized and entrenched variances of viewpoints on invasion and occupation of Iraq as response to a threat of terror, there remains room for the reality that military families face singularly and apart from the rest of Americans who do not have loved ones deployed in Iraq. When it gets down to real people rather than airy, abstract, political rhetoric and talking points, Carlos experience of the loss of his son is a clear demonstration of how real it can get.

That is why it is difficult for me to understand at all why we have people in this country, who of their own free will, deliberately look for ways to throw stones at Carlos choices for expressing his grief. I read in Sept 2007, how grown men representing an organization calling itself "Gathering of Eagles" rendered destruction on Carlos memorial to his son, ripping the photograph of his son from him, accelerating to pummelling Carlos to the ground. And with Amy's report at her blog, I now read that in Oct 2007, someone or some people thought to vandalize the gravesite memorial of Lance Corporal Alexander Arrendondo which can have no effective message except that of bringing further distress to his family.

America, land of freedoms, and not a certain amount of cruelty when it comes to compassionate empathy. If it could be explained to me how Carlos manifestation of his grief somehow hurts, interferes with or threatens others....

I can't help but get the juxtaposed images I remember of actions of Ku Klux Klan when I was a young child, in a military family returning home from overseas to a military base in Mississippi - a kind of welcome to your home country of America. Somehow I get a sense and visual of this example of the action of 'Gathering of the Eagles' as a modern day version of tactics used by the old KKK. Carlos deserves the common decency of respect while he grieves publicly for his son and the sacrifice of his son's life and making meaning of that sacrifice. Why is that so difficult for American's to comprehend, I wonder.
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