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Antiwar Mother
Son Killed in Iraq on April, 2004

Celeste Zappala
Mother of Sgt. Sherwood Baker (National Guard) and Co-Founder of Gold Star Families for Peace
Friday, August 19, 2005; 1:30 PM

Above: Sherwood Baker and Celeste Zappala

Sherwood Baker, a sergeant in the Pennsylvania National Guard, arrived in Baghdad at the beginning of 2004, serving as a member of the military security detail for the Iraq Survey Group, which was looking for weapons of mass destruction. On April 24, 2004, Baker's unit was in Baghdad inspecting buildings when the building he was in exploded, killing him. He was 30 years old.

"When we buried my son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, I knelt beside his coffin and vowed to him I would speak the truth for him. I believe this war is a disaster, a betrayal of the nobility of our military and of the democracy they are charged to protect. For the past 16 months I have been faithfully trying to keep my vow to my son," said his mother, Celeste Zappala , in an interview with washingtonpost.com. Zappala was online Friday, Aug. 19, at 1:30 p.m. ET to discuss her reasons for opposing the war and supporting the efforts of antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan.

A transcript follows.

____________________

Oakton, Va.: Do you think that if your son had been fighting a "just" war, and he was killed, you would still support the war? Or would his death turn you against the war?

I think many people in America may doubt you because they may think you are reacting to your son's unfortunate death. I do not support this war, but while I empathize for you and your family, it is hard for your words to carry much weight given the circumstances. Do you realize this, and how do you approach/counter/deal with this?

Celeste Zappala: Thank you for asking about this idea of a just war. It has been said that a just war is the one you would be willing to send your own child to. And for those who are the architects of this war it seems their kin are not involved nor expected to be involved. I think that is very important, and that seems to have an effect on recruitment too, many parents are not encouraging their young ones to join, I see that also as a failure of support by our Nation for this war.

I, as a very committed religious person, have always tried to practice non-violence and taught this principle to my kids, I also tried to teach them service- to whom much is given much is asked- so when my son joined the national guard I was worried for him, but not surprised - he was the kind of person you would turn to for help and protection.

What I find appalling in all of this is that the noble spirit and lives of our troops are so casually spent. It is evident this was a war of choice, supported by great stretches of logic and fact, if not out right fabrication, is that a justification or a definition of a just war, no.

War is a failure of human behavior, if war is a tactic it should be the last resort, I always thought that was a guiding principle of our country.

_______________________

Maryland: It sounds like Cindy Sheehan is going beyond her original reasons for protest and is now letting other people and groups dictate her agenda. Shouldn't she be more focused on her original motives?

Celeste Zappala: Cindy is my friend and we with a few others are co-founders of Gold Star Families for Peace, we have been working- speaking- writing- pleading about the war for more that a year. Cindy would like to meet with the president and ask her questions, but she, I and all of us are most interested and desperately want to end the war and bring our troops home now and take care of them when they get home.

Others have joined us, supported us, Stood with us. We are grateful for the support. Our message has not changed. This is about ending the war

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Mrs. Zappala, I am very sorry for your loss and I understand your frustration with a war in which your son lost his life. Are you still affiliated with Gov. Ed Rendell's office in Pennsylvania? I know that the governor, as a Democrat, and the president, as a Republican, do not see eye-to-eye on the war in Iraq.

Celeste Zappala: Yes I worked for the Governor when he was Mayor and have great respect for him, I do not speak for him, but I was grateful that he attended my son's funeral, helped to pass legislation to assure that the children of fallen guards men could go to college in Pennsylvania. I think he is a compassionate person.

I have never met the President.

_______________________

Easton, Md.: Why don't more families speak up? Do they really believe that this war is worth their sacrifices? I've been stunned by how supportive the military families have been in the last year. I deeply regret the loss of your son. Recently I've asked why I should continue to care about service people dying in Iraq when so many of their own families seem to think it's a worthy cause. I don't think it's a worthy cause, but I wonder why I'm so bothered by developments when the military families keep singing the praises of this war. Can you shed some light on this for me?

Celeste Zappala: there is a whole spectrum of thought and feeling of military families, I do not doubt that some people are reluctant to say anything because they fear retaliation to their loved one serving, for those serving they may not want their families to know about their own doubts and fears. Understand please that it is agony to have your beloved one away in danger, the phone ringing is a threat, the unexpected knock at the door is terrifying.

So many remain silent with the prayer that their person will just come home whole, soon.

For others - they are supportive of the warrior, perhaps not the war, and no doubt there are families who fully agree with the war.

I respect the service of all the military folks. We need a military; the administration should treat them with respect, not lip service.

Do you know families have to buy equipment for their deploying soldiers? That still not all the humvees are uparmored, that contractors in the privatization of the war make 10 times the soldiers’ pay- something is very wrong here, But many families just live in silent fear.

_______________________

Reston, Va.: I agree that the war has 'been a disaster' from elements of planning, preparation, and reason. But I'm of the opinion that 'we broke it, we bought it'. Pulling our forces out of Iraq would seemingly create an even bigger disaster. Who would run that country? Would it dissolve into a state similar to that of Somalia (another place that we've left behind in worse shape)?

Is saving the American lives by pulling out worth the thousands (if not millions) of Iraqis that may be killed in the void? How do you propose that we fix things?

Celeste Zappala: I think that having an honest policy would move us a long way, How can we trust those who stretched the truth, refused to listen to correct information, trashed their critics - why are they still making decisions?

There are many Iraqis who have asked us to leave, many people on the ground think that our presence is inflammatory, and I think it is true we are making enemies faster than we can kill them, harsh as that may sound.

We should remember that Iraq is a 6000-year-old civilization, with educated people who have a right to their own resources, and yes we have serious responsibility to that country, but why are we building permanent bases? Why did we want to denationalize the oil production?

Is it time to listen to others who have ideas about exit strategy? Shouldn’t we insist that Congress talk about an exit strategy and be leaders? Why should we continue a disastrous war to prevent "further disaster”?

We all as a nation have to have this conversation. It’s OUR war.

_______________________

Woodstock Ga.: No questions. I was in the Gulf Of Tonkin thirty years ago. I found the reasoning for that war to be as big a lie as this one. I am glad to see a peace movement start. I support it and you fully.

Celeste Zappala: Thank you, there are many vets for peace in the movement who remember the same lessons you learned. Thank you for your service.

_______________________

Portland, Ore.: Mrs. Zappala, Please accept my deepest condolences on the loss of your son. My question has to do with media coverage of the antiwar movement. In view of the media's less-than-thorough vetting of the WMD claims advanced to justify the war, and their practice of embedding their reporters with military units, do you think the media is still capable of covering the antiwar movement fairly? How are you adjusting to being in the public eye?

