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Highland Park peace activist heads to Texas

Home News Tribune (New Jersey)
Mary Walworth has taken her fight to Texas.

The Highland Park anti-war activist, along with her 7-year-old daughter, Carolyn, yesterday joined Cindy Sheehan and a growing faction of Iraq war opponents in Crawford, near President Bush's ranch.

Although she said that she didn't have "a real personal connection" to the conflict, she said she came to Crawford to support Sheehan's "inspiring" cause.

"I just want to come humbly. My being here with Cindy is my contribution. My heart is very full and heavy," Walworth said by cell phone yesterday. "It's sad to the point you want to weep. And inspiring at the same time."

Sheehan, the mother of Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, who was killed in action in Iraq in April 2004, has camped out near the ranch for nearly two weeks resolutely intending to meet with Bush, who is spending August at the ranch.

Sheehan has said she wants to query the president on his reasons for keeping American troops in Iraq.

Bush, who met with Sheehan and other family members of soldiers killed in Iraq last year, has so far declined to meet with Sheehan this summer.

A member of the Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War, Walworth, with the help of several Middlesex County colleagues, packed up the coalition's Iraq Memorial Wall, a series of nine black fencing tarps 5 feet high with white print letters commemorating each of the Iraq war dead.

Although the wall wasn't yet set up, organizers told Walworth they might use it this weekend, when more anti-war activists are expected.

Walworth and the coalition members began bringing the Memorial Wall onto Raritan Avenue for the weekly Saturday vigils that have become a fixture in Highland Park for the last 16 months.

Since then, the number of names inscribed on the wall has grown from 600 to nearly 1,800.

"It's been an awful few weeks," Walworth said of inscribing 35 new names recently.

Although Walworth admitted to some weariness after spelling out the names of hundreds of dead soldiers, she said that she sensed an obligation.

"What I have is this feeling thinking that Americans need to know the truth," she said, including her own daughter.

Walworth left it to Carolyn to decide if she wanted to accompany her mother to Texas. Still, Walworth said, she wanted her daughter "to realize this goes beyond my town, to see that this movement is galvanized by people from all over."

Walworth's husband, Steve Hart, also a member of the Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War, is staying behind to care for the couple's younger daughter, Torgyn, 2 1/2, but also supported Carolyn's decision.

"First and foremost, she's learning not to be afraid in standing for her beliefs, which is a good lesson to learn, especially at her age," her father said yesterday morning.

Hart said that his wife decided to make the trip "to demonstrate once again that Cindy Sheehan is not the lone kook that she's made out to be and is speaking from the heart about something that is of consuming importance to this country."

Hopewell's Sue Niederer, whose son, Middlesex County native Seth Dvorin, was killed in action near Iskandariyah, Iraq, in February 2004, said Sheehan's motive in seeking out Bush is simple.

"Our illustrious leader should inform us as to what our mission is and why our children have not died in vain and why, in fact, we need to be there," she said yesterday.

Dvorin, a 1998 graduate of South Brunswick High School and a platoon leader in Iraq, was killed by a remote-controlled device that exploded while he and other soldiers cleared a supply road.

With Sheehan and five others, Niederer then founded Gold Star Families for Peace, an anti-Iraq-war group, all of whose founders have lost family members in the war.

Walworth was contemplating having to sleep in a ditch with her daughter. Beside the memorial wall and clothes for the planned four-day stay, Walworth brought along little: bug spray, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. She planned on heading out to Waco, six or so miles away, to buy a tent.

Food and water, she said, was available at the Crawford Peace House nearby. "I'm going to stick to this," she said. Walworth expected to return to Central New Jersey Friday.

Walworth said solutions to what polls suggest is an unpopular war "all involve getting us, the cause of the problem, out" of Iraq, providing reparations, and bringing in whatever form of peacekeeping, although not including American troops, is needed to stabilize the country.

"You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb it to peace, so we've got to quit that policy," she said. "It ain't workin'."

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