The mother of Air Force captain killed in Iraq is battling the use of her son's name in "Arlington West," a protest-exhibit of crosses on a California beach on Sundays by the Veterans for Peace chapter in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Debbie Argel Bastian, mother of slain Capt. Derek Argel, told WND, "I have repeatedly asked the Veterans for Peace to quit using the name of my son in their protests, but I am getting nowhere."
"The Veterans for Peace won't listen to me, and they have no right to dishonor my son's service to the United States of America by using his name in their anti-war protests," she said.
WND contacted VFP President David Cline by telephone, who said his group's policy is not to use a name if the family objects.
"What groups like Veterans for Peace do is they make it hard to get your son's name removed," she said. "Parents get letters that explain why the protest group has the right to use their son's name and then the family has to go through a fight. In the end, the group has another chapter who puts up another cross display and uses their son's name anyway."
Bastian told WND that Gold Star mothers have a hard time getting the news media to pay attention.
"I was on a CNN morning show, and that was it, no other television news show wanted me," she said. "But if I was Cindy Sheehan, I wouldn't have any trouble getting heard. It's heartbreaking."
Bastian pointed out Sheehan, who has become an icon of anti-war activism since her son was killed in Iraq, attended the most recent State of the Union address with a shirt bearing the number of U.S. service members killed in Iraq and asking, "Who's Next?"
"I don't want my son's name used like that," Bastian said. "My son was a loyal and dedicated leader and officer, and he was proud of his military service. From the fifth grade on, Derek determined that he wanted to go to a service academy. The media don't want to hear Derek's story, that he was a man of character who was dedicated to the U.S.A. and proud of his military service.
Bastian said she has a "stack of letters from the families of fallen military heroes who area as upset as I am to see their names used for anti-war purposes and disgraced."
In the year since her son's death, Bastian has received hundreds of letters from other family members who have lost loved ones fighting in the Middle East.
"These letters express the same pain I am feeling," she said.
"These anti-war protesters are like vultures," Bastian continued. "They wait for any death of a U.S. soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan, and they can't wait to add the name to their protests."
Bastian said most Americans are "not aware of the pain these anti-war protestors are causing us."
"There is only one Arlington, and my son is represented honorably there," she said. "I do not give my permission to use my son's name in any 'Arlington West' protest."
Bastian is urging her congressman to support a House bill, the "Military Fallen Heroes Protection Act of 2006," introduced in July by Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., to "direct the Secretary of Defense to prohibit the unauthorized use of names, images and likenesses of members of the Armed Forces."