Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Gold star mothers

Sherwood Baker's mom takes part in Texas anti-war protest

Celeste Zappala always believed her son Sherwood Baker was headed for great things.But he never made it past age 30. On April 26, 2004, the sergeant with the 109th Field Artillery was killed by an explosion in Baghdad, leaving a wife and then-9-year-old son behind in Plymouth Borough.

In the aftermath of her son's death, Zappala became friends with another "Gold Star" mother, Cindy Sheehan of Vacaville, Calif., whose 24-year-old son Casey was killed in action in Iraq just 22 days before Baker.

The Bush administration never clearly articulated its reasons for the war, which is costing $1 billion a week, Zappala said."I think they have absolutely no idea what they're going," she said. "I think we're getting to the point where normal, reasonable people are starting to see that. "The war has to stop. We don't want anyone else killed. We're here to support the troops, to bring them home now, alive. ... My little piece in all this was to say, "We've got to tell the truth."

These moms are making a powerful statement and whatever your view of the war you have to admire their tenacity. On the local front there will be a Vigil for Cindy Sheehan on Public Square tonight at 7:30PM sponsored by a group called Bring Them Home.


Anonymous said...

The best thing about this story is that it is upstaging the "Missing Blonde of the Month De Jour". Finally, this country is becoming involved in a "real" debate over the relevance of this war in Iraq. WHatever the majority comes to decide, the people will have won thanks to this brave lady.

Anonymous said...

Today, I went to Crawford, which is near my home, to see the protest. Being a veteran myself, I requested an audience with Cindy Sheehan. I was then escorted to her protest site and was "granted an audience," as though she was the Pope. I proceeded in a very calm matter to question Mrs. Sheehan about what it was that she was actually protesting, after I expressed my condolences about her son. She responded with a tyrade, excerpts of which I will include in this email. She stated that, "This is nothing but a war for money."
Initially, I went to Crawford just to see the protest and to gain a better viewpoint on both sides, I was expressly neutral on the issue. However, after meeting with Mrs. Sheehan, I am decidedly pro-war and pro-Bush. I said to Mrs. Sheehan, "The United States Military is an all-volunteer force and everyone in it took an oath."
She responded by saying repeatedly, "That oath says 'I will obey the 'wise' orders of the commander in chief." I responded by stating, "The oath of enlistment says I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the officers appointed over me, it never says the word wise."
She then repeated her comment about "wise orders," and told me, and I quote this directly,".. You are no one to talk to me about this, my son is dead and you are still alive."
I am certainly not dead, but I am a veteran, as were both of my uncles and both of my grandfathers. Mrs. Sheehan went on to say, "I believe that American troops should only be used to defend America and nowhere else."
I then asked, "So do you believe in World Peace or just American Peace?"
At that time she became extremely irate. I remained calm and asked her to remain seated. I addressed her as ma'am throughout our conversation and remained what my fiance and other observers described as stoicly calm, although I did have to calm Mrs. Sheehan down several times. By this time, her voice was raised and she was just a hair short of yelling at me.
She said to me, "This is an unjust war over nothing, we didn't find any weapons of mass destruction, Hussein wasn't supporting al qaeda, it was a war about money. It wasn't about any of the reasons that the government gave us."
I responded with, "Do you believe that the government needs to tell us everything?"
She skirted around the question and went back to misquoting the oath of enlistment saying, "the oath says obey the 'wise' orders of the commander in chief."
I once again responded with, "the oath never says anything about wise orders and wise is a matter of perspective to begin with. History will say what was wise and what wasn't."
My next statement is where it got bizzarre. I looked at her and said, "It's estimated that under Hussein an estimated 500,000 people were killed."
She then stated that, "When we were trading oil for food more people died between this war and the first Gulf War. People were starving in the streets."

She essentially refused to allow me to speak and instead kept trying to do all of the talking. The only time I was able to speak was when she would eventually stop to take a breath. To make matters worse, when I did try and speak she held up her hand and said, "Now hold on a minute, you are not letting me talk, you want to do all of the talking."

It was evident to everyone around that it was not the case, but somewhere in her mind I suppose it was.

I responded to her by stating the facts, "But what about the fact that the aid was delivered, but Hussein's regime wouldn't allow the UN workers to distribute the food."
She started to stand up and walk out of the tent, again, and I held up my hand and said, "Ma'am please sit down so we can finish this." She returned to her seat, noticeably agitated. I asked again, "What about the 500,000 people killed under Saddam's regime."
Mrs. Sheehan then made a statement that sent chills through me, "Those people simply don't matter, what matters is that my son is dead and you are alive, you should be ashamed."
I responded to this by saying, "500,000 people is genocidal, last time I checked Hitler exterminated 6 million Jews, are you saying he didn't need to be stopped?"

