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A Military Mom in a Mother of a March
By Sara Rich
I left the Codepink house with my IMPEACH Bush and Cheney T-Shirt, my peace dog tags and a large strip of pink duct tape on my chest with the number 3,396 written in big black numbers on my chest.
I arrived at Lafayette Park with my friend Cindy K., who is also a military mom. We came little early to be there to meet people and get something to eat before the march, We talked about the possibility of using civil disobedience and what we wanted to convey in our message when we took the stage for the rally part of the event. Cindy’s soldier is in Iraq right now and we have all been on edge waiting to hear news of him. It was her first Mother’s Day without a call from her son. It added a somber note to our day.
We talked about what kind of group we can start as military mothers to support and advocate for our children in service and how we can take action on their behalf. We started coming up with terms to explain what we go through as military moms. The one we decided on was “deployment depression.” How it feels to be a mom knowing your child is far away in a combat zone and not knowing when or even if you will ever hear from them again. It is a miserable existence and we do our best to put on a good face, but inside I remember feeling dark and always in crisis mode.
We joined three more military moms that day. Marty, whose child is also deployed to Iraq, Tina, whose son is now a veteran with severe post traumatic stress disorder and Cindy S., who’s living our worst nightmare, her child was killed in Iraq. The sense of energy and support we generate with are hearts open and our mother bear instincts on red alert was extremely energizing and increased my resolve to be fully present for the actions planned for the day. As we listened to people talking and repeating the message of how the United States issues are not just the war, but the torture, the abuse of veterans, the oppression of the poor, the lack of healthcare, the shameful and detrimental foreign policies that this administration has shoved down the throat of the world.............only one solution came to light for me: IMPEACHMENT. Impeachment of all of the criminals in the white house and their accomplices in the house and senate. This administration and their minions are responsible for millions of deaths world wide and the extermination and genocide just continues.
With this is mind, I took the stage. The image of my hands drenched in blood leaving hand prints on every Congressional representative and Senators door that voted for this illegal and immoral war flashed in my mind. The White House no longer white but covered in the bright red and dark and crusted black red of new and old blood. When is it going to be enough for the American people? I talked about our troops and how we love them and just want them to come home safe and sound. We want them to be a part of the solution at home by helping rebuild New Orleans and healing our Nation as part of positive social programs. The rate of PTSD would go down if they were doing their real job to protect and serve, not being forced to participate as innocent civilians and children are killed needlessly.
Then I also talked about our own mental health and the state of our own hearts, realizing that it is crucial that we keep our hearts open to the good and the love that we know we all generate in this movement. If you find yourself jaded or full of hatred, take a step back, take a breath and come back when you feel better. We have to stay strong, healthy and remember to take a breath. As I spoke I gazed at the crowd and saw my daughter there watching me. Our mutual admiration took my attention for a moment. How far we have come in such a short time. Here I was speaking with powerful peace activists in front of the “white” house and she was standing there with her IVAW friends looking clear and strong in the moment. How blessed we are to be traveling this life together.
As we prepare for the “Mother of a March” we are asked that military mom’s lead the way holding the banner that says, “ Not one more mother’s child” and we chanted as we departed,
“Stop the funding, stop the war! Mother’s say, NOT ONE MORE!” We chanted this as we marched our way through the streets of Washington DC finally ending up walking up Pennsylvania Avenue right past the tourists with cameras, students with wide eyes and cautious security guards wondering what these radical peaceful activists will do to them. We took a brief stop in front of the Justice department where we chanted, “Sham Shame Shame” and Cindy S. took up the bullhorn and talked about the severe and deadly injustices that this US “justice” department has been complicit in.
We continued up the Avenue and would our way through the Capitol of our Nation. At the point where we were almost to the capitol, a former officer in the military who was leading us in prayer and chanting made an announcement saying that from the time we left Lafayette park to then our number of dead military in Iraq increased by two more of our brave children in the military. Tears began to flow and our grief was overwhelming. We held each other with tears and our chanting volume and intensity increased dramatically as we marched on.
We had no permit for this so we were stopping traffic and a few police cars actually charged us at times. Guess they did not get the memo that we were coming to town(haha) We reached the intersection where the members of Congress cross the street from their offices to the Capitol. My voice was hoarse from chanting, Dede had put a little microphone with my own speaker around my neck, but my voice was still raw. The energy was increasing and I was totally caught up with my sisters in the call for congress to impeach and arrest the war criminals. I noticed that the police officers were gathering forces as the vans, bicycles, black suburbans and uniformed officers filed out of the buildings around us. My heartbeat increased again. Cameras were everywhere and we were oblivious to them knowing that we were reaching our destination and our decision was almost upon us.
As we reached the intersection, our fearless organizer was checking in with us, asking if we were going to go through and be arrested. I was so furiously and emotionally charged I started to look for my daughter to hand her my stuff as the mothers with the banner walked in a circle inside a circle of people making the choice to be arrested. In the middle of it all was the American flag, flying high and proud. I was marching and feeling the thrill of breaking the law. All I wanted to do is stay with my sisters, the other military moms. My friend Tina screamed, “ We have to show them we are serious!!!!” I found my daughters eyes and motioned her to come get my stuff. She shook her head and she and our dear friend Geoff both screamed at me to get out of there fast. I shook my head no, I can’t leave my sisters, they persisted and I saw the urgency in my daughters eyes, her own traumatic arrest still fresh in our hearts, and I wrenched myself away from the circle and ran to my daughter with a sob. As I was heading out, a man asked me to take his video camera as he was going to be arrested and I agreed. I ran to my daughter and hung my head in shame and grief, my emotions overwhelming me. Once I got myself under control I stood witness as my friends and sisters stood their ground in the middle and were one by one arrested. We continued to chant and remind the police officers to be gentle. For the most part I saw them trying to be careful after they were reminded that these women are mothers and grandmothers. I turned my microphone back on and yelled at them how brave they are and thanking them for standing up. We told the police that they should be arresting the real criminals. Bush and his administration. I was still shaking with emotion as they led people to the vans and drove them away. I am so blessed that Suzanne and Geoff were there with me explaining what was going on and helping me calm down. The last van pulled away and we waved and told them we loved them.
Even though, rationally, know I did the right thing, for my family, my own self longed to be with them in the vans.
Later that evening as Suzanne and I made our way back to the Codepink house I talked about my sense of guilt and shame for having not followed through with the civil disobedience fire that was so consuming. She told me that being arrested was not glamorous and does not make me more patriotic. She reminded me that I have been working against this war and for peace consistently for years and even sent my beloved child to war.
She looked at me and smiled. At that moment, everything was all right.
3,398. We will continue. We will not be silent.
Sara, proud mom of Suzanne