Celeste Zappala: We families have been speaking out since the war started, it has been difficult to capture the media's attention and I do fault the main stream media for just accepting the pretense for war and not being willing to ask the terrible questions that should have been answered before we invaded.

The public spot light is difficult to handle, it is exhausting and remember none of us are professionals- we are not the pundits of the Sunday talk shows, we are just ordinary people, mostly middle aged woman who have lost their kids and know it was wrong.

Our message may be unpolished and shaky sometimes, our truth is real, I think the reporters for the most part that are doing the stories from Crawford are respectful and curious. Yes I think they can do a good job, they are professionals and intelligent, and I think many feel they were wrong to not have questioned earlier.

Just wish they had listened when the American death count was 720- now we are at 1862.

That is what really is important.

_______________________

Lusby, Md.: When your son volunteered did you believe that he may never see harm's way? When you stand and take the oath you are pledging to support and defend and follow the orders of those appointed above you. You may not agree with national policy but your son did by raising his hand. I just retired from 21 years of active duty and have several years of time in combat zones so I am qualified to comment.

Celeste Zappala: You are more than qualified to comment. My son was honorable - a 20 year old national guards man, who said to us "I took an oath before God, I will go and do the job and bring myself and my men home safely, his men returned, he did not.

I do not believe that just because a person has the job of president that his word, motives and decisions should be taken without question, that surely is not a democracy, my son did his job, he was betrayed by an administration that has not done theirs well.

The only title greater than president is citizen.

Thank you for being a citizen.

_______________________

Anonymous: How is serving in Iraq a betrayal of the American democracy?

Celeste Zappala: the decision to go in to this war, defy the facts, throw away the intelligence, ignore the advice of military leaders, and trash the advice of the whole world, in my mind is a betrayal of our military.

Service to our country is noble, people give service in many ways, and I wish everyone felt that unselfish service to their country was important.

Honor them all.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Dear Celeste, I'm very grateful for you and Cindy for making your concerns public. This past Wednesday, Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute said that he thought U.S. soldiers are amply qualified to build democracy in Iraq (rather than simply fighting Saddam's forces), and he listed a whole laundry list of nation-building tasks for our forces. Do you have any idea how Sherwood or his buddies would have felt about that mission?

Celeste Zappala: My son was assigned to the Iraq survey group, they were still looking for the weapons of mass destruction long after everyone knew they were not here, a month after the President made a great joke out of looking under his desk and asking "where are those weapons".

No laughs from me, or so many who are lost in this sad misadventure.

Sher went to try to do good things, that's who he was, that’s how he lived his life, he was a caseworker for mentally challenged adults, the best most families had ever had, he was a great father, volunteered at community events, he should have had 50 more years to build this country.

So do I know what he would have thought? It’s hard to say, he did his job as asked, I hear form so many returning vets about the futility of what is happening now, perhaps we should be asking them all more questions and listening!

_______________________

Woodbridge, Va.: Mrs. Zappala -- As a proud member of a military family, I must respectfully disagree with your views. Whether you (or Ms. Sheehan) or any of us believe that this is a "just" war is irrelevant. Our soldiers are there now -- it was their choice to sign up and their duty to go. There are stories every day of men who have been wounded in this "disaster" of a war who choose to return to fight -- for comrades, for the cause, for many reasons. What right do you or I have to take that choice away from them? What right do we have to dishonor the memories of those who have fought and died by, in essence, calling this war a colossal waste of time that should be ended as quickly and injudiciously as possible? Didn't we do that thirty years ago?

It seems to me a far better tribute to leave a legacy of success to the fallen than failure.

Celeste Zappala: With deep respect, the military leadership have said there is no military solution, there will be a political solution.

I say the things I say because I love my country and am trying to speak the truth as I see it, I try to speak with humility, I do not want to be on this path, but I am on it.

I am grateful that you and others here are willing to be in dialogue, this is what our nation needs to do if we are ever going to figure out how to get to Peace.

_______________________

Dale City, Va.: I am so sorry for your loss. When did your son join the military? I think many of those in Iraq joined in response to the attack of 911 because they felt they could make a difference. However, Iraq was not invaded because of 911 no matter how many times the Administration has tried to say otherwise. Do you feel we may have done a better job in Afghanistan if we had not detoured to Iraq?

Celeste Zappala: He joined the National Guard in 1997, and told us, don't worry the National Guard does not go to foreign wars, they are here to protect the homeland, against fires and floods and disasters. And he would always tell me Mom don't worry no one from the PA national guard has been killed in combat since 1945- he became the first.

Sadly, I think our nation is still in great danger; Osama is still free, other countries have experienced attacks, suppose the resources of our country had been used to capture those responsible for 911? Where would we be now?

These are hard questions, and what are we not paying attention to right now that will harm us in the future because we are immersed in this war of choice?

It makes me weep for the nation.

_______________________

Pittsburgh, Pa.: My husband, an Army reservist, made it home in one piece from Iraq. Every day I wake up and wonder if this will be the day he is recalled to lay down his life for the Islamic Republic of Iraq. I am so very sorry for your loss and I am thrilled that you and Cindy Sheehan are in Crawford highlighting how much the military families have been asked to sacrifice while everyone else gets on with their lives. Thank you for what you are doing.

Celeste Zappala: I am grateful too that he got back whole. I ask this question to people all the time, what is the sacrifice required by all Americans? So many people ignore the war, and so many who criticize us for speaking out could go themselves if they believed in it, or could send the young ones they hold dear.

This is everyone's war, everyone needs to solve it- for some of us there can never be a "going on" we will forever relive the day we learned our prayers would not be answered.

_______________________

Dale City, Va.: What do you think about the possibility that women may lose what little freedom they had before we invaded under the constitution now being drafted? I think the women who were liberated from the Taliban regime could provide some real insight into what life may become for them in a theocracy. Is that really what Americans are being asked to die for?

Celeste Zappala: women's rights are surely a great concern to many of the political factions in Iraq, but what compromises will be made to satisfy a cobbled government.

It is a sad, sad realization that probably women will end up being less free in Iraq.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Good afternoon Celeste, First let me say. My prayers go out to you, your family, and all the fallen soldiers of this war. You are very brave for the stance that you've taken.

What do you think about the backlash that Ms. Sheehan is enduring from pro-Bush supporters?

What, if any backlash have you had to endure because of your antiwar stance?

Celeste Zappala: My family and I made a list of all the people who spoke out against this administration and then were trashed and belittled. It was a long list.

Cindy is suffering - people will say terrible things, she will be misquoted, maybe I will be too, but nothing changes the fact that our kids are dead, or that as we did this discussion some one else died in Iraq, and that we - all of us - have a responsibility to step up and try to end this war.

We will keep doing it to honor the vows we made to our children; we will do it to protect other people’s kids and loved ones.

