Today’s Star Tribune carries profiles of twelve Minnesota mothers whose sons have been killed in Iraq: “From the heart: A shared loss, but divided opinions.” I think the Star Tribune has done a good job of seeking out and giving voice to these mothers in light of the Cindy Sheehan media circus. Below are excerpts that reflect the mothers’ views of Sheehan, the war, and their sons’ views of the war (ellipses are not noted):
Karen Panchot: She won’t comment on Sheehan’s protest. “It’s hard for anybody to understand. Everybody has their own way of grieving.”
It doesn’t mean, however, that Bush should meet with Sheehan again, Panchot said. “He already met with her. He’s done enough.”
A week after Panchot’s son died, in an ambush while on patrol near Baghdad, she and 30 other families of slain soldiers met Bush at a memorial ceremony in Colorado Springs.
“He held me in his arms,” Panchot said. “I don’t remember what he said … It was comforting. He’s a real person. He’s a Christian person.”
Sharon Dorff: Sheehan’s vigil? “I think it’s ridiculous,” said Dorff, who added that she was surprised by state Sen. Becky Lourey’s decision join the protest. “It’s not going to bring our sons back. Why do it? She’s doing it for revenge because her son died.”
It would be nice if troops could come home now, she said, “but we haven’t accomplished what we set out to accomplish. … We need peace in that country.”
Cheryl Fey: “[Bush] is a public servant,” Fey said. “He should speak to her. But he’s not willing. And I think it’s wrong … He just doesn’t understand her grief. The grief is beyond explanation.”
Getting a promise to end the war is a different matter, even for Fey, who opposes it. “We’re in there lock, stock and barrel,” she said. “It wouldn’t be realistic to walk away.”
Judy Langhorst: Langhorst declined to discuss her feelings about the war or whether she thinks Bush should meet with Sheehan.
“That’s political,” Langhorst said. “I keep politics out of this.”
Rhonda Holmes: She said her focus is on supporting the troops, not Sheehan.
“We support the government. We support the president,” she said. “If he met with [Sheehan], he would have to meet and answer to every one of us. We all want to know why we’re there.”
When James Holmes volunteered to go to Iraq, Rhonda Holmes begged him not to.
“He went because he believed in this country. … He told me if he could save someone’s life, it would be worth it,” she said.
Deb Cedergren: I didn’t want him to go over there in the first place,” Cedergren said of her youngest son, the middle of five children. Today, her feelings about the war are even stronger. “I just don’t understand why we’re there and why we continue to lose so many people,” she said.
Alvera Reyes: Joining an antiwar protest is unimaginable, Reyes said, because it might seem like dishonoring his memory.
“He had a patriotic feeling for the country,” she said.
He joined the Army at 18 right after high school and was on his third tour of duty in Iraq. “He knew the dangers, and he still went back,” she said. “He was fighting for our beliefs.”
Pat Timmerman: Pat Timmerman, 49, said her “heart aches” for Sheehan and she does not want to condemn her protest. But she said she regrets the attention the antiwar moms are getting because “at a time like this our country needs to pull together 100 percent in support of our troops instead of pulling apart.”
Vickie Bruce: Before her son died, she had received upbeat reports from him. He was befriending Iraqis, learning a little Arabic, and seemed to believe that goals were being achieved. Now, she says, “I don’t know. Are we succeeding? It just breaks my heart to see what’s happening there.”
Bruce said she sympathizes with Sheehan, but not with her public questioning of the war.
Becky Lourey: [S]he isn’t proud of U.S. policy in Iraq. She said she believes that policy has more to do with a desire to control Iraq’s oil than defending America against future terrorist attacks.
[Lourey is a vociferously antiwar DFL Minnesota state senator. The death of her son was big news in Minnesota. One report quoted Lourey’s brother Tony saying that Mattew Lourey didn’t choose to serve in Iraq, though he states: “He was over there once already, and actually had the opportunity to not go back. And nobody could talk him into taking the reassignment that would have kept him at home,” said Tony Lourey. “He was wanting to go protect his brothers in arms. And that was his choice. It was honorable. He didn’t believe in the cause, and neither to I. But he believed in his guys, and he went over to do what he can.”]
Marny Fasnacht: Fasnacht said she was glad to have an opportunity to say what she thinks about Sheehan’s protest and the decision by two prominent Minnesota politicians to travel to Texas last week to show solidarity with Sheehan.
Fasnacht doesn’t like it. And she takes it a bit personally.
Her son, an Army ranger from Mankato, believed in U.S. policy in Iraq, she said. He believed that U.S. troops were both protecting America from terrorism and helping give Iraq a chance at democracy and freedom.
If Sheehan and her supporters think that there is no noble mission in Iraq, Fasnacht said that suggests her son must not have been very smart to believe in the mission and must have given his life for nothing.
“For anybody to suggest that they are over there, standing on the line for us, and paying the ultimate price, all for worthless reasons,” she said, “that is a slap in the face to us who believe in what they stood for.”
Norma Benson: “I was not in favor of the war,” she added, “but my son was a gung-ho soldier, so I back him and all of our troops in Iraq and everywhere.”
This sample of Minnesota mothers who have lost a son in Iraq suggests two points. The soldiers serving in Iraq strongly believe in their mission. To a slightly less striking extent, Cindy Sheehan does not represent the mothers profiled here.