An Open Letter to Cindy McCain From a Gold Star Mom

I am really upset over your statement about how you felt about Sen. Obama's refusal to vote for war funding. Usually, I am loath to criticize any blue or gold star parent for their political views, but I must speak to your incendiary comments.

As the mother of a fallen solider, I feel betrayed by your husband. Senator McCain not only backed this unjust misbegotten war; he wanted it. Where was Senator McCain when there were not enough troops and not enough equipment? Why didn't he push for no-bid contracts on IED jammers? Why didn't he demand an articulated exit strategy?

My son was killed on Aug. 13, 2004. With a knock on the door, my world as I knew it ended. Prior to his death, I publicly checked my feelings about the mishandling of the war so as not to damage his career. Still wallowing in grief I forced myself to speak out about a month after his death. Too much was at stake; there was an election coming, so I started speaking out first in an op-ed then in public speeches calling for a change in strategy and the resignation of Rumsfeld. The night George Bush was reelected I cried myself to sleep. I felt that I had failed my dead son and his men. The next morning once again, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and stepped back into the fray.

As the situation in Iraq deteriorated, I knew that taking our position on the war to the public was not enough. Along with other Gold Star and Blue Star families I went to the Hill asking congressmen and senators to defund the war. Some sympathetic legislators and their aides told me that to do so would be political suicide. Many agreed that we weren't winning and that there was enough money in the pipeline to support the current troops if finding were cut. Yet they would not go public and vote to defund the war. When the man who always championed soldiers, Jack Murtha took his courageous stand, others fell in line.

My son was an honorable man who died because of the actions of dishonorable men. When our son died, my husband and I took up his mission to protect his men. At one time our family thought Senator McCain to be an honorable man. But where was his honor in holding his tongue about the prosecution of the war? Where was his judgment?

I admire men like Senator Obama for voting to fund the war only when the bill had a timeline for an orderly withdrawal. Others like Senator McCain voted to fund the war without a timeline.

Mrs. Cain, I have long seen that those in the anti-war movement cared more for the health and welfare of our returning troops than your husband demonstrated. Mrs. McCain, when your husband casts the votes he did, when he refused to support the GI bill, when came too late to the crisis in the healthcare for our troops, I believe that he demonstrated a lack of responsibility. You ask Senator Obama to walk your shoes for a day? He has walked in mine. He "gets it." I cannot bring my beloved son back. I only hope to keep other parents from seeing their son die in a war and occupation that should never have been. This is why I work for Senator Obama. On November fourth I will not cry myself to sleep. Instead as I reach to turn out the light I plan to look at my son's picture and say, "We did it. We turned the corner, my beloved; we have our exit strategy. We finally have our true man of honor."

Sincerely in the hope that no other mother walks in my shoes,

Diane Davis Santoriello
Proud mother of 1st. Lt. Neil A. Santoriello Jr.
KIA 8-13-04 Khalidiya, Iraq

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