Therapist Mary Coe spoke Saturday to hundreds of activists and angry Americans gathered in Nashville for the Walk in their Shoes rally protesting the fourth anniversary Iraq war and call for the safe return of our troops from what was repeatedly called “an unwinnable war” being waged on faulty policies.” The event at Owen Bradley Park was sponsored by the Nashville Peace and Justice Center and was attended by members of Clarksville’s FreeThinkers for Peace and Civil Liberties and Clarksville Online.
Coe, who was profiled on 3/14/07 in Clarksville Online, made a brief but eloquent statement on the mental health facing troops and their families after multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. “Families are devastated” by the problems returning troops experience upon their return. ” Children are afraid, they feel ‘anticipatory’ anxiety over future deployments” or are struggling to adjust to returning parents who are moody, angry, and feeling rage. Coe said that the second deployment saw returning troops with a much higher level of emotional problems, and is afraid of what will happen when troops return from a third deployment that is expected to leave soon.
Among the speakers at the rally was Linda Englund of the Chicago-based Military Families Speak Out. She stood at the podium with a photo of her son, a two-time Purple Heart and Bronze Star marine. Her message was clear: “bring our troops home now and take care of them when they get here.”
“For four years now, Bush and his diminishing number of supporters have claimed to support our troops; their ‘support’ consists of words only, while their actions,lies,and criminal negligence … undermine our country, our troops and our security.” Englund said. “I am struck by the contrast in the honor and courage displayed by our troops as they try to do the job they have been asked to do, even as it changes from month to month and year to year, with no end in sight or even any idea any more what the end should look like — and I compare them with the continuously dishonorable behavior of those who sent them to fight and die.” Englund’s son was injured in Iraq in an unarmored humvee.
Englund spoke of the extensive security surrounding Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent visit to the war zone: “his protection is a cadre of our children surrounding him.”
The Farm’s Steve Gaskin said the war is costing us “money, oil and the blood of our sons” and is worse than the situation that existed in the Vietnam era. Gaskin, surrounded by fans and friends, spoke of Vietnam as well, and teared up as he addressed the issues soldiers face in the Iraq war.
As people gathered around the circle, dozens of pairs of empty shoes lined the curb, each pair tagged with the name of soldier lost to this conflict. Signs left over from rallies held when the troops deaths hit 3000 were painted over with a gory red “2” indicating the numbers have risen past the 3200 mark. Tables were set up with petitions from the Peaceful Assembly and Instruction Project and other groups.
The event included a number of other groups, including Raging Grannies, the Molly Ivins Brigade, musicians, activists, human rights advocates and others committed to speaking out against the war. A march to the Federal Building in downtown Nashville followed the rally.
On Monday, the FreeThinkers will sponsor a peace vigil at the Eternal Flame in the square downtown at 7 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend this event.