- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 24, 2005

Diane Ibbotson came to the District amid yesterday’s anti-war protest to support U.S. efforts in Iraq and say her enlisted son died for a worthy cause.

“I know the loss. I know the grief,” Mrs. Ibbotson said.

Her son, Army Cpl. Forest Jostes, 21, was killed in Iraq alongside the son of Cindy Sheehan, the California woman whom the media has made a recognizable face of the anti-war movement.

“But,” Mrs. Ibbotson said, “a mother’s grief, as deep as it goes, does not justify undermining the morale of the United States armed forces while we are at war.”

Mrs. Ibbotson and her husband, Von, of Albion, Ill., gathered at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Northwest with nearly 50 other family members of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a counterprotest to the weekend’s anti-war and anti-President Bush activities.

Many who showed up to support Mr. Bush and U.S. troops, and to question the war protesters, fought back tears while clutching pictures of friends and family members killed in battle.

“The loss we feel is with us every moment we are awake,” said Mike Broomhead of Phoenix, Ariz., whose brother, Tom, was killed in Fallujah on Memorial Day 2003. “The fact that you can march down the streets of our nation’s capital and not wear a flak jacket, you owe that to the men and women in uniform.”

Several other groups in support of the war also held events throughout the day, including Elections Count, which helped organize a rally at the U.S. Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest.

“I’m really tired of listening to one side,” said Mary Porteus of Laurel,whose daughter, Brooke Tilley, is an ensign on the USS Kearsarge, which just returned from the Middle East. “I feel really strongly about what my country and what my government is doing. I wouldn’t have let my daughter go otherwise.”

Andrius Vaitekunas of Centreville had painted his face and head with the colors of the U.S. flag and wore a “Commies Aren’t Cool” T-shirt.

“I’m here to show absolute support and solidarity for my friends in the military, knowing full well they’d do the exact same thing for me,” said Mr. Vaitekunas, 27.

Steve Golding, who survived the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, was among those who spoke at the memorial.

“Thank God we have a president who has the resolve to say, ‘Either you are with us or you are against us,’” he told a crowd of about 250. “Cindy, go home. You don’t speak for me.”

Jesse Kaveh, 19, an Iraq native and student at George Washington University, said he arrived in the United States in 1990 after his parents were killed by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Those demonstrating against the war are “exploiting the Iraqi people,” he said.

“They’re here saying we need to leave Iraq, but everyone knows Iraq will fall” if U.S. soldiers pull out, Mr. Kaveh said.

The speeches occasionally were interrupted by anti-war demonstrators shouting “Kill more Iraqis” and “That’s a lie.”

Organizers of the rally at the memorial, including RightMarch.com and Protest Warrior, lined the march route later in the day to confront the protesters.

“I fought for your right to hate your country,” one man shouted.

Other supporters of the war such as Move America Forward, Freerepublic.com and Military Families Voice of Victory planned a major rally for today at noon on the Mall at Fourth Street in Northwest, near the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Mark Coyle of Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission, which sponsored the rally at the Hyatt, said the Ibbotsons and other families are expected to attend today’s rally, but did not join others yesterday along the march route.

“They wanted to be with each other,” he said. “They wanted to get to know each other.”

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