And as to what would my son think of what I am doing? I think he would expect no less of me.

_______________________

Celeste Zappala: Thank you to everyone who participated today, I appreciated hearing your thoughts and questions, and for your warm support.

For those who disagree I thank you too for the chance to be in civil dialogue, I love my country, I know you do to, may we be guided by our best instincts and faith to get to Peace. I believe we honor our heroes by BEING the Democracy. Peace be with you, Celeste Zappala.

_______________________

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.









PRESS RELEASE- 8/04/05

Gold Star Families for Peace
Goes to Crawford to Stop the Killing


EVENT: Saturday, August 6, AM on the Road to Crawford, Texas

Contact: Cindy Sheehan-

Members of Gold Star Families for Peace (GSFP) are going to George Bush’s vacation home in Crawford, TX, Saturday, August 6th at 11:00 am to challenge the President’s statement, “"We have to honor the sacrifices of the fallen by completing the mission. The families of the fallen can be assured that they died for a noble cause”. GSFP will be joined by members of Veteran's for Peace (VFP), Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Code Pink, and Crawford Peace House

"We who have lost our loved ones, we who have sacrificed in the deserts and alleys of Iraq, we who have actually served our Country do not accept these statements, nor do we have any confidence at all in this Administration’s ability to tell the truth about Iraq" stated GSFP co-founder Cindy Sheehan on behalf of the groups.

1) We want our loved ones sacrifices to be honored by bringing our nation's sons and daughters home from the travesty that is Iraq IMMEDIATELY, since this war is based on horrendous lies and deceptions. Gold Star Families for Peace emphatically states, because our children are dead, we do not want any more families to suffer the same pain and devastation that we have experienced.

2) We would like George Bush to explain this "noble cause" to us and ask him why Jenna and Barbara, and the other children of the architects of this disastrous war, are not in harm's way, if the cause is so noble.

3) If George Bush is not ready to send his children, then he should bring our troops home immediately. We will demand a speedy withdrawal.

GSFP will be joined by members of Veteran's for Peace (VFP), Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Code Pink, and Crawford Peace House.

We GSFP members will not leave until we get answers from George Bush. We deserve and expect him to welcome us with answers to as why our loved ones are dead, and what his plans are for an honest, realistic exit strategy.

“Every worker for peace, every worker for justice, every person who wants our country back is welcomed to join us on Saturday. Show George Bush that we mean business. Be there to support us family members who have already been through so much. We are fighting for our country, our world, especially the children.” Stated Cindy Sheehan.

Crawford is about 2 hours from Dallas where the Veterans For Peace Convention is being held at the University of Dallas this weekend. There will be car pools from the convention.

HONOR OUR LOVED ONE'S SACRIFICES: BRING OUR TROOPS HOME NOW!!!!

For more info: call
Cindy Sheehan








Published on Thursday, August 11, 2005 by the San Francisco Chronicle

Vigil Threatens to put
President in Tough Spot


By Marc Sandalow


Cindy Sheehan with Bill Mitchell
at a Crawford, Texas, vigil.
Both have lost sons in the
fighting in Iraq.
(Jason Reed / Reuters)

WASHINGTON - A grieving Northern California mother's vigil near President Bush's Texas ranch is putting a human face on the toll of the Iraq war as she brings worldwide attention to her anguish.

Cindy Sheehan of Vacaville began camping in a ditch along the road leading to Crawford, Texas, on Saturday, determined to confront Bush over the death of her son Casey, a 24-year-old Army specialist who was killed in Sadr City on April 4, 2004.

That a grieving woman seeks to speak to the president or that she opposes the war is hardly news as the war rages in its third year. But the image of an anguished 48-year-old mother standing outside the vacation home of the most powerful leader in the world, asking him to explain her son's death, is compelling and has caught the attention of millions of people from Canada to New Zealand.

For Bush, Sheehan's presence seems to create a no-win situation. If he invites her to talk, he further elevates her protest, potentially angers the other families of the more than 1,850 Americans who have died in Iraq and provides Sheehan a greater forum to spread her anti-war views. If he ignores her, he risks appearing so callous that he doesn't have the time, or the inclination, to spend a few minutes of his vacation with a mother who lost her son as a direct consequence of the president's foreign policy decisions.

Bush dispatched national security adviser Steve Hadley and Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin to talk with Sheehan on Saturday -- a step Sheehan said was insufficient -- but has shown no willingness to invite her to the ranch. White House aides left reporters in Crawford with no sense that they were considering such a meeting.

Sheehan, who took shelter in a nearby motel Tuesday night after rain and lightning threatened her tent, said she will remain in Crawford through August unless she gets a "good'' meeting with the president or is arrested. Fascination with the story is growing among the dozens of Washington journalists assigned to follow Bush in Crawford with little else to do, as well as among an ever-growing Internet audience.

The Web site Technorati.com, which monitors Web logs, listed "Cindy Sheehan'' as its most frequently requested search. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other members of Bush's foreign policy team gathering in Crawford this morning must either helicopter to Bush's ranch or drive directly past Sheehan's encampment, where scores of supporters and reporters will be watching.

"Cindy is making history. She is also leading a movement,'' said Bob Fertik of Democrats.com, who helped Sheehan create the Web site: meetwithcindy. org. Almost as quickly as Sheehan has been idealized by war opponents, she has been demonized by some war supporters, who consider her a pawn of the left. Some parents of killed veterans have rejected her campaign and have stood by the president. Others have said her behavior is disrespectful. "I don't know what is driving Mrs. Sheehan, but I do know she's being used,'' said conservative Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly. "No question that she has thrown in with the most radical elements in this country.'' O'Reilly cited her association with "Fahrenheit 9/11'' producer Michael Moore and other antiwar advocates as examples of her radicalization.

Among the criticism of Sheehan is that she already met with Bush, about two months after her son was killed, and emerged from that meeting saying positive things about the president. "I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis. I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith,'' she said in a 2004 interview with the Vacaville Reporter. The comments were reprinted this week on the Drudge Report, an Internet site popular with conservatives, and were the basis of many attacks on talk radio, television and blogs accusing her of changing her story.

However, Drudge did not report everything Sheehan told the newspaper. "We haven't been happy with the way the war has been handled,'' she also was quoted as saying. "The president has changed his reason for being over there every time a reason is proven false or an objective reached.'' In a note to readers Wednesday, Diane Barney, editor of the Vacaville Reporter, took issue with the suggestion that Sheehan has changed her story. "We don't think there has been a dramatic turnaround. Clearly, Cindy Sheehan's outrage was festering even then,'' Barney wrote.

Sheehan has since complained that Bush didn't know her son's name when he entered the 10-minute meeting and did a poor job of sharing their sorrow. If given the chance, Sheehan said in a conference call Wednesday with reporters, she has three things she wants to tell the president. She wants to ask him what "noble cause'' her son died for; she wants to ask him if the cause is so noble, has he encouraged his own daughters to enlist; and she wants to tell him to stop saying the way to honor the troops killed in Iraq is to complete the mission.

