Meredith has yet to see the Army's official report on how Ballard was killed—she says now that she's not sure if she wants to read it.
"He's dead, and he's not coming back," she says.
But a handout from a memorial service for Ballard says the following: "Ken's company was moving through an urban area of Najaf and came under heavy small-arms fire from the rooftops of all sides. Ken immediately moved his tank platoon in close to provide covering fire for two of Charlie Company's platoons caught in the open.
"The covering fire Ken provided allowed both of the platoons to exfiltrate to safety and resulted in 15 enemy insurgents being incapacitated. Ken's inviolable fidelity for his comrades in arms and the love for his country led to the ultimate sacrifice."
Meredith says Ballard was in battle for much of April and every day in May, and earned two of his three Bronze Stars during this period.
Meredith spent a few months grieving, and then after a visit to Ballard's grave at Arlington National Cemetery in October, she said she had an epiphany. She could turn her anger and loss into something positive.
"You're kind of in shock for a while. It's not about politics," she says. "But I just knew that I had to go out and say something. People need to know that the war is affecting people in Santa Clara County. I just want to keep this in front of the public because people don't understand that this is happening every day. That's when I'll stop talking about the war—when everybody in the country has stopped talking about it."
She's become a mom on a mission. The daughter of a lieutenant colonel, the granddaughter of a colonel, the sister of a colonel and the former wife of a former Air Force serviceman, Meredith says she's not anti-military and she's not used to speaking out.
But she's angry about the war. She's angry at Donald Rumsfeld because the military turned down her request for a photo of her son's flag-draped casket as it arrived at Dover Air Force Base last year. She's angry at Colin Powell, the former secretary of state who made the case at the United Nations that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was producing weapons of mass destruction. ("He has blood on his hands, as far as I'm concerned," Meredith says.) And she's not happy with the way the Army has treated her since the death of her son.
So Meredith is speaking out.
She's spoken at public forums and demonstrations. In September, she spoke at a televised town hall meeting in which family members of deceased Northern California soldiers came together. "He was killed 100 days ago today," she told the San Francisco Chronicle shortly after she began speaking out on the war. "You just miss their voice. You miss every single day. And it isn't 100 days ago, it's one day 100 times over. .... When's it going to stop hurting? And when do you stop missing them?"
She's become friendly with advocacy groups like the Gold Star Families for Peace, Military Families Speak Out and Code Pink. She was asked recently to appear at a counter-military recruitment event, but begged off because it took place on Mother's Day (although she is quick to note that Mother's Day started as an antiwar holiday).
She recently participated at a gathering in Berkeley and also traveled to Arlington West, a project by the Santa Barbara Veterans for Peace to re-create the grave sites of soldiers killed in Iraq. Later this month, on Memorial Day, the anniversary of Ballard's death, Meredith plans to return to Washington to again visit her son's grave at Arlington.
"Our generation learned that it is not the soldiers, but the president who made the decision to send them on their mission," she says. "The president has been misleading. He won't define success. And why are they building 14 permanent bases over there? I know that many of the soldiers there feel that we're not accomplishing anything."
The above is from Matt Reed's "A Soldier's Mother's Story" (Santa Cruz Indymedia) to read more about Karen Meredith and the son she lost (Kenneth Ballard) click the link.
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