Richard Schrader’s son, a 24-year-old veteran of the Iraq War and a father of a 2-year-old, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in December. The military, however, changed his diagnosis to anger management, deeming him ready for combat and therefore redeployment.
“Luckily we had family resources that could stop that, but there are many out there who do not have those resources,” said Schrader at a candlelight vigil attended by roughly 50 people at the Unitarian Universalist Church (UUC) in Reston on Monday night. The vigil marked the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War.
Schrader, a Herndon resident, said the community should remember those who returned from Iraq as well as the U.S. servicemen killed there, more than 3,000 of them. “Let’s not forget those who came back and are hurting,” he said. “My son hasn’t slept in months. Somebody’s got to stop this craziness.” Schrader attended the vigil to let other people know they are not alone in thinking the war is futile. “A lot of people are afraid to speak out,” he said, because they fear being dubbed unpatriotic.
Hank Blakely, chairman of the UUC’s Social Justice Committee, said he is asking American leaders to stop the war now, not 18 months, not a year and not six months from now. “We’re speaking as their employers. We’re speaking as the outraged driven to action,” said Blakely. He encouraged those attending the vigil to become involved in the effort to stop the war. He said they had to be persistent in asking their elected officials to do so. “We’re asking our leaders a very simple thing. Stop killing our children and stop making our children kill other children,” he said.
A FAIRFAX AREA resident, Jarrett Marquis, said it was important to remember the U.S. soldiers who lost their lives in the war, but it was also important to remember the Iraqi casualties. “Let’s not forget over 60,000 Iraqis who have died since this war started,” said Marquis.
Reston resident since 1971, and math teacher at Chantilly High School, Barbara Burleson, wears a necklace with a peace sign. “My father died in World War II and I lost friends and students in Vietnam, and now we’re in this ridiculous war,” said Burleson. She said people needed to voice disapproval of American leadership by voting appropriately and being vocal. She believes November’s elections were a sign of that disapproval.
“We need to just keep hammering our representatives,” said Marquis. He thought November’s elections would bring a change to the war plan, but said the new Congress lacked conviction and courage to stop the funding and set a date for troop withdrawal.
“We need to keep talking to friends and become personal evangelists for stopping the war,” said Blakely. He said he recognized that ending the war in Iraq quickly would be a disaster. However, staying in Iraq would prove a bigger disaster, he said.
“This is a call to action,” said Arlene Krieger about the vigil. She hopes it motivated those in attendance to demand from their representatives an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Doug Sedgwick, 47 of Herndon, sang and performed John Lennon’s song "Imagine" on the guitar before other community members read testimonies from families of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. Those who were remembered ranged from a 19-year-old private from Arkansas to a 26-year-old California lieutenant. Monday night’s vigil in Reston was one of more than 1,000 such events held across the nation, supported by MoveOn.org, a progressive political action committee.