The idea of making a spontaneous trip to President Bush's vacation ranch was born when Julie Decker read a newspaper article a couple of days ago and immediately called her good friend Tiffany Strause.
The story was about a Northern California woman whose son had been killed in Iraq and who subsequently decided to camp out in front of Bush's Texas ranch until she got a face-to-face meeting with him.
They share with Sheehan the firm belief that the war is a colossal mistake. And when they heard about Sheehan's story, "it was like the straw that broke the camel's back," said Strause, 29, who works as a consultant in the computer industry..
Yesterday morning, a day after reading the piece, Strause, who lives in San Marcos, and Decker, who lives in Carlsbad, were on a plane to Crawford, Texas, to join the woman in her vigil.
They intend to stay, they said, until Bush – who is on vacation at the ranch for the next five weeks – agrees to meet Cindy Sheehan of Vacaville in person.
Neither of the two women knows Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son, Casey, an Army specialist, was killed in Baghdad in April 2004. Neither has a child, much less one who has been killed in Iraq. And neither had been active in the anti-war movement. They hadn't attended any "protests or peace rallies or anything like that," Strause said. "Both of us are very busy."
But they share with Sheehan the firm belief that the war is a colossal mistake. And when they heard about Sheehan's story, "it was like the straw that broke the camel's back," said Strause, 29, who works as a consultant in the computer industry.
"We just want to do something," she said. "We're so sick of being on the sidelines. Being busy isn't an excuse anymore."
She called the war "this generation's Vietnam."
After reading the news article, Decker, 40, a health care executive, tracked down Sheehan with her cell phone number, obtained from the Associated Press reporter who wrote the piece. Decker asked what she could do to help.
"I need bodies," replied Sheehan, who had been camping for several days in a sleeping bag not far from the president's compound.
So Decker and Strause booked a flight, packed some clothes and told the men in their lives – Decker is married and Strause is engaged – they'd be gone several weeks.
"I support you," Strause's fiance told her. "I'll take care of the dogs. You just go."
The women landed in Texas yesterday afternoon, rented a car and headed to Crawford, where they intend to stay in a hotel near where Sheehan is camping out. A half-dozen other people had already arrived to camp alongside her.
Not surprisingly, there are those who view Sheehan's protest as counterproductive and an insult to the men and women serving in the military.
"She's not the only one who lost a son or a daughter, but how many other people do you see camping out in front of the White House?" said Joseph Bertolino Sr. of El Cajon, whose son Stephen, an Army staff sergeant, was killed in Iraq in 2003.
Bertolino, 75, a veteran of two wars and a retired meat cutter, said he supports the Iraqi invasion, adding, "It's hard to lose someone in a war, but (my son) knew the consequences in making the military his career."
Decker and Strause say they expect to stay the full five weeks that Bush is on vacation. They both said they expect to suffer financially. Strause and her fiance recently bought a house and "our credit card bills are chock-full right now."
"It'll be a crunch," she said. "I'm not a trust-fund baby or anything like that."
But they took along computers and cell phones so they can get some work done when they're not standing outside Bush's vacation home.
"We brought enough clothes for a week and we're going to keep going to the Laundromat," Strause said.
© 2005 Union-Tribune Publishing Company