Robert and Anne O'Brien want to lend their son to U.S. Rep. Tom Allen.
The Democrat who represents Maine's 1st Congressional District has two grown daughters, but like nearly every other member of Congress, his children are civilians.
Perry O'Brien is not. O'Brien, who grew up on Peaks Island, is 20 years old, a private first class in the Army, stationed in Afghanistan. His parents hope the congressman will think of him whenever votes about war or the military arise.
"When you have people, when you know people who are directly affected - not just the soldiers, but their families, their children, their futures - it just makes the issue (of war) have so many more layers. That really should be considered when we're deciding on something that is so precious as human life," Anne O'Brien said Sunday.
The O'Briens hear people talk about "our sons and daughters in the armed forces" lately, but they realize that most parents don't have sons and daughters in the armed forces. According to U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, a Democrat from New York, they say, "only one member (of Congress) has a child in the enlisted ranks of the military, and just a few more have children who are officers."
That's why the O'Briens are offering up Perry. They're hoping to offer other young people, as well, to other members of Congress.
They have started a Web site - www.oursonsanddaughters.us - to personalize the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines for members of Congress. The point is not to convince senators and representatives to vote any particular way, but to look at the issue in a very particular way.
They want members of Congress to know that their son, who likes eating nachos and listening to ska and jazz and alternative rock, and who is a medic who is engaged to be married, is a person - not a "troop."
The Web site, which they are redesigning now, will offer other families a chance to get in touch with members of Congress.
"The purpose of the Web site is to try to pass that connection on to each of the representatives that are out there, and all of our senators, so that they understand they're talking about their constituents," Robert O'Brien said.
He said that if "it makes the military real to them and not just a sea of green or a sea of blue or a sea of camouflage, then that will influence the way they vote in a positive manner - and it's not that we're asking that they vote one way or another on a particular issue. We really do want to keep this nonpartisan, but we want these people to be thinking about, OK, what's best for these constituents?"
Anne O'Brien says they'd like as many people as possible to get involved, but do not want to begin mass mailings to members of Congress.
The point, she explains, is to personalize, and mass mailings are hardly personal.
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