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The Tour Comes to St. Louis


St. Louis Post Dispatch
September 4th, 2005

Cindy Sheehan's Backers Stop Here For Protest
By Ken Leiser

Families of soldiers killed in Iraq and a veteran of the conflict stepped off a rented Winnebago at Centenary United Methodist Church in downtown St. Louis on Saturday and voiced their opposition to the war.

Faced with counterprotests and even a lengthy burst of wedding bells from a neighboring church, the small group - traveling as part of the "Bring Them Home Now" bus tour from Crawford, Texas, to Washington - derided the war and paid tribute to Cindy Sheehan. Sheehan held a 26-day vigil outside President George W. Bush's ranch after her son was killed in Iraq.

"There is no reason to kill another human being," said Hart Viges of Austin, Texas, a veteran who served 11 1/2 months in Iraq and later received conscientious objector status. "There is no logic going to war for a lie. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."

Vince George of West Virginia took a jab at the numerous justifications that have been offered for the war. He spent 11 days at "Camp Casey," the anti-war protest site near the president's ranch in Crawford. He said his father served in the Korean War and his brother is in a Pennsylvania National Guard unit whose members have been sent to Iraq.

"We have a flavor of the month in terms of why we went to war," he said. "The latest one that the president was quoted in the mainstream media on Tuesday was that we are there to defend the oil fields from the terrorists. I think that's a ridiculous reason to send troops into harm's way."

About 90 people carrying replicas of grave markers marched silently from the church to Soldiers Memorial a few blocks away. Beatriz Saldivar of Fort Worth, Texas, carried a picture of her nephew, Sgt. Daniel Torres, who was killed in February in an explosion in Iraq.

Along the way, they passed a handful of counterdemonstrators, carrying signs that read "Peaceniks are Freedom's Parasites" and "These Colors Don't Run."

Earlier in the day, Missouri Rep. Jim Avery, R-Crestwood, and the mother of a naval officer killed in a domestic plane crash in 1992 voiced support for the war. Avery condemned the anti-war protests, particularly the actions of Sheehan's followers.

"I understand that she is a grieving mother," Avery said in an interview. "And originally, she was going through the grieving process. Now she is becoming some sort of a pawn for the left, the liberals who want to end the war."

Avery, a Missouri National Guardsman, served in Iraq from January 2004 to March 2005. His unit looked for and cleared roadside bombs.

Some of the speakers at the anti-war rally made mention of the bells that clanged for 25 minutes at St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Catholic Church across the street. But Monsignor Dennis Delaney said the bells are typically sounded 15 minutes before and after a wedding - in this instance, his niece's.

"I knew nothing about it," he said of the anti-war rally.

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