Bill Mitchell camps outside the president's ranch in Texas in solidarity with Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in the same attack in Iraq as Mitchell's son was in 2004
By Leslie Griffy
The San Luis Obispo Tribune
Bill Mitchell is sleeping in a ditch in Crawford, Texas, tonight.
The Atascadero man is among the anti-war protesters camped out in front of President Bush's ranch. Mitchell's son, Staff Sgt. Michael Mitchell, died in Iraq in April last year.
In a phone interview, Mitchell said hundreds of others have gathered in solidarity with protester Cindy Sheehan.
Sheehan, a Vacaville woman whose son died in the same attack that killed Mitchell's son, started the campout in Crawford in hopes of speaking with the president about the war.
"I hope we have a meeting with President Bush," so the group can tell the president it wants the soldiers to come home, Mitchell said.
While they haven't spoken with Bush, the president's motorcade did drive past the camp, Mitchell said. The group, which includes members of Gold Star Families for Peace and Veterans for Peace, lined the street with crosses and posters.
"(Bush) looked at these crosses on the side of the street as he drove down this desolate Texas country road," he said.
Mitchell called the outpouring of support and media attention for the gathering "amazing."
"It's not quite as bad as the Michael Jackson trial," he said, referring to the media lining up to interview the protesters, mostly families of soldiers who died in fighting.
There have been 1,847 U.S. deaths since the beginning of the war in March 2003, according to The Associated Press. More than 20,000 Iraqi civilians are estimated to have been killed in the fighting.
Not everyone in the area has greeted the activists warmly. Counter-protesters held rallies near the camp, Mitchell said.
But the pain of losing a child to war, he said, transcends politics.
When Mitchell learned one of the war supporters was also the father of a fallen soldier, he decided he had to meet him.
"I told him about my son. He told me about his," Mitchell said. "We hugged in the middle of the road. Politics doesn't matter. We are bonded within our grief."