MORE

Warriors in Crawford

CRAWFORD, TEXAS — “I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about,” I told the hulking Secret Service man standing over me in front of the entrance to George W. Bush’s vacation home. It was my first day in Crawford, Texas, at Camp Casey and I had traveled there with Patrick, an Arlington West peace group staple and a conscientious objector from the ’60s.On Tuesday, Day 3 of Cindy Sheehan’s stand in Crawford, Kathleen from Arlington West, Woody from the Topanga Peace Alliance, and June from Global Exchange packed 1,000 crosses in Los Angeles into the back of a donated Suburban and sped to Texas. By Thursday the crosses, a visual representation of the human cost of war, stood next to Camp Casey as a show of solidarity and in support of Cindy’s question — What is the noble cause that my son died for?By the time we arrived on Saturday, the camp was in full swing and counter-protesters were showing up by the truckload. Armed with American flags and “Cut and run traitors” signs and many “Casey died for me” banners. Gathered in Camp Casey were veterans and activists from across the country. Peace prevailed through early afternoon under the hot Texas sun and sweltering humidity until about 3 p.m. The counter-demonstrators moved closer, shouting “Freedom isn’t free.” The Texas cops stood 30 strong and the folks at Camp Casey stood relatively silent.I watched through Woody’s binoculars as a police helicopter circled the camp. As the chopper drew closer and closer to the ground, storm clouds gathered. The shouting increased now on both sides and a Vietnam vet kept insisting, “You don’t know. You haven’t been there. You just don’t know.” He stood chest to chest with the “Freedom isn’t free” guy, each man clinging to his beliefs.At the height of the confrontation, the Vietnam vet looked to the sky and his face contorted into horror. He saw the chopper and suddenly it wasn’t Crawford, Texas. It was Vietnam. He collapsed in a heap and wept uncontrollably. Five Vietnam vets rushed to his side and carried him under a tent. They shielded him from view, putting their bodies between the sobbing man and the media. I watched the press as they politely waited for him to have his “moment” and for the human wall to move so their lenses could peek into the anguish of this grown man.But this wasn’t a “moment.” This was part of posttraumatic stress disorder. I simply couldn’t understand because I was never in combat, having served in the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War. And so I watched this group of men as they spoke to him gently in the language of war and peace. They hugged him and brought a warm washcloth to his forehead. They told him jokes. They gave him ice and water. They never looked away, not once.The man wept for almost an hour. One vet, Tim Origer, a former Marine, leaned into his grieving buddy and wiped his brow. As Tim pulled away to dip the cloth again into the bucket, his hand brushed away his pant leg and I saw his prosthetic leg. A gray mechanical knee and a stiff piece of metal where his right calf used to be. Tim lost his leg to an artillery round on March 15, 1968, during the Tet offensive. He was 19.The man on the other side of Tim was David Cline, president of Veterans For Peace. This was the anti-war statue that you’ll never see in Washington. Banded together with the knowledge that they had been duped by their government, these men now needed to heal one other. Fitzsimmons is a writer/actor who lives in Los Angeles. See more stories about Arlington West’s trip to Camp Casey at www.veteransforpeacela.org.