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August 25, 2005

Cindy Sheehan meet Tammy Pruett

From the Houston Chronicle...

President Bush on Wednesday praised an Idaho woman whose husband and five sons were sent to Iraq, saying she's an example of how military families really feel about the war....

Pruett's husband, Leon, and sons, Eric, Evan, Greg, Jeff and Eren, have all served in Iraq.

"Tammy says this ... 'I know if something happens to one of the boys, they would leave this world doing what they believe, what they think is right for our country,' " Bush said. " 'And I guess you couldn't ask for a better way of life than giving it for something that you believe in.' America lives in freedom because of families like the Pruetts."

CNN has some more info on the Pruett family...

The Pruetts have four sons serving in combat in Iraq. Eric, Evan, Greg and Jeff are completing an 18-month tour of duty in Iraq with the Army National Guard. Leon and the couple's fifth son, Eren, are just back from Iraq, and daughter Emily would have gone but had not completed her training when her brothers shipped out....

Second Lt. Eric Pruett, 26, is a tank platoon commander in charge of 23 soldiers and the training of Iraqi police. In civilian life, Eric is an assistant manager at a Wal-Mart.

Spc. Evan Pruett, 23, fixes the vehicles his brothers and their units use for missions, and repairs those damaged by makeshift bombs. Back home, he is a bartender and first-time father.

Spc. Greg Pruett, also 23, is a missionary-turned-communications expert currently living at the former home of Ali Hassan al-Majid -- known as "Chemical Ali" for allegedly gassing Kurdish villagers in late 1980s and early 1990s....

Spc. Jeff Pruett, 20, hunts for insurgents and weapons and trains new Iraqi forces. Back home, he is a grocery store clerk.

...and there's even a transcript of the interview the family did last year...

ZAHN: Captain Leon Pruett, otherwise known as dad, and his son, Specialist Aaron (ph) Pruett, train Iraqi firefighters.

CAPTAIN LEON PRUETT, IDAHO ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: We've had close calls just with Aaron and I over there.

SPECIALIST AARON PRUETT, IDAHO ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: My dad is my commander. I'm kind of glad he was with me and kind of helped in aspects where you needed talk to somebody.

ZAHN: Younger brother Jeff is a private 1st class.

JEFF PRUETT, IDAHO ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: They're going to put us all in the same camp when we're over in Iraq. So it sounds like we'll all be together, so -- and that will help a lot.

ZAHN: Older brother Greg (ph) is a specialist.

GREG PRUETT, IDAHO ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: Soldiers are dying but that's war. And we're willing to that take risk. We love our country. We're a very patriotic family. I'm sure you saw my brother's car over there, painted it red, white and blue. And we're all willing to go over there and do what we have to do over there.

PRUETT: This is the guy in charge right here.

ZAHN: Eldest brother Eric is a 2nd lieutenant.

E. PRUETT: We passed down that we should look after each other and we'll continue to do it through until we get done with this.

ZAHN: Their mother, Tammy, holds on to hope.

TAMMY PRUETT, MOTHER OF SOLDIERS: Our odds are a lot higher than most families. And, yes, it would be horrible to lose one of my sons. They're all, I think, prepared to make that sacrifice. And it would be horrible. I'm not going to kid and say, oh, I could really get through that easily, because I couldn't.

L. PRUETT: Sure, there is a dangerous side, but somebody's got to go do it and somebody has got to help those folks. And so, if it's our sons, then it's going to be our sons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a smile.

ZAHN: It might have been seven Pruetts serving. Daughter Emily (ph) was in dad's unit, but opted out of the family business.

EMILY PRUETT, FORMER U.S. SOLDIER: Be grateful for what they do for us and for going over there and fighting for us. So we just pray, pray that they'll be OK. ...

ZAHN: Tammy, we heard you talk a little bit earlier on about the magnitude of what it means to have four of your sons in Iraq at one time. Try to be as candid as you can with us tonight. Did you, in your heart of hearts, want to discourage any of them from following through with this commitment?

T. PRUETT: No, I didn't. I know that they're all very committed. None of them would turn their back on a responsibility that they've been given.

And they're just very dedicated young men. They enjoy the work that they do in the National Guard and they enjoy the camaraderie that they have with their other members of the units. And I would not take that away from them and expect someone else's son to go in my son's place just because I felt a little uneasy about them being over there. So, no, that was way down on the list of worries and concerns that I had, was trying to make them stop.

ZAHN: What does it mean to you as a mother to know that four of them might, at some point, end up together, or at least see each other, in Iraq during their service? Is that all comforting?

T. PRUETT: Oh, tremendously. It was such a relief when Aaron and Lee (ph) were in Iraq together to know that, even though they were a long way from home, they had each other, that, even if it was only just five minutes out of a day that they could separate from everybody else and say hello to each other, you know, how you doing, I heard from mom on e-mail or I heard from Eric on e-mail, it just made it so much easier for them, which, in turn, made it so much easier for us back here, knowing they had some comfort other than just, you know, their fellow unit members, which is close, but not the same as family.

So with the other four going, it's going to be great.

ZAHN: But, Leon, you've been in Iraq. And your just mentioned -- or Tammy just mentioned your son Aaron was in Iraq as well. So you know how dangerous it is over there. What is your chief concern now as you watch four of your sons serve their country from there?

