EDEN, Vt. - The widow of a Maine National Guard soldier killed in Iraq last month is calling on Americans to question their government´s policy in that country.
Lavinia Onitiu-Gelineau, clutching a pink teddy bear her husband gave her when they last met in February, said Wednesday it was good for Americans to be patriotic but people need to question whether the things the troops are doing in Iraq are right.
"I am very angry," Onitiu-Gelineau said. "I am very angry. I was angry before, but I didn´t want to say anything."
Now, both she and her father-in-law, John Gelineau of Eden, said they planned to speak out about U.S. policy in Iraq, which has led to the deaths of hundreds of American service members.
Lavinia Gelineau pauses as she speaks from her father-in-law's home in Eden, Vt., Wednesday, May 5, 2004. The widow of a Maine National Guard soldier killed in Iraq last month is calling on Americans to question their government's policy in Iraq. Gelineau's husband, Christopher Gelineau, was a Starksboro, Vt. native who died April 20th after enemy fighters ambushed his convoy in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
"The funeral is over," John Gelineau said. "Now it´s our turn to speak."
Onitiu-Gelineau´s husband, Spc. Christopher Gelineau, 22, was killed April 20 when the convoy he was escorting was ambushed near Mosul, Iraq. Gelineau grew up in Starksboro and moved to Portland, Maine, for college. He was one semester short of graduating from the University of Southern Maine when his National Guard unit, the 133rd Engineering Battalion, was called up for duty in Iraq.
Onitiu-Gelineau held the news conference at the home of her father-in-law in the small town of Eden, in north central Vermont.
Gelineau was posthumously promoted to sergeant. The flag that covered his casket sat in a box in Gelineau´s living room along with his service ribbons.
Onitiu-Gelineau said her husband joined the National Guard at 17 to help pay for college and had planned to get out this fall after his current enlistment ended.
The couple had planned to make their home in Portland and have a child as soon as he returned.
"I am very proud of my husband," said Onitiu-Gelineau, a native of Romania who moved to Maine four years ago to attend college. "I am not proud of his reason for being there."
She said they had spoken about U.S. policy in Iraq and neither one agreed with it. But her husband was bound by his duty and didn´t say anything.
She didn´t speak out before because she didn´t want to create problems for her husband in his National Guard unit, she said.
And Onitiu-Gelineau said that without having lost her husband in Iraq, she never would have sought the spotlight. "I never wanted to be famous. I just wanted to have babies," she said.
Having grown up in Romania, the eastern European country that is struggling to shake off a half century of Communism, Onitiu-Gelineau said she was amazed at the ability of Americans to speak their mind, yet surprised that so few chose to do so.
"That freedom goes away if it´s not questioned," she said.
And she questioned the reasons President Bush gave for going to war in Iraq, including the search for weapons of mass destruction.
"The president ordered my husband and other husbands to go there," she said. "Have they found anything?"
"Is the U.S. going to stay there for 20 more years? That´s what I want to know," said Onitiu-Gelineau. "Iraq is just like Yugoslavia. It´s never going to end."
Despite her bitterness over the policy that led to her husband´s death, Onitiu-Gelineau said she was grateful for the support she had received from the Maine National Guard and members of that state´s congressional delegation for arranging visas for her parents so they could fly to Maine from Romania for his funeral last Saturday.
At the news conference, she told the story of sleeping at her Portland home in early April when the computer printer near her head sprung to life. She had just watched a movie about space aliens and the sound confused her until she looked at what came out of the printer.
It was a message from her husband, a computer expert. A piece of paper covered with the words "I love you" had arrived from Iraq.
© Copyright 2004 Associated Press