Follow the Soapbox
by Cindy Sheehan

"I only wish I had killed more."
Navy Seal and American Shame (Sniper), Chris Kyle

“I can’t kill anyone.”
US working-class soldier before his short deployment to Iraq, Casey Sheehan

This is something that I don’t want to revisit—I never want to relive the worst experience of my life. However, with the 11th anniversary of my son’s death in Iraq on 04/04/04 approaching and the new “blockbuster” infecting movie screens around the world, I really must get this off of my chest.

Most citizens of this nation are without a doubt addicted to wars and war “heroes” without stopping for more than a few cursory seconds to count the costs or evaluate the propaganda. I despair that a movie like American Sniper grossed over 105 million at the box office over the weekend where we are supposed to be commemorating the birth of a man of peace, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Everything in American Sniper is taken for fact when the author and focus Chris Kyle already had been proven to have been a blowhard and a liar, when the facts and political motivations of Selma are being questioned.

As is the US addicted to its wars, it is also addicted to lying about them and I know this because I have my own case about Casey for proof.

We got the news about Casey about 14 hours or so after his detail had been ambushed in Iraq. After I lie on the floor screaming for I don’t know how long, the three emissaries of death couldn’t really tell us much except that he was Killed In Action (KIA)—I still can’t see a KIA brand car without my heart sinking.

Since Casey’s murder, I have found out so much about the US military I had no idea about, but when a group of troops (Battalion? Unit? Army? Murder?) get deployed to combat, some stay back as “Funeral Duty.” Two such persons came to Casey’s funeral and regaled us with stories about what a wonderful mechanic he was and how he had “volunteered” to go on the mission that killed him. Even though neither story rang true to me, I absorbed them like a dry sponge (as I was from all the tears I shed) wanting to hang on to some news of my son because he had only been there in Iraq a few days before he was killed. We didn’t even know he was stationed at Camp War Eagle right in the heart of Sadr City, Baghdad.

Casey had joined the Army in the year 2000 for college benefits and with the promise from his lying recruiter that he could be a Chaplain’s Assistant. I knew from our many conversations that Casey hated being a Humvee mechanic, but that was the only MOS (military job) available when he got to boot camp.

Also, the very final time he was home (oh, how I wish I knew for sure it was the final time, I would have carried out my half-joking threat to run him with my car just enough to disable him) at Christmas of 2003, he told everyone he was just going to “do his job” and come home safely because, as a Christian and gentle man, he could “never kill anyone.” All of this didn’t jibe at all with Casey “volunteering.”

By drips and drabs, the truth came out. Much has been written with the Imperial spin about 04/04/04 in Sadr City—about how the First Cavalry (Casey’s unit, or whatever) was attacked by the residents of Sadr City, but from unembedded journalists we have found out that the 1st Cav went out to provoke a response to show the residents who was “in charge now." April 4th was also right after the mercenaries of Blackwater had provoked the residents of Fallujah into an uprising that resulted in the highly publicized deaths of several mercenaries.

Four years after Casey died, I received an email from one of his buddies who was right next to him on that fateful evening.

The vet started his email with, “Sheehan was a great guy, but he was a lousy mechanic.” Which made me smile, because it rang true, but then he delivered the coup de gras:

“I don’t know why you keep telling everyone it was Bush’s fault, it was Sgt. (Name withheld by me)’s fault. He made your son go on that mission and in fact told him to ‘get your goddamn ass on that truck’ after Sheehan had said, ‘no, I am not going, I am only a mechanic.’”

Even though I sobbed when I read that, I knew it was true. Casey knew he could never kill anyone and to me he is far more of a hero for not wanting to kill than is Chris Kyle for his self-proclaimed "more than 250" murders of what he called “savages.”

How much courage does it really take for a sniper to be given co-ordinates from a spotter and then firing from hundreds of yards away? To me that is the definition of cowardice even forgetting about the lies that got both Casey and Kyle to Iraq and the ones who made billions in profits while Casey died thousands of miles away from his loving home and a vet with PTSD would ironically end up murdering Kyle back here in the states.

I will always be proud of my son who is a grand hero to me for refusing orders in the heat of battle and ashamed by a cold-blooded killer like Kyle and a nation that lifts him up as the standard of heroism. I find it supremely ironic and sad that NOT being a killer is frowned upon here while being a happy killer makes one a best-selling author and garners all kinds of award nominations and ticket sales for those who wish to exploit this nation’s bloodlust.

