Anti-war demonstrators gathered Friday at the Crawford Peace House for the unveiling of a stone monument with the words "Sheehan's Stand," a tribute to the August protest that drew thousands to President George W. Bush's adopted hometown.
Cindy Sheehan, the fallen soldier's mother who led the 26-day protest near Bush's ranch, cried when she saw the 2-foot (60-centimeter)-high, 4-foot (120 centimeter)-wide sandstone marker. On the other side of the rectangular monument is the word "Why!" and names of more than two dozen soldiers whose families were part of the August vigil.
"Nobody knew what was going to happen, and we made up Camp Casey as we went along, and it grew and grew and grew," said Sheehan, of Berkeley, California, whose son 24-year-old son Casey died in Iraq last year. "I feel like this will always be my home. ... But we're here to say that the killing has to stop, that we're not going to justify any more killing on our losses."
Sheehan announced her protest plans while speaking at a Veterans for Peace convention in Dallas on Aug. 5. The next day, she and about 50 others traveled by bus to Crawford, marched toward Bush's ranch and spent the night in chairs in ditches, without food or flashlights.
She vowed to remain until Bush met with her or ended his monthlong ranch vacation. Two top Bush administration officials talked to Sheehan, but the president never did. Sheehan and other grieving families met Bush a few months after her son's death, but she said she deserves another visit because of subsequent revelations about faulty pre-war intelligence.
The protesters returned to Crawford this week as Bush spends Thanksgiving at his ranch. The group plans an anti-war rally Saturday and an interfaith service Sunday.
The artist who carved the 1,200-pound (540-kilogram) monument, Ron Teska of Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania, drove to Crawford the last week of the protest with the stone slab in the back of his pickup. He spent about 45 to 50 hours carving it.
Hadi Jawad, a co-founder of the Crawford Peace House, said the monument is a testament to Sheehan's courage. The house near downtown Crawford, which opened a month after the war with Iraq began in March 2003, also renamed its garden the Camp Casey Memorial Peace Garden.
Also Friday in a downtown store parking lot, several Bush supporters gathered with a sign reading, "The price of freedom is not free." Hundreds were expected to attend a pro-Bush rally Saturday.
"I disagree with her claims that the president is a murderer and a liar," said James Vergauwen of Windthorst. "When you're at war, you need to be at war as a whole country and not as a divided country."
But protesters say government leaders should be held accountable.
Juan Torres, who attended the August vigil, said he didn't hesitate to return to Crawford. He said he moved from Argentina to the U.S. for the American dream, but that his dreams were shattered when his 24-year-old son Juan, an accountant, was killed in the war last year.
"I want to say to the president, 'This is not a game. This is the life of our kids,"' Torres said Friday as he started to cry, reported AP. P.T.