Marine mom meets with Obey’s staffers

Tina Richards, the Marine mom who made waves last week following her heated altercation with House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.), returned to his office yesterday, hoping to discuss further the Iraq war supplemental budget the lawmaker proposed last week.

Trailed by reporters, cameramen and a handful of supporters, Richards was greeted by Chief of Staff Christina Hamilton. The congressman was out, but Hamilton arranged for Richards to meet with Staff Director Rob Nabors in Obey’s office conference room.

After the meeting, Richards said she was not satisfied.

“I have to say it was pretty disappointing. It sounds like they are giving a lot of loopholes in this [legislation] so that George Bush will be able to continue the war in Iraq for as long as he wants,” she said. “I still hope that I get a chance to meet with Rep. Obey.”

She stressed that it is up to the Democrats to end the war, noting the number of American casualties since the election

“The Democratic Party came into power Jan. 4. We’ve had 198 soldiers die [since],” she said.

“That means 400 mothers and fathers that are looking at empty rooms right now. The Democratic leadership needs to end this war. They have the power to do it.”

Obey’s spokesman, Ellis Brachman, expressed concern for Richards but said his boss would not cancel previous engagements to meet with her.

“He’s not going to cancel a scheduled meeting to take an unscheduled meeting,” Brachman said.
Richards noted that she never received an apology from Obey following their altercation last Monday.

“He never apologized to me,” she said. “I never received a phone call since that day in the hallway. I haven’t received an apology.”

Obey apologized in an interview with The Hill on Friday.

Richards has been trying to set up a meeting with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Speaker’s office contacted Richards on Friday right before the Obey video attracted headlines, according to a spokeswoman for Richards.

Richards’s son is in the Marine Ready Reserve. He has served two tours of duty in Iraq and is eligible to be deployed for a third despite injuries he received in his first two deployments. He suffered brain trauma and, according to Richards, exhibits signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. During his first tour, an artillery shell fell on him, causing back, neck and knee injuries from which he has yet to recover.

Richards said her son has not received treatment for his injuries.

“For a year I’ve been fighting with the VA system and the most we get is an appointment to get an X-ray taken and then we have to wait another three or four months for them to read the X-ray,” she said.

An X-ray of her son’s knee was taken Sept. 6 but wasn’t scheduled to be read until Dec. 27. When that appointment was postponed, she received a letter from the VA stating, “‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you. We’re too busy,’” Richards recounted, her voice trembling.

She said that because the VA medical centers nearest to her home are full, she has to travel large distances that are nearly impossible to navigate in inclement weather to get the X-ray read.

The president and chief executive of the Hip Hop Caucus, Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., joined Richards in her meeting. Afterward, he echoed Richards’s sentiment that Congress must bring the Iraq war to a close. He drew a contrast between Richards and fellow anti-war activist and military mom Cindy Sheehan.

“Tina doesn’t want to be Cindy Sheehan. Her son is alive. She doesn’t want to be walking around these hallways with a flag,” Yearwood said. “This is the Democrats’ war now. Since Jan. 4, close to 200 troops have died. She doesn’t want to be in that number.”