Here’s a timely, compelling story you didn’t see or hear in the news. I can vouch for the event, described (with minor adjustments in tense) by a news release that was ignored by the news media, as I was there in support of this group of war-torn Americans.
Washington -- Members of Military Families Speak Out from across the U.S. held a solemn procession from Arlington National Cemetery to the White House on Saturday to bring President Obama the message that they want him to bring an immediate end to the war in Iraq that has already claimed the lives of over 4,200 U.S. troops and more than a million Iraqis.
Marchers carried flowers – blue to symbolize Blue Star families who currently have a loved one serving in the military; gold, symbolizing Gold Star families whose loved ones have died as a result of the war in Iraq; and red for Iraqis who have died in this war. On Monday, military families planned to bring the same message to Capitol Hill: End the war in Iraq, and bring our troops home now.
In a statement before the march, Larry Syverson of Richmond, VA, said he is hoping President Obama won't send his oldest son back to Iraq. “I’m the father of three active duty sons who have served five tours in Iraq. On Saturday, I will be carrying two signs as I march from Arlington National Cemetery to the White House. One will have a picture of my oldest son and will ask President Obama to not send him back to Iraq this spring. The second sign will include the number of troops who have died in Iraq since President Obama took office. The President and the American public must continually be reminded of the unacceptable burden this illegal war places on military families.”
Dr. Javad Razani of Los Angeles, CA is the father of Spc. Omead Razani who was killed while serving as an Army medic in Iraq in 2004. Dr. Razani said "I march to honor the democracy my son joined the Army to serve. As a member of this democracy, I feel my duty is to speak out about how this country's finest, the men and women who serve us, are treated and where they are sent in our name. I march because I want President Obama to deal with the realities of the Middle East, not to continue the misguided policies of the past administration. President Obama, please bring the troops home as swiftly and safely as possible."
Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia, PA said "Our walk from Arlington to the White House is a symbol of the walk that families of the fallen make everyday- we mourn and miss our heroes, our lives will never be the same, and we promise in their name to do everything we can to bring the troops home and never again commit to a needless war- this is the message of our feet and the tears in our eyes." Zappala is the mother of Sgt. Sherwood Baker who was killed in Iraq in 2004 while serving with a Pennsylvania National Guard unit charged with searching for weapons of mass destruction.
Stacy Bannerman of Medford, OR said "My husband is serving his second deployment in a pre-emptive war of choice that was wrong from the start. His National Guard Brigade has one of the highest rates of soldier suicides in the US military. President Obama remarked that military families 'are carrying an enormous burden.' Make no mistake about it, the heaviest part of that burden is knowing that we are sacrificing another year or more, time with our loved ones and families that we will never get back, while our soldiers risk the loss of life, or limb, or peace of mind, for a war based on lies."
Paula Rogovin of Teaneck, NJ is the mother of a Marine who has served two tours of duty in Iraq. She said "Our hearts break to think of our beloved troops and the Iraqi people who died in this illegal and immoral war in Iraq, a war based on lies. Our loved ones joined the military in good faith but have been abused by repeated deployments to Iraq. The misuse and abuse of our military is a national disgrace. This must be stopped. The only way to prevent more deaths and injuries is to end the war in Iraq immediately, and to bring all of our troops home from Iraq."
When the group of about 50 marchers stopped in front of the White House, many began to cry as they held up photos of relatives who were killed or wounded in the war. “To be a member of a military family is a form of torture,” one woman called out. “Dear Mr. Obama,” read a hand-written sign, “We worked hard for you and the CHANGE you promised. Now we beg you to bring our troops home. This is the change we need. It is too late for our Jason, but so many other precious lives can still be saved. War is not the answer in Iraq or Afghanistan.”
The only immediate response from the government was issued by a SWAT team officer who ordered the peace marchers to move away from the White House fence. But another, more understanding officer arrived on a bicycle and asked to speak with one of the grieving mothers, who had previously been arrested while trying to lodge a war protest to the Bush administration. The bicycle cop’s diplomatic approach provided the group a bit more time to hold up their banners, flowers and protest posters as close as the public can get to the Obama White House.
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