Commuters at the Lafayette BART station or driving along Highway 24 in the San Francisco Bay Area will see a hill across from the station covered in crosses, stars of David, Buddhist wheels, and Islamic crescents. There are thousands of them, blanketing the hillside in a sea of chilling white, each honoring an American soldier killed in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This eye-catching memorial was conceptualized by local building contractor and peace activist Jeff Heaton, during the early days of the Iraq war that began in 2003. He planted 19 crosses on a piece of the hillside that belonged to his friend, but they were soon removed by vandals. His second attempt was in 2006, by which time the conflict had claimed thousands of lives, and this time he was supported by an assortment of peace organizations, and planted 300 crosses on the same hillside.
This memorial grew to include soldiers fallen in ongoing U.S. conflicts, including Afghanistan. The project faced vandalism and protests by those who considered it disrespectful, but it still remains, with casualties now in the thousands. Although the number of crosses was capped at 5,000, a sign at the top of the hill displays the ongoing death tally, which has climbed far higher. The future of the memorial is uncertain, but for now the blanketed hillside has earned the Lafayette the nickname of “the town with the crosses.”
Know Before You Go
It is directly across from the Lafayette BART station on Dear Hill Road.