As far as we can piece things together, March 31st, two years ago, is the day that the First Cavalry arrived in Sadr City, a slum in Baghdad formerly named "Saddam City," Iraq. I say "as far as we can piece together" because we have heard many different stories, but this date seems to be the one that we have heard most often.
Casey began a letter to us, his family, on April 1, 2004, telling us that he finally had an address where we could send letters and packages, and most of all, calling cards. The one and only time he called home from Kuwait, it had cost him 400 minutes just to connect the call and he didn’t have much time to talk. That was the last we heard from him. He called about 12:30 one morning and said it was "hot," he was on his way to mass, and they should be convoying to Iraq at the end of that week. In his letter, he mentioned that he had talked to me that morning, but I probably wouldn’t remember it, because he had awakened me. Little did he know, I will never forget that call, and I pray fervently that I never forget the sound of his voice.
In his letter, he also expressed regret that he wouldn’t be home for his baby sister Janey’s high school graduation that June. Little did he know that he would be home. He also told us that the First Cav was expecting a pretty "smooth year" because the unit that they were replacing had only two casualties for the entire year before. Maybe he knew, maybe he didn’t know that the day he arrived in Baghdad, four mercenary soldiers from Blackwater Security Company were hanging off of a bridge in Fallujah and the proverbial doo-doo was about to hit the fan in Iraq, and less than 5 days later he would draw his last breath in an alley thousands of miles away from home, shot dead by a rebel who didn’t welcome him with "flowers and chocolates." I wonder what his last thought was as he lay dying for George and the other Chickenhawks.
I would beg Casey not to go to Iraq before he left because we both knew it was wrong. He would say: "I wish I didn’t have to, Mom, but the sooner I get there the sooner I will be home." Little did Casey know that not even four weeks after the First Cavalry left Ft. Hood, he would be coming home in a cardboard box in the freight area of a United Airlines 747.
I am often accused by the right-wing smear propaganda machine of making this struggle about me, and not about Casey. How Casey’s story has been lost in the hulla-balloo that almost always is surrounding me. This is so ironic, because I started working for peace shortly after Casey was killed, to be sure that Casey would not be forgotten by America, that he would not be just a number. I started this so Casey’s sacrifice would count for love and peace not hatred, killing, and lies. I started on my journey for peace to make sure it didn’t happen to other Caseys and their families.
As the two-year mark of Casey’s death is careening helplessly towards me, I reflect that even if I tried with all my might, I could never forget, nor want to forget Casey or his story. I can never forget the joyous day that he came into our lives, on JFK’s birthday, which was also Memorial Day that year. I will never forget the 21 Memorial Day birthdays before Casey donned the uniform of the Military Industrial Complex that we had where we invited family and friends over for a bar-be-que to celebrate his life. The two Memorial Day birthdays we have had so far without him are pain-filled beyond measure and we will have to endure many, many more. What about the holidays: the happy ones before Casey was killed, and the devastating ones since he died? Looking at pictures of the Sheehan family before Casey was killed is heart-rending to say the least. What about our birthdays? The ones since 4/4/4 where we won’t even get a call from him, wishing us a happy day?
How many families has BushCo sent on this spiral of never-ending grief and pain? Tens of thousands of people here in America have been debilitated by their policies and another country and its people lie in ruins for lies and deceit. How many families around the world have black holes in their lives that can’t be filled by any light, but suck the light and life from the marrow of the fabric of those families?
No, I won’t ever forget about Casey, or Mike Mitchell, KIA with Casey; or Evan Ashcraft, KIA 7/24/2003; or John Torres, KIA 7/12/2004; or Chase Comely, KIA on 8/6/2005; Daniel Torres, KIA 2/4/2005; nor will I forget why I am trying to get our troops out of the predicament of colossal proportions that George Bush has gotten us into. I won’t forget the thousands of other wonderful Americans who have been needlessly killed here in the Gulf States and in Iraq for the crimes of BushCo. Nor will I ever forget the images of dead Iraqis burned by toxin of this war: white phosphorous; or the seven-month-old baby with half of her head shot off by American troops; or the images of the Iraqi babies born with horrendous birth defects from leftover depleted uranium from the first Gulf War travesty. The images of the Bush destruction in the desert are horrifying in their brutality and we should all know that nothing good ever comes from killing innocent people.
I am convinced that the years of the Bush Regime will go down as the years that America lost its collective mind. We allowed the Bush crime family to scare us into two invasions of countries that had nothing to do with 9/11, and despite all evidence to the contrary, let them assure us that we are safer because of the uncalled-for wars. We have no problem with the administration authorizing, encouraging, and condoning torture, which only puts our troops and our children and their children more at risk for terrorist attacks. We allow our administration to use weapons of mass destruction on the innocent people of Iraq and think the invasion of Iraq was warranted because Saddam "used chemical weapons" on his own people. We allowed George Bush to play golf and Condi to shop for shoes in NYC while citizens of our country were hanging off of their roofs and drowning in New Orleans. We allow BushCo to spread the rubbish that we are spreading "freedom and democracy" in the Middle East, while we allow our faux-leaders to take away our freedoms here in America and destroy our democracy with a Republican coup that was bloody but virtually unopposed by the faux-opposition party and its followers.
My family has had people fighting and needlessly dying in every mistake of a war that the war machine has tricked our country into since the Civil War. I will never forget the brave men and women who have been killed for profit that have gone before us. I won’t forget because I don’t ever want it to happen again.
If we didn’t learn the lessons of Vietnam until it was too late, let’s learn one while we still can: America will eventually pull out of Iraq, let’s pull our fighting troops out now, and I am convinced that lives on both sides will be saved if we do. If we don’t pull out soon, who knows where else the sickly cancer of American empire will spread and how many more innocent people like Casey will die.
Also, one lesson that we should have learned from Vietnam is that there is always a war and an enemy in the offing. The neo-con war machine is planning the new "ist" and "ism" for us to fear next, when the "ism" du jour fails to sufficiently frighten us. We must stay on our guards against this.
Buddhists say that a person dies twice. Once when his/her physical body dies and once when the last person to remember him/her dies. We should never forget the lesson of Casey and his untimely death on the altar of the war machine. We should never have forgotten the lessons of the millions dead in Vietnam who were sacrificed on that same altar.
Casey and the millions of others who have been tragically killed by our leaders in worship of greed for money and power will never die as long as there are people working for peace and justice.
This is their gift to us. Let’s never forget them. Their deaths can’t be in vain.
April 3, 2006