I know that people care about what I am doing, speaking out about this war. I know that at least 69% of the people in this country think that we shouldn't have gone to war, surely not THIS war. And mostly I know that when I speak out, I speak for so many and I also know I do not speak for all Gold Star families.
I would say I would like to start at the beginning, but, really, when would that be? May 30, 2004? That awful day that Ken was killed? Too much has happened since then, so let's just start with last week, Veteran's Day, 2005.
There were lots of opportunities to speak out last week. I also had opportunities to honor Ken. I did both. I don't see a contradiction in that, although some do. That's their problem, not mine. A Gold Star mom friend of mine had posted this link on one of my groups first thing Wednesday morning. http://theunitedamerican.blogs.com/Movies/2000A/2000.html. Take a look at it. I cried and cried for the lost lives, the lost dreams... and so sad to see all of those faces. I also got angry and told myself "No mercy to the lying liars!"
Colin Powell was scheduled to speak at the Speaker's Forum at DeAnza College in Cupertino, CA. On Wednesday, a group of people, some of the "Crawford 12,000" organized the first of several events related to Powell's appearance. Speak Outs, protests and a war tribunal were all on the agenda. It was good to see some of the people who I hadn't seen since the rally in DC in September. There were representatives from Iraq Veterans against the War (IVAW), MFSO and others like Ann, a retired Army Col and diplomat, Dolores, mother of Erik and a Gold Star Mom and the Ditch Witches from Crawford. I was introduced to the President of the college, Brian Murphy, who was very supportive of the events planned and each of us.
Sean, IVAW spoke about his time in Iraq and at Crawford. We watched a short clip from Crawford, about both camps.
Anne, MFSO & Blue Star Mom, spoke about her son's 3rd tour of duty in Iraq, at 600 days and counting. I spoke about my experiences at Crawford and as a Gold Star Mom. I like speaking about Ken, although it is hard to stand up and bring him back to life. It would really be a lot easier to just sit at home with my covers pulled over my head, but I just can't DO that! They told me I made them cry. Honestly, I like it when that happens, then I know *they* are touched by the war. I had to leave to attend an event in Hayward, so I left when some of the Crawford group sang a song that was written about the son's and daughter's who had been killed in this war. I missed hearing Cindy Sheehan speak. (A book Cindy wrote has just been released, it has a photo of Ken's cross from Crawford and as she gave me a copy of the book, she pointed that out to me)
I hurried over to Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward to speak on a panel with the Social Justice club from the school. A woman from Pax Christi, a dad whose son, an alumni of Moreau is serving in Iraq and I were on the panel. Attendance at the assembly was not required and half of the gym was filled. These young men and women were pretty dialed into what we were speaking about and they acted interested. At the end, they opened up for questions. One young man, Kip, spoke to me and empathized about the loss of my, BUT he told me that I was disrespecting my son. I think that most of the students felt that Kip had disrespected me by making the comment. I answered him like this. I told him he could not imagine the feelings to lose my son this way and I appreciated his comments about that. I also told him that he didn't hurt my feelings because I had already been called a traitor, treasonous, and unpatriotic. I told him that other had accused me of disrepecting my son and yes, my son volunteered to serve his country and I was proud of that. I then told him that the people who disrespected my son are the people who sent my son to an illegal invasion of a sovereign country.
zip, zip, back across the bay...to DeAnza College. Protests were scheduled for the evening outside of Flint Center as people arrived to her Colin Powell speak. That night there were probably near 100 protesters from different groups aroudn the Bay. We were loud and we got our point across, that those who were attending this speakers forum were going in to hear a war criminal speak. Many attendees ignored us and many flashed us the peace sign. It was very peaceful and there were no problems that night.
I was given a ticket to the event, so we went in. No worries.
The head of the speaker's forum spoke first to the mostly white, mostly affluent attendees. He referred to a comment that Tom Wolffe allegedly made "If you are ever feeling down or depressed, go to K-mart; you will be the best looking person there." He then said, "you will also be the richest person there, too" I'm not sure why he made those comments, but they were offensive, arrogant and just rude.
