Casey Sheehan was born May 29, 1979, the first born child of Cindy and Pat Sheehan. It was a long labor. Fifty-one days after Casey was born, our first child, Wade was born, also after a long labor. They started school the same year, played the same games, watched the same television shows, loved the same country. On April 4, 1996, three weeks after going to Washington as a winner in a national contest about what America meant to him, Wade died in an automobile accident. On April 4, 2004, eight years later to the day, Casey, who loved his country enough to wear its uniform, died in Iraq. Cindy and Pat's hearts broke, as had ours.
We teach our children right from wrong. We teach them compassion and honor. We teach them the dignity of each life. And then, sometimes, the lessons we taught are turned on their heads. Cindy Sheehan is asking a very simple thing of her government, and she and her family, and most particularly Casey, have paid a very dear price for the right to ask this.
Cindy wants Casey's death to have meant as much as his life - lived fully - might have meant. I know this, as does every mother who has ever stood where we stand. And the President says he knows enough, doesn't need to hear from Casey's mother, doesn't need to assure her that Casey's is not one small death in a long and seemingly never-ending drip of deaths, that there is a plan here that will bring our sons and daughters home. He doesn't need to hear from her, he says. He claims he understands how some people feel about the deaths in Iraq.
The President is wrong.
Whether you agree or disagree with every part, or any part, of what Cindy wants to say, you know it is better that the President hear different opinions, particularly from those with such a deep and personal interest in the decisions of our government. Today, another voice would be helpful.
Cindy Sheehan can be that voice. She has earned the right to be that voice.
I grew up in a military family. My father and my grandfather were career Navy pilots. I saw what it meant to live a life every single day when the possibility of an honorable death is always there, at the dinner table, on the playground, at the base school. Will someone's father not come home tonight? And I didn't just feel the possibility, I saw the real thing, and, believe me, it stays with you, it changes you.
I also saw, then and more recently as I campaigned across this country and spent time with courageous military mothers and wives, how little attention is paid to the needs and the voices of military families. It has to change. The sacrifices that our military men and women make assure us that we have the strongest military in the world, but the sacrifices that their families make are too often ignored. The President's cavalier dismissal of Cindy Sheehan is emblematic of a greater problem. This is a mother who raised her son to love his country enough to serve. This is a mother who lived the impossible life of a mother of a soldier serving in Iraq, unable to sleep when he sleeps, unable to sleep when he is on duty, unable to watch the television, unable to stop watching the television.
And when the worst does happen, when the world comes crashing down and she puts the boy she bore, the boy she taught, the boy she loved in the ground, what does that government say to her? It says we'll do the talking; we don't need to hear from you. If we are decent and compassionate, if we know the lessons we taught our children, or if, selfishly, all we want is the long line of the brave to protect us in the future, we should listen to the mothers now.
For Families of the Fallen, Grief is Not the Only Emotion
Paul Schroeder and his wife Rosemary Palmer lost their boy Augie (Edward "Augie" Schroeder). He was killed in Iraq in a roadside explosion. He was one of the many Ohio-based Marines killed recently in Iraq.
Rosemary and Paul are currently supporting Mrs. Sheehan in Crawford, TX.
They have expressed not only grief, but anger. "Our comments are not just those of grieving parents," Mr. Schroeder said. "They are based on anger, Mr. President, not grief. Anger is an honest emotion when someone's family has been violated."
Recently, Mr Schroeder said:
"To honour [Augie] I can no longer sit still, keeping quiet and being politically correct. I will not rest the rest of my life until the Republican Party is considered an afterthought for a generation or two and the Democratic Party finds some people with backbone to stand up and do what's right. [column: Debate rages in US over Iraq]
These families are searching for someone - anyone -who will stand up for them in all their grief, confusion, disillusionment, and anger.
If there has not been a major tipping point on public opinion of the handling war yet, I think this one person - Cindy Sheehan - will have been the unexpected force which will have funnelled the public focus down to the many mistakes which have been made in Iraq and the many misleadings that have taken place on the road to this war.
I am disturbed to learn that there have been political 'tools' used to keep our own Representatives out of the loop on intelligence about WMD when they were asked to vote on the Iraq resolution, causing them to make decisions on massaged information when classified documents were shielded and guarded by the ultra-secretive (and conniving) Bush administration.