Empty Boots

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"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 [send her mail] is
the mother of Spc.
Casey Austin Sheehan, KIA 04/04/04
She is co-founder of
Gold Star Families for Peace.

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