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250 rally against war in Durham
BY JIM SHAMP : The Herald-Sun
Sep 17, 2005 : 10:30 pm ET
DURHAM -- There was blistering heat and the diversion of college football to contend with, but some 250 people walked from Bright Leaf Square to Duke University's East Campus on Saturday afternoon to show their support for bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq.
The crowd, overwhelmingly white and mostly middle-aged and older, included many people who thought they were going to be joined by Cindy Sheehan, the 48-year-old California woman sometimes referred to as the "Peace Mom." Sheehan's son, Army Spec. Casey Austin Sheehan, 24, was killed in action on April 4, 2004, just five days after his arrival in Sadr City, Iraq, during the U.S. occupation.
Cindy Sheehan subsequently set up "Camp Casey" across the road from President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch, demanding a face-to-face meeting with him. Bush refused, and Sheehan's cause has helped galvanize the growing anti-war movement nationwide. Sheehan had appeared earlier in the week in Raleigh as part of a national movement of people targeting Washington, D.C., for a massive peace rally on Sept. 24. And some promotional materials had indicated she'd also be in Durham.
But she did not join those who led the Durham rally.
'Peace Mom' stand-in
Ann Wright of Honolulu, Hawaii, a member Veterans for Peace, was Sheehan's stand-in as the heavily bannered tour vehicle pulled up to the Bright Leaf Square gathering site. A career foreign service officer with the State Department who resigned her position in March 2003 to oppose the war in Iraq, Wright said she had joined Sheehan's protest in Texas. She led the marchers and later led the rally on the Duke campus.
William Race, 62, of Durham, was typical of many marchers, saying he expected to be marching with Sheehan, but wasn't angry that she was reported to be at another march Saturday. "This Vietnam vet is proud of you, Cindy," he shouted, despite her absence.
"I never thought I'd ever relive the Vietnam War," said Race, a UNC professor of classics who said he served a one-year tour of duty as an artillery officer at the height of the buildup in 1966 and '67. "I thought my generation had learned a lesson. But here I am reliving it. It's a nightmare. Both wars were losing propositions from the outset. The Vietnamese people were not with us. In-country it was a hostile place, just as it is in Iraq. We're not welcome. Our presence is creating more harm than good."
The other viewpoint
Though vocal opposition along the parade route was limited, and several motorists honked and gave thumbs-up signs as they drove past the line of marchers, Raleigh veteran Bobby Kobito said he drove to Durham to express his disagreement with the protesters.
"You people should be supporting our troops, saying your prayers for them" he shouted to the marchers from a parking lot off Main Street.
"I think these people are disgracing the dead who fought for their freedom to do this," said Kobito, who said he'd served from 1981 to 1991 with the 7th Special Forces out of Fort Bragg, including stints in Panama and elsewhere in Central America.
Turning again to the marchers, he yelled, "You're disrespecting people who volunteered for this war and lost their kids and their lives." He said he realized that many of the marchers were, like him, veterans. "But they did it for the wrong reasons if they're out here. Maybe they were not in real danger. And I also saw a couple of those gay rights rainbow flags in there, jumping on the bandwagon."
He said he had a son and a younger daughter who agreed with his position that Americans owed total support to Bush and the war in Iraq. His older daughter, however, is married to an Air Force B-1 bomber mechanic stationed in Diego Garcia. "She wants to bring our boys home," he said.
Planning D.C. rally
Rally speakers included Michelle De Ford of Colton, Ore., the mother of Sgt. David W. Johnson of the Oregon National Guard. She said her son "was killed by explosives that should have been guarded by the U.S. military." He died in Iraq on Sept. 25, 2004. DeFord is now a member of Sheehan's Gold Star Mom group and a member of Military Families Speak Out.
"We had to sell our business, our home and move to a different environment, because the memories there were too much. We don't want that to happen to one more family," she said as applause rose from the crowd. "His life was wasted if I don't do something. He was cannon fodder. So I urge you to come to D.C."
Military Families Speak Out members Linda and Phil Waste of Hinesville, Ga., told the protesters they had three sons, a grandson and a granddaughter who were on active-duty in the military. Combined, they had already spent more than 58 months in Iraq, with another 29 months likely with current and forthcoming deployments.
"The military is good for some," said Phil Waste. "I encouraged my three sons to join. But then they were abused, misused by this government." Linda Waste said she'd been told her sons were sacrificing for a noble cause. "But there's nothing noble about the illegal occupation of Iraq."
Speakers also included Tom Palombo of Norfolk, Va., who said he served in the Army and Army Reserves for 13 years, including a year in Korea. He is also a former nurse for the Veterans Administration.
Organizers said two buses were scheduled to leave from the N.C. Central University campus at 5:30 a.m. on Sept. 24, to arrive in Washington by 11 a.m. for the rally. They're then supposed to leave D.C. at 5 p.m. and arrive back in Durham by 11 p.m.
Tickets for the bus trip, at $30 to $40, are on sale at The Regulator bookstore and The Know Bookshop. More information is available from Mandy Carter at (919) 667-1362 or Lanya Shapiro at email@example.com. More information is also available on the Web at www.GetTraction.org.