An Open Letter to Members of Congress and the Senate
by Karen Meredith, Gold Star Families Speak Out
May 26th, 2006
On Memorial Day, we raise our flags; we want to show our patriotism. We have a holiday from work and we have BBQ's with our friends and families. For some, it is a day to save some money at the mall- 15% off- Memorial Day sale! When we celebrate those events, we ignore the origins of Memorial Day. Memorial Day is the day that we, as a country pay our respects and remember those soldiers who were killed or who died in service to America. For politicians it is a day to participate in civic activities and to visit cemeteries. Politicians articulate our sorrow as a nation.
I want to tell you about one soldier that will be remembered this Memorial Day. 1Lt Kenneth Michael Ballard of Mountain View, California was 26 years old when he was killed in a fierce battle in Najaf, Iraq on 5.30.04. His gravestone at Arlington National Cemetery is plain. That headstone in Section 60, Site 8006 tells when he was born and when he died. It describes his valor and heroism with his medals, his 3 Bronze Stars, 2 with valor and his Purple Heart.
But you need to know more than that about Ken. You need to know this because you sent my only child to his untimely death. You are keeping our members of the military in harm's way in Iraq and you have the power to bring them home and to stop this senseless killing.
Ken was my only child. He was the oldest of 15 grandchildren. I raised Ken on my own for 25 years and I loved him a lot. So did his aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and his large circle of friends. He loved any kind of music as long as it was loud, Mexican food and driving his truck. He was so proud to serve his country as a 4th generation Army Officer. As a Platoon Leader and young Lieutenant, he loved his guys and they loved & respected him.
A mother wants to know her child is loved, but she doesn't want to find that out at his funeral when he is only 26 years old. And she surely doesn't want to watch his 26 year old friends bury their best friend. There is just something not right with that picture, but there is nothing right about this story.
A mother wants to watch her son grow to be the man he would have been. She wants to see him gaze into the eyes of the woman who will be his wife, and a mother wants to dance with her son at his wedding. She wants to hold his firstborn, counting the fingers and toes of this, her first grandchild. Would that baby have had the same cleft in their chin- just like their daddy? I'll never know because my baby came home in a box covered with a flag.
My son took an oath to defend the Constitution and to obey the orders of the President of the United States. In return, his Commander in Chief and this country owed him the TRUTH about the mission and why he and his men were going into harms way. They should never be sent into combat without suitable equipment or proper training. They should never be sent to into war without proper planning and without an exit strategy. They should never be sent into hostilities unless it is our last option. In March of 2003, there were other options.
You sent my only child to his untimely death. You are keeping our members of the military in harm's way in Iraq and you have the power to bring them home and to stop this pointless killing.
When you visit that cemetery to participate in Memorial Day ceremonies and proclaim the words of a grateful nation, look beyond the names on the headstones. Know there is a loving, broken family left behind every single one. Think about Ken. Look at his face; look at his eyes. He is one of 2463 US soldiers to die in this illegal war so far. He was the 100th soldier from California to die in Iraq. Ken is not a number, he's not a statistic. Think about Ken and the life that was stolen from our family when you vote to continue funding this war. It is time to end the lies. It is time to put up a vigorous fight to come up with an exit strategy that will end this war now. Do that because it is the right thing to do. Do it for Ken and for me. No other family should have to travel this hellish journey.
Where will you be on Memorial Day? What will you do to really honor our soldiers? I will be at Arlington National Cemetery on this Memorial Day 2006. It will have been two years since Ken was brutally killed.
Proud Mom of Lt Ken Ballard- KIA 5.30.04
www.GSFSO.org Gold Star Families Speak Out