“Some people are trying to paint her as one crazy woman against the war, and she’s not.  A lot of people feel like her and want to know what the noble cause is,” said Karen Meredith, referring to Cindy Sheehan. 

Meredith should know.  Her son, Ken Ballard, was killed in Iraq.  And she’s going to Crawford, Texas this weekend. 

However, the 51 year-old mother, whose only child was killed by small arms fire in Najaf, May 30, 2004, is making the trip from Mountain View California for somewhat different reasons than what prompted Sheehan to camp out near George Bush’s vacation home and wait for an answer. 

“Personally, I don’t want to meet with the President.  I don’t think there’s anything he could tell me,” Meredith said.  “One of the reasons I’m going is because there’s a whole other story going on besides Cindy.  I don’t want to take anything away from her,” but wants to keep the focus on the larger question of the war in Iraq.    

Meredith’s presence and that focus will apparently be appreciated by Sheehan, whose cause has attracted worldwide media attention.  Quoted in papers across the country today from the camp named after her son, Casey, Sheehan said, “The media focused more on me and not the message.  I’m not the only one that wants answers.”

In an interview this morning, Meredith explained that although she is against the war, “people need to understand that we’re not anti-military,” adding that her father is a retired Lt. Colonel and her son, a 27 year-old Lieutenant, was a fourth-generation Army officer.  “But we never got a proper explanation for why we should invade Iraq.”

Active in Gold Star Families for Peace, Meredith handles the mounting email traffic for the group and corresponds with many other families who have lost loved ones in Iraq.  “All our stories are sad, and people need to know that.  Every day we hear the news and it just takes us back to that first day when we learned he was killed.”  She said several family members from the organization are in Crawford and others are arriving. 

When she speaks for Gold Star Families, she said responses are “mostly positive.  There are a few horrible people shouting at us, but everyone has to figure out what the war means in their own minds.”  One thing she’s learned from her public appearances is that “the country is terribly divided on the war.” 

In hundreds of cities around the country tonight there will be vigils in support of Cindy Sheehan.  Karen Meredith talked with the organizers of a vigil near her and was told it was going to be a silent event.  “I thought that was odd – that in support of Cindy not even a Gold Star mom was going to be able to speak.  I asked them if they wanted a real mom or a virtual mom?  If all they want is a virtual mom then they don’t understand the reason Cindy’s in Texas.”

Ferner is a freelance writer from Ohio who is writing a book about his trips to Iraq before and after the U.S. invasion.  He can be reached at mike.ferner@sbcglobal.net