DOVER, Del. – Parents of soldiers killed or wounded in Iraq, holding black wreaths and photos of their dead sons, marched to Dover Air Force Base March 14 to demand that George W. Bush stop hiding Iraq war casualties and bring the troops home.

“We will not allow this administration to hide the toll and hide the tears any longer,” declared Nancy Lessin, coordinator of Military Families Speak Out, which cosponsored the memorial with Iraq Pledge of Resistance. Lessin, whose stepson returned from Iraq last May, addressed 800 mourners packed on a strip of grass outside the chain-link fence of the air base. “Start telling the truth!” she cried. “Bring an end to this war!”

The Bush administration has refused to permit next-of-kin or reporters to witness the grim homecoming of the war dead, whose bodies are received here.

Grieving fathers and mothers stepped forward, reading aloud the names of 554 U.S. war dead and the names of Iraqis who have died since the war began a year ago.

Jane Bright of Los Angeles held a photo of her son, Evan Ashcraft, a sergeant in the 101st Airborne, killed in Iraq on July 24, 2003. “Bush may be a ‘war president,’ but I don’t think the American people want a war based on lies and deceit,” she said. “Our children died for oil!”

Lila Lipscomb of Flint, Mich., also held a poster with a photo of her son Sgt. Michael Pedersen, who died in a helicopter crash in Iraq on April 2, 2003. “Michael was 27 years old,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I don’t want any other mother to have to give their son a headstone for his birthday.”

Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), a decorated Korean war vet, told the crowd, “Our war dead should not be coming home in the middle of the night after serving their country. It is not the rich and the affluent who are serving – it is those who come from the inner city.” He said, “Our voices must become a thunderous roar: End this immoral war.”

Sue Neiderer of Pennington, N.J., displayed a poster with wedding photos of her son Seth Dvorin, dressed in uniform and kissing his bride. She told the World they were married days before he shipped out to Iraq. He died when a bomb he was attempting to defuse exploded.

“He saved 18 other soldiers,” she said. “Bush says the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. My response: You are a liar. Why are you putting our troops in harm’s way in countries that don’t want them?”

The two-day “Dover to D.C. Memorial Procession to Honor and Mourn Those Killed in Iraq” began at Camden Friends Meeting House and proceeded to the air force base three miles away.

Walking alone holding a wreath was Jean Prewitt of Birmingham, Ala. Her son Kelly Prewitt, attached to the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, died in an ambush. “I just want Bush, Rumsfeld, all those making the decisions, to realize there are people mourning the death of their loved ones. Bush has time to call the winners of the World Series or the Super Bowl but no time to call the mother of a plain soldier. And now we find out the war was the wrong decision. There was no imminent threat. I can’t vote for Bush next November.”

The next day, they traveled to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington where more than a thousand soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are being treated.

Pat Gunn told a rally there that her son Jason, a U.S. Army soldier, came within seconds of bleeding to death when shrapnel from a grenade penetrated his hip and came out his groin. She and her husband Jerome flew to Germany to visit him at the Landstuhl Army Medical Center.

“What we saw at that hospital just broke our hearts, young soldiers missing arms, legs, hands, or a part of their face. President Bush has put the lives of our soldiers in harm’s way for his own gain.”

“Today Jason is on his way back to Iraq,” Gunn told the World. “He received an award last October when he rushed into the embassy building minutes after it was bombed and pulled people out. Now they are telling him he is a coward if he doesn’t go back to Iraq.”

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com.

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