Saturday, September 24, 2005

Gold Star Families From Across the United States Rally in Support of our Troops and Their Mission

Urge America to stay united behind the men and women fighting the war on terror

Washington, D.C. – Gold Star families from across the United States held a news conference in a downtown ballroom here today to counter the distortions of Cindy Sheehan and to honor the memory of their loved-ones and the cause for which they gave their life. The families that spoke stressed their support and pride for the service of their sons – in stark contrast to the comments by Ms. Sheehan.

Shirley and Bob Hemenway of Kansas City, Missouri, parents of Navy Chief Petty Officer Ronald John Hemenway were among the 44 Gold Star family members in Washington, D.C. to speak out for our troops.

“We are sick and tired of what Cindy Sheehan is doing,” said Mrs. Hemenway. “She is being used, she has a history of this, and it concerns us. Our son died in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. He was never found. He was a husband and father of a two year old and a 10 month old. The evil mis-guided terrorists that are killing our people would just as soon kill Cindy Sheehan, an infidel according to them, as well as others that don't subscribe to the terrorist's convoluted ideas. They even kill other Muslims.”

The Gold Star family members are in the nation’s capital as part of Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission (, a grassroots coalition of Gold Star families, veterans, families with loved-ones in harms way and Americans that share a deep appreciation for our men and women in uniform and support them in their efforts to make America safer by winning the war on terror. The trip to Washington, D.C follows 23 days of “Support Our Troops” events in 30 cities in 22 states, which countered events by those that wanted to erode support for our troops and their mission.

"My brother fought and died fighting terrorists that want to kill Americans,” said Michael Broomhead a contractor in Phoenix. “Sheehan’s supporters have said she lost a son in this war so she has the moral authority to say whatever she wants. If she has moral authority, then these other families have the same authority she has."

Broomhead lost his brother, Sergeant Tom Broomhead, a Bradley commander in the 3rd Armored Reconnaissance Company May 27, 2003 – Memorial Day in the United States – in Fallujah.

Diane Ibbotson of Albion, Illinois who, with husband Von lost their son, Army Cpl. Forest Jostes in Iraq.

“We both lost sons in the same battle, but the similarities pretty much end there,” said Mrs. Ibbotson. “Cindy Sheehan has a right to protest, wave signs, march or whatever, a right she wouldn't have had it not been for men like our sons. We feel sympathy for Mrs. Sheehan, but we're angry because she presumes to speak for so many. I resent the fact that she says she 'speaks for the millions' and is the face of the Gold Star Families. That is not so."

Cpl. Jostes was killed while on a volunteer mission to set up a medical evacuation point for fellow soldiers. He and Casey Sheehan were killed on the same mission.

Gregg Garvey of Keystone Heights, Florida traveled to Crawford, Texas last August to make sure that the honor and service of his son was not tainted by the protesters. Mr. Garvey’s son, Army Sergeant Justin Garvey, was killed July 20, 2003 when ambushed in Tallifar, Iraq.

"Nobody wants war,” said Gregg Garvey. “We liberated Iraq and Afghanistan. We are not an invading army; we are a liberating army. Americans must remember that the same terrorists who killed our loved ones on 9/11 are killing innocent Iraqi civilians.”

M.J. & Clay Kesterson’s son Erik was killed in Iraq. MJ and Clay met the President of the United States at the same event with Cindy Sheehan. Erick had been a Marine for 8 years and joined the Army as a Warrant Officer after 9/11 and became a Black Hawk pilot.

“This is to honor our sons and daughters,” M.J. Kesterson said. “I want you all to understand, we are not speaking out – I, and my husband are speaking up for our troops. We are not protesting as much as we are here to support and stand up and say 'we are proud of our president.’ It is a tough thing to have that knock at the front door, but our son chose not to serve once, but to serve two times.”

The last speaker at the event, Gary Qualls, gained national recognition last August by establishing “Fort Qualls” in Crawford, Texas to present a counter-viewpoint to the anti-war group’s Camp Casey. Qualls’ son, Marine Reservist Lance Cpl. Louis Qualls, was killed in Fallujah November 16, 2004.

“[Anti-war protesters] never asked for my permission to put up a cross for my son for their cause,” said Mr. Qualls. “They are not respecting our sons and daughters. My son gave everything that he could for his country – he had volunteered four times as a Marine Reservist and finally he was accepted to go fight to protect our country. When he witnessed what happened on 9/11 and knew we could not afford to keep sitting around and wait for another 3,000 to be killed by terrorists, or another 3,000, or another 3,000. What they (the Sheehan supporters) want to do is going to get more troops and more Americans killed. We must defeat the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan or we will be fighting them over here.”

Chuck Larson, an Iowa State Senator and founder of Families United for our Troops and Their Mission stressed the importance of letting our men and women fighting the war on terror know that they have the support of Americans back home.

“We want our troops to know that we share their commitment to finishing the incredibly vital work at hand and look forward to welcoming them home when the unstoppable victory is achieved,” said Chuck Larson, himself an Army Reserve Major who spent a year in Iraq. “There are a lot of folks out there saying, ‘We support the troops, but not the mission.’ But you can not have one without the other because cries to bring the troops home now only embolden the terrorists that are killing our troops and innocent Iraqis.

The families have attended numerous events throughout Washington, D.C. and are scheduled to attend and a large rally to support our troops on Sunday, September, 25, 2005 on the Capitol Mall near the Air and Space Museum. For information on the weekend event go to To learn more about Families United for our Troops and Their Mission, go to

Families United for our Troops and Their Mission (, is a grassroots coalition of families united in their steadfast support of our men and women in uniform fighting the War on Terror. The coalition is dedicated to ensure our troops continue to receive the support they need to be allowed to finish their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.