My son died in Iraq--and it was not in vain.
BY RONALD R. GRIFFIN
Thursday, August 18, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
I lost a son in Iraq and Cindy Sheehan does not speak for me.
I grieve with Mrs. Sheehan, for all too well I know the full measure of the
agony she is forever going to endure.
I honor her son for his service and
sacrifice. However, I abhor all that she represents and those who would cast
as the symbol for parents of our fallen soldiers.
The fallen heroes, until now, have enjoyed virtually no individuality. They
have been treated as a monolith, a mere
number. Now Mrs. Sheehan, with adept
public relations tactics, has succeeded in elevating herself above the rest of
Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida declared that Mrs. Sheehan is now the symbol
for all parents who have lost children in Iraq.
Sorry, senator. Not for me.
Maureen Dowd of the New York Times portrays Mrs. Sheehan as a distraught mom
standing heroically outside the guarded
gates of the most powerful and
inhumane man on earth, President Bush. Ms. Dowd is so moved by Mrs. Sheehan's
that she bestowed upon her and all grieving parents the title of
"absolute moral authority." That characterization epitomizes
the arrogance and
condescension of anyone who would presume to understand and speak for all of
us. How can we all
possess "absolute moral authority" when we hold so many
I don't want that title. I haven't earned that title.
Although we all walk the same sad road of sorrow and agony, we walk it as
individuals with all the refreshing uniqueness
of our own thoughts shaped in
large measure by the life and death of our own fallen hero. Over the past few
have reached out to other parents and loved ones of fallen heroes in an
attempt to find out their reactions to all the
attention Mrs. Sheehan has
attracted. What emerges from those conversations is an empathy for Mrs.
but a fundamental disagreement with her politics.
Ann and Dale Hampton lost their only child, Capt. Kimberly Hampton, on Jan. 2,
2004, while she was flying her Kiowa
helicopter. She was a member of the 82nd
Airborne and the company commander. She had already served in Afghanistan
being deployed to Iraq. Ann Hampton wrote, "My grief sometimes seems
unbearable, but I cannot add the additional baggage
of anger. Mrs. Sheehan has
every right to protest . . . but I cannot do that. I would be protesting the
that Kimberly believed in and died for."
Marine Capt. Benjamin Sammis was Stacey Sammis's husband. Ben died on April 4,
2003, while flying his Super Cobra
helicopter. Listen to Stacey and she will
tell you that she is just beginning to understand the enormousness of the
of soldiers who knowingly put their lives at risk to defend our
country. She will tell you that one of her deepest regrets
is that the world
did not have the honor of experiencing for a much longer time this outstanding
Marine she so deeply
Speak to Joan Curtin, whose son, Cpl. Michael Curtin, was an infantryman with
the 2-7th 3rd ID, and her words are
passionately ambivalent. She says she has
no room for bitterness. She has a life to lead and a family to nurture. She
spoke of that part of her that never heals, for that is where Michael resides.
She can go on, always knowing there
will be that pain.
Karen Long is the mother of Spc. Zachariah Long, who died with my son Kyle on
May 30, 2003. Zack and Kyle were inseparable
friends as only soldiers can be,
and Karen and I have become inseparable friends since their deaths. Karen's
is that what Mrs. Sheehan is doing she has every right to do, but she is
dishonoring all soldiers, including Karen's son,
Zack. Karen cannot comprehend
why Mrs. Sheehan cannot seem to come to grips with the idea that her own son,
was a soldier like Zack who had a mission to complete. Karen will tell
you over and over again that Zack is not here and
no one, but no one will
dishonor her son.
My wife, Robin, has a different take on Mrs. Sheehan. She told me, "I don't
care what she says or does. She is no
more important than any other mother."
By all accounts Spc. Casey Sheehan, Mrs. Sheehan's son, was a soldier by
choice and by the strength of his character.
I did not have the honor of
knowing him, but I have read that he attended community college for three
years and then
chose to join the Army. In August 2003, five months into
Operation Iraqi Freedom and after three years of service, Casey
re-enlisted in the Army with the full knowledge there was a war going on, and
with the high probability he
would be assigned to a combat area. Mrs. Sheehan
frequently speaks of her son in religious terms, even saying that she
that some day Casey would be a priest. Like so many of the individuals who
have given their lives in service
to our country, Casey was a very special
young man. How do you decry that which someone has chosen to do with his life?
How does a mother dishonor the sacrifice of her own son?
Mrs. Sheehan has become the poster child for all the negativity surrounding
the war in Iraq. In a way it heartens
me to have all this attention paid to
her, because that means others in her position now have the chance to be
Give equal time to other loved ones of fallen heroes. Feel the
intensity of their love, their pride and the sorrow.
To many loved ones, there are few if any "what ifs." They, like their fallen
heroes before them, live in the world
as it is and not what it was or could
have been. Think of the sacrifices that have brought us to this day. We as a
made a collective decision. We must now live up to our decision and
not deviate until the mission is complete.
Thirty-five years ago, a president faced a similar dilemma in Vietnam. He gave
in and we got "peace with honor."
To this day, I am still searching for that
honor. Today, those who defend our freedom every day do so as volunteers with
a clear and certain purpose. Today, they have in their commander in chief
someone who will not allow us to sink into
self-pity. I will not allow him to.
The amazing part about talking to the people left behind is that I did not
them to stop. After speaking to so many I have come away with the
certainty of their conviction that in a large measure
it's because of the
deeds and sacrifices of their fallen heroes that this is a better and safer
world we now live
Those who lost their lives believed in the mission. To honor their memory, and
because it's right, we must believe
in the mission, too.
We refuse to allow Cindy Sheehan to speak for all of us. Instead, we ask you
to learn the individual stories. They
are glorious. Honor their memories.
Honor their service. Never dishonor them by giving in. They never did.