Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Look out Crawford, here they come!

Attention Camp Casey, reality is coming and it wants to talk to you.

By reality I mean the reality that your position is not the only one protected by the Absolute Moral Authority of having lost a child in the war.

Bush Backers Amass to Counter 'Peace Mom' .
Aug 22 10:57 PM US/Eastern
Associated Press Writer


A caravan proclaiming support for U.S. troops began a tour through California on Monday, stopping in the hometown of Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war mother who gained national prominence during a vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch.

Conservative activists and military families embarked on the tour they call "You don't speak for me, Cindy!" They planned rallies in several California cities before heading to Crawford, Texas.

About 30 Bush supporters staged a rally outside the offices of the Vacaville Reporter newspaper.

"It's time to lay down the anger. We need to continue to uphold those people over there, to uphold those men and women with their boots on the ground," said Deborah Johns of the Northern California Marine Moms, who helped organize the caravan, which is sponsored by Move America Forward, a Bay Area-based group.

Sheehan began a protest vigil Aug. 6 on the road leading to Bush's ranch, an act that has encouraged anti-war activists to join her and prompted peace vigils throughout the country. Sheehan's 24-year-old son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed last year in Iraq.

A verbal confrontation erupted when the caravan arrived in Sacramento and was met by anti-war protesters chanting "Bring them home." Sheehan supporter Dan Elliott, 71, confronted caravan members by waving a sign reading "Death is not support" and heckling Johns as she addressed the crowd.

"You are ruining the morale over there," responded Greg Parkinson, a Bush supporter.

Some caravan members called the anti-war protesters communists and said they were "aiding and abetting the enemy." Those comments enraged Sheehan supporter Dee Ann Heath, who said she has two sons serving in Iraq and another preparing to leave.

"I don't support the war, but I support my sons," she said. "I simply want them to come home."

In Vacaville, Toni Colip, 50, said her son, David, went to high school with Casey Sheehan and is now in the Marines, although not in Iraq. She said her son opposes Sheehan's activities and has asked her to support his military service even if he is injured or killed.

"He said, 'Don't dishonor me, don't walk on my grave,'" Colip said.

The pro-Bush caravan plans to join fellow supporters who have set up their own camp in downtown Crawford as a reaction to the Sheehan- inspired vigil.

Bush was in Salt Lake City on Monday, where he spoke to a national veterans group to rally support for the war.

Sheehan vowed to remain in Texas until Bush agreed to meet with her or until his monthlong vacation ended Sept. 3, but she flew to Los Angeles last week after her 74-year-old mother had a stroke. She is expected to return to Texas in a few days.

Several of those in the caravan said they understood Sheehan's anger but disagreed with her protest.

"This is not the way to honor her son," said Lori Judy, 49, of Vacaville, whose son, Tim, served in Iraq.
Already in place in Crawford, and mentioned above, is Fort Qualls:

By ANGELA K. BROWN, Associated Press Writer
Sun Aug 21,12:49 PM ET

A patriotic camp with a "God Bless Our President!" banner sprung up downtown Saturday, countering the anti-war demonstration started by a fallen soldier's mother two weeks ago near President Bush's ranch.

The camp is named "Fort Qualls," in memory of Marine Lance Cpl. Louis Wayne Qualls, 20, who died in Iraq last fall.

"If I have to sacrifice my whole family for the sake of our country and world, other countries that want freedom, I'll do that," said the soldier's father, Gary Qualls, a friend of the local business owner who started the pro-Bush camp. He said his 16-year-old son now wants to enlist, and he supports that decision.

Qualls' frustration with the anti-war demonstrators erupted last week when he removed a cross bearing his son's name that was among hundreds the group had put up along the road to Bush's ranch.

Qualls called the protesters' views disrespectful to soldiers, and said he had to yank out two more crosses after protesters kept replacing them.

Cindy Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, died last year in Iraq, started the anti-war demonstration along the roadside on Aug. 6. "Camp Casey" has since grown to about 100 core participants, and hundreds more from across the nation have visited.

Sheehan vowed to remain there until Bush agreed to meet with her or until his monthlong vacation ended, but she flew to Los Angeles last week after her 74-year-old mother had a stroke. Her mother has some paralysis but is in good spirits, and if she improves, Sheehan may return to Texas in a few days, some demonstrators said.

In her absence, the rest of the group will keep camping out for the unlikely chance to question the president about the war that has claimed the lives of about 1,850 U.S. soldiers.

Bush has said he sympathizes with Sheehan but won't change his schedule to meet with her. She and other families met with Bush about two months after Casey Sheehan died, before she became a vocal opponent of the war.

Large counter-protests were held in a ditch near Sheehan's site a week after she arrived, and since then, a few Bush supporters have stood in the sun holding signs for several hours each day.

Bill Johnson, a local gift shop owner who created "Fort Qualls," said he wanted to offer a larger, more convenient place for Bush supporters to gather.

He and others at "Fort Qualls" have asked for a debate with those at the Crawford Peace House, which is helping Sheehan.

It's unclear if that will happen. But a member of Gold Star Families for Peace, co-founded by Sheehan and comprised of relatives of fallen soldiers, said her group would not participate.

"We're asking for a meeting with the president, period," said Michelle DeFord, whose 37-year-old son, Sgt. David W. Johnson, was in the Army National Guard from Oregon when he was killed in Iraq last fall. "We don't want to debate with people who don't understand our point of view."