San Diego Union-Tribune
May 5, 2007
By San Jose Mercury News
WASHINGTON – Congress already has run out of space on a memorial created last year to honor all of the U.S. service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a grim sign of the times, the “Wall of the Fallen,” set up by House Republican leaders in June, is almost full. The mounting death toll from Iraq has forced House staffers to study how to reconfigure the display in the lobby of the Rayburn Building – the largest office building for members of Congress – to squeeze in more names.
According to the Defense Department, 3,736 U.S. service members died in the two wars by the end of April. New names are added to the display every few months, but none has been added since November. The last name listed is Lance Cpl. Luke Holler, 21, a Marine reservist from Bulverde, Texas, killed by an explosive device Nov. 2.
In the current format, there is space for about 130 more names, but more than 500 Americans have died since mid-November. In April, 104 Americans were killed in Iraq during one of the war's deadliest months.
With a fierce debate raging over Iraq in Congress as President Bush resists the Democrats' push for a timetable for troop withdrawal, the wall has taken on symbolic importance to some members.
“It's just another example of how pathetically unprepared and unrealistic the supporters of this war have been,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, a member of the Administration Committee that oversees operations in House buildings.
Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich., who chaired the committee last summer, said members and staffers “simply wanted to do something to honor those who had made this sacrifice.”
Outside individual offices on Capitol Hill, many members have put the names and photos of war fatalities from their states on posters. But Ehlers wanted something “more fitting, that would include everyone.” The Rayburn foyer was chosen because it had a large wall in a busy area.
Ehlers said it was difficult to plan how much blank space to leave in a display listing fatalities while a war is going on. When he walked by the wall recently, Ehlers said he realized: “Boy, we could have a problem. More space is needed.”