Loving the warrior, hating the war

Davis couple are heading to D.C. to demand their son’s return from war

Laurie and Russell Loving with a picture of their son as a boy. The couple are headed to Washington, D.C., later this month for what may be the largest anti-war protests to date.

Laurie and Russell Loving with a picture of their son as a boy. The couple are headed to Washington, D.C., later this month for what may be the largest anti-war protests to date.

Photo By Larry Dalton

Political landmines litter the home front. Military families, left behind by soldiers off to fight in Iraq, face their own battles, fighting in a private war that has gotten some labeled as “traitors.” Can one love the warrior but hate the war?

It’s the predicament facing Laurie Loving and her husband, Russell, a Davis couple with a son at war. The self-described peaceniks long have opposed the Iraq war, but the August 16 deployment of their son has the pair redoubling their efforts to end it.

Their son keeps quiet about their protest. Fearing retaliation from his fellow soldiers, the Lovings said, their son and his wife expressed their desire for complete and total anonymity. Laurie says her soldier is worried about disrupting his military career—a lifestyle this mother never imagined for her once-rebellious little boy.

She said her son, then finishing high school, was looking for money to start a business and needed a job that could provide housing and a steady income for his then-fiancee. The Army promised both: a home on the base and a $5,000 signing bonus. However, the money evaporated quickly as the newly minted Army man paid for relocating expenses.

In a month’s time, the money was gone, and as Laurie’s son continued his training, his enlistment became a point of contention within the family.

“[It was] devastating for the family when he called to say he had enlisted as the war had started. Eventually, we came to an uneasy truce the last two years,” she said. “To our surprise, he took to the military life, became disciplined and is an excellent soldier.”

Laurie and Russell can’t stop gushing over the accomplishments of their soldier son—their pride is visible, and their respect for his choices apparent. But that pride does not quell the fear of losing him to what they call a “lost cause.” Her son may be a grown-up man, with a family of his own, but Laurie says she sees only her boy: the baby she bore at home, the child who “laughed her out of being mad.”

She wants him home—now.

And, to that end, the Lovings (armed with “Bush Lied” pins and “Veterans for Peace” T-shirts) are seeking out like-minded military families to support their anti-war movement.

“There is no way I can stay silent while [my son] is deployed and people are being needlessly killed at this point,” Laurie said. “The Bush administration has no plans to either win or end the war.”

Forming a regional chapter of the nonprofit organization Military Families Speak Out, the Lovings will host their first anti-war meeting September 16. The time and place are available upon request through e-mail at lloving@dcn.org.

“We want to comfort other military families who share our feelings and are opposed to the war,” said Russell, a Vietnam-era veteran. “Military Families Speak Out is a way for them to connect with other people without having necessarily to expose themselves.”

In addition to developing a support group, the Davis couple hope to encourage other military families to join them at an anti-war rally on September 24 in Washington, D.C.

Organizers with both the “Bring Them Home Now” tour and the opposing “Support the Troops and Their Mission” tour (being put together by the conservative Move America Forward group) are predicting that the event will be among the largest anti-war protests so far.

The Lovings will max out their credit cards to join the event, inspired by Cindy Sheehan, the Vacaville woman who garnered national headlines in August after she held a month-long anti-war vigil outside President Bush’s Crawford, Texas, ranch. Sheehan’s 24-year-old son, Casey, died in Iraq last year.

“Cindy was definitely an inspiration. … She came across … so genuine, with tears streaming down her face but speaking with such conviction,” Laurie said.

And like Sheehan, Laurie has drawn protesters of her own. In a letter to The Davis Enterprise (after the paper published an interview with Laurie), one critic accused her of simply being one of many “terrified mothers.”

But Russell says his wife is a brave woman, undeserving of denigration. “I’m proud of her, and I’m proud of the fact that she is willing to express a deep feeling like being terrified, being vulnerable. I think a lot of military families don’t act as if they’re vulnerable. They come out with a stoicism, but it’s the soldiers that are taught to be stoic,” Russell said. “I think it takes a pretty brave person who is willing to share—is willing to be vulnerable.”

But criticism of the Lovings’ views doesn’t end in Davis: San Francisco radio personality Melanie Morgan has been an outspoken opponent of the anti-war movement—especially anti-war military families. Morgan, co-chair of the pro-Bush, pro-war organization Move America Forward, issued a commentary last week reinforcing her belief that supporting the mission supports the troops.

“That’s an important part of Move America Forward’s mission—to get the word out that now is not the time to cut and run on our troops,” she wrote. “As long as we have boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must stand up, raise our voices … that no matter what, the people of this nation will not abandon our support for our troops and their mission as our nation did to the veterans who came home from Vietnam.”

The Davis couple profoundly disagree with Morgan. Laurie and Russell say their support for the troops goes without saying—like their support for their son.

“There is this message out [to military families] that if you don’t support the war, then you don’t support your son or daughter. We want to put the message out that that’s not true,” Russell said. “There are other people who share their feelings, and they’re not betraying their families.”

But Laurie is not distracted by her detractors. She has her mind set on one goal: bringing her son, and all the sons and daughters, back home.

“I know there are bills in Congress now, demanding an exit strategy,” Laurie said. “But I want as many troops as possible out—yesterday.”