I am Celeste Zappala, of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, of Military Families Speak Out, and, sadly, of Gold Star Families Speak Out, because I am the mother of a fallen soldier. My son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, was killed in Baghdad on April 26, 2004.
Since Sherwood died protecting the Iraq survey group as they looked for weapons of mass destruction, 2,483 more American lives have been lost, and how many limbs and how many eyes and how much blood? And what happens to the souls of soldiers who have picked up their friends in pieces or fearfully fired into a moving car—to discover a shattered Iraqi family a moment later?
In Iraq, shamefully, no one could say how many children and old people have died; those counts are only kept in the hearts of those who have loved them.
Please hold these people in your heart: An Iraqi mother searches a morgue for the familiar curve of the hand of her child beneath a pale sheet; an American father watches his son beheaded on videotape; an Iraqi child wakes up in a shabby hospital in excruciating pain without his arm; an American girl writes letters to her dead soldier father; a young vet wraps a garden hose around his neck and leaps away from the nightmares that beset him.
And an ocean of tears spreads across both countries. ... A wail rises from the throat of all who love these people and shakes our hearts as it reaches for the crucified open arms of Jesus.
We are here tonight as the church. Each one of us is a witness to this war and to our own complicity in it—when were we silent and should have spoken, whose eyes would we not meet to face the truth?
Now we are prostrate at this altar—begging: Lord help us. War is our failure to love you, and peace is your command. Peace is not the easy way out; its creation is the most confounding, the hardest thing we can do. Help us.
Celeste Zappala spoke these words at the National Cathedral service.