Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Hundreds attend candlelight vigil in Crawford

We arrived late, and without our camera; but we were moved deeply by the quiet, resolute ceremony near Bush's ranch. The details of the event have been widely reported, but I wanted to include a personal account here.

We parked several hundred yards down the road from Camp Casey. We walked past the gate to Larry Mattlage's ranch as a reporter was interviewing him. Recall that he was the gentleman who fired his shotgun during a prayer service Sunday. When he glanced our way, I waved warmly and he waved back. Ever since Larry Northern mowed down more than 100 of the crosses along Prarie Chapel Road near Camp Casey, Mattlage looks positively sane in comparison. I was also waving "goodbye". When Camp Casey moves to land owned by distant cousin Fred Mattlage's property a mile down the road; Larry Mattlage's moment of fame will end.

As we arrived, a procession of about 200 people had already formed around the triangular patch of land adjacent to Camp Casey. Many placed flowers on a white casket draped with an American flag as they passed it. Names of the soldiers killed in Iraq were announced as the sun set.

After dark, the procession ended and we stood in silence while others hummed hymns. Then Cindy Sheehan spoke:

"For the more than 1,800 who have come home this way in flag-draped coffins. Each one was a valuable human life. Each one was an indispensable member of his or her family, not playthings for the people who lust for greed and power."

Afterwards, we sang "Amazing Grace" and the ceremony was over. My wife and son had an opportunity to talk with Sheehan afterwards to offer our thanks and encouragement. She was very gracious and hugged each of us.

This moment has vividly brought to the world's attention the suffering of military families who have shouldered the heaviest load for Bush's illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. For the first time in two and a half years, ordinary Americans are beginning to understand the real human costs of this war. As public support for the war crumbles, we are finally free to openly question whether it is worth the cost in blood and treasure. My opinion is that it is not. Others disagree. Thanks to Sheehan, we can finally have the debate.

As we left, we picked up Mary from Bisbee, Arizona; who needed a lift back to the Crawford Peace House. She heard about Sheehan's vigil on Amy Goodman's radio program. Afterward, she hopped on a bus and 24 hours later showed up in Crawford. We really enjoyed meeting her and admire her dedication to issues of peace, justice and dignity.

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