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California Family Changes Vacation Plans to See Cindy
Aptos family decides to vacation at Camp Casey
Grieving mom’s ‘bravery’ was driving force to join protest in Texas
By BRIAN SEALS
SENTINEL STAFF WRITER
Pat Manning of Aptos is not a typical anti-war protester.
"I don’t go out and protest war in general," she said.
But the war in Iraq and the saga of grieving Vacaville mother Cindy Sheehan has changed that.
This is summer vacation for Pat and husband Ed of Aptos: a trek to Texas, daughter and two grandsons in tow, to join with so many others who are gathering near President Bush’s ranch.
"The thought of somebody being brave enough to stand up to the president, to take a stand, I feel like I wanted to go stand beside her," Pat said by cell phone Wednesday while at the "Crawford Peace House."
What started as a vacation to Dinosaur National Monument in Utah has resulted in a days-long show of support for Sheehan.
On Aug. 17, the family left Utah for the two-day haul to Crawford.
"We looked at each other and we took a vote," Manning said.
The Mannings are active in the Santa Cruz County Democratic Party. But other than participating in a 1985 strike against United Airlines, where Ed was a pilot, they aren’t prone to public protests, Pat said.
Even though Sheehan had departed by the time they got to Crawford, Pat said they were sticking it out for a while.
Rather than seeing the other sites in the West, the family is bearing the Texas heat, meeting like-minded people and catching glimpses of stars like folk singer Joan Baez.
The days are generally spent hanging out with the grandsons in the morning, doing some chores at the Peace House and visiting the encampments near the president’s ranch during the evening.
The Peace House, which was established back in 2002, has been a sort of point of entry for war opponents. Pat has been handing out a sheet of behavior guidelines for peace protesters and making sure cars move along so as not to clog the street.
Camp Casey, next to Bush’s Crawford ranch and named for Sheehan’s son who died in the Iraq war, has been supplemented by Camp Casey II at a nearby site, Pat said.
That is where the family has been going in the evenings. There, they eat dinner and listen to testimonials from members of Gold Star Families for Peace.
"They all have the same message — what is the noble cause our families are serving?" Pat said.
Just how long the family vigil will continue for the Mannings has changed each day, but Pat said they plan to stay until about Sept. 3.
She said she needs to get back for her mother’s 92nd birthday in Fresno on Sept. 6. The good news is she scored some valuable items for a county Democratic fundraiser later that month: three T-shirts autographed by Baez.
Traveling with the couple is daughter Eileen Manning-Villar, along with grandsons Ellis, 7, and Shannon, 5.
But Pat is not hopeful the actions of the protesters will sway the Bush administration. Speaking Tuesday, Bush told The Associated Press that withdrawal from Iraq now would "weaken" the United States and appeared to take a dig at Sheehan by saying most military families disagree with her.
That doesn’t surprise Pat, who conceded the president probably won’t change his course. Still, opponents of the war have to speak up and hold the administration accountable, Manning said.
"Somebody’s got to do it. You can’t fix it until you admit you have made a mistake," Manning said.