"The only way they can honor my son's sacrifice is by bringing the troops home,'' she said.

© 2005 San Francisco Chronicle







August 15, 2005

George W. Bush
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC. 20050

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to request that you meet with Ms. Cindy Sheehan, grieving mother of Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, killed April 4, 2004 in Iraq. Mr. Sheehan was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, at Fort Hood in your own home state of Texas. Specialist Sheehan paid the ultimate price for our country and surely you can honor that sacrifice by meeting with his mother to discuss the issues that trouble her about her great loss.

Mr. President, you asked many Americans to risk the ultimate sacrifice for this great nation of ours and thousands, including young Casey Sheehan, answered your call. Unfortunately, thousands of mothers now know Ms. Sheehan's pain; millions more fear it. Now is the time to honor these young men and women, and to honor Ms. Sheehan's request. One way we honor those who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom is by respecting the needs of the families they left behind.

I understand, Mr. President, that you have seen Ms. Sheehan on at least two occasions as you drove past her encampment near your ranch in Crawford, Texas. Please, Mr. President, don't drive by a mother who has lost her son in a war you fully support. America cannot stand another drive by. Meet with her, Mr. President, or surely she will be joined by many other grieving mothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, brothers, and fathers whose loved ones lost their lives for you in Iraq. The meeting she seeks is to discuss the circumstances of her son's death. Her request is reasonable and I support her call to meet with you.

Mr. President, the parents of troops still stationed in Iraq, and the parents of young Americans who may be called to Iraq or who are currently being recruited to join the military are watching you right now. I ask that you reconsider your decision not to meet with Ms. Sheehan and offer her your personal condolences--not just for her, but for our country and the millions who are now watching both you and her.

Sincerely,


Cynthia McKinney
Member of Congress








From the ATHENS BANNER HERALD:

**

Against war, for the troops

Forum
By Wendy Chambers

My fiancé, deployed a second time to Iraq, cannot speak about the war.

But I can.

And who better to speak about the war than a member of a military family? I am a proud member of Military Families Speak Out , an organization for relatives of military members who are for the troops and against the Iraq war.

We gathered in March of this year from around the United States in Fayetteville, N.C., for the second anniversary of the initiation of the Iraq war.

Not only did I meet many members for the first time, I also met members of a group that evolved from MFSO: the Gold Star Families for Peace. These are families who have lost loved ones to the Iraq war.

I became closest to the Zappala family, who lost Sherwood - a beloved son, brother and father - more than one year ago.

I know many of you - military families in particular - are thinking, how can you be against this war, yet for the troops?

In my view, these sentiments have never been synonymous.

It is not the decision of the individual soldier, sailor or marine to go to war, ever. The decision is made by people in Washington who are supposed to represent the interests of "we the people" of the United States.

Anyone who truly supports the troops would make the decision to go to war the last option. A pre-emptive war that lacked any formal connections to 9/11 is hardly a last option.

Furthermore, think tanks like The Project for the New American Century and The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies reveal administration connections and policy papers pertaining to plans for Iraq long before 9/11.

But this raises another, more disturbing question: If you're against the war, aren't you saying that more than 1,700 members of the military have died in vain?

No.

Regardless of the validity of the Iraq war and occupation, the lives given for any conflict are never in vain. Members of the military, regardless of the stated objectives in Washington, are fighting for their compatriots, innocent civilians and the principles of democracy.

But because friendly fire, civilian deaths and, of course, death by enemy fire are unavoidable in war, it is of the utmost importance that military families think their loved ones are fighting for what is right.

And what I want to tell military families is that they always are: The soldiers' principles do not shift with the political winds of Washington.

More than any other Americans, military families need to hold our government accountable for its decisions about Iraq. That can only be accomplished if they stay informed through a variety of print media about pre- and post-war planning, as well as the ongoing assessment of conditions in Iraq.

Then they need to make their voices heard.

Part of the motto for the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association is "Keep America alert." Military families need to look homeward as much as abroad and "Keep America informed."

Dante Zappala lost his brother, Sherwood, in the Iraq war. He eloquently summarized my feelings in a Salon.com article about the role of military families in the ongoing Iraq occupation: "The legacy of Sherwood's service will only be honored when we demand truth in our politicians, demand that they too serve with honor and integrity. Demanding that, I think, is the best way that we honor a dead soldier."


• Chambers is a psychology professor at the University of Georgia. She is engaged to an Army captain serving his second tour of duty in Iraq, and she is a member of the Georgia chapter of Military Families Speak Out.









If we can disagree
without disrespect,
we can make America stronger!


A Soldier's Father Speaks Out


A gentleman from Virginia, proud parent of a decorated Army officer serving in Iraq, writes to us, "I am so fed up with the anti-American propaganda coming from some Americans that I wrote the open letter below. I will appreciate it very much if you include it": [text of letter follows]

An open letter to some political partisans, especially certain politicians and people in the media: I have a son who is an American soldier in Iraq.

I care very much about what affects him and his comrades in arms.

I am not fooled, when you partisans spew propaganda that helps our enemies and harms our soldiers, then tell us you support our troops.

I am not fooled, when you focus on, highlight, and exaggerate the negative things that happen in Iraq, while ignoring our positive accomplishments, then tell us you support our troops.

I am not fooled, when you focus attention on American soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq, to use these brave patriots as an anti-Iraq-war political football, then tell us you support our troops.

I am not fooled, when you keep criticizing why and how we invaded Iraq - that is done; our troops are there - then tell us you support our troops.

I am not fooled, when you engage in constant, carping criticism of what the U.S. has done and is doing in Iraq, then tell us you support our troops.

I am not fooled, when you search for and trumpet to the world anything that will diminish respect for our soldiers and their leaders - even when it endangers greatly their lives, then tell us you support our troops.

I am not fooled, when you tell our soldiers and the rest of us that they are stuck in a "quagmire" and will suffer a Vietnam-type defeat, then tell us you support our troops.

I am not fooled, when you spout propaganda that undermines the morale of our soldiers and the American public and boosts the morale of our enemies, then tell us you support our troops.

You are giving aid and comfort to our nation's deadly enemies! They know they cannot defeat us militarily in Iraq. However, you cause them to think they can win here politically by breaking our will, if they kill and wound enough of our soldiers.

You despicable partisans! You are stimulating our enemies to attack our soldiers and the people working with them. The blood of many Americans and Iraqis is already on your hands. And your hands collect more blood every day!

You are determined to regain the political power you have lost, and you believe your presidential candidate and congressional candidates will win, if the U.S. fails in Iraq. If your anti-American propaganda contributes to the deaths of many Americans and Iraqis, that is a price you are willing to make them pay. You are pathetic and dangerous!

