Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cindy’s Not Alone.

This piece was written by Celeste Zappala, whose son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, serving in the Pennsylvania National Guard, was killed in Iraq.

A week after my son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, arrived in Baghdad last year, President Bush held court for journalists at the 60th annual Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington. Part of the show that night was to pretend to look for WMD under the lectern. There were staged pictures of Mr. Bush looking for them under the rug in the Oval Office. Everyone present got a great laugh.

With a crucial election looming last year, the President thought it politically prudent to simultaneously indulge in self-deprecating humor about not finding WMD while he kept American soldiers in the dangerous search for those weapons.

I talked to Sherwood shortly after the President's circus show. He wasn’t finding anything funny about his mission in Iraq. Sherwood was knee deep in the real search for WMD. He was providing security for the Iraq Survey Group, which was still looking for those weapons well beyond the admission by David Kay that they didn’t exist.

The days were long and hot. They began to ration his food and water. On April 26, 2004, a month after Mr. Bush’s standup routine, Sherwood’s unit was in Baghdad inspecting buildings. That building exploded. Sherwood was killed.

Sher’s death brings me on an unlikely journey to Crawford, Tex. I join Cindy Sheehan, who has established a camp here.

My family is gathering with me as we hold our own vigil. We believe that we finally deserve a meeting with the President, one that has been denied us for the last 16 months.

We bring with us here the desire to share our humble story. We want the President to hear us talk about Sherwood. Perhaps he can answer some questions for us. We want to know why Sher, a case worker for the mentally handicapped, had to say goodbye to his wife and 10-year-old son to participate in the negligent endeavor that is the Iraq War.

We’d like to know what he finds noble about instigating and maintaining a war with a country that posed no threat to our country.

We’d like to know if he still finds humor in the fabrications that justified the war that killed my son.

I have a good feeling that we’re going to finally have our face-to-face. We’re a Christian family, and we believe in miracles. We share that faith with the President. Therefore, I need to believe that he has the humility to hear our story. I need to believe he has the courage to embrace our grief. I want to believe he has the capacity to talk to us like human beings without injecting his party-line rhetoric.

I want to believe all of these things. For I am witness to a truth shared by too many families in this country. As a Gold Star mother and as a citizen of this country, I believe our vacationing President has the time to hear that truth.


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