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Three sons, two mothers, one cause
For more than two hours under a hot September sun, angry protesters carried high above their heads homemade banners vilifying a war and the president they insist is responsible.
Bush Lied. Thousands Died.
War is Defeat for Humanity.
Give Peace a Chance.
Bring our Troops Home Now.
Squeezed in among the crowd, Marge Gugerty made her statement, not with poster board and marker, but with two 8-by-10 framed photographs.
Grasped in both her hands, the Aurora woman waved the military pictures of her sons — Keith, who is serving in Iraq now; and Kevin, who already completed one horrendous tour of duty with the 82nd Airborne and is scheduled to go back again in a couple of weeks.
She is proud of her boys' accomplishments.
Proud of their service to this country.
But Marge Gugerty does not believe in this war.
And she, like the hundreds of other protesters who swelled around her on the street outside Speaker Dennis Hastert's office in Batavia on Wednesday, had come to show support for Cindy Sheehan and her "Bring Them Home Now" bus tour, which is making its way to Washington, D.C., for what could grow into the biggest anti-war gathering since the invasion of Iraq.
"I don't want to become a Gold Star Mother," said Gugerty, referring to those who have lost children in war. "And I know that, as proud as I am of their service to this country, this war is very, very wrong."
Those words were echoed loud and clear by many throughout this rally, including speakers who are part of the tour and those carrying banners in the crowd. No voices, however, were more poignant, more heartfelt, than those of the mothers and fathers who stood in front of the mike to talk about how their children had died in Iraq.
And none were more disturbing than the group of Bush supporters standing to the left of the stage who continued to shout, sometimes even heckling the speakers who often were overcome with emotion as they spoke of their loss.
It was not a pretty situation, and later, several members of the tour, as they walked back toward the bus, expressed surprise at the degree of disrespect shown toward these grieving family members.
There's no doubt this war is dividing a country — a chasm that will only continue to grow as the anti-war movement picks up steam.
There's also little doubt Cindy Sheehan has become the catalyst of this movement. Some might call her bus tour a politically motivated dog-and-pony show. But with the help of peace activists and Bush-bashers, she has morphed her grief and anger into a full-time job, complete with a well-oiled machine of powerful consultants and public relations experts.
Though she only spoke for a couple of minutes to the Fox Valley crowd, Sheehan walked among her supporters like the media darling she has become, chatting, smiling, shaking hands, posing for pictures.
And while she did so, Marge Gugerty waited quietly off to the side, continuing to clutch her sons' pictures and wait ever so patiently.
Then, after Sheehan had circled around, she spotted the Aurora mother, and her eyes immediately fell to the colored portraits.
"These are your sons," Sheehan said. It was not a question.
Gugerty smiled and introduced her boys proudly. Kevin, 21 years old. Keith, 23. Handsome men. Ready to die for their country. Hoping they don't have to.
"I am not so much afraid for the lives of my sons," said Gugerty. "But I am afraid for the life of this country."
The two women embraced, seemingly unaware of the media horde that circled.
Their voices were barely above a whisper as they shared private words.
"What you are doing is courageous," Gugerty told this new political star. "Good luck to you. Good luck to us all."