Under a full moon and clear, mild weather, 100 members of our local Peace Community attended our candlelight vigil in Mountain View, CA starting at 6 p.m. Gold Star Families Speak Out, Mountain View Voices for Peace, Los Altos Voices for Peace, Sunnyvale Voices for Peace, Peninsula Peace & Justice, and The Raging Grannies were all represented well. We displayed the MVVP dog tag display and a wall with all 3000 names listed.
I welcomed the group and thanked them for spending this New Years night with us. I spoke briefly about my son, Lt Ken Ballard who was killed in Iraq 5.30.04. I introduced other Gold Star family members; 2 of my son's aunts, Cathy Patton & Michel Meredith, the aunt and uncle of Wes Canning (KIA 11.10.04) and Dolores Kesterson, mother of Erik Kesterson (KIA 11.15.03).
I explained to the group that there were 3000 lit Christmas lights at our event representing the 3000 soldiers. 300 lights were wrapped around a flagpole representing the 305 California soldiers. I told the group that we would turn off the California lights once we completed reading their names.
The Gold Star families and one member of the community read the California names; some people in the group were crying. It was difficult for me hearing the names that have become so familiar to me. Sgt Patrick McCaffrey, Cpl Jonathan Castro, Sgt Even Ashcraft, HM3 John House, Spc Omead Razani, Sgt Mike Mitchell, Spc Joseph Norquist.....it's all so sad.
The group was very quiet when we turned off the 300 lights representing the California dead. I reminded the group that California has borne 10% of the US military deaths in Iraq; how long would it take to read ALL 3000 names? We had a moment of silence and then turned off all of the lights to represent ALL of the deaths in Iraq, including the Iraqi civilians and the contractors.
Afterwards, the crowd caught up with neighbors and friends. Many people stood on the sidewalk holding signs attracting driver's attention; horns honking in support. One of Ken's soccer coaches from middle school came up and introduced himself to me. I remembered him, Colin's father; I think he was surprised. A brother of one of Ken's schoolmates also introduced himself. This community of Ken's remembers him, we will not let him be forgotten.
One military death doesn't mean one family, it affects so many. How can our president not understand this; I don't think he wants to.
Special thanks to the local Bay Area media, who has been supportive all along. ABC, KNTV & KTVU included our vigil as part of the lead story of the night. And more thanks to everyone who helped make this another successful event to remember our troops. And one more thanks to AFSC who took the lead in sponsoring this event
For more photos, please visit: http://tian.greens.org/MountainView/MVVP/3000Dead/index.html (thanks, Tian!)