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From Despair to Hope

There were many nights after Casey was killed, and we buried him, that I had to restrain myself from swallowing my entire bottle of sleeping pills. The pain and the deep pit of despair were almost too much to cope with. I would think to myself: “It would be so easy to take these pills and go to sleep and never wake up in this awful world again.”

The only thing that restrained me from committing the cowardly and selfish act of killing myself was my other three children. How could I put them through something so horrible after what they had already been through? I knew that I had to live. However, I know why some people kill themselves: it is the lack of hope. For me it was the black pit of knowing that I had to wake up everyday for the rest of my life with the same pain of knowing that I would never see Casey again: that I had to exist in a world without him and just existing is no way to live.

One day, about three weeks after Casey was killed, my daughter Carly hit me with the reason for living. It was in her poem: A Nation Rocked to Sleep. One stanza reads:

Have you ever heard the sounds of a mother screaming for her son? The torrential weeping of a mother will never be done, They call him a hero, you should be glad he’s one, but, Have you ever heard the sound of a mother weeping for her son?

The first stanza reminded me that I was not the only one in the universe who had such excruciating grief, but the verse that helped me claw my way out of the pit of despair, was the last stanza:

Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep? The leaders want to keep you numb so the pain won’t be so deep. But if we the people let them continue, another mother will weep. Have you ever heard the sounds of a nation being rocked to sleep?

I knew when she recited those lines to me that I would have to spend my time, my money, my energy to try to bring the troops home before more mothers would have to weep. I was ashamed that I hadn't tried to stop the war before Casey died. I had foolishly thought: “What can one person do?”

Well, I now felt that if I couldn’t make a difference, I would at least try. If I failed, I vowed that I would go to my grave knowing that I gave it my best shot.

I started to gradually get my hope back. I had a marvelous time in Florida during the campaign against George Bush. I founded Gold Star Families for Peace. I was a main speaker at the Peace Rally in Fayetteville, SC. Casey and I were on the cover of The Nation magazine. I testified at Congressman John Conyer’s Downing Street Memo hearings in June 2005. I felt that I was, one heart at a time, eroding public support for the occupation of Iraq.

Then in August 2005, I was sitting at home watching TV (a very rare occurrence) and I saw that 14 Marines from Ohio had been killed in one incident. If that weren’t heartbreaking and sickening enough, George Bush came on the TV and said that the loved ones of fallen soldiers can rest assured that their loved ones died for “a noble cause.” That enraged me, and inflamed my sense of failure. I did not believe before Casey was killed, after he was killed, nor on August 3, 2005, that invading a country that was about as much threat to the USA as Switzerland, killing tens of thousands of innocent people all for greed for power and money is a noble cause. I decided to go to Crawford to ask him what the “noble cause” is.

Then George had the temerity to say something that has enraged me for months. He said we had to: “complete the mission to honor the sacrifices of the fallen.” I have been publicly calling for him to stop for months. I don’t want one more mother to have her heart and soul ripped out of her for no good reason. I wanted to go to Crawford to demand that George stop using my son’s honorable and courageous sacrifice to continue his dishonorable and cowardly killing.

The rest is history. The more that people came to Camp Casey; the more letters, cards, emails, phone calls, and packages of support we received; the happier we were.

At Camp Casey we remembered something after almost 5 years of virtual dictatorship in America: the people still have the power. We the people must exercise our rights and responsibilities as Americans to dissent from an irresponsible, reckless, ignorant, and arrogant government. We realized, a little late, but not too late, that when George said: “If you’re not for us, you're against us,” we all should have risen in angry, righteous, and patriotic unison and said: “You are right, you lying, out of control madman. We are against you and your insane rush to invade Iraq.”

We didn’t rise up then, but Camp Casey taught us that it is okay to raise your voices against the government. Not only is it “okay,” but it is mandatory if your government is responsible for killing innocents. It is mandatory if there are no other checks and balances. The people will be the checks and balances on the media and government.

I thought all my hope was KIA on the same day Casey was KIA. Carly’s poem gave me a reason to live. Camp Casey, with its wonderful feelings of love, acceptance, peace, community, joy, and yes, optimism for our future, gave me back my desire to live. I can now smile and laugh, and even mean it most of the time. These things I used to take for granted, but I never will again.

I live with the hope that we will one day exist in a nation of peace. I love being alive now, and will devote my life to peace with justice, so that the day may come when our children will never be misused by the war machine again.

Thank you, America.

Thank you, Casey.

October 10, 2005