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Protesting moms want children to return from Iraq
By CHRISTOPHER SMITH
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
NAMPA, Idaho -- A day after she put her 20-year-old Marine son on a plane for his second tour in Iraq, Brenda Mansell came to Nampa for her first anti-war demonstration.
"This has to stop," the Boise mother said Wednesday, holding a photo of her son, Scott, and a sign calling for his return home. "Maybe if it starts with the mothers, the rest of the world will follow."
Mansell joined Laura McCarthy of Eagle - whose 21-year-old son Gavin has been serving with the Idaho Army National Guard in Kirkuk, Iraq, since December - in a designated "peace pen" just outside the Idaho Center sports arena as part of about 150 people who protested President Bush's speech on the war on terror.
"There were quite a few people who asked me, 'Isn't your son ashamed of you?'" Mansell said. "But a Marine in full dress blues said my son was his brother, and he respected me. I gave him a hug."
The city of Nampa, which operates the arena, allowed just two people to stand in the pair of free-speech zones next to the line of military members and their families that filed into the center for Bush's speech. The rest of the demonstrators gathered along a sidewalk about 200 yards away from the building, waving signs at passing traffic.
Mansell and McCarthy said they typify what they believe is a maternal groundswell against the U.S. war in Iraq, crystallized by Cindy Sheehan, the California "Peace Mom" whose son's death in Iraq last year spurred her quest to speak with Bush about the occupation of Iraq. Sheehan returned to her vigil outside Bush's Texas ranch Wednesday after caring for her ailing mother.
McCarthy said she warned her son that she would be publicly speaking out against the war during the president's visit to Idaho and she fears that her anti-war activism could generate animosity toward him among other members of the Idaho Guard's 116th Brigade.
"It's a tragedy I have to have an inkling of worry that something I say will affect his safety," she said while holding a sign that read, "Bring Home My Son Alive and Whole." "I have people caution me all the time to watch what I say, but he's been raised to understand freedom of speech."
Bush told members of the Idaho National Guard and the 366th "Gunfighters" Wing stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base and their relatives that America appreciates the service and sacrifice of military families.
"There are few things in life more difficult than seeing a loved one go off to war," Bush said.
The president also recognized another Idaho military mother, Tammy Pruett of Pocatello, whose four sons Eric, Evan, Greg and Jeff are in the 116th Brigade now in Iraq while her husband Leon and another son Eren returned from Iraq last year. Bush quoted Tammy Pruett saying that if one of her sons is killed in Iraq, "they would leave this world doing what they believe, what they think is right for our country."
Supporters of the president's war policy also demonstrated outside the Idaho Center, with a banner unfurled from the roof of a nearby office building that read, "God Bless President Bush." Jamie Hastings of Meridian attached a 35-foot-by-22-foot American flag to the pumping boom of his concrete truck parked outside the arena and extended it 165-feet skyward.
"We're just trying to be patriotic," said Hastings, adding that Bush pumped concrete from a similar boom pump rig during a 2002 visit to a federally funded housing project in Atlanta.