Leslie Fulbright / San Francisco Chronicle – 2004-12-27 09:39:47
(December 27, 2004) — The photos of her only son smiling with Iraqi children minutes before he died in an ambush left Nadia McCaffrey desperate to reach out to Iraqi parents who also have lost their children in what she calls an unjust war.
Amalia Avila wants to fulfill her fallen son’s promise to help end the war and bring peace to Iraq.
The two women, joined by grief and a hope that their sons’ deaths were not in vain, are part of a delegation that left San Francisco on Sunday headed to Jordan with $600,000 in cash, food and supplies including medicine, antiseptics, sutures and blood pressure readers.
The supplies will go to displaced residents of Fallujah living in refugee camps amid a public health crisis. The American attack in November to drive insurgents from the city left 2,000 Iraqis and 71 American soldiers dead and thousands of refugees without adequate food, water, electricity and health care, said Chris Michael of Global Exchange, one of the groups organizing the trip.
The 20-member delegation of human rights workers and parents who lost loved ones will visit hospitals, meet with humanitarian and health care organizations, and go to a refugee camp and a peace vigil near the border.
McCaffrey’s son, National Guard Spc. Patrick McCaffrey, 34, of Tracy, enlisted the day after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He was sent to Iraq in March and killed on June 22 in Balad, leaving a wife and two children. His mother wants to focus on promoting peace and justice and to reach out to Iraqi parents.
“This is a continuation for him, that started right after I faced the fact that I would never see him again,” she said.
Doing This in our Children’s Names
McCaffrey has opposed the war from the start, but felt she needed to speak out and attract attention after her son died. She invited reporters to watch her son’s flag-draped coffin arrive in Sacramento, and she plans to visit Balad in February to see where he died.
“I am doing this in his name, and I will not stop,” she said. “It is fulfilling and emotional and a way to heal. Sharing is important.”
Avila lost her 19-year-old son, Lance Cpl. Victor Gonzalez, on Oct. 13 in a roadside explosion in Al Albar province five weeks after he arrived in Iraq. The Watsonville woman is calling for U.S. troops to come home and wants to deliver humanitarian aid in the meantime.
“I want to continue his goal,” she said. “He went looking for peace, and I am doing the same. I never imagined this would happen. I want to meet children who lost their families, like I lost my son.
“My son didn’t have any idea what he was getting into, but he saw the lies and started to change his mind. I’m going to do the things he can’t do.”
The families and peace organizations raised $100,000, while the Middle East Children’s Alliance and Operation USA contributed the remaining $500,000 in medical supplies.
The trip is sponsored by several groups, including CodePink: Women for Peace; Global Exchange; the Middle East Children’s Alliance; Physicians for Social Responsibility; Peace Action; United for Peace and Justice; and Voices in the Wilderness.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes. E-mail Leslie Fulbright at email@example.com.