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Grieving Families Demand Answers From the President

With the U.S. death toll in Iraq mounting daily, family members of those killed in combat are speaking out about their grief, and in some cases, their anger. VOA's Paige Kollock reports on how families are handling their losses, and how some are fighting back.

Cindy Sheehan is not coping with her son's death the way many other parents do. She has questions for the President. She says, "I deserve answers from the President. He stole my oldest child from me."

Ms. Sheehan has been camped outside U.S. President George W. Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch for four days, and says she will not leave until she speaks with the President. Her son, 24-year-old Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq last year. After that she began campaigning against the war. Ms. Sheehan's protest is gathering publicity after last week's heavy casualties in Iraq, in which 20 U.S. solders were killed, all of whom happened to be from the same battalion.

At a vigil for the soldiers last week, Paul Montgomery expressed sorrow over his son's death. "Brian felt very fortunate to live in this country and live the life he did. He felt he owed it because he had such a good life in such a wonderful country. He felt he owed it to defend his country."

Not every parent was as positive as Mr. Montgomery, however. Rosemary Palmer says she's tired of hearing about dying soldiers. "Either we got to fight this war or we got to get out. We all have to be aware that if we don't stand up and say that, this war can drag on forever. The politicians are not over there. They are not fighting. They are not losing their kids."

With public approval for the war in Iraq down to 44 percent, President Bush's approval rating slipping and no signs of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, the White House is making a point to recognize families who have lost loved ones.

The President said, "Our men and women who've lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan have died in a noble cause and a selfless cause. And the families can know that we will honor their loved ones' sacrifice by completing the mission."

But the president's words may not be enough for parents like Ms. Sheehan, and others who say they want more than consolation.