WASHINGTON, AP – Diane Ibbotson and H. Elaine Johnson are grieving mothers. Both lost sons in Iraq, and both feel strongly enough about the war to travel to the nation”s capital for demonstrations. That is where the similarities end.
Johnson will be protesting the war, while Ibbotson will be speaking out in support of the military action.
Organizers of Saturday”s anti-war protest predict about 100,000 people will crowd the Ellipse near the White House for a rally and march. Among those expected are Cindy Sheehan, the California mother who drew thousands of protesters to her 26-day vigil outside President Bush”s Texas ranch last month.
Sheehan”s 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in an ambush in Sadr City, Iraq, last year. Ibbotson”s son, Forest Jostes, was killed in the same ambush.
Ibbotson, from Albion, Ill., said war protesters dishonor the service of her son and others who have died.
"There are families who lose children in accidents, in tragic illnesses. Young people die and it seems without a purpose," said Ibbotson, whose son was 21. "My son gave his life for a cause that he believed in. He fought and died for God and country."
Ibbotson is part of the Iowa-based group Families United for Our Troops. She”s one of 25 "Gold Star" families who lost loved ones in Afghanistan or Iraq who will speak at a news conference Saturday morning and then attend a rally for military families on the Mall on Sunday.
Johnson, from Orangeburg, S.C., lost her son, Darius Jennings, when his Chinook helicopter was shot down in Iraq in November 2003. The United States, she said, should not have invaded Iraq.
"My son gave his life for his country," she said. "The war was a mistake from the beginning, so my son died for oil."
Darius Jennings was 22. Johnson says she will continue to speak out against the war until the last soldier is brought home.
Johnson joined Cindy Sheehan and other mothers against the war for a small rally near the Washington Monument on Friday. They spoke just a few feet from 1,000 white wooden crosses tucked into the grass to symbolize the more than 1,900 members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the war in March 2003.
More than 40 sets of black military boots also symbolize war dead.
Ken and Linda Martin came from Pentwater, Mich., for Saturday”s anti-war protest.
"Just get the kids home," said Ken, who”s 70. Linda, 65, said she”d rather see America”s tax dollars spent on problems at home like areas damaged by hurricanes and underfunded schools.
Anti-war protesters will march to the front of the White House and down to the Justice Department before circling back to the Washington Monument for an 11-hour concert and rally featuring folk singer Joan Baez. War supporters will line part of the march route.
Other anti-war protests are planned Saturday in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle.