The name of Rob Henderson, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, was among 52 Kentucky service members names posted at the fair under a piece of paper that read “In honor of their sacrifices” when Henderson’s wife saw the display.
“It was like someone stabbed me in the heart,” said Lisa Henderson, 27, of Bowling Green. “My husband went over there and was supportive of the military and of going over there. For someone to use his name to end the war and ask to pull all the troops out, my husband would not have been in support of that.”
Related, from the archives of MSNBC:
All war presidents find ways to deal with the strain of sending soldiers off to die. During the Vietnam War, LBJ used to pray after midnight with Roman Catholic monks. Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, prayed with the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church on the eve of the first gulf war. For George W. Bush, these private audiences with the families of dead soldiers and Marines seem to be an outlet of sorts. (They are perhaps harder for Laura, who sometimes accompanies Bush and looks devastated afterward.) Family members interviewed by NEWSWEEK say they have been taken aback by the president’s emotionalism and his sincerity. More complicated is the question of whether Bush’s suffering is essentially sympathetic, or whether he is agonizing over the war that he chose to start.
The most tellingâ€”and movingâ€”picture of Bush grieving with the families of the dead was provided by Rachel Ascione, who met with him last summer. Her older brother, Ron Payne, was a Marine who had been killed in Afghanistan only a few weeks before Ascione was invited to meet with Bush at MacDill Air Force Base, near Tampa, Fla.
Ascione wasn’t sure she could restrain herself with the president. She was feeling “raw.” “I wanted him to look me in the eye and tell me why my brother was never coming back, and I wanted him to know it was his fault that my heart was broken,” she recalls. The president was coming to Florida, a key swing state, in the middle of his re-election campaign. Ascione was worried that her family would be “exploited” by a “phony effort to make good with people in order to get votes.”
Ascione’s family was one of the last Bush approached. Ascione still planned to confront him, but Bush disarmed her in an almost uncanny way. Ascione is just over five feet; her late brother was 6 feet 7. “My whole life, he used to put his hand on the top of my head and just hold it there, and it drove me crazy,” she says. When Bush saw that she was crying, he leaned over and put his hand on the top of her head and drew her to him. “It was just like my brother used to do,” she says, beginning to cry at the memory.
Read it all: ‘I’m So Sorry’
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