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Not my son


Vigil for 'peace mom' protests Iraq war
By Brian Saxton
THE NEWS-TIMES

The News-Times/Chris Ware
Dianne McCafferty of Newtown holds a photo of her son, James, who is set to return to Iraq for a second tour with the U.S. Marine Corps, during anti-war vigil Wednesday night in Newtown.
NEWTOWN – She held a framed photograph of her only son in one hand and a flickering white candle in the other.
Standing in the soft twilight of the warm summer evening, Dianne McCafferty watched intently as the long line of other mothers, fathers and small children filed silently past her.

A bagpiper played the solemn strains of "Amazing Grace" and all about her were signs that read "Stop The War" and "Bring Our Children Home."

McCafferty, 48, shared in the mood.

Inside the thin, wooden frame she held was a uniformed portrait of her 21-year-old son, James, a lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, who is about to return to Iraq for a second stint in the war.
The News-Times/Chris Ware
Alex Klein, 17, holds an anti-war sign during a demonstration against Operation Iraqi Freedom Wednesday night in Newtown.

"I keep hoping something will happen and that the war will be over but I know that's a delusion," said McCafferty. "I'm just having to prepare myself for the day he goes back."

Part of that preparation was lighting a candle and taking her son's picture to a peace vigil on Wednesday evening outside Edmond Town Hall.

The two-hour, silent demonstration drew more than 200 people who wanted to show their support for "peace mom" Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a slain U.S. soldier who is camped outside President Bush's ranch in Texas.

Sheehan, whose son, Casey, was killed in Iraq last year during an ambush, wants to speak with Bush about the war. The California woman says she will stay in Crawford, Texas, as long as Bush stays there.

The president says he sympathizes with Sheehan and other parents who lost children in the war, but he says a U.S. pullout would set back the cause of democracy in Iraq and send the wrong message to terrorists.

There were scattered vigils across the country Tuesday, including gatherings in Ridgefield and Redding. In Newtown, Dianne McCafferty said she empathized with Sheehan.

"As one mother to another, I want to show her that she has my support," said McCafferty. "She says wants some answers about her son's death and about the war and I think she's right. We all want some answers. That's why I'm here tonight. I think the president should see her."

McCafferty, who lives with her husband, Robert, 49, in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown, remembers the pain she felt when their own son went to Iraq the first time.

James McCafferty spent a year in the war and was attached to a U.S. air base west of Baghdad that armed fighter jets with munitions. Several times both the food and the water on the base was poisoned by insurgents.

"I was so nervous when he was away I couldn't concentrate on my work," said McCafferty, who is a chemical engineer. "It was a very tense time for us. I used to go on the Internet five or six times a day looking for news. I remember the day when 38 people died in a suicide bomb attack on his base and I didn't know what had happened to him."

James McCafferty returned in March this year and is expected to return to Iraq this fall.

McCafferty, like other demonstrators at the vigil, said she thought it was time for the U.S. to pull out of Iraq.

"I don't see any reason for us to be there," said McCafferty. "I'm very dismayed over the lack of progress we have made in stabilizing Iraq."

Although Newtown residents Allen Lacko, 54, and his wife, Ellen, 55, have no family of their own fighting in Iraq, both lit candles and joined the vigil to show their support for Cindy Sheehan.

"We have a 19-year-old son in college who could be out there so as a mother, I think I can relate to how Cindy Sheehan feels," said Ellen Lacko. "I'm very concerned about all these boys losing their lives. I think Cindy Sheehan deserves a better explanation about the war and her son."

The vigil's bagpiper, Susan Bannay, of Monroe, who is dean of students at a Fairfield high school, said her friend's 19-year-old son, Danny, was just sent back to Iraq for another stint.

"Like every parent, she's very frightened and concerned for her son's safety," said Bannay. "She listens to the news reports every day. I think Cindy Sheehan is sending out an important message and I hope it's being heard."

Sixty-year-old Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran Fred Stoll, of Brookfield, said he turned up to show his own support for all the service men and women in Iraq.

"I'd like them all to come home," said Stoll. "I don't want to bash President Bush but I'm not happy with the way the war is going."

George Humphrey, 60, another Brookfield resident, whose nephew has served in Iraq twice, said the family had always been fearful for his safety.

Humphrey described present anti-war feelings and Cindy Sheehan's own vigil in Texas as being "only the tip of the iceberg."

"I think many people in this country are beginning to realize that they're not being told the total truth," Humphrey said.

Ironically, as anti-war demonstrators wound their way around the outside of Edmond Town Hall on Tuesday, the movie choice inside the theater was Steven Speilberg's "War of the Worlds."

Contact Brian Saxton

at bsaxton@newstimes.com

or at (203) 731-3332.

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