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Vet Protests Iraq War 75 Minutes After Mom's Death

Home News Tribune — Monday, March 19, 2007

Gannett State Bureau

TRENTON — Disabled Vietnam War veteran Bruce Tonari of Gloucester County addressed a rally against the war in Iraq on Monday – an hour and 15 minutes after his mother died.

"I wanted to be here. I knew she was on her death bed," said Tonari, 57, after he told a 70-strong crowd in front of the Statehouse that, because of the war, "We have lost our moral authority."

The war, entering its fifth year Monday, inspired the rally by the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action, one of many protests held nationwide since Saturday.

Tonari, of Washington Township, said he planned to leave the rally and go directly to a Cherry Hill hospice to make funeral arrangements for his late mother, Betty, who was 80.

"We are doing the right thing," Tonari said after he struggled on two canes to the podium.

Tonari said he had been a Marine from 1968 to 1970, in Quang Tri in Vietnam, which then had been the provincial capital of the northern-most area of the old South Vietnam in what had been a north-south civil war.

He said he served in the Army from 1981 to 1989, where he suffered a back wound in a vehicle crash on a posting to eastern Europe.

Across West State Street, a "dove of peace," sewn together with bed sheets, flew its 20-foot wingspan in the wintry breeze. Numerous passing cars honked as supporters of the rally waved placards reading things like "Impeach Bush' and "Unnecessary and Unwinnable."

"President Bush has not attended a single funeral," said the Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of the Coalition for Peace Action.

David Kalkstein of Cherry Hill, a veteran of the Army Reserves, wore a sweatshirt emblazoned with "Delaware Valley Veterans for America."

Many a gray head bobbed in the rally, but Whitehouse Station folksinger John Kasper laughed when reminded his acoustical guitar stood out as an obvious link to protests in the 1960s against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Copyright 2007 Home News Tribune

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