A group made of up families with sons and daughters in the military is hoping to generate support for the troops across Iowa. Dave Elwell of Des Moines is a sergeant in the Army Reserve and the statewide chairman of “Families United for Our Troops and their Mission.” Elwell says the positive things being done by the military overseas aren’t getting reported by the media. He says as a returning veteran their mission and message is very, very important, “Our troops need to know that the people of the United States support them. They need to know that their families support them, their friends support them and our institutions support them. Because when they’re over there fighting, that’s really all the have to hold onto is the fact that they know what they’re doing is right and that the people back home support their mission.”
Elwell is a sergeant in the reserve who served a tour in Iraq. He says, “I saw the good work that we’re doing. I saw the difference that we’re making to the lives of the Iraqi people. When I got back, when I saw a majority of the news stories, it didn’t look like the Iraq that I left. I didn’t see the positive news stories, so that’s our mission, to get those positive messages out. That our troops are making a difference, we’re making the world and America safer by helping to create a democracy in Iraq.”
The group includes “Gold Star” families — or those families that have lost a family member in the fighting. Karen Fisher of Cedar Rapids is a co-chair of the group. Fisher’s husband Paul died in Iraq in November of 2003 when the Chinook helicopter he was flying was shot down. She says the men and women who volunteered to serve need to know that the country is behind them 100-percent. Fishers says, “I know for sure that when my husband got called up, he did not go to war to complete only half the mission. What would our military look like if when the need arises for this country’s protection, our military walked away without completion of what they started.”
Fisher says she agreed to speak out so that her husband’s sacrifice would not be in vain. Fisher says, “I think it sends a very dangerous message to anyone with the intent of harming us, that if they kill enough people then we will just walk away.” She says this “grassroots” organization is a opportunity for them to voice the message and let everyone see the good things that’re going on. She says, “It seems to be a lot easier to report all the violence going on, than to take the high road and report all the wonderful accomplishments we have seen.”
M.E Ward of Council Bluffs lost her son, Thomas Houser in fighting in Iraq in January of last year. Ward is also a “Blue Star” mother as she has another son in the marines in Iraq. She says it’s funny that we all hear the negative. Ward says when Thomas was decorated the bronze star after his death, allot of his buddies returned for the ceremony, “And they said that they would go back in a minute to help fight for the mission of freedom.” Ward says her sons always believed in “God and Country,” and they showed that belief by joining the military. She says, “And I believe if we continue this mission, not only will people be free in all of the countries that we help promote, but we will be more of free country here in our own cities and our own country.”
Diane Ibbotson of Albia, Illinois also attended the Iowa group’s announcement. Ibbotson’s son Jostes died alongside Casey Sheehan. Sheehan’s mother gained notoriety for her protest’s of the war outside President Bush’s Texas ranch. Ibbotson was asked about the difference in their approaches. She says no Gold Star mother speaks for the entire group. Ibbotson says, ” I simply speak for myself and my son and his purpose to bring peace to a troubled world. Of his accomplishments and of our hope for peace in our time. Thomas Payne said, ‘I prefer peace. But if trouble must come, let it come in my time, so that my children can live in peace’, perhaps that describes the difference.”
The group was formed by State Senator Chuck Larson of Cedar Rapids who spent time in Iraq with the Army Reserve. Elwell says anyone interested in supporting the cause can do so by logging onto their website at www.IowaFamiliesUnited.com. The group is setting up speaking tours with various service clubs throughout the state.