L. PRUETT: Well, you don't dwell on the dangers. That's just part of the job. And it's hard to say that, I guess, or for people to understand that. But for them to be there and do this and they have other soldiers in their units to count on as well. And they're all professionals. And they'll help each other. It's a team effort. And they're part of that team and they enjoy it.

ZAHN: What kind of advice have you given your sons?

L. PRUETT: Just to pray a lot. You know, heavenly father is out there and he'll help you and he'll help you get through all this and the sacrifice that you're doing with your family and being apart. That's the strongest thing, I guess in anything that I would tell anybody else is to do that and count on everybody else that's there to help you and help them.

ZAHN: Because you have served there yourself, you have obviously been exposed to the hard-core reality of what your sons face. Is there any other piece of information you passed along to them that you think might help them?

L. PRUETT: I think the thing that I keep telling them and telling a number of folks, there's a lot of positive things that are going on over there. We trained 38 Iraqi men to be firefighters. Some day, one of those firefighters will save someone's life.

And so you look at those positive things and you try to pick up on those and don't dwell on the negative parts of things that happen in war. And so that's what I try to tell all of the people I deal with and tell about Iraq.

ZAHN: I know, Tammy, that you all talked a little bit earlier on, it seemed just to be a natural thing for all of the members of your family to serve in the Army National Guard there in Idaho. But is there a part of you that understands when people listen to this story tonight, they're absolutely captivated by your story and so inspired. Do you even focus in on that?

T. PRUETT: Well, not really. I mean, I'm glad it inspires people and I hope that it does inspire people to look for the good that we're doing in Iraq, because, like Lee, I think we're doing a lot of wonderful things over there for the Iraqi people.

And so if we can inspire people that way, then I'm very happy about that. It's, you know, just normal for us. We haven't lived any other way. From the time Lee and I have been married, he's gone to National Guard one weekend a month and two weekends in the summer. And the kids just grew up seeing that. And then, in turn, all of them at 17 took that same step and so they've just done it, some of them for more years than others, but it's just a natural part of what we do.

So to us, it's not out of the ordinary at all.

...meanwhile down in Crawford, Texas...

With singing and tears, protest mom Cindy Sheehan returned to her vigil near President Bush's ranch Wednesday, less than a week after leaving to care for her ailing mother....

Asked later how it felt to be back at "Camp Casey," Sheehan gave two thumbs up. Her supporters, who have dwindled significantly in numbers during her absence, are hoping that Sheehan's return will rejuvenate their anti-war effort by bringing more attention back to Crawford....

In downtown Crawford, meanwhile, another grieving parent is gaining attention.

Gary Qualls, a Temple man whose son, Louis, was killed in Iraq, came to Crawford as a protest to Sheehan's protest. A soft-spoken veteran and Bush supporter, Qualls is presiding over an orderly series of tents dubbed "Fort Qualls" behind the Yellow Rose gift shop....

Of his counterparts at Camp Casey, Qualls said, "It's more than apparent they have come here to wage war against decent people."

This weekend, a caravan of demonstrators opposed to Sheehan's vigil are due to arrive in Crawford from San Diego. The "You Don't Speak for Us, Cindy" tour is expected to bring at least 10,000 more demonstrators to this tiny ranching community.

Gregg Garvey, whose son, Justin, was killed in Iraq, drove up to Crawford from Florida and pulled into town on Tuesday. He and Qualls have both retrieved from Sheehan's camp the memorial crosses bearing their sons' names.

"It didn't make me feel good that my son's cross was sitting in a ditch," Garvey said.

Quite a contrast between the two mothers, isn't there.

Some of Cindy's fellow war protestors have decided to one-up Cindy in the shameless exploitation department, and have begun harassing wounded soldiers at military hospitals...

The Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., the current home of hundreds of wounded veterans from the war in Iraq, has been the target of weekly anti-war demonstrations since March. The protesters hold signs that read "Maimed for Lies" and "Enlist here and die for Halliburton."

The anti-war demonstrators, who obtain their protest permits from the Washington, D.C., police department, position themselves directly in front of the main entrance to the Army Medical Center, which is located in northwest D.C., about five miles from the White House. Among the props used by the protesters are mock caskets, lined up on the sidewalk to represent the death toll in Iraq.

Someone needs to join them with a sign that says,

“Our freedom to publicly
make idiots of ourselves,
courteously provided by
the wounded soldiers
we are taunting.”

VA protest coverage: Damian Penny, Baldilocks, Balloon Juice, Outside the Beltway, WizBang, Mark in Mexico, In the Agora

Posted by Danny Carlton at August 25, 2005 07:04 AM

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That is unforgivable. These anti's should certainly practice what they preach (Peace? yea right) and stop their assaults. That is so low, so low.

Posted by: SherlockRWBShoes at August 25, 2005 08:06 AM

"Quite a contrast between the two mothers, isn't there."

Yes there is. Nne has lost her child, while the other hasn't lost anything yet, since her family is alive and well.

But that's a wonderfully specious comparison you draw there between two mothers who have nothing in common.

Posted by: John S. at August 26, 2005 07:59 AM

My heart goes out to those who fight for our freedom!
1016th reserve in Idaho
Someone with the 1016th completely stole my heart with a look in his eyes. I know his name and he knows mine, but I don't know if I'll ever see him again. I laughed for 2 incredible days - Nov.26th and early Nov.27th, but since this morning (11/27/05) I've cried my eyes out, not knowing if he's going to war and I'll never see those eyes again.

Lost in Idaho...Tana

Posted by: Tana at November 28, 2005 03:59 AM

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