Sympathy for grief, not necessarily Cindy Sheehan's cause
If you are a mother who grieves for a child killed in the war on terror, what would you say to President Bush?
By John Cramer
The Roanoke Times (Virginia)
Roanoke Valley residents expressed sympathy for a military mother camped outside President Bush's Texas ranch, but they differed on whether the commander-in-chief should meet with the antiwar protester.
"He should, but my hunch is he'll ignore her," said Eli Fishpaw of Rockbridge Response, a peace and justice group based in Rockbridge County. "It really helps [the antiwar movement] to have military families against the war, but the Bush people have mastered the technique of ignoring people."
Dave Lalush of Botetourt County, whose Marine son Michael was killed in Iraq, said he supports people's right to protest, including Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen U.S. soldier holding a peace vigil near Bush's ranch.
But Lalush said he and his wife, Becky, are troubled by those who say they support the troops but oppose the war. Lalush, whose son was Western Virginia's first casualty of the war in Iraq, said his family supports the war because his son supported it.
"It's pretty upsetting" to have military families against the war effort, Lalush said. "I can understand their views, but for us they don't go together."
Lalush said the president should meet with Sheehan, who has vowed to remain at her makeshift campsite until Bush's vacation ends later this month.
"She's seems very intelligent and maybe she can bring a different view to the president," he said.
Roger Talmadge, whose three Army sons are involved in Iraq, said the president should not meet Sheehan but should send an Army chaplain or an administration official to offer her emotional support.
"I have compassion for that dear woman, but all you can do is just listen to her and offer her condolences, not listen to her political views, but support her personal loss," said Talmadge, who has one son who served in Iraq, another son who is there now and another son who is bound for there or Afghanistan.
Talmadge, who served two Army combat tours in Vietnam, is president of the Team Virginia Military Family Support Center in Roanoke.
"I hate war," he said. "I've looked at the enemy, dead, and my heart was broken because their mother will never see them again. But what she [Sheehan] rages on is not important. It's her hurt that's important. Someone needs to listen to her."
Nell Lancaster, a member of Rockbridge Response, said Sheehan's efforts could reinvigorate the antiwar movement.
"My heart goes out to her," she said. "I really admire what she's doing. I find her story appeals to people beyond the politics of the war. It's easy to lose sight of the human realities of war," including the deaths of Iraqi civilians as well as U.S. troops.
Lancaster said Bush likely will not meet with Sheehan.
"He's demonstrated an enormous stubbornness," said Lancaster, who considered joining the growing number of protesters camped out beside Sheehan. "This is reaching a whole new layer of Americans who don't see any progress toward a reasonable conclusion to the war. It really inspires people. She's an activist, but at the same time it's very personal."
Lalush said declining U.S. public support for the war effort reflects the media's emphasis on casualties instead of reconstruction efforts and democracy-building in Iraq.
He said his son and other American troops will have died in vain if the United States abandons Iraq.
"In Vietnam, they used to say a soldier got 'wasted' - not just his death, but his life in general," Lalush said. "Well, that's not true today in Iraq. They're dying for a good cause."
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