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A Citizen's Report From Camp Casey

by Chris Greta, Founder,

News was happening just up the road.

A growing anti-war protest was festering along the country lanes surrounding President Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch. Cindy Sheehan had lost her son in Iraq and was staging a live-in outside the President’s ranch. She was trying to get him to meet with her. And he would not. It became a grand debate and spectacle. Thousands of people on both sides of the issue came to make themselves heard. I decided to bring my own kids and show them first-hand what the debate was about and who was involved.

Better to jump into the middle of a story than to just watch it on TV I thought. And besides, I had something to give Cindy Sheehan, and any other parents who had lost their children who might be there.

Back in December, I put together a Web site called My goal was to sell bracelets, similar to those worn during the Vietnam conflict for the POW's. The black bracelets bear the names of men and women of our armed forces lost in Iraq. And I had one with Casey Sheehan’s name on it that I wanted his mother to have. The project raises money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which was set up to double what families received from the government when they lost a family member in the war.

During the last election, I saw the lives of those lost in the war turned into a political tool and I felt that was wrong. Nightline was pulled from the air in some cities for reading their names aloud. There was an embargo on showing their coffins. was my small effort to affect a small change. Every war has a cost and I wanted more people to know more about those who had been lost.

Within two weeks, the project had grown way beyond our capabilities. We went from a few requests for bracelets to over 1600 in a single day. And it wasn't a reaction from one side of the political divide or the other. Both sides realized it was their right and duty to show their personal respects to those who have lost everything when they did their duty and followed the orders of their Commander-in-Chief. That’s part of why I started

And why I was taking my family to Crawford.

Camp Casey sits on a fork in a narrow country road, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Along the route are hundreds of Bush signs, alternating with Support Our Troops signs. Once at the camp, we saw a line of police facing pro Bush protesters with the Sheehan contingent on the other side. Both were set up with tents, banners, and signs.

I brought about 200 bracelets with me with the names of the fallen. I quickly met a father who had lost his son. He looked in the box of bracelets and saw his boy's name right on top. I don’t think I will forget his face as he took the bracelet and put it on his wrist. A few minutes later, a towering Marine who had just come back from Iraq, in jeans and red Marine t-shirt, came over to look. He quickly found the name of a friend that didn’t come back with him. I stood there as this 6'6" Marine wept.

It was the same many times over. I met many who had lost someone. One was a mother whose son she didn’t feel would be on a bracelet because he had died at Ft. Hood preparing to go to Iraq.

As we talked and handed out bracelets to those with an actual personal connection to the reality of war, across the road was a constant din of honking horns, yells, jeers and revving motorcycles from the Pro Bush, Pro War side. Even when a prayer service with a Minister, Catholic Priest, Rabbi and gospel singer began, the racket never died down. Horns blew as the Priest said prayers for the fallen. As the gospel singer led a powerful hymn, rants and jeers came from across the street. A hundred or so stood in the heat with heads bowed in prayer while the other side of the road whooped it up like they were at a Saturday night BBQ.

Finally, at the end of the service, the great Marine took his bugle in hand, clearly dismayed by the poor treatment from the hecklers. He proudly played Taps for his fallen brothers. But the racket didn’t cease.

What I realized then is the debate is completely wrong.

It shouldn’t be about Pro War and Anti War. That’s like being Pro Reality and Anti Reality.

War cannot be escaped. It is a part of life and we will never be rid of it in our, or our great grandchildren’s lifetimes.

BUT, it should only be entered into when there are NO other options.

I’m not even comfortable with the concept of Just and UnJust War. It’s awful no matter how you look at it, but as a citizen, or as a soldier, you have to hope that you are being led by people who view war for what it really is. People who would do everything in their power to avoid it and only succumb to it when there are no other alternatives.

That is where the debate should be. Was this a war of absolute necessity or a war of choice? Did we truly have no other alternative than to go to war with Iraq or did we have a choice?

Personally, I don’t know. All I know is what I read, just like everyone else.

But, however, it turns out, two years and tens of thousands of lives later, the rhetoric and evidence for going to war was tainted. Nearly every day, more comes out about how many people knew just how tainted this evidence was.

Did we go to war then as a mistake or deliberate deception?

THAT’S where the debate should be. We can’t just demand Peace Now and bring everyone home by 0900 hours tomorrow. We’ve destroyed a country, torn out the government, wrecked the infrastructure and brought the country to its knees. We HAVE to rebuild the country and get it stable or it will become the worst, festering sore in the Middle East. We can’t have Peace right now. We broke it. We bought it. We have to fix it.

The Peaceniks and the War Mongers can trade barbs across the road forever and get nowhere. Of course Peace is good and War is bad. No thinking person can disagree with that, but the debate is degenerating to the same tripe we heard during Vietnam.

Those on the Right yell (I heard them doing it Sunday) about Support Our Troops. Support Our President. God Bless America.

Those on the Left yell Bring Our Troops Home. Peace Now etc.

Instead, someone should ask…

“Were we lied to?


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