The Sept. 24 march also included over 300 members of Military Families Speak Out. Formed in 2002, the group now represents about 2,500 military families nationwide. An offshoot, Gold Star Families for Peace, now includes 65 family members of soldiers killed in Iraq.
“We don’t think there’s ever been as large and organized a voice of military families who opposed a war,” said Military Families Speak Out co-founder Charlie Richardson. In the march on Washington, the group met many other military family members who were not yet members, he added.
Francine, who asked that her last name not be published, is married to a National Guardsman called back to active duty under the stop-loss program. “Bring My Husband Home Now!” her sign implored.
Douglas Drake of New York joined the march to urge that his 19-year-old niece be brought home from Iraq.
“She was just out of high school,” Drake recalled. “The recruiters promised her a $35,000 scholarship and promised she would never be deployed. A week later, she was shipped off to Iraq.”
Lance Corporal Jesus A. Suarez del Solar was the fifth soldier killed in the Iraq War.
“He was my only son,” said Fernando Suarez de Solar of Escondido, California, a Mexican immigrant who has since become a leader in the peace movement.
Solar founded Guerrero de Azteca Project for Peace. “The principal goal is to visit the high schools, talk with the young people and make information about the alternatives to military service available,” Solar explained. Next year, the group will offer ten $500 scholarships to help disadvantaged students afford college.
In Washington, Solar and other activists met with members of Congress to present petitions urging a halt to military recruitment in high schools and the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. If security concerns can be met, he hopes to travel to Iraq in December to bring medical supplies for the Iraqi children.
“We are working with the Venezuelan government,” he said.
A fellow activist recalls Solar's courage in a local peace march, shortly after his son's death. When heckled by pro-war demonstrators, he confronted them. "How dare you question my patriotism? My son, he died in this war," he reportedly said. "I have a right to be here. You don't belong. Get out."
Military Families' Richardson said activists returned home from D.C. filled with determination.
“They are going to continue to build the movement in local areas. That includes education and putting pressure on decision makers—not only Congressmen and Senators, but state legislators and governors who have responsibility to care for the National Guard,” Richardson said. “The hurricane certainly underscored the impact that the deployment of the National Guard in Iraq is having on our nation.”
None has galvanized the modern anti-war movement more than Cindy Sheehan, the mother of slain soldier Casey Sheehan. After camping outside President George W. Bush’s ranch for a month in Crawford Texas, Sheehan came to Washington D.C.
At the September 24th rally, she told listeners, “We’re going to Congress and we’re going to ask, `How many other people’s children are you going to sacrifice?’”
In response, the crowd chanted “Not one more!”
Two days later, Sheehan was arrested outside the White House in an act of civil disobedience, refusing to move after trying in vain to deliver a list of names of slain soldiers to the President. She continues to inspire activists around the country.
“I admire Cindy Sheehan for her lady-like composure through all of these recent events,” said Scott, who marched in D.C. with the After Downing Street Coalition. “The president has no comprehension of the tragedy he has wrought, nor of her sense of loss. He is clueless.”
Photographs on page one by Leon Thompson. Photo on this page by the Associated Press.
Originally published on Wednesday October 5, 2005.