Crowd gathers at crosses for Veterans Day

November 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
On this Veterans Day a crowd of about 75 people gathered at the Lafayette hillside covered in crosses. It's a place that serves as both a memorial to the service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and a place to voice protest about those wars.

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It was no surprise that the ceremony at the politically charged crosses in Lafayette were filled with anti war messages.

"Most of the people who put the memorial together feel strongly that this war is a mistake," said Jeff Heaton, a Lafayette cross coordinator.

All politics aside, there were some people who were addressing veteran's issues on Veterans Day like Gold Star mom Karen Meredeth, who's son Lt. Ken Ballard was killed in Iraq. She's helping push a federal bill that would assist families of wounded veterans because many of them have to quit their jobs to care for them. Merideth says she met with President Obama last Memorial Day.

"And I said 'Please do me a favor and please go to Section 60 someday,'" said Meredeth. "And he did that today, and he walked among the stones of Arlington, and he met with families, and I was so thrilled."

Also at the crosses was Iraq war veteran Josh Stieber. He biked across the country raising awareness about the mental health of veterans. A recent rand study shows 300,000 current and former military service members are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or depression. Stieber says the army told him nobody, back home, would understand him.

"If you think nobody can understand you then instead of talking about the things that frustrate you and letting some of these emotions out, you just try and bottle it up," said Stieber.

But Steiber says he's seeing communities train others in compassionate listening skills and helping vets apply to schools.

"I think people are beginning to understand more and more and realizing that saying "support the troops" and putting a bumper sticker on the back of car really isn't supporting the troops that much. It's got to be a lot more than that," said Stieber.

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