Soldier's Mother Holds Vigil Near Bush Ranch

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The mother of a fallen U.S. soldier is holding a roadside peace vigil near President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Cindy Sheehan, who wants troops pulled out of Iraq, says she'll stay until the president agrees to meet with her.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

As President Bush spends his August vacation at his ranch in Texas, he's had an unexpected distraction. Her name is Cindy Sheehan, and her son was killed in Iraq last year. Sheehan has set up camp a few miles down the road from the president's property and she says she is staying until the president agrees to meet with her. NPR's David Greene reports.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

The short, winding road to President Bush's ranch is normally quiet, just the way the Secret Service likes it. But these days, before you hit the entrance, you come across Camp Casey. It's a smattering of tents and protest signs.

Ms. CINDY SHEEHAN (Protester): We're about three miles from the president's ranch. It's down Prairie Chapel Road. It's a prairie. We're sitting in the middle of the prairie. We're sleeping in tents in a ditch.

GREENE: Cindy Sheehan says she's keeping a vigil here to honor her son, Casey, an Army specialist who died in Baghdad last year. And she's not leaving until she gets a meeting with the president. Mr. Bush has already dispatched his national security adviser and deputy chief of staff to meet with the war mom, but Sheehan says that's not enough. She says she wants to tell him personally that she's offended whenever she hears him say that the mission in Iraq should be continued in part to honor the fallen.

Ms. SHEEHAN: I just want to tell him to quit using my son's death to justify more killing. On April 4th, 2004, my heart and my soul were ripped out. Why would I want one more mother, if it's Iraqi or American--why would I want one more mother to suffer like I'm suffering just because my son is dead?

GREENE: Sheehan is attracting a supporting cast. They arrive each day, sleeping in tents or in their cars.

Unidentified Man: There are people all over this country tonight that are making their way to Crawford trying to figure out where in the heck it is.

GREENE: Sheehan has become an instant celebrity. Her interviews are now being booked by Abbe DeLozier, a realtor who drove up from Austin and eagerly volunteered to be press secretary.

Ms. ABBE DeLOZIER (Realtor): I've got her scheduled with "Good Morning America," a radio in Seattle, Dallas radio.

GREENE: White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Mr. Bush has no plans for a face-to-face with Cindy Sheehan. He says the president already spoke with her last year in a larger meeting with grieving families.

Mr. TRENT DUFFY (White House Deputy Press Secretary): We mourn the lives of all those who are lost in this conflict in defense of freedom, but we don't want those lives to be lost in vain. And what President Bush believes is necessary is for us to focus on the mission and to complete the mission and not to cut and run in the face of terrorism.

GREENE: Sheehan was part of a group that produced anti-Bush ads during the last presidential campaign. Privately, White House aides have pointed to a newspaper story from Sheehan's hometown of Vacaville, California, which quoted her, after her meeting last year with Mr. Bush, as saying, `I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss.' Sheehan doesn't deny those comments, but she says the president told her at the time that he would not use such meetings with families for political gain. Now Sheehan says one of three things will happen: The president will meet with her, she'll be arrested or she'll spend the hot month of August camped out in a ditch on Prairie Chapel Road.

David Greene, NPR News, Waco, Texas.

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