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Angry about armor

2006-02-10T23:00:00Z Angry about armorJASON MOHR - IR Staff Writer - 02/11/06 Helena Independent Record
February 10, 2006 11:00 pm  • 

Tears come to Tammara Rosenleaf's eyes when she talks about her husband, who is fighting a war she opposes.

Every morning, she logs on to www.icasualties.org, hoping she doesn't find her husband's name. Spc. Sean Hefflin isn't due to return until December at the earliest.

When he was first deployed, Rosenleaf said she was angry that he went without body armor for awhile. Because of that, she said she wants to make sure all soldiers are safe.

Rosenleaf and the Helena Peace Seekers will host what she says is the country's first "Bake Sale for Body Armor" today from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Lewis and Clark Library.

"If you're going to send a soldier to a war zone, you should send him with all his equipment," said Rosenleaf, a case worker for the mentally ill. "(The bake sale) is what I decided to do about it."

The idea is to sell the goodies and use the money to buy a set of Pentagon-approved deltoid and side armor. They've got 10 soldiers already on a waiting list, Rosenleaf said, and hope to add more.

A Pentagon spokesman said the group can send whatever they want to U.S. soldiers in Iraq. But it's "ludicrous" and "mis- and disinformation" to suggest that they don't already have the right equipment.

"Every soldier has appropriate body armor. Period," said Lt. Col. Barry Venable of the Defense Press Office in Washington, D.C. "I'm sure that the U.S. Postal Service will enjoy the profit that they make."

According to press reports last month, the Pentagon will send extra side armor because commanders were asking for it, due to casualties.

Other local soldier support groups weren't sure they would take part in the bake sale.

Liann Meyer of the Veterans of Foreign Wars-affiliated group Montana Supporting Soldiers said she's heard of families raising money for armor. She knows some don't support the war, but she said most realize they have to support the troops.

Meyer's group sends a dozen or more care packages a week. They have adopted 200 soldiers.

Even a home-baked cookie helps morale, Meyer said. The group has sent electric griddles, bedding and even Tuna Helper.

Tasha Herrin of the National Guard's Family Assistance Center said she wasn't aware of the bake sale.

The center helps families adjust and cope with deployment, Herrin said. For example, financial awareness classes were held and a new 4-H club was started.

Rosenleaf said she hopes war supporters and war opposers can put aside political differences.

"My goal, yeah, is to get them home, but it's no use to get them home if they don't survive," she said.

Rosenleaf is staunchly against the war, which she said has put her marriage in distress.

While her husband mans a 50-caliber gun, Rosenleaf spent 26 days in a ditch at Crawford, Tex. She has travelled across the country to protest. She is part of a group that opposes military recruitment methods. She told Stars and Stripes newspaper last month that she was planning a bake sale.

"My husband and I have had a very difficult time with this," Rosenleaf said this week. "When Sean went over there without adequate armor, my fear for him was so great. I know he will do what they ask of him, whether he dies or not."

Her husband defends her right to free speech, she said.

"He's never had a problem with what I've done," she said. "He has defended me to other soldiers and he has defended me to his command."

In July, Hefflin told an IR reporter he didn't believe the U.S. should be in Iraq, but his feelings didn't matter. "What matters is that I follow orders and accomplish the mission and come home alive," he said then.

Rosenleaf said she expects good support from the Helena community. Other bake sales are proposed in Virginia and New York, she said.

Rosenleaf and her fundraiser partner, Iraq war veteran Charlie Anderson, will buy armor from an Austin-based company, BulletProofME Body Armor, and send it to the soldier in Iraq.

Nick Taylor, BulletProofME's manager, said a significant amount of his company's business the past few years has come from individual soldiers and their families. He declined to provide figures.

"A lot of folks are just glad there's a company to fill the gap in protection," Taylor said Friday. "Some are definitely frustrated the Department of Defense hasn't moved quicker."

When Anderson served in Iraq from March to May 2003, he needed small-size front and back body armor inserts for his flak jacket but found only extra-large pieces. So he had to cut the armor to make it fit, then tape his vest closed.

"It barely worked and was uncomfortable," said Anderson, of Virginia Beach, Va., now a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. "My family would have been happy to buy me inserts if they knew how."

Some soldiers have said extra armor would hinder combat effectiveness because it adds extra weight and restricts movement. Anderson said the fundraiser will not force any soldier to accept extra armor.

Bake Sales for Body Armor is sponsored by Veterans for Peace, a nonprofit organization. The group will also take online donations at www.bakesalesforbodyarmor.org.

"I'm just a woman who won't take no for an answer," Rosenleaf said. "I know if I get this out there, those soldiers won't go lacking. If we can't bring them home, it's the best we have to offer."

-- Associated Press reporter Angela K. Brown contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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