"Who paid for those boots?" asks a smirking, steel-haired man. He's not the first to do so, just the first one today. But it's the end of the week, and my patience has already gone home. I glance at Anne Roesler, nodding my head slightly, to let her know I've got this one.
"Our loved ones did."
"Oh, c'mon" he says disgustedly, "Who paid for 'em?"
"Seriously, our soldiers paid for them."
He tries another tack, and like the fifty-something man the day before, wants to know where he can get some of his own.
I hand him a recruiting brochure and direct him to the nearest military recruiter's office in the area.
"They wouldn't take me, I'm too old."
"Do you have kids?"
"Yeah, but they're in high school."
"That's perfect for the Early Entry program! They can sign up right now and start Basic Training as soon as they graduate."
Shaking his head with disgust, he stalks off. This type of exchange happens daily, but I am still appalled at the callousness of people who first try to make a joke about what we're doing in front of the Cannon House building. When that doesn't work, they say or imply that they support the troops and we do not. But they get angry when we encourage them to demonstrate their support for the troops by actually becoming one, or at the very least, enlisting their children.
This scenario has played out in multiple variations since the vigil began five weeks ago. But not a single person has expressed the slightest bit of interest in committing themselves or their family members to military service. Each time they cut and run, I call out to their retreating backs, "Bring 'em home, or go and help!"
I used to be nicer than this; at least I like to think I was. But five weeks of heat, and humidity, and daily descents into the Seventh Circle of Congressional Hell that is the House--and Senate--offices has burned away any nice I may once have had. What remains is raw, unadulterated truth, a pure passion for peace and the preservation of what is left of our loved ones. I am no longer willing to buffer the edges of my soul in order that the soul of Congress, and the people of this nation, can sleepwalk through this war.
Who has paid for these boots? 2,570 dead American soldiers; 18,988 wounded troops, and the nearly 100,000 Iraq War veterans with some level of post-traumatic stress disorder. For the more than 3,000 members of Military Families Speak Out, the price doubles, triples, quadruples. We pay with our children, our husbands, our brothers, and our wives. We pay in sleepless nights and nightmarish days. We pay with our marriages, our friendships, and sometimes, our jobs. We gave our loved ones to the military; now we give our lives to ending the war.
Who paid for those boots? We did. We still are. And today, it feels like we will be forever.