Monday, March 21, 2005

On the other view of the war...

Below is an except from "", from the newpaper "The Olympian":

Division over war bared

OLYMPIA -- Two years and 1,519 U.S. casualties after the start of war in Iraq, family members of a soldier who died early in the conflict said there is no reason to keep fighting.

The widow and older sister of Spc. Joe Blickenstaff told more than 200 people Saturday that the continued occupation of Iraq would only bring more harm to soldiers, both U.S. and Iraqi.

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The group gathered Saturday on the Capitol Campus before marching downtown, while a smaller group marked the day on an overpass north of Lacey, where they have gathered every Saturday since the war began to support the military.

Blickenstaff, a gunner with the Fort Lewis-based Stryker Brigade, died in Iraq on Dec. 8, 2003, in a rollover accident in his Stryker. He was 23, the youngest of four children.

"My baby brother drowned in an irrigation canal filled with mud," said Susan Livingston, a teacher's assistant in Bellingham.

Angela Blickenstaff, the soldier's widow, spoke out against the war for the first time. Blickenstaff is in the National Guard, and has refrained from joining peace movements because of her military service, she said.

"I was told by other members of the military it would be OK to put a bumper sticker on my car, but if I spoke at a rally it would be unpatriotic and unsupportive of the troops," said the 25-year-old widow, who lives in Tacoma. [...]

Near Fort Lewis, about 20 people gathered to wave U.S. flags at the Interstate 5 overpass at exit 122. Like some of the peace protesters, many of them were veterans and family members of soldiers.

Mark Ceccarelli, a retired Marine from Lakewood, plays the trumpet on the overpass almost every Saturday to show his support of the soldiers.

"They won't let me carry a rifle anymore, so this is how I support them," he said. "I carry the flag for them. It's what I can do."

Olympia resident Mitzi Leifer often attends pro-troops rallies, although she didn't Saturday. Her son is an Air Force pilot stationed in the Pacific, who occasionally flies missions in the Middle East. Iraq is better off now than it was two years ago, she said.

"The election was one major event that will help the tides to change," said Leifer. "There are still some car bombings going on and people wanting to kill us. When the president said it's going to be a long road, I believe that."

Seeing peace protests sometimes upsets her, although it doesn't seem to upset her son, she said.

"I've learned to ignore them and kind of bless them," she said. "If they want to believe that, that's their right, just don't spit on my son when he comes home."

Livingston is still proud of her brother's military service, she said. But she wishes she could see him alive again. She said she wants to see more soldiers' families spared that grief, and save soldiers the pain of injury and mental illness like post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I said goodbye to him in November of 2003. He came home in his coffin a month later," said Livingston.

Livingston and her mother met with President Bush at Fort Lewis shortly after the soldier died. Bush was visiting the Army post and meeting with Gold Star families -- the families of dead soldiers.

"He told my mom, 'I'm going to make sure your son didn't die in vain.' He was telling all the mothers that," Livingston recalled. "I admire staying power, but in this case it terrified me. He's not going to stop.

"A thousand coffins have come home since Joe's and it's still in vain," she said.

*Not to get political here, but when I'd think about the seemingly unfounded connection between the weapons of mass destruction issue (that was subsequently glossed over when none were found in Iraq.), and the "Axis of evil" concept (now Iraq is a hotbed of anti-US insurgent activities.), it does also make me wonder about when will Mr.Bush be satisfied and start devising a more sound plan to revitalize Iraq, instead of having all these soldiers come back from Iraq and Afghnistan in coffins, and suffering from permanent injuries/PTSD's) Is it any wonder that the military is having a hard time maintaining its retention goals? After all the commotions and emotions has passed, you are going to have people question if its all really worth it.

Not to get on a soapbox here, but one of the ways to improve the present situation is by dialoguing between those who oppose and those who support to military cause. Learn as much as we can from this experience and do it better next time around.

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