This truly makes me wonder if there is any hope to end the evil of US empire, or are we doomed to “wash, rinse, and repeat” these stories of infamy and tragedy over and over again until the USA collapses from the weight of all the carnage.



Robert Gomez
01/20/2015 5:08pm

Thank you Cindy, for sharing this. My mind cannot think any words to describe my feelings about this, It made me cry as a parent, and as your friend. I am glad that we are friends, and may your life be filled with the love and laughter of your grandchildren forever!

Cindy Sheehan
01/20/2015 5:18pm

Thank you Robert!

Barry Heath
01/20/2015 6:48pm

Cindy, Thanks for sharing this story and your comments. Lost my brother in Nam. Still miss him. Shalom.

01/20/2015 8:33pm

Shalom and salaam and Sheehan (Gaelic for peace)

Scott Duncan
01/20/2015 7:13pm

Although not a parent, my thoughts and words are exactly as Robert Gomez' comment, above.
It seems such a divided nation, with far, far, far too many people loving the violence and blindness of war. Our mainstream media certainly colluded and whitewashed both the horrors we inflicted, and the vast corruption of the militarism.
Your last sentence here is where I'm at too.
I heart you, Cindy Sheehan.

Cindy Sheehan
01/20/2015 8:34pm

Yet, we continue...thanks Scott!

Buzz Davis, Veterans for Peace
01/20/2015 7:33pm

Cindy I am very sorry for your son's death and all the other senseless deaths, grievous injuries and destruction in war. Maybe we will "never learn." But you and many others are fighting back against these death machines we call governments. This is a fight we can never stop.
Cindy your story reminds me of some of the worst days of my life. I was a lieutenant stationed at Fort Bragg, NC. One day I was informed that I was to serve as a survival assistance officer. I soon found out what that duty was.
I had to go tell a family that their young son was missing in action. The soldier killed was a young Black man about 18, drafted and had been in Vietnam just a week or two.
The Mother and Father were divorced or separated. The Army demanded I go and tell the Father first. I had to go to the Mother's town to ask were the Father was, then go tell him in another town where he was working and then drive back to the Mother's town and tell her. The agony for the Mother and his sisters was probably terrible because when people saw my military car and driver I am sure the phones started ringing and they all dreaded for those we were going to see.
Then a few days later the Fort received a telegram that the young man had been killed in action in a firefight.
I told the colonel I should go tell the Mother first and then tell the Father after I found out where he was working that day. But he said you will tell the father.
So I found the Father an older man in a large field near a pile of lumber. By the time I walked across the field to him he was just standing there in the hot sun, shoulders slumped all alone with his hands at his side. I reached him and he says I know what you're going to tell me. And I said yes. He says sit down. So we sit on the pile of lumber and I tell him his son has been killed. We talk a bit and he explains how much he appreciates me coming and telling him. I thank him and we shake hands. As I walk across that field back to my waiting driver I think I tell him his only son is dead and he is very kind to me and thanks me for coming all the way to tell him in person.
An hour or two later I am back at the Mother's home. Of course they all know by now. From the very bright sun light his sister leads me to her Mom's bedroom. She is in bed in the dark with just small low light lamp at the side of the bed and a chair. She says he's gone isn't he. I say yes and she wants me to sit down. I open the telegram and tell her that her son has been killed in a firefight. Then I hear a gasp in the room and I look up. There are about 5 men and women standing around the bed that I had not seen in the dark...They had all been waiting with her.
The Mother then asked was he in much pain. I said what? With the fire and all. Then I realized she thought I was telling her her son had burned to death. And I thought to myself God we can't even get it straight how to tell loved ones their son is dead.
So I explain that her son was a gun battle which the Army calls a firefight. She felt better that he son had not burned to death.
Then I went back a week later to escort his body to the funeral home and prepare everything for the funeral. Fortunately a sergeant escorted the man's casket from the East Coast and that sergeant taught me and the detail of soldiers sent to help with the funeral what to do.
The family wanted to have the casket unlocked - my orders were the military said the casket was to be kept locked. I said to the funeral director and the sergeant I think the casket needs to be kept closed. But I knew what they wanted to do. By that time in Vietnam, there were some unusual things going on with bodies and some of course were badly destroyed. So I left to do something else. When I returned the sergeant and funeral director showed me the young man's body and we were all thankful everything was ok.
I will never forget giving his Mother, a very small slender woman, the American flag after we removed it from his casket at the funeral.
The chairs for the family were very close to the grave. At the proper time, I knelt in front of her with the folded flag and said on behalf our nation and the president of the United States of America I present this flag in honor of your son's sacrifice to our nation.
Just as I finished this the rifles went off with a very loud crack a couple feet away from the foot of the grave. People screamed and jumped up. I was so startled I jumped up, the Mother jumped up, I started falling backward into the open grave toward the casket. She reached out and grabbed me. There we were holding on to each other with the flag wedged between us. I then sat her back down, saluted and went to the back and the minister took over to conduct the ceremony.
And now I have blocked that young solder's name and that wonderful family's name from my memory. I think my brain just does not want to revisit those times. But my brain certainly unlocked tonight.
So much senseless d

