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Mitt backs war, but his boys are safe at home
By Maggie Mulvihill
Saturday, August 27, 2005 - Updated: 09:19 AM EST
Gov. Mitt Romney, who has comforted the grieving loved ones of soldiers killed in Iraq and promoted National Guard recruitment, yesterday said he has not urged his own sons to enlist - and isn't sure whether they would.
The Herald posed the question as Romney - a potential 2008 White House contender and backer of President Bush's Iraq policy -was honored by the Massachusetts National Guard after he signed a bill extending pay for state workers on active duty.
``No, I have not urged my own children to enlist. I don't know the status of my childrens' potentially enlisting in the Guard and Reserve,`` Romney said, his voice tinged with anger.
Massachusetts residents can enlist in the National Guard up to age 39. Romney's five sons range in age from 24 to 35. Neither the Romney children nor the governor have served in the military, Romney spokeswoman Julie Teer said.
More than 1,100 guardsmen and women from Massachusetts are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, a guard spokeswoman said.According to federal statistics, 28 Massachusetts soldiers have been killed so far.
``I don't think you should be so `rah-rah' for a war that you aren't willing to send your own family members to,'' said Rose Gonzalez, 30, of Somerville, whose mother, a state employee, was deployed to Iraq in January.``If he thinks the war is so just and so important and we shouldn't pull out, then he should encourage his own sons to go.''
Nancy Lessin, a spokeswoman for Military Families Speak Out, said if Romney aspires to be president he should consider the sacrifice made by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the father of four sons all of whom enlisted in World War II.
``This is just one more politician who is willing to risk the lives of our loved ones and celebrate sending them off into a war that we never should have in,'' Lessin said.
But Barbara O'Neill of Haverhill, whose only son, Army Pvt. Evan O'Neill, was killed in a 2003 firefight in Afghanistan praised the governor for his warmth and attention to her family after her son was killed.
``He was sitting right behind me at my son's funeral,'' O'Neill said.``He went out of his way to make an appearance not for political reasons but because he felt really bad about it.''
Alma Hart of Bedford, whose only son, Army Private First Class John D. Hart was killed in Iraq in 2003, said Romney is a ``decent, sincere man'' who truly cares about the Massachusetts troops.
``The governor shouldn't be so pro-war if his own boys haven't decided to go,'' she said. ``. . . but you can't really say since his sons haven't enlisted he can't talk about the war, because he didn't start this war. This isn't his headache.''
A growing number of Republicans have begun to voice concern over the mounting American deaths, but Romney has been a stalwart backer of Bush's position, which is to remain in Iraq until a stable democracy is in place - even if it takes years.