‘No more bodies, no more crying, no more war’
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Cindy Sheehan, a founding member of Gold Star Parents for Peace, moved many to tears as she told 4,800 antiwar protesters here March 19 about the death in Iraq of her son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, last April 4.
“They tell me I ‘lost’ my son,” she said. “I didn’t lose Casey. I know just where he is. He lies in a grave in Vacaville, California. And I know who put him there: George W. Bush.”
She added, “Casey was a brave, loving, honest soul who was killed for lies. If our Congress votes to approve another $82 billion for Iraq, they will be soaking their hands in blood.”
The protest here was one of nearly 800 antiwar events across the nation on the second anniversary of the Iraq war. Thousands marched in major cities, but what was striking this year was that people came out in their own town squares around the country to say, “Bring the troops home.” In small towns like Port Angeles, Wash., Hibbing, Minn., and Martinsburg, W.Va., protesters turned out to demand that Congress stop squandering billions in Iraq and provide funds for health care and education at home.
The march through Fayetteville to Rowan Park was led by Gold Star Parents, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and Veterans for Peace.
People traveled here from across the nation but especially from the South. A busload was brought by the South Carolina Peace Resource Center. Another bus traveled all night from New York City. But several marchers were veterans of the 82nd Airborne based at Fort Bragg a few miles from here.
Among the marchers was Kara Hollingsworth, the wife of an 18th Airborne soldier based at Fort Bragg. He is now serving his second tour in Iraq.
She said, “People say out-of-towners are descending on Fayetteville … picking on those poor military families. I’m one of those military families and I invited these people to come here today.”
Lou Plummer is another Fayetteville native with four generations of ties to the military. He helped organize the rally. As he surveyed the scene, Plummer told the World, “I’m a happy man. Look at this turnout!” Later he thanked the crowd, saying, “Today, we made history.” Noting that 4,800 participants had signed in at the event, he said, “That makes it the biggest antiwar rally ever in Fayetteville. Bigger than the rally back in the 1970s against the Vietnam War.”
Former National Guardsman Camilo Mejia, just released from prison for refusing to return to Iraq, received a standing ovation. “After going to war and seeing its ugly face, I could not be a part of it,” he said. “All wars are criminal and immoral. Wars are fought for oil and corporate profits and this one is paid for with the blood of soldiers and the blood of innocent Iraqis.”
Another Gold Star Mother, Patricia Roberts of Lithonia, Ga., spoke with the children of her slain son, Army Spc. Jamaal Addison, standing beside her. He was killed near Nasiriyah, Iraq, March 23, 2003, the first soldier from Georgia to die. “The government that my son served can do nothing to serve my 3-year-old grandson,” she told the crowd. “I think of the 1,500 other families, the thousands upon thousands of Iraqis who have died for lies, deceit, and greed. It is time to answer their call: No more bodies, no more crying, no more war.”
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), one of 133 lawmakers who voted against the war, told the rally, “Right now is the time to bring the troops home.” Pointing in the direction of nearby Fort Bragg, she said, “For the soldiers there, this war is not an abstraction. They are coming back in coffins or physically and psychologically wounded.” Woolsey and 27 other lawmakers have introduced HR 35 calling on Bush to lay out his “exit strategy” to end the U.S. occupation. “I’m asking every one of you to ask your representative in Congress to sign on to the Woolsey resolution because we want our troops home,” she told the crowd.
Joshua Despain marched with Iraq Veterans Against the War dressed in his desert fatigues and the maroon beret of the 82nd Airborne. He went AWOL from Fort Bragg to avoid deployment to Iraq a second time. He was charged with desertion and given a less-than-honorable discharge. “When we bomb so-called insurgents, innocent Iraqis are killed and that creates more resentment. It creates more terrorists,” he told the World. “We should pull out.”
A Young Communist League contingent marched behind their banner. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Florida farm workers, carried a banner emblazoned with the word “Victoria,” celebrating their recent victory over Taco Bell.
Marchers carried cardboard coffins draped with American flags honoring the 1,500 GIs and thousands of Iraqis who have died.
Veterans for Peace President David Cline, an infantryman wounded three times during the Vietnam War, said, “Those who have been hurt the most by this war are reaching out to other families that have been hurt. Some upper-class people can ignore this war. Those fighting and dying, working-class people, mostly people of color, can’t ignore it. All across the country they are saying: ‘Support the troops in the only way that is real. Bring them home alive now.’”