Thursday, September 08, 2005

Bring Them Home Now Tour: Central Route Notes


Columbus Ohio:

The day Steven Williams met the TOUR and joined MFSO

When we arrived, we got off a bus in Columbus for a press conference that didn't happen, but we did meet with our local sponsors and were joined by 2 local MFSO families with soldiers serving in Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, based in Columbus. This is the Lima Company that lost 23 soldiers in Iraq the first week in August.

The two families met with the mayor who also has a son in Lima Company. The mayor was warm and welcoming to the two families and the Tour group.

The group encountered a young African-American man (Lietta estimated his age as early 20's), Steven Williams, who's personal experience today was the predominant theme and perhaps underlines a most powerful effect of the Tour in helping citizens find their own voices.

Steven was passing by and stopped to ask questions, including, "I have a cousin serving in Iraq. Does that qualify me to join MFSO? The group inducted him into MFSO immediately and he stayed with them, accompanying them everywhere all day. To his surprise, he found himself very shortly with the group and the two families meeting the mayor of Columbus.

Next the tour group was to meet with aides to the two U.S. senators from Ohio, Republicans Mike DeWine and George Voinovich. Lietta not impressed with how the meetings went with the aides of both senators, but Steven Williams certainly was. He told the tour that he had tried to meet with these same aides previously without success. He expressed an astonished pleasure at having been able to be part of the group that met with them today.

Following the meeting was a debriefing with the press and - you guessed it - Steven Williams got to participate in that debriefing and speak to the press.

At one point during the day, I believe the group was to meet at something called the Huntington Plaza Building but instead went to the Huntington Bank Building and 13 persons got on the elevator which either stopped or did not move after the doors closed. After brief button pushing without results, several cell phones came out and calls were made to 911. Eventually building security got the door open and 13 anxious souls stampeded out of the elevator. Realizing they'd been in the wrong building, they headed to the door only to see 4 fire trucks and a brigade of fire fighters carrying fire axes for breaking down the elevator door charging up the stairs.

The group attended a huge potluck dinner at a Mennonite Church after which a panel of speakers made presentations and participated in discussions. On the panel were the Tour group, one of the Ohio MFSO members, a mother of one of a marine in Lima Company due to return in a month. She spoke (she said for the first time publicly) and gave a wonderful speaking of her story for 15 minutes. Next?

You guessed it. Steven Williams who was now astonishing even himself. Celeste Zappala, MFSO/Gold Star Mothers was the concluding speaker and Lietta says the local supporters were inspired by all the talks.

Then came a powerful candlelight vigl followed. Lietta was then asked to interview with local Channel 4 and she insisted on including Steven Williams who took a significant part in the interview. Lietta and Tour Group partner Bill Mitchell (MFSO/Gold Star) more or less shepherded Steven Williams through the day. At the end of the day Steven Williams told them with awe in his voice,

"This morning I got up to go to the library, but then met these people, joined MFSO, then saw the mayor, the aides to two U.S. Senators, spoke to an audience of supporters at a Mennonite Church and then got interviewed by Channel 4 News!"

He was so excited he called his grandmother to tell her to watch the 11:00 News.

For Lietta it was an amazing day, especially in being able to see letting others - especially local supporters - have a chance to speak for the whole group. The Mennonites were great, the vigil powerful and Steven Williams the highlight.

Tomorrow the bus leaves for Cleveland.

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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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