I am not fooled, when you contemptible politicians and other political partisans, including many in the media, tell us you support our troops. I know that is a lie!

I am not fooled, when you claim spreading your pernicious, divisive, anti-American venom makes you patriotic. I know it does not - and I know you are not!

From Newsmax.com






If we can disagree
without disrespect,
we can make America stronger!


A Soldier’s MOTHER Speaks Out!





I have a daughter who is an American soldier and who recently returned from a year of service in Baghdad. I am married to a 23-year Army veteran. It is likely that he will serve in Iraq soon. I am so fed up with propaganda coming from some Iraq war supporters that I wrote this open letter. I care very much about what affects the American soldier.

I'm not impressed when you spew propaganda that unnecessarily places our troops in harm's way. Why do you believe that only you are patriotic? Why do you exaggerate the positive things that happen in Iraq while ignoring the lies that our weary children and the American public have been told by this administration? Then you tell us (and our children who are fighting) that we don’t support our troops.

I'm not impressed when you ignore the large number of American soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq, dismissing these brave patriots by using the condescending phrase “soldiers die in wars”. Does that mean that we should not keep as many of them safe as we can? Using medically unfit soldiers to cover this administration’s miscalculations concerning troop strength, and going into this conflict without most of our allies, is causing our soldiers to pay a much higher price. And you tell us that WE don’t support our troops?

I'm not impressed, when you spout constant criticism of what we do to attempt to end this war and bring our soldiers safely home. You have a rabid need to discredit us, when all we want to do is to save our soldiers and innocent Iraqi civilians from unnecessary harm. And you say that we don’t support our troops.

I'm not impressed when you tell our soldiers that they will be going home soon, and then keep them in a war zone for more than a year. There is a limit to human endurance. Due to the implemented “Stop Loss” measures, our military is no longer an all – volunteer force. The draft has already begun, however underhandedly. And you say WE don’t support our troops.

I'm not impressed when you spout propaganda that attempts to undermine our credibility in the eyes of the media. YOU KEEP TELLING THEM WE DON’T SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!!!! The hearts and minds of the Iraqi population cannot be won unless we demonstrate to them that we believe that an Iraqi life is every bit as valuable as an American life. We cannot destroy entire civilian neighborhoods, killing innocent people, for the slight possibility of neutralizing a few terrorists --- not if we support our troops.

You are fostering contention toward patriotic Americans who happen to believe differently than you do. Why do you refuse to believe that we support our troops just as you do? Why won’t you talk to us without condemning or demeaning us? Why do you believe that those of US who have children who serve are less moral than those of YOU who have children who serve? I am finding that in order for soldiers and their families to be respected by the conservatives, we have to AGREE with the conservatives. We are moral, we are American, and we support our troops.

I tried to help my daughter get the medical discharge that she should have gotten 2 ½ years ago, and it became a partisan issue. Medically unfit soldiers should be removed from the military when they become unfit. I was ignored or insulted by all pro-Iraq war people with whom I came into contact. My experience has definitely helped me to move farther to the left, and I STILL support our troops.

I will do everything I can to get W. Bush out of office. He is the most divisive president in my memory. This war could have been postponed until we secured international support, however, Bush chose to insult our allies. This administration dismissed a small force of persecuted Iraqi dissidents who asked the US for the funds to let them do it. Such strategies won't give Bush control over Iraqi oil OR the new government. With the implosion of his bankrupt policies, he may not get control after all.

This is my right to freedom of speech. You have a right to your freedoms, including a right to try and keep W. Bush in office. That is the American way.

Denise Thomas
GA Military Families Speak Out
GA Peace and Justice Coalition






MILITARY WIFE BECOMES WAR PROTESTER

On the U.S. invasion's second anniversary, Denise Thomas of Covington and her daughter, who served in Iraq, will join an anti-war protest.

Moni Basu - Staff
Saturday, March 19, 2005


Denise Thomas isn't ashamed to say she lost it the day her only daughter shipped out to the Middle East.

This was her baby girl Shanell --- the one she used to call "Thingy-Wingy" and the one who sat scrunched between Denise and her husband, Theartis, in church so they could keep her from squirming. As soon as the last "Amen!" rang out through the sanctuary, Shanell yelled "Yabba Dabba Doo!" and zoomed out the door.

This was Spc. Shanell Thomas of V Corps, 527th Military Police Company, who grew up with scoliosis, a condition that can lead to severe curvature of the spine.

Shanell, 29, had told her mother that an Army doctor had declared her undeployable because of her condition. But with war in Iraq looming, she was ordered to leave.

Denise didn't know what to do.

A military wife for 24 years and a military mom for five, she believed war was justified when the country was in real danger. She believed it was necessary to build a strong military. But she had doubts about the premise for war in Iraq. And now her little Shanell, whose back made a loud popping sound and who felt pain in 30 pounds of body armor and the weight of her weapon and gear, could die in a war neither she nor her daughter believed was just.

"If you are a mother, and your child is in trouble, you do what you have to to defend them," Denise said. "And that's what I did."

'Many people are afraid'

Today, on the second anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Denise will stand with other military families and Iraq war veterans at a protest in Fayetteville, N.C., home of the Army's Fort Bragg. Some of the protesters are steadfastly against the war; others just want to help bring the troops home. More than 1,500 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq.

It's been a long journey for Denise, 48, who rarely commanded public attention unless she was belting out gospel music in church.

Staff Sgt. Theartis Thomas never stood in his wife's way. Not even now, as he, a member of the Army National Guard's 1230th Transportation Company, is heading to Fort Irwin, Calif., where the 48th Brigade Combat Team will train before deploying to Iraq in May.

"She's been a military wife for 24 years," Theartis said. "She's been through the mill. She's earned her right to speak her mind."

From the chaos of the house she recently rented in Covington, Denise organized the first meeting of the Georgia chapter of Military Families Speak Out, an antiwar group mainly for families with loved ones serving in Iraq.

"Many people are afraid to speak out because they think that what they say will get their military family member in trouble," she said. "I've been afraid somebody on the street would punch me out. But I know there are people out there who feel powerless."

Three years ago, she might have sat at home silently. She didn't pay much attention to politics or foreign policy. She never held grand ambitions in life. When she was 9, she had read a magazine story about siblings who were separated after their parents died. She vowed to be a supermom.

She met and married Theartis Thomas in Dublin, a town southeast of Macon. When Denise was pregnant with her second baby, Jeron, Theartis joined the Army, in part because it offered health insurance.

Their travels took them to Army bases in Kansas, North Carolina, back to Georgia and to Germany. Denise didn't like moving around much, but she stood behind her husband. She stood by the U.S. Army.

