A Gold Star Mother’s Memorial Day Plea


This Memorial Day let us remember all fallen troops by insisting that the United States no longer engage in wars of aggression. In this election year, the voters must make it abundantly clear to anyone running for office in the United States that candidates will not have their votes, funding or volunteer time if the politicians do not insist on a rapid withdrawal from Iraq and opposition to future wars of aggression.

Of the troops currently fighting in Iraq, a majority (72%) say that the U.S. should get out of Iraq within a year. A majority of the U.S. public agrees. Yet our elected officials – who are supposed to represent the people’s views – continue to vote for funding the war in Iraq and fail to speak out against aggression against Iran. On this critical issue of war or no war there is a huge disconnect between the voters and the people elected to represent them and their views.

My stepson, Lance Corporal David Michael Branning, was killed on November 12, 2004 in the assault on Fallujah. He was KIA when he and his buddy were ordered to kick in the door of a private home in that city. I imagine that in the last minutes of their lives, these two young men must have known that there might be people in that dwelling – people who were defending their home. These defenders fired on David and his fellow Marine. David was shot in the throat and the bullet exited his head; he died virtually instantly. His friend bled to death within minutes. David was 21 years old and the other young man was 20. I don’t want other families to suffer the loss and pain that my family, and others, are suffering. I don’t want other young men and women to suffer the fate of David and other Marines and soldiers ­ too many lives have already been lost.

My mission since David’s death is to do all that I can to stop the madness that is sending more innocents to their unnecessary deaths. After David was killed I quit my job to work fulltime in the peace movement. I have been privileged to work on the "Eyes Wide Open" exhibit, which includes a pair of combat boots representing each troop who has been killed, and civilian shoes representing the Iraqi casualties in this war. I do everything I can to honor David’s life as well as his death, and contribute what I can to make sure that the U.S. does not continue to perpetuate an aggressive military strategy that puts more young people, and civilians in the countries we attack, at risk. The greatest monument to David and the nearly 2,500 U. S. troops who have been killed will be an anti-war movement that is well organized enough and powerful enough to end this war and prevent future unnecessary wars.

We have unacceptable reasons for staying the course in Iraq. We must withdraw immediately. We owe it to our military people, to the people of Iraq and the United States, and to our severely damaged reputation in the world. We must retrieve and heal the soul of our country and elect only those individuals who stand for peace.

I urge all those who oppose the military occupation of Iraq and do not want to see future wars of choice to sign the "Voters Pledge" at www.VotersForPeace.US. Thirty thousand people have already signed the pledge.

Voters For Peace is a project made up of many of the major organizations in the anti-war movement: United for Peace and Justice, Peace Action, Gold Star Families for Peace, Code Pink, Democracy Rising as well as groups with broader agendas like the National Organization for Women, Progressive Democrats of America, AfterDowningStreet.com, and the American Conservative. The goal of this coalition is to build a base of anti-war voters that cannot be ignored by anyone running for office in the United States. We want millions of voters to sign the pledge and say no to pro-war candidates.

You can help right now by visiting www.VotersForPeace.US and immediately signing the Voters Pledge which states:

"I will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq, and preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign."

And after you sign it, send it to everyone you know and urge them to do the same. Together we can change the path of the United States ­ move us in a new direction, away from unnecessary wars and toward a peaceful co-existence that recognizes the precious value of every human life.

TIA STEELE is member of Gold Star Families Speak Out (GSFSO), an organization of family members of United States military killed in this war. GSFSO is a chapter within Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), a 3,000-member organization of military families opposed to the occupation of Iraq. Ms. Steele works with the American Friends Service Committee in Baltimore, MD. For more information visit http://www.mfso.org/article.php?id=524.


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