Buzz Davis, Veterans for Peace
01/20/2015 7:34pm

So much senseless death and it goes on and on century after century.
Cindy, you son had courage to try to say no. I was trained as an infantry officer and I determined that if I was told to do what I felt was illegal that I hoped I would have the courage to refuse. I was fortunate to be assigned to S. Korea and never put is a situation where I would have to decide. Your son had courage I think.
Thank you for all your efforts to help bring these wars to a close and help people work hard for building peace rather than wars!
May You Have Peace
Buzz Davis, member, Veterans for Peace, Stoughton, WI

01/23/2015 12:11am

Mr. Davis, thank you for the is story. More people should hear your story and that of this one boy, and not the story of Chris Kyle. The world would be a better place for it.

Cindy Sheehan
01/20/2015 8:32pm

your story is deeply touching and I am glad you shared it here.


Diane Rejman
01/21/2015 2:10pm

Hi Cindy,
Your story is simply heartbreaking. I had never realized the KIA car connection. How horrible that is.
I agree completely about this horrific movie about a disgusting person doing one of the most inhuman "jobs" ever invented. I think the story should be told about the young veteran who accidentally shot him. I suspect there is much to that part of the story that would be of great interest. I'm hard pressed to believe Kyle went to his grave with a clear conscience. I can't believe he didn't have moments (or hours or days) when he looked at his life and realized what kind of person he had become when he agreed to do these deeds.
I have always felt a sadness about your loss of Casey, who it seems was a wonderful young man who deserved better.

carroll price
01/23/2015 5:25am

First of all my heartfelt sympathy goes out to Cindy and many others in her position. But how are we to benefit from their bitter experience? In my opinion, one of the best ways to do so is that as parents and responsible adults, we must come to a stark realization that today's US Military has very little to do with defense of this country, but exist primarily as a tax-payer supported police force for corporate America. Which leads to the conclusion that as moral and responsible adults, we must all perform the moral duty of teaching our children and grandchildren, and encourage our friends and neighbors to teach their children and grandchildren, to never, ever join any branch of the US Military for any reason whatsoever. And that means NONE. Not for a promise of being assigned a safe clerical job, not for the promise of acquiring free schooling or training to learn a valuable technical skill, and not for the promise of free college tuition etc. Military recruiters are selected primarily because they happen to possess two distinct qualities. With the first quality being a pleasant, firm, macho personality that greatly appeals to many young males, combined with a second even more important quality which is the ability to convincingly lie to innocent gullible, victims with a straight face. Military recruiters have been given one specific job to perform; Which is to provide a steady, uninterrupted stream of warm, living, breathing human bodies to a profit-producing killing machine called the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) to be used for any purpose they see fit.

01/23/2015 4:06pm

I shoot steel targets at 1000 yds. as a hobby. With the right rifle, trigger, cartridge, 12 x 24 scope and practice it is not that difficult. You don't need a spotter to help, just a good 60X spotting scope I grew up in Texas in the 1950's and guns were abundant and used to entertain oneself along with riding a horse. There is nothing heroic about shooting anything at 1000 yds. wearing camo clothing. The "savages" have no artillery as in Vietnam and WW1 and WW2 so that can't just blow you away.
The Kyle story is stupid at best. Just watch the old movie "All Quiet On The Western Front." You will see the coward at the end of the movie.

01/23/2015 5:00pm

I have cowboy books from the early 1910s in which American authors contemptuously called people who shot others from concealment "bushwhackers".

Apparently things have changed in the years since.