"I was very proud of my husband," Denise said.

Shanell followed in her father's footsteps and joined the Army five years ago. But Denise couldn't let her go to war with her spinal problem.

Appealing to President Bush

At first the rumblings were quiet. Denise talked to her family. Then she began sounding off on Internet discussion sites and wrote to newspapers and TV stations. She said she got either no response or, worse, venom. E-mails called her unpatriotic or laid the blame on her daughter. "Why'd your daughter join the military if she's not up for combat? What did she expect?" Denise wrote to lawmakers and even to President Bush, pleading for them to send Shanell home.

"I have an increasing feeling of dread, as if I am out of time," she said in her letter to the White House. "I already can't concentrate, I can't work, and I can't think of anything except getting my daughter home." She worried that her daughter's back problems would make it difficult for her to handle her weapon properly.

"It would be worse for her to come home knowing she had caused the death of someone she worked with than for her not to come home at all," Denise said. "I was angry they put her in that position. "If someone is medically unfit, they should be reassigned to a non-combat role. It was a mistake for America to not build up its troop strength before going to war."

Raising their voices together

As the months went by, the anger consumed her. Outside her window, she saw joggers and neighbors going home in their cars. But in her mind's eye, soldiers in camouflage were dodging bullets in her front yard.

Like other military mothers, Denise prayed. She wrote letters and assembled care packages. She stared vacantly at her computer screen just waiting for a message from Shanell to pop into her "in" box. She watched CNN. It was a good day when the anchor announced that there were no new casualties.

One day, she got an excited message from Shanell. "Mama! We were all at the Iraqi police station. Ten bombs fell in the parking lot and nobody got hurt."

Nobody got hurt . That was a very good day.

Denise thought about stopping her medication for high blood pressure. If I die, she thought, then surely they would let Shanell come home for my funeral.

Last year, U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney asked Denise to speak at her campaign launching. Denise talked about how she had opposed the Iraq war. It was the first time she had spoken out publicly.

"I think Cynthia McKinney created a monster," she said. She plastered a color picture of Shanell on a rear window of her minivan. The message read: "I'm in Baghdad. Please get me out." It won her "who-do-you-think-you-are?'' stares." But Denise didn't care. She began speaking at anti-war events. Then, finally, Shanell came home after 11 months in Baghdad. Denise's baby girl was safe. But her campaign didn't end. Today, mother and daughter will raise their voices together outside Fort Bragg.

"I've turned into somebody else," Denise said, almost unrecognizable to herself. "It was something I had to do. It was conviction."


Copyright 2005 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Members of the Georgia
MFSO (Military Families Speak Out) in a protest
marking the 2nd anniversary
of the start of the Iraq war in
Fayetteville, NC March 19, 2005.
There were more than 4,800
marchers participating.
Photo by Lou Plummer, founder of
Bring Them Home Now (BTHN)








Empty Boots

by Cindy Sheehan

"I’m so glad George Bush is a uniter and not a divider," I sarcastically thought to myself as the retired Marine Vietnam vet was screaming at me and the other volunteers at the Eyes Wide Open Exhibit (presented by the American Friend’s Service Committee – AFSC) in Dallas today.

The man was beside himself with fury. He accused me and the AFSC of being shameful and that the AFSC wanted to see all of our soldiers in Iraq "tried for war crimes." I just sat at the hospitality table trying to let the veteran blow off some steam – I couldn’t answer his concerns at that point anyway – I felt his accusations were for the representatives of the AFSC.

The very, very angry man finally screamed one thing that I couldn’t ignore. He was practically frothing at the mouth when he roared: "You people are all cowards. You wouldn’t die for anything."

That’s when I had had just about enough of Mr. Marine. I stood up to him and I said: "You are wrong about that, sir. I would have gladly gone to Iraq instead of my son. I would have died in his place without question."

This simple but true statement, which any parent would make, took the wind out of Mr. Marine’s sails. He got tears in his eyes and he said: "I’m so sorry for your loss, ma’am. I would have taken your son’s place, too." Then we hugged each other and both of us cried...me for my devastating loss...and I’m not sure what the Veteran gentleman was crying for. My loss…or the losses he experienced as a soldier in Vietnam? Maybe a little of both.

At that miraculous and rare point in time, a Blue State, peace activist mom and a Red state, Bush/War supporting veteran, found common ground. It was a very unusual and sacred moment. We were able to open up an honest dialogue, which is so rare in this country these days.

There were about 50 protesters out today at the Eyes Wide Open Exhibit. They were there because they were under the mistaken impression that the AFSC wants all soldiers serving in Iraq prosecuted for war crimes. That would make me mad, also: if it were true. Most of our children in harm’s way are just trying to save their lives and the lives of their buddies. But this notion about the AFSC is totally absurd and false. How did these otherwise, seemingly intelligent protestors get such a whacky idea?? Well, the protesters were told that this was true by a hate-mongering radio talk show host named Darell Ankarlo. He told his listeners: "Eyes Wide Open is in actuality anti-war/anti-American/anti-troops display suggesting that our military 'be brought to justice' for crimes against humanity." Ankarlo also told his listeners that this statement was on the AFSC website.

Of course, this is not on the AFSC website. But don’t take my word for it. Do something that Ankarlo’s listeners did not: check it out yourself. It’s amazing to me that the protesters would come out and waste hours of their time on a beautiful Dallas morning to protest something that they didn’t even verify.

Like I said in my speech at the Eyes Wide Open Exhibit today: "Whether one thinks this war is moral or immoral, we all agree that the 1496 young people represented in their empty boots behind me, are brave and honorable people who deserve the highest of honors and our highest respect."

I have been all over the country protesting this war and trying to expose the reasons for going to Iraq and staying in Iraq for what they were and still are: lies. My experience in Dallas has convinced me of a certain fact: standing across from our philosophical opponents and screaming slogans at each other is not very productive. Having knee-jerk reactions to hate mongering talk show hosts is also very counter-productive. I think we as Americans have more in common with each other than not and we need to find that common ground…quickly. We need to join together to stop the next war before it even begins this time.

Exhibits like AFSC's Eyes Wide Open is a wonderful way to honor our children's sacrifices and to bring an awareness of the true human cost of war to our nation. Click on the link to the AFSC website and you can view a short movie on the exhibit, see the list of scheduled upcoming cities where Eyes Wide Open will be, and sign a petition for peace.

(Repeated calls and e-mails to Darrell Ankarlo’s station [KLIF AM] in Dallas from members of Gold Star Families for Peace [GSFP] have not been returned. We are demanding that Ankarlo apologize to the AFSC and to GSFP for lying to his listeners.)

March 4, 2005

Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan, KIA 04/04/04 She is co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace.


