The father of an Army medic stationed in Iraq on Sunday asked his fellow Idahoans to support the bill up for a vote in Congress this week to establish benchmarks to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.
"It's hard to maintain morale with a lack of a mission," Frank Sesek told several hundred people gathered in front of the Idaho Capitol to mark the fourth anniversary of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. The Democratic plan, with its timetable for Iraqi action, "would present a mission for our troops." Sesek spoke on behalf of his son Colin, who was supposed to be coming home from Iraq in August but who will now be there through the end of the year due to the Bush administration's escalation of the war. He also noted that although Colin signed on as a medic, his unit is so shorthanded that he spends most of his time on infantry duties.
Colin's mother, Ann Flickinger, began her remarks, "I'd like to say first of all I am not anti-military." Flickinger noted how she comes from a long line of military veterans and herself served in the National Guard from 1971 through 1994. She expressed dismay over the war profiteering in Iraq, noting how soldiers sometimes go hungry if their duties keep them out past posted mess hall hours, and how Raytheon has years left to deliver on a contract for hardware that the troops needed yesterday.
After four years of failed strategy in Iraq - and competing with a glorious spring day better suited for yard work or picnicking - this year's anniversary rally seemed both smaller and more somber than the one held last year. A bagpiper played, people held tombstones, and several men carried an empty coffin up the statehouse steps to symbolize the war's unending casualties. Colin Sesek's brother, Evan, described his family's grief just yesterday as Colin learned that another member of his unit had died. Most Americans are now "heartbroken and speechless" over the war, Evan said. "But now more than ever, we can no longer afford to be speechless."
Above, marchers carry a coffin from the Grove to the Statehouse in downtown Boise to mark the start of the fifth year of war in Iraq. At left, a young girl holds a paper daisy next to the Liberty Bell replica on the Statehouse steps. Sunday's events were sponsored by the Idaho Peace Coalition and Veterans for Peace.