BALTIMORE – On a cold April 4 with the daffodils blooming, the Waters-Bey family buried their son, Marine Staff Sergeant Kendall Waters-Bey, at a military cemetery in the rolling countryside of Greenspring Valley north of here. April 4 was declared a statewide day of mourning for the slain Marine and flags were at half-staff.

Waters-Bey, 30, was one of four U.S. Marines and eight British commandos who died Mar. 20 when their Sea Knight Helicopter crashed in Iraq.

So far, 89 U.S. soldiers and 27 British soldiers are listed as dead, more than 200 wounded, seven missing, and seven held as POWs. Untold thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians are dead, although the Bush administration and the media continue to minimize the casualties.

When news of Waters-Bey’s death reached his family here, they reacted with grief and anger, voicing the widespread sentiment that the war is unjust and illegal. It is a view reflected in hundreds of lawn signs that have sprouted everywhere in the city, with a peace dove and the message, “War is not the answer.”

The father, Michael Waters-Bey, told the media he blames George W. Bush for the death of his eldest child and only son. The Marine’s sister, Nakia Waters, told reporters, “This war is all about oil and money. But he (Bush) already has oil and money. It’s about greed.” The family has continued to speak out, attending anti-war meetings and denouncing the war in television and newspaper interviews.

That opposition was muted at the memorial service at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church a few blocks from the modest brick row house where Waters-Bey grew up. The family greeted each of 800 mourners, including a dozen elected officials and hundreds of family, friends and neighbors. They filed past the flag-draped casket with the portrait of the handsome young man above it. When an activist in the Baltimore peace movement expressed his sorrow and thanked the father for his courage in speaking out against the war, Waters-Bey nodded toward the coffin and replied, “I did it for him.”

In his prayer, the Rev. Joseph B. Muth, Jr., pastor of St. Matthews, said, “We celebrate life and are deeply hurt when it is taken away from us at an unexpected time and place. We stand here as one community, Oh Lord, of different faiths and even different understandings. We come together as Catholics, Jews and Muslims.” Later he reminded the crowd that it was the 35th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who died in Memphis April 4, 1968, struggling for equal rights and for world peace. The many Muslims in the crowd stood and faced east when Sheik Eugene Martin-el, associate Minister of the Moorish Science Temple of America, delivered a prayer.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, who voted last November against the Iraq war resolution, said that Waters-Bey grew up in Baltimore and joined the Marines in search of a better life for himself and his family. “He remained faithful even when questions arose that everything might not turn out all right,” Cummings said.

The motorcade to the cemetery was 179 cars long. Oncoming traffic pulled over and many stepped from their cars and stood with their hands over their hearts as the procession rolled past. Waters-Bey was buried with full military honors.

At rush hour that afternoon, the newly-organized People of Color United for Justice and Peace (PCUJP), staged its first sidewalk rally downtown to honor Dr. King. Tina Wheeler, district organizer of the Communist Party of Maryland, called for a moment of silence for Kendall Waters-Bey. “How fitting that he was buried today on the anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination for speaking out against the Vietnam war,” she said. “We must organize, organize, and organize against this preemptive war.”

Bill Gooden, a founder of PCUJP, decried the cluster bombing of Iraq that is “killing so many innocents.” Kenneth Morrison, a student at Harbor City High School recited a poem he wrote: “I stand here as a poet of war, not against Iraq but against racism. I was born into this war. My pen is my sword, my heart is my shield.”

Mark Lancaster, Mid-Atlantic Director of the American Friends Service Committee, paraphrased Dr. King’s 1967 Riverside Church speech against the Vietnam War. The U.S., he said, will never be great, “as long as one child goes hungry … one family goes without a decent home, as long as one act of aggression is pursued against another nation just because they stand in the way of making maximum profits.”

PDF version of ‘As they bury a fallen son, Maryland says, War is not the answer’

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