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Normal Life Ended for Protesting Mother

August 13, 2005 2:41 PM EDT

VACAVILLE, Calif. - Before her son was killed in Iraq, before she began a peace vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch, before she became an icon of the anti-war movement and the face of grieving mothers, there was a time when Cindy Sheehan's life was, by all appearances, incredibly normal.

She grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, and married her high school sweetheart, Patrick Sheehan. They had four babies, one almost every other year. They drove their growing clan in a huge, yellow station wagon nicknamed the "BananaMobile." She volunteered at a Vacaville church and later, as the children grew, she worked there.

Normal life ended for Cindy Sheehan in April 2004, when her oldest son Casey, 24, a father of twin girls, was killed in Iraq.

First, she says, "I was a Mom in deep shock and deep grief."

Then, two months later, came what she considered to be a disturbingly placid
meeting with President Bush. While she found him to be a "man of faith," she
also said later that he seemed "totally disconnected from humanity and
reality." And when she later heard him speak of soldiers' deaths as "noble,"
Sheehan felt she had to do something.

"The shock has worn off and deep anger has set in," she said.

Sheehan co-founded an anti-war organization and began talking, demonstrating,
speaking at a congressional hearing. She got a Web site, a public relations
assistant (financed by an anti-war group), an entourage of peace activists and
a speaking tour.

But while her message was strong and widely disseminated, she didn't become
world famous until about a week ago when, after speaking at the annual
Veterans For Peace national conference in Dallas, she took a bus to Crawford,
Texas, site of Bush's ranch, to have a word with her president.

For the record, here's what she said she wants to tell him: "I would say,
'What is the noble cause my son died for?' And I would say if the cause is so
noble has he encouraged his daughters to enlist? And I would be asking him to
quit using Casey's sacrifice to justify continued killing, and to use Casey's
sacrifice to promote peace."

Sheehan's peaceful vigil, her unstoppable anguish, her gentle way of speaking,
have captured attention for an anti-war movement that until now hasn't had
much of a leader. Over the past week she appeared on every major television
and radio network and in newspapers around the world.

Critics have started calling her a pawn of the left-wing. Some conservative
organizations, talk show hosts and even some of her own extended family accuse
her of shifting her position and say she is lowering troop morale.

"To be perfectly honest, I think it is disgraceful," said bookkeeper Diana
Kraft of Vacaville, whose son is in the Navy. "I don't know the loss she's
feeling to lose a son because, thank goodness, I haven't had that, but we're
in this war and we have to support the troops."

Other friends, neighbors and church members argue that she is a hero, and say
they're proud of what she's doing.

Dozens of people have joined her and others have sent flowers and food. Other
"Camp Casey" demonstrations and vigils are springing up around the country,
with signs calling on Bush to "Talk To Cindy." Activists in San Francisco
rallied on her behalf Friday; others planned to gather Monday in New York's
Union Square.

Bush acknowledged her on Thursday, telling reporters at his ranch that "she
has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She
has a right to her position."

But Bush said Sheehan is wrong on Iraq: "I thought long and hard about her
position. I've heard her position from others, which is: Get out of Iraq now.
And it would be a mistake for the security of this country and the ability to
lay the foundations for peace in the long run if we were to do so."

Sheehan, a lifelong Democrat, said that until her son died, she'd never spoken
out about her views. She was too young during the Vietnam War - "I only saw it
on the news and I thought it was horrible," she said. She didn't agree with
the first Gulf War, but only talked about it with friends and classmates.

As a child in Bellflower, about 20 miles south of Los Angeles, Sheehan was
opinionated, but not outspoken, says her sister, Dede Miller. She was enrolled
in programs for gifted students.

She married her first serious boyfriend, Patrick, whom she met when she was
17. They soon had Casey, followed by Carly, Andy and Jane.

"She was an earth mother, a very devoted mom," said Miller.

In 1993, the family moved to Vacaville, midway between San Francisco and
Sacramento, where Patrick worked as a sales representative.

The stress of Casey's death prompted Sheehan and her husband to separate, she

Sheehan has vowed to remain in Texas through Bush's August vacation, unless he
meets with her.

"My whole family would rather I was home more than gone," she said. "Some
people have tried to discourage me from doing what I'm doing but I can't be
discouraged, I can't be stopped because I know what I'm doing is so important.
It's a matter of life or death."

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The title of his column is "Somebody Tell the President the War is Over"
I say if anybody is going to do it, it should be you. So go for it. Tell the President the war is over.

I don't know if Cindy has had a chance to read Mr. Rich's article, but I do think that her strength of character is one of the main factors that made it possible for such a powerful statement as Mr. Rich's to reach so deeply into the mainstream press.

Thank you for that link, J Smith.

Everyone that comes to this website for the right reasons should read this article!

I didn't know him, but I grieve for the loss of your son and for all the others that have needlessly died or were injured, and for their families. I knew that it would take the anger of one mother who has lost a child to mobilize the nation to demand answers. I hope that the movement continues and grows and that "We the People...." will finally get some honest answers. Thank you for being this generations' Rosa Parks.

My life changed forever too, when Bush first took office (legally or not). I feel that the lives of my children will be deeply affected and compromised by a bunch of political bullies that have taken over the most powerful positions in the world. They've been spreading intolerance and militarism in the most dramatic ways seen since the dawn of this very dangerous time when nuclear weapons can easily destroy human life altogether. Obviously humanity is not mature enough to have this destructive power, and these weapons must be abandened. Do the people in power care? No, they go around threatening to use nuclear weapons against anyone who dares to argue with them (iraq is actually a well hidden nuclear war if you know much about depleted uranium weaponry). These bullies have overwhelmed people that have hope for the future. And for what? Personal gain? US world dominance?

It is now the task of sane people to overwhelm THEM, and you are a major star in the start of this process, Thank you for your efforts!

I read an article today, one of many this week, about cindy and her cause. The thing that really bothered me were the people calling her a traitor etc. Any way i run a small web site and the topic this week is cindy and some woman named diane kraft. If anyone is interested the addy
is here.
I'm not as nice as cindy so if your easily offended i wouldn't recommend
visiting my site, but this is my way of showing my support. It may not be the right way, but it's my way. It's nice to see someone on the sane side of this issue finally getting some press coverage.

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