Published on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 by Reuters
Families of Iraq War Dead Target Bush in Ads
by Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON - Angered by President Bush's policy in Iraq, a group of military families whose relatives died there is targeting the president in new television ads to be aired ahead of the Nov. 2 election.
"I think the American people need to know that we have been betrayed in this rush to war," said Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey is among the more than 1,000 U.S. troops who died in the war.
Sheehan is joining a small group of military families in Washington on Wednesday to launch new political ads by an interest group called RealVoices.org, which supports Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's bid for the White House.
"It's important that we get our troops home from Iraq as soon as possible so no other families have to go through what we are going through," said Sheehan of Vacaville, California.
The ads are expected to be aired nationally in the coming weeks and in battleground cities of Las Vegas, Orlando and Albuquerque.
In one ad, Sheehan is seen sobbing as she tells the story of her son, 24-year-old Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, who died in the arms of one of his friends in Iraq on April 4, 2004.
Al Zappala is active in "Military Families Speak Out" (www.mfso.org), a group that opposes the U.S. war in Iraq and has about 1,700 families among its members. He is in Washington for the ads and to attend a peace march on Saturday.
Zappala's son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, was killed on April 26 in Iraq and was the first Pennsylvania National Guard soldier to die in action since World War II.
"I feel so let down by the Bush administration," said Zappala, who said Military Families Speak Out was a non-partisan group.
Another group, "Military Moms with a Mission," is campaigning in 30 cities across America to tell people why they should vote for Kerry.
"They are traveling the country telling people their stories and why George Bush has let them down. Many are frustrated that George Bush is not telling the truth about the reality in Iraq," said Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton.
Countering this campaign to support Kerry are similar groups who back Bush and his policy in Iraq.
Retired Air Force Capt. Linda Bergin is campaigning on behalf of military families and others in New Jersey and says Bush is the only leader capable of leading America following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
She said many veterans and people still in the military felt Kerry had been disloyal, particularly after he returned home from Vietnam and criticized the U.S. presence there.
"People are heartbroken their people are over there but out of respect of their child, they want to support the president," she said.
Nancy Kennon, founder of the group "Security Moms For Bush," said many military families had contacted her Web site (www.moms4Bush.com) to lend their support and were sick of the negative message pushed by the Kerry campaign.
"I have got some letters from active military moms and they have been saddened by the negative spin," said Kennon, who lives in Westchester, New York. She is the mother of young twin daughters and does not have a child in the military.
The Bush campaign could not immediately be reached for comment on the new ads.
© 2004 Reuters Ltd