...contributed by Desmond Gardfrey, GSU Students for Peace






http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/sfl-13forum12jul12,0,1561482.story?coll=sfla-news-opinion

RESTORATION OF INTEGRITY


By Dante Zappala
Posted July

Until recently, I've been completely unimpressed with Washington antics. Politicians get paid a lot of money to do their jobs. They take an oath to uphold the Constitution. Watching them blatantly abdicate their responsibility in the run-up to the Iraq War was almost as difficult as watching most of America let them get away with it.

Worse, however, has been watching these elected officials sit on their hands as Americans die every day in the desert amid the stateside failure of policy and leadership.

I had all but given up. Then I met Walter Jones, a Republican congressman from North Carolina. While generally conservative, he's got a solid track record of recklessly leading with his heart and voting his conscience.

I first heard of him prior to the invasion of Iraq. Like many others on Capitol Hill, the White House sold him on the idea that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States and that there were links between Iraq and 9-11. Angry that our allies saw such overwhelming evidence in a different light, Walter Jones insisted that french fries be renamed "freedom fries" in House office building cafeterias.

Since the invasion, Jones has distinguished himself by actually paying attention to facts as the Bush administration's arguments started to show cracks. He began to see in Iraq what he saw Vietnam: a war justified by false pretenses and empty ideology that had the real consequence of needlessly killing American soldiers.

Jones started sending personal letters with handwritten words of condolences to the families of every soldier killed in Iraq. The hallways outside of his Capitol Hill office are lined with the faces of the fallen.

My family recently went to Washington to thank Walter Jones for his efforts. One of those pictures in his hallway is of my brother, Sgt. Sherwood Baker. One of those letters he sent is on my living room table.

Sherwood was killed in Baghdad last year. His death has kept my faith at the fore. That faith is challenged, quite honestly, when I hear the war makers extolling their belief in Christ as their savior as they drop cluster bombs and commit other people's children to the hell of war.

Walter Jones could easily be considered one of "them" -- a Christian conservative. I sat next to him in his office and quickly relearned how wrong it is to label a person. As a Christian myself, I understood immediately that his personal belief in Christ has been the basis of his actions. The most obvious aspect of our meeting was the authenticity of his humility.

He began by speaking specifically to my mother and the mothers of two other fallen soldiers who were with us.

Tears have been easy for me to come by over the last 14 months since Sherwood died. The catalyst could be the unabated laughter of my nephew or the national anthem; anything, really, that brings Sherwood to mind.

When Walter Jones said this simple sentence, "If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have voted for this war," I found myself unable to hold them back.

I waded through the election rhetoric last year waiting to hear those courageous words. My brother was on the security detail of the Iraq Survey Group. He died looking for those non-existent weapons of mass destruction that President Bush used as a rationale for this disastrous war.

Walter Jones is now introducing legislation that seeks a timetable for exiting Iraq.

The leadership that advocated for the Iraq War has displayed a deplorable contempt for reality. Our troops suffer injury and death every day. The Bush administration, meanwhile, finds it best to nurse its own bruised egos, to spin history and the truth on their heads just to make themselves look good.

Walter Jones, on the other hand, has done what Jesus would ask. He has acted on the principles of his faith. Those principles have led him through a maze of unchecked passion and righteousness. And now, he finds himself in catharsis, staring at revelation. Some call this the path. The next step on that path is to try to right the wrong.

As a conservative Republican congressman who has changed his mind about the war, he's in a position to do it. This country needs a restoration of integrity and competence in our government. Walter Jones stands as a beacon of hope that we are pointed in the right direction.


Dante Zappala is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus (online www.fpif.org) and a member of
Gold Star Families for Peace

www.GSFP.org

and Military Families Speak Out

www.MFSO.org






September 3, 2004

To Whom it May Concern,

I found out that my brother, Sergeant Ryan M. Campbell, was dead during a graduate seminar at Emory University on April 29, 2004. Immediately after a uniformed officer knocked at my mother's door to deliver the message that broke her heart,she called me on my cell phone. She could say nothing but "He's gone." I could say nothing but "No." Over and over again we chanted this refrain to each other over the phone as I made my way across the country to hold her as she wept.

I had made the very same trip in February, cutting classes to spend my brother's two weeks' leave from Baghdad with him. Little did I know then that the next time we met would be at Arlington National Cemetery. During those days in February, my brother shared with me his fear, his disillusionment, and his anger. "We had all been led to believe that Iraq posed a serious threat to America as well as its surrounding nations," he said. "We invaded expecting to find weapons of mass destruction and a much more prepared and well-trained Republican Guard waiting for us. It is now a year later, and alas, no weapons of mass destruction or any other real threat, for that matter."

Ryan was scheduled to complete his one-year assignment to Iraq on April 25. But on April 11, he emailed me to let me know not to expect him in Atlanta for a May visit, because his tour of duty had been involuntarily extended. "Just do me one big favor, ok?" he wrote. "Don't vote for Bush. No. Just don't do it. I would not be happy with you."

Last night, I listened to George W. Bush's live, televised speech at the Republican National Convention. He spoke to me and my family when he announced, "I have met with parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag, and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say that I am in their prayers and to offer encouragement to me. Where does strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with sorrow also feel such pride? It is because they know their loved one was last seen doing good. Because they know that liberty was precious to the one they lost. And in those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation: decent, and idealistic, and strong."

This is my reply: Mr. President, I know that you probably still "don't do body counts," so you may not know that almost one thousand U.S. troops have died doing what you told them they had to do to protect America. Ryan was Number 832. Liberty was,indeed, precious to the one I lost-- so precious that he would rather have gone to prison than back to Iraq in February. Like you, I don't know where the strength for "such pride" on the part of people "so burdened with sorrow" comes from; maybe I spent it all holding my mother as she wept.

I last saw my loved one at the Kansas City airport, staring after me as I walked away. I could see April 29 written on his sad, sand-chapped and sunburned face. I could see that he desperately wanted to believe that if he died, it would be while "doing good," as you put it. He wanted us to be able to be proud of him. Mr. President, you gave my mother and me a folded flag instead of the beautiful boy who called us "Moms" and "Brookster." But worse than that, you sold my little brother a bill of goods. Not only did you cheat him of a long meaningful life, but you cheated him of a meaningful death. You are in my prayers, Mr. President, because I think that you need them more than anyone on the face of the planet. But you will never get my vote.

So to whom it may concern: Don't vote for Bush. No. Just don't do it. I would not be happy with you.

Sincerely,

Brooke M. Campbell
GA Military Families Speak Out
Atlanta, Georgia









On Wednesday, March 23, 2005, the 2nd Anniversary of Georgia's first Iraq War Casualty, a fundraiser for The Jamaal Addison Motivational Foundation will be held from 6-8pm at Fuego Cafe & Tapas, 1136 Crescent Ave., Atlanta, GA.

