Empty Boots

"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