Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Better mutiny than 'suicide'

--------------------Better mutiny than 'suicide' --------------------
Dennis Duggan
October 19, 2004

'I'm proud of my son," said Renee Shealey of her 23-year-old son Scott, one of 18 soldiers who defied orders last week to go on what the soldiers termed a "suicide mission," in Iraq.

She and her husband Ricky live in tiny Quinton, Ala., and they have been thrust into the blinding headlights of the media over their son's decision.But like most of the families of the other soldiers involved, the Shealeys are "proud" of their son, who has been in Iraq for nine months.

Mrs. Shealey said she talked to her son this weekend. He told her he was being processed out of the Army and "will be home in three or four weeks.""He told me 'mother, I don't care what happens to me. I know that we saved some soliders' lives by not going on that mission.'"

The Shealeys are a military family and proud of their military background. Ricky Shealey is a retired Marine sergeant. On television yesterday morning, he said that his son was "depressed" about leaving the military soon.

The soldiers crossed a line drawn in the sand by the military. They are risking their careers and their reputations.One can only imagine what Gen. Patton would have said. He called soldiers who were in hospital beds "cowards" and even slapped one of them.

But this is a different generation.Listen to Raphael Zappala of Philadelphia, whose foster brother Sherwood was killed April 26, when his Humvee exploded after being hit by a shell."I am proud of these soldiers," Zappala said of the mutiny.

Sherwood was 30 and had been in the National Guard for seven years before he was called up for active duty in Iraq last year."He was the sort of guy who wanted to help people. He was married and had a 9-year-old son, and we buried him last May, but no one in the Army can tell me anything about the incident," Zappala said.

But someone is going to have to explain to the families of the more than 1,000 dead and the thousands of men and women left without arms and legs why these soldiers weren't trained, why they had such poor equipment and why there is a back door draft making soldiers return to a war few understand."

Sherwood was in site security, and he had to buy his own GPS and a flak jacket with his own money," said Zappala, who thinks President George W. Bush "should be impeached" for taking the country to war in Iraq.

"We've been inundated with e-mails and phone calls," said Nancy Lessin, co-founder of Military Families Speak Out, a 2-year-old anti-war group, which began with two families and now represents 2,100 families. Lessin's stepson Joseph is a Marine who was in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and so his involvement in the anti-war activity is personal.

She doubts that the Army's spin - that the mutiny is an isolated incident - will be taken seriously by the families of the dead and wounded.It's one thing to stage a private mutiny, but to be part of a platoon of soldiers willing to risk all is far different.

The son of Pat Gunn of Lansdowne, Pa., Jason, 25, was badly wounded earlier this year when a shell hit him while he was in a Humvee convoy in Iraq. His sergeant sitting behind him was killed instantly. "I was duped," she said of the war. "I believed all the reasons we were told why this was necessary. All of them, from the connection of al-Qaida, to the weapons of mass destruction."

Gunn served in the Navy as a recruiter during the Vietnam War and thinks that in this war, there are far more mutinies than what the generals are admitting."I work with a group of Vietnam veterans who were wounded and one of them said over the weekend that talk of mutinies was rife in Vietnam but it was kept quiet."

She makes the point that today's soldier is joined at the hip with the outside world by communication breakthroughs, such as e-mail.Within minutes, the world heard of the 343rd Quartermaster Company's refusal to deliver a shipment of fuel from one air base to another.

Staff Sgt. Michael Butler of Jackson, Miss., told his wife Jackie Butler about the decision to disobey orders within hours of Wednesday's decision to stand down.On Sunday, his wife went to church as usual and told the congregation at the Zion Travelers Missionary Baptist Church about her husband, a 20-year Army veteran, and prayed."Lord, Sister Butler needs you. Her husband, he needs you. All the soldiers in Iraq, they need you."

Copyright (c) 2004, Newsday, Inc. --------------------This article originally appeared at:,0,6919415.column?coll=ny-ny-columnists

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President George W. Bush's statement in March 2006 after 3 yrs of war "a future President will have to resolve war in Iraq"


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