By HEMA EASLEY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
When Len Tsou heard that the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq was holding a vigil outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, to protest the war, he felt compelled to join her.
Tsou, his wife, Nancy, and many members of the Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice have been holding anti-war vigils in Nanuet every Saturday since November 2002. The idea that a woman had taken the fight to the president's doorsteps appealed to Tsou.
"I just told myself, 'I have to go. We should support her. It is a good cause'," said Tsou yesterday after returning from the vigil organized by Cindy Sheehan, the mother of 24-year-old Casey Sheehan, who was killed in an ambush in Baghdad in April 2004.
On Friday, Tsou, a New City businessman, flew to Dallas, rented a car and drove to Crawford, a town of 700 people in central Texas.
There he met with other protesters at the Crawford Peace House, a local organization that is providing a base and logistical support for Cindy Sheehan's vigil. He also met Sheehan.
A thin woman of medium height, Sheehan spoke with the people gathered there, worked on the computer and talked with the media, Tsou said. She was determined and passionate about her cause, he said.
Sheehan began the vigil 10 days ago and has vowed to remain there as long as Bush is at the ranch. She wants a face-to-face meeting with the president to seek answers about the war and demand that the 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq be brought home.
The president has sent emissaries to meet her, but hasn't granted a personal meeting. He met her last year during a visit with relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq.
Over the weekend, Tsou took part in the vigil, held less than two miles from the president's 1,600-acre ranch. Approximately 300 supporters of Sheehan from across the United States were at the vigil, Tsou said.
The gathering was at "Camp Casey," which is comprised of a small tent festooned with banners in support of Sheehan's demand to meet Bush. A makeshift shrine had been erected, with photos of about 12 soldiers killed in Iraq, covered with flowers.
A regular schedule of events, including meetings, meals and interfaith services with clergy from different religions, were held at the site. Several mothers with sons and daughters in the military also came to Camp Casey to meet Sheehan and show her their support, Tsou said.
"You can see they are really worried for their sons in Iraq. It is really moving," Tsou said.
William Butera of Stony Point, whose 25-year-old son, Craig, is a captain with the Army's First Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, said he was aware of Sheehan's vigil and felt deep sympathy for her. Craig Butera has served in Iraq, but is stationed in Fort Louis in Washington state.
"Like any other American citizen, she has rights to her beliefs. I can't imagine being in that situation. My heart goes out to her," Butera said. "Whether I agree with her or not is not of any significance. I support these young men and women. They follow orders and do their duty."
Tsou returned from Texas early yesterday. The visit made him more aware of the human cost of the war, he said.
"My main purpose was to go there and show my support, to say, 'Hey, Cindy is not alone,'" Tsou said.
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