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Anti-war bus tour stops here


'Bring Them Home Now' event attended by 100
By Howard Wilkinson
Cincinatti Enquirer

The national bus tour sparked by Cindy Sheehan's monthlong protest against the Iraq war outside President Bush's Texas ranch rolled into Cincinnati on Wednesday on its way to Washington.

About 100 Cincinnati-area residents - opponents of the war - filled the Catholic Center at St. Monica-St. George Church in University Heights on Wednesday night to cheer on the eight protestors. Attending were Iraq veterans, parents of troops killed in Iraq and peace activists supporting the group as it makes its way to a protest in the nation's capital Sept. 24.

"Our commander-in-chief has abandoned his responsibility to the troops serving over there," said Lietta Ruger of Bay Center, Wash., whose son-in-law and nephew serve in the 1st Armored Division and have served 15-month tours of duty in Iraq. "Now it is our job to bring them home."

Three buses left Crawford, Texas, bound for Washington on Aug. 31, in a high-visibility rolling protest sponsored by Gold Star Families for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out and Veterans for Peace.

On the bus that reached Cincinnati early Wednesday evening was Bill Mitchell of Atascadero, Calif., whose 25-year-old son, Sgt. Michael Mitchell, was killed in action April 4, 2004, in the same firefight in which Sheehan lost her son Casey.

The Sheehan and Mitchell families have since become friends.

"But the truth is, I wish we had never had to meet," said Mitchell.

The bus tour that came to Cincinnati was the outgrowth of "Camp Casey," the encampment near President Bush's Crawford ranch where Americans opposed to the war gathered to join the protest of Sheehan.

Sheehan was not on the bus that came to Cincinnati. That bus was delayed in getting to Cincinnati when it was involved in a minor traffic accident Wednesday afternoon in Indiana.

Deb Hagerman and Beth Lerman, both of Dayton, Ohio, waited for the bus to arrive at Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church on Wednesday afternoon and attended the rally Wednesday night at nearby St. Monica-St. George. Hagerman's husband is a Seabee who has served and may return; Lerman has a son and daughter-in-law in the armed forces who have yet to go to Iraq.

Both women spent five days at Camp Casey last month with Sheehan and other protestors.

"It was an unforgettable experience for those of us who were there," said Lerman. "And there is no telling how many thousands of people it inspired across the country. I was proud to be a part of it."

But many military families do not agree that the war in Iraq has gone on too long or that the sacrifice has not been worthwhile.

While the "Bring Them Home Now" bus was making its way toward Cincinnati, the three sisters of a Clermont County soldier killed last year in Iraq stood on Veterans' Plaza in downtown Columbus on Wednesday to show their support for the war.

"Troops need to see us standing strong," said Denise Grannen, 46, of Anderson Township, the oldest sister of Army Sgt. Chuck Kiser, the Amelia high school graduate killed last year in Iraq. "They are fighting for our security, of our children and our grandchildren."

The Kiser sisters were joined by several parents of active duty troops for a press conference that presented a much different message than the one being carried across the country by Sheehan's supporters.

The youngest sister, 40-year-old Joy Kiser of Anderson Township, said her family disagrees with Sheehan.

"Every one of them are heroes," Kiser said. "Many have made the ultimate sacrifice as our brother did. We are thankful for all of them."

The support-the-troops rally held Wednesday in Columbus was the first of 30 planned nationwide in 27 days as part of Operation Iraqi Hope.

At the "Bring them Home Now" event, Hagerman said that, while she understood the feelings of families like the Kisers and others who support President Bush's war effort, she believes the time has come for the deaths of young Americans to stop.

"Having more deaths does nothing to honor the people who have already died," Hagerman said.

Jon Craig contributed to this report. E-mail hwilkinson@enquirer.com

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