She became Extremely, and I mean extremely, irate and was shouting as she said, "You don't come here and talk to me. You're alive and my son is dead for an unjust war."

I responded to her with, "I refuse to be ashamed of being a vet and being alive, and nobody else should have to apologize for being alive either."
At that point she shot out of her chair, turned her back on me and stormed out of the tent. I asked her several times to return to her seat. She then turned slightly and said, "You should be ashamed of yourself, you're here and my son is dead."
I then came out of my chair and for the first time raised my voice and said back to her, "You have no right to tell me that."

That got the attention of the cameras, she noticed them and immediately lowered her voice. She put her hand on my shoulder and in obviously false sympathy started muttering something about how she was ok with the troops. I removed her hand from my shoulder with a slight motion, so as not to seem confrontational, but I just didn't feel like being touched by someone who had just told me to be ashamed that I was alive. It was at this point that some of her odd entourage stepped up to me, grabbed my arm and informed me that I should not have gotten confrontational with her. This is completely disregarding the fact that she is the one who had raised her voice to me as I remained calm. She is the one who tried to domineer the conversation, again as I remained calm. She is the one who jumped out of her chair and walked away from me when the facts worked against her. She continued walking away, all the while speaking with a group of her supporters who had surrounded her as though I was going to attack her.

I am not pro-peace, I am not exactly pro-war, but I am pro-American. I was raised in rural west Texas on old-fashioned values, and I was always taught that one of the great rights we have as Americans is the right for both sides to be heard. I was told by the pro-Bush demonstrators that throughout her protest she has denied them access to her, and after my encounter with her, I can see why. Cindy Sheehan doesn't want to hear from the opposition. She only wants her views to be heard without any regard to the opinions of others. Unlike Mrs. Sheehan, I do not seek any publicity and would essentially choose to avoid it. Maybe the President is right, maybe the President is wrong, but he is still the President of the United States. He was elected by the people. In rural Texas, when you make a choice, you stand by it. All that I want out of this is to see how Cindy Sheehan really is. I am extremely sorry for her loss. I lost good friends that way, and I know the strain of worry that was put upon my family when I was a soldier. But she has no right to tell any veteran of any service that they should feel guilty for being alive. This country was built by veterans of the Revolutionary War, defended for its entire history by veterans of other wars, and upheld by all of those willing to serve in an all-volunteer military force. We also cannot forget the thousands of people supporting the military, such as those working for the Department of Veterans Affairs, or the various veteran's advocacy groups throughout the country. For every soldier, there is an equally concerned family member. We should rejoice when a soldier returns home, not tell the to be "ashamed" that they lived and someone else's child did not. In closing, if Mrs. Sheehan is, "the face of the peace movement," then peace is far more confrontational than war.

Anonymous said...

I think the question that we have to ask ourselves about this war, whether you support it or not, is are we safer? Saddam Husain was a brutal thug who killed many of his own people. His sons were no better and I do believe the world is a better place with both of them dead, to bad their father didn't join them. But let's face facts, most of the world lives under brutal dictatorships. We can intervene in just about every country in the continent of Africa if we are worried about human rights abuse. But then again Iraq was a threat to our country right? Funny it seems to me that Saddam was pretty well contained by the no fly zones enforced by us and the Britts. Saddam was not only not a threat to us but also rendered powerless to cause any harm to his neighbors. So how are we safer, is Ossama going to behave now that he has seen that we took Saddam out? Did he just crap his pants or robe or skirt or whatever it is he wears when we went into Iraq? Has he had a change of heart and is no longer a radical hater of the west and just wishes to live out the rest of his life as a used camel salesman? Now the big question, what do we do if some other radical in some other country in the Musslim world attacks us with similar or worse results then those that happend on 9/11? What do we do with Iraq then? Pull out and let it fall apart so we can attack another threat? Restart the draft? Are we prepared to take on another serious threat in another part in the world or is the drain of resources in Iraq to great right now? I do not see how this war has made us safer and more secure. In fact I think it has given the opposite effect, we are spread to thin and not ready to respond if another crises happens. Are we safer? I don't think so!

Anonymous said...

Hey Gort,

Just wanted to let you know that the last post was left by me. I did not intentionaly send it out as anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with protesting the war--after all protest is as American as apple pie--we were a nation born of protest; my real gripe is with the far left who categorize our country as brutal murderers, etc. This only serves to hurt the very cause they are persuing, because the majority of Americans may not be for our involvement in Iraq, but they do not look down on our Country. I will guarantee you one thing--if Mrs. Clinton or whomever the Democratic Party nominates in 2008 associates with the likes of Moore, Franken, etc. they will most certainly go down to defeat.