Below is a letter of invite from his mother and founder of the Foundation, Patricia Roberts. Please support this important Foundation and forward the letter to your friends, family, & email database.

The Jamaal Addison Motivational Foundation, Inc. was formed in remembrance of Jamaal Rashard Addison, the first Georgia casualty as the result the Iraqi war. Jamaal fell to the Iraqi resistance on March 23, 2003. As a means of honoring his service and life, his mother Patricia M. Roberts formed The Jamaal Addison Motivational Foundation, Inc. The Foundation's primary focus is working with youth to aid in their positive growth and development.

***************************************************************

March 8, 2005

Dear Atlanta Community:

Nearly two years have passed since I received the untimely news of my son’s death in the War in Iraq. My faith, family, & friends have helped make the pain of my tragic loss more bearable. Most dear to my heart is the newly formed Jamaal Addison Motivational Foundation, Inc (JAMF). Keeping with Jamaal's interest in technology & education, our goal is to provide computer & technology training and tutoring & family assistance for our young people.

The Jamaal Addison Motivational Foundation, Inc. was formed in remembrance of Jamaal Rashard Addison, the first Georgia casualty as the result the Iraqi war. Jamaal fell to the Iraqi resistance on March 23, 2003. As a means of honoring his service and life, his mother Patricia M. Roberts formed The Jamaal Addison Motivational Foundation, Inc. The Foundation's primary focus is working with youth to aid in their positive growth and development.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Please join my family on March 23, 2005 from 6-8pm for the Launch Celebration & Fundraiser for JAMF. The fundraiser will be hosted at Fuego Café & Tapas located at 1136 Crescent Ave., Atlanta, Georgia. Our goal is to raise $50,000 in funds for the successful launch of our initial School Supplies for Kids & Tutoring Programs. Suggested donation is $100, please RSVP or make your financial contribution today by calling. The Foundation is a 501c3 organization.

We need your prayers and financial support to make this event successful. We appreciate your consideration and look forward to seeing you at the Fundraiser!

Blessings,
Patricia

Patricia Roberts
President,
JAMF, Inc.





Name Withheld Pending Notification

by Cindy Sheehan

When I woke up this morning, the "official" death count in Iraq was 1579. The first thing I do in the morning after I boot up my computer is to check the DoD website to see if any more of our nation’s precious children were killed in this horror of a nonsensical war. I was talking to another Gold Star Mom, Celeste Zappala, today and she sadly advised me that the count rose to 1579 (note: the official count is now 1594) while she was out to lunch.

Celeste and I and too many other moms know what the significance of "Pending Notification" means: it means that there are people in our country going through their lives right now not even knowing that they are about to be ambushed with the most devastating news of their lives: "We regret to inform you…."

Somewhere in America, there is a mom (I always think of the moms first) shopping for groceries, driving home from a long week of work, or maybe even planning her soldier’s homecoming party. Somewhere, here in our country there is a mother who is hoping that she will receive a Mother’s Day card from her soldier, or perhaps, if she is extremely lucky, a rushed telephone call. There is a mom out there who has been worried sick about her soldier since they arrived in the combat zone. Maybe the mom still supports George Bush and the occupation or maybe the mom is certain if her child is killed in this abomination that her sweet baby, her soldier will have died for lies and betrayals. In the end, and at that moment, the mom is not going to care about politics or about reasons for invasion and occupation. She won’t care if her child died for freedom and democracy, or to make some people wealthier and more powerful. All she will see is the Grim Reaper in a uniform standing at her door before she collapses on the floor screaming for her child and pleading with the Grim Reaper to take her with him.

Somewhere there is a father in America who won’t know what hit him and who won't know whom to hit back. There are brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, spouses, and children who are about to step on the path of unbearable pain and seemingly endless grief. Today there are the families and friends of three wonderful human beings who never, until now, knew that the human body could produce so many tears. Somewhere in America live our fellow citizens who never even knew that a broken heart is not theoretical or symbolic. These most unfortunates are about to find out that a broken heart hurts far worse than a broken limb, and does not heal so readily, if ever at all.

The families of these soldiers are also departing on a long tour of banalities uttered by well-meaning, but let’s face it, uninformed people. I hear these phrases over and over again: "Time heals every thing", "Casey’s in a better place", (oh really, I didn’t know that home with his mom was such a bad place to be), "Casey wants you to be happy", "Casey died doing what he loved doing", (he did?), or, my favorite, "Casey died defending his country". Let me assure the reader, phrases like this do not help. They are clichés for one thing, and for another, none of them are true. None of them help a grieving family. If you, the reader, is ever in the situation facing a mom who had her son brutally murdered, God forbid, I will give you hints on what does help: hugs (lots and lots), make sure she eats, make sure she drinks plenty of water (tears are dehydrating), make sure she hears wonderful things about her child, bring boxes of tissues and toilet paper, and bring yourself. Leave your tired and impotent clichés at the door.

Of course, the most tragic thing about the 1579 is that not even one should be dead. Our "president" cheerfully rushed this country into a needlessly horrendous and devastating invasion. Our "president" thinks stolen elections confer a mandate. Our Congress cheerfully relinquished their Constitutional responsibility to declare war. If they had any courage or honor they would claim that right back and end this travesty. I have a feeling our mis-leaders will be having a nice day with their moms or their children on Mother's Day. As they are eating their brunches and giving and receiving bouquets of Mother's Day flowers, they probably never even think about the moms in this world that their insanely reckless policies have destroyed. It never enters their wicked brains that they have ruined Mother's Day for so many families. This is a tragedy.

Our media was, and still is, a willing shill for the Administration and has never told the American public the truth. Reporting about Iraq is always trumped by such as child molesters, Martha Stewart, Terri Schiavo, Scott Peterson, the American Idol, or now, Runaway Brides! Another tragic thing about this illegal and disastrous invasion and occupation is that there are only 1579 families in this country who even have to think about Iraq. Most Americans probably don’t even know where to find Iraq on a map. The Halliburtons, Bechtels, KBRs, and the oil oligarchs of the world, who are laughing all the way to the bank, think of Iraq with greedy glee each day. Sorrowfully, there are 1579 families in this country who have "Iraq" carved on their hearts and souls for eternity. We have sacrificed more than the $1.99 it costs to buy a "Support the Troops" magnet for our cars. We have had a violent amputation. Even if our fellow citizens don’t realize it, by allowing this occupation to continue, they are also losing a very important part of themselves: their humanity.

My heart, my prayers, and my love go to the three families who are now embarking on this mournful, unnecessary journey. We at Gold Star Families for Peace are here for them. I hope they find comfort in what I know now seems like a comfortless world. Peace.

May 9, 2005


Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan, KIA 04/04/04 She is co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace.

...contributed by L C Wolf

Copyright © 2005 LewRockwell.com


 
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