I had planned to disrupt Colin Powell's speech, but the "right" opportunity never came up for me. I was with Mary Ellen, one of the Ditch Witches and Ann, who did stand up and spoke out. We had been assured by the President of the college that no one was to be kicked out if they tried to disrupt the speech. We would be asked if we wanted to leave or sit down and be quiet. It made the decision to *try* to speak out and easy one. I don't particularly want to be arrested, at least not at this time.
Colin Powell was offensive. People had asked us "Why Colin Powell?" "He is so nice" I disagree. Out of all of the members of this administration, his actions were perhaps the most egregious. We trusted him, we waited for him to say that things were as bad as Bush and Company were telling us. We waited for him to tell the truth! He went to the UN and he lied just like the others. So, his fake mea culpa when he appeared on national TV to say that his speech at the UN was a "blot on his record" HA, he just said it, he didn't mean it. He's just a lying liar. He told us in his speech at DeAnza College that we must "stay the course" and we must continue to fight the war on terror. He also said that he heard about the protesters outside. He said he empathized with those who had lost a child (yeah, right!) but that maybe we should be protesting the insurgents in Iraq (Hey, Colin, maybe if we hadn't invaded a sovereign country, maybe we wouldn't have provided such a ripe environment to train these insurgents!) I was sickened! I was also saddened to hear that he and his wife had welcomed their 3rd grandchild the night before. And what about the grandbabies that I will never have? He doesn't have a clue how this war is affecting the military families and he, General Powell, of all people should! Colin Powell has not shed a tear for my son or any of the others, just like everyone else in this administration. Shame, shame!
A War Tribunal for Colin Powell was scheduled for Thursday at the college with a great group of people who were experts in their field.
Palo Alto, CA
"For What Noble Cause" was the name of the event at a Baptist church in Palo Alto. Nick, a Gold Star Uncle and I were scheduled to speak as well as others, including representatives from First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto, West Bay Chapter of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Congregation Kol Emeth, American Muslim Voice, Palo Alto Friends Meeting, Iraq Veteran, Veterans Administration Chaplain,and Multi Faith Voices for Peace & Justice.
THAT was a tough evening. While veryone was caring and welcoming; letters were read from soldiers at war. From the civil war, WWII, and Viet Nam. I read Ken's last letter to me- it arrived after he was killed. I hadn't read the letter in a long while, so it was very very hard to read and I think it was hard for people to hear, too.
As we were closing the evening, the young man from American Muslim Voices asked his mom to come back and talk to me. He told her he needed to give me a hug. What a loving gesture! Someone is raising him well!
San Jose, CA
I had been working on Stories of the Fallen since the mid summer. 7 Gold Star Families from the greater Bay Area who had lost loved ones in the Iraq War worked with the Digital Clubhouse Network to tell the stories of our sons, our nephews. It wasn't about politics, it was about the boys. We premiered our digital stories to a pretty full house at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose right after the Veteran's Day parade on Friday. We were joined by family and friends and it was a remarkable experience. I am so pleased that some of my friends could join me, too.
Here is what I said at my opening comments:
"They would probably not think of themselves as heroes, they were just doing their jobs. They were there for there buddies and their job was to make sure that each and every one made it home. That was their community. This afternoon we are joined by our community as we honor & pay tribute to 7 of our nation's best.
However you feel about the war, and believe me, these families politics cover the spectrum. But this project was never about politics, it was about our little boys who grew up to be strong men. Men who believed in
and who volunteered to serve their country. We will forever be grateful and proud of their service and we will never forget them. We ask the same of you." America
The videos will be posted on the Digital Clubhouse Network website. I'll let you know when they are available.
McCormick's & Schicks in SJ hosted the Gold Star Families for dinner after the event. It was a generous offer and a good time was had by all who attended.
