Families of troops counter Sheehan

As Congress this week honored parents whose sons or daughters have been killed in Iraq, some families said Cindy Sheehan and her anti-war group do not represent them and are disrespecting the fallen soldiers.

“You can’t call into question the integrity of the commander in chief without having it call into question the integrity of those under his command,” said Diane Ibbotson, whose son Army Cpl. Forest Jostes, 21, died in April 2004 outside Baghdad.

“Let’s talk about the things they’ve accomplished,” she said, listing the end of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, Iraq’s first free elections, and the building of schools and hospitals.

Mrs. Sheehan lost her son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, 24, in the same battle as Mrs. Ibbotson’s son, and both women became part of American Gold Star Mothers, a nonprofit, apolitical group of families whose children have died fighting in wars.

On Wednesday, the House passed a resolution, 416-0, honoring the goals and ideals of the American Gold Star Mothers, which began in 1928. House lawmakers held a bipartisan news event yesterday to honor them.

American Gold Star Mothers President Judith Young stressed that the group does not comment on political issues.

Mrs. Ibbotson said it “angered” her that Mrs. Sheehan seemed to be speaking for all of the families who lost children, so she decided to speak out.

Others had stronger words.

“What has she done, rather than bitch, gripe and complain?” said Gary Qualls, whose 20-year-old son, Marine Reserve Lance Cpl. Louis Qualls, was killed in Fallujah, Iraq, last fall.

“There should be nothing but full honor and full respect. Coming from Cindy Sheehan’s camp, there’s has been nothing but dishonor and disrespect,” said Mr. Qualls, who created “Fort Qualls” in Crawford, Texas, to counter Mrs. Sheehan.

Mrs. Sheehan gained national attention and a following of hundreds as she camped outside of President Bush’s ranch in August. She is in Washington with members of her group, Gold Star Families for Peace, to lobby lawmakers and participate this weekend in anti-war events, including a massive rally tomorrow.

Mrs. Sheehan and two other mothers also teamed up with Win Without War for a million-dollar ad campaign.

Chuck Larson, president of Families United for our Troops and our Mission, is countering Mrs. Sheehan this weekend in a rally Sunday to support the Iraq effort.

“These families are oftentimes very frustrated with what’s occurring in Washington with the anti-war protesters, and they feel it’s time to speak out,” he said.

Mrs. Sheehan yesterday said she is, indeed, supporting the troops by asking lawmakers to bring them home from Iraq.

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