There's nothing particularly amiss about the sniper speciality...when you're on a battlefield and the other side has artillery and air power to hit you back it can even be heroic. But obviously this was nothing like that.

carroll price
01/24/2015 3:59pm

As late as WW 2 sniping form ambush was looked down on and condemned by the average American soldier serving in combat. I remember reading many years ago an American Marine's account of the Battle of Iwo Jima in which he mentioned the fact that for several days following the main battle, there were still scattered Japanese soldiers occupying fortified positions, when a particular Marine in their unit began slipping out in the middle of the night and shooting from ambush unsuspecting Japanese sentries manning their post. The Marine who related the story commented that he and his buddies all considered the practice cowardly and forbade the fellow Marine from continuing the practice, under threat of death. I have also read that armies formally recognized the practice of sniping from ambush, as a tactic that only losing armies resorted to as a last resort. An additional historical fact some may be unaware of, is that the famous war correspondent, Ernie Pile was shot and killed a day or two after the war ended by a single bullet fired by a Japanese sniper concealed in a palm tree on the Island of Eia Shima, off the coast of Okinawa.

Mike Kelly
01/23/2015 6:14pm

Very moving and ultimately depressing. My condolonces.

Steve Parry
01/25/2015 10:13am

I had reasonably strong feelings about not wanting to see this film. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but there is just something in my mind that considers snipers as dishonorable. If you, as a soldier are going to take another human beings life, at least have the honor to do it to his face or at the very least in your own self defense. To take a life from 500-1,000 yards away completely anonymously, just strikes me as the act of a coward. This article has just confirmed those feelings. This is especially so in the light of the circus that has surrounded Kyles recent funeral in Texas, where he has been virtually raised to some level of "patriotic sainthood" in the minds of a disturbingly large segment of our citizenry. From all that I have read about Kyle and what he did in Iraq, I have no problem in simply considering him as a flat out red-neck, bigoted, racist killer. The fact that he wore the uniform I also once wore, only makes his actions and those who directed them all the more shameful.
Kind Regards,
Steve Parry (VFP Ch39 NE Ohio)

Steve Parry
01/26/2015 11:21am

In 1971-72, as a young 1st Lt. Ranger, I commanded LRRP team (long range recon patrol) attached to the 101st Airborne Div. operating deep into the Ah Shau valley, Vietnam. My team and I accepted regular army North Vietnamese troops as legitimate and respected enemy as a matter of course, but the one thing we universally loathed were snipers.
I find the fact that Kyle should be so highly regarded, much less have a movie made about his cowardly profession to be an indication of how desensitized Americans have become to the barbarism of war and the considerable erosion of the moral character of our country. It is my heartfelt prayer that the Academy Awards give American Sniper a complete pass!

Peggy Bean
01/25/2015 10:23am

Cindy, thanks for this. I am appalled that American Sniper even got made - and so depressed that it is making so much money. I wish things were different but I fear America is lost....there isn't anything to be done but I admire you for at least trying. Love and light, P

01/25/2015 1:21pm

It comes as no surprise to libertarians that when governments use aggression at home to finance their operations they use much of that loot to aggress abroad. To really advocate peace pacifists need to apply their principles consistently. The use of force is either consonant with pacifist principles or it isn't. There is no magic of the collective that excuses the government using force in a way that is immoral for individuals to do so. I have no doubt that no one reading these words would themselves ever use force, or the threat thereof, to separate anyone from their money. Why then do they advocate that the government do so? Taxation isn't consonant with pacifist principles. It can't be enforced without using force, a violation of everything pacifists claim to stand for. Until they resolve this conflict pacifists may say they want peace but are really the enablers of war and other aggressions. We won't get rid of the scourge of war until we rid ourselves of the scourge of taxation.

carole slom
01/25/2015 2:18pm

Just read about the little girl that integrated the school in Alabama her name was ruby .she is a hero to me.not some sniper .this is one of the problems our choice of hero's.I am truly sorry for your loss .

01/25/2015 4:18pm

"Casey, you have a courageous mother. And peace to you Cindy Sheehan"

01/25/2015 6:34pm

Only when the citizens of this country stop bestowing hero status on psychopaths like Chris Kyle, and the Casey Sheehans outnumber the Chris Kyles, will this madness stop.

01/25/2015 11:45pm

Cindy, thanks so much for sharing this heart-wrenching perspective of Casey. I am honored to know him through his wonderful, heroic mother. I was with friends this weekend (at the memorial service of a Vietnam veteran friend of mine) and American Sniper came up at breakfast. After discussing the motivations of filmmaker Eastwood and the misdirected adulation for psychos like Kyle, one of twenty-something cousins of my deceased friend said that she had known nothing but war her whole life and fully expected the USA to collapse in her lifetime, echoing your conclusion almost word for word. A true cost of war in the form of almost complete resignation, even surrender, by a generation. Tough to hear when the oldtimers feel like we're on the ropes. Rest assured, my friend, that my grandkids will know Casey's true heroism.

02/23/2015 11:09pm

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