I took the red eye to Tennessee Friday night to honor Ken. I was going to Ken's Alma Mater, MTSU in Murfreesboro to present one of Ken's desert camouflage uniforms to the Military Science Department at the college. I wanted it as a historical commemoration of Ken's service to the country and as a reminder to those who walked through Forrest Hall. Ken's friend, Mike, who is a Blackhawk crewmember took care of the framing (Buford helped, too, I hear).
I met with Buford and his wife, Amanda and Stephanie for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Buford is on his 2 weeks leave from Iraq. I think he has a love/hate relationship with Iraq as many soldiers do, but that's my opinion. I couldn't figure out if he really knew what the mission is. Stephanie is still in, the Reserves, I think. She is trying to figure out what to do with her life. Mike was sick and couldn't make it to breakfast. I was disappointed because Mike has been the best about keeping in touch with me out of ALL of Ken's friends. He's a good man. I had wanted to meet his wife and their 2 children. The youngest was born days before Ken was killed and Mike left home to attend Ken's memorial in California. I know he should have been at home for his infant son, but he also needed to be in CA to honor Ken.
We all went over to the Military Science department for the Veteran's salute. I was glad to see Mike & his wife were able to join us, too. Ken's friend, Adrian was also there with his 4 month old son.
A LTC, John, from Carry The Flame, Rolling Thunder had carried a photo of Ken across the country, from CA to DC last Memorial Day. Before the ride, we discovered that Ken's & John's lives had many parallels. Both attended MTSU, both had majors of International relations and both went on to serve into he Army. This is one of the many examples I have found this year when there really are no coincidences. I told John he really HAD to be the one to ride with Ken's photo. And he did. We met up in DC at Rolling Thunder for the ride through DC. Mysisters and I were all able to ride on the back of a motorcycle as part of the event. At MTSU on Saturday at the Veteran's event, I presented a montage of photos that John had sent me from the journey. I also included *the* photo that John carried. It will hang in the Military Science building.
Ken's LTC was there to accept the uniform. He gave a short speech but sadly couldn't even remember the day Ken was killed. We are hoping that he will honor our request to hang the uniform in the hallway at Forrest Hall.
The thing that struck me was that after the presentation only 2 people came up to me to shake my hand or offer any kind of condolence. These were veterans of every war. These were alumnus of the school that Ken attended. These were people who should have had some kind of compassion and there was nothing like that. These people who know the sacrifices from the soldiers and from their families. I don't want to compare, but I will....I am used to standing ovations and hugs and tears when I speak out against the war. Those people understand the sacrifice, they stand in line to pay their respects after I speak. And these people at this Veteran's event, were less than welcoming. I don't get it. I just don't get it.
Marina's is Ken's favorite restaurant in M-boro. I'm glad Mike remembered that. I went to dinner with Mike and his family, his inlaws and his 2 boys on Saturday night. I think it was kind of awkward for the inlaws. They are my age, of course and there had to be some kind of feeling that they have their daughter and son-in-law and I don't. Mike's m-i-l expressed condolences to me. I appreciate it when people do that. As good as dinner was, this was where Ken & I had met some of his friends on an earlier visit and it is where he wanted both sides of his family to join him for lunch during his graduation weekend. The last time I was there, so was Ken, and it was a very happy occasion.
I spent a good part of Sunday with one of Ken's favorite professor, Anne. It is easy to figure out why they had such a complementary relationship. I think they both learned from each other. I am grateful that she made the time to tell me "Ken stories".
I am glad that Ken's friends were able to spend some time with me, too. It would have been a very lonely time alone on the campus.
The flight back from TN was long; head winds turned what should have been a 4 hour flight into 6 very long hours. I had a middle seat, lucky me. My seatmates were kind- both of them on their way to SJ for the same convention. They listened to me talk about Ken and I think they silently thanked somebody for the goodness of their children and families and that all of them were together, even if not for this week. I believe they were touched by the war tonight.
It will be good to sleep in my own bed tonite- it always is. Welcome Back, welcome Home!