WILMINGTON, Ohio – Dick Cheney (search) came face-to-face with the war in Iraq when a 62-year-old grandmother confronted him on the campaign trail. Phyllis Hobbs told Cheney she had sacrificed a grandson to the war.
"I'd like a little peace," she pleaded with the vice president.
With an electorate divided by the Bush administration's actions in Iraq, Hobbs' remark to Cheney on Monday in an Ohio town of 15,000 reflected both the war's personal cost and the determination of many Americans like Hobbs to see it through to a successful conclusion.
More than a thousand American soldiers have been killed in Iraq, but few families have been as deeply affected by it as the Hobbses.
Hobbs' son, her daughter-in-law and another grandson all have served in Iraq, and her son is headed back for another stint, probably around Thanksgiving. Her daughter-in-law just re-enlisted and would be heading back to Iraq too, but she's pregnant, and will go next year instead. Hobbs' other grandson, a Special Forces soldier, just returned and "I hope he's home for good," she said.
Her grandson Steven D. Conover, 21, was among the U.S. soldiers killed last November when insurgents in Fallujah shot down the Chinook helicopter he was riding in.
Devastated by the loss and the fear of what else could happen, Hobbs said her health deteriorated to the point where she suffered kidney failure the month after her grandson's death, putting her in a wheelchair. Cheney spotted her in her wheelchair in an audience of rabid Bush-Cheney supporters and invited her to ask him a question.
Hobbs asked Cheney, "Is there anybody who knows a time limit" for pulling out of Iraq? "I have four over there. ... I had one killed. ... I'd like a little peace."
Given to understatement, the vice president calmly replied: "I appreciate very much obviously the sacrifice they made. ... If you put an artificial date on it, what with the terrorists just waiting until that day arrives, Americans withdraw, and then they'll reinsert themselves, that's not acceptable."
Minutes later, Cheney's wife, who appears with him at most campaign events, was in deep conversation with Hobbs, who said later she was pleased by their comments.
Far from being bitter about her loss and the uncertainty surrounding when the troops will come home, Hobbs recalled the words of her grandson a few days before he died, a memory to which she proudly clings.
"He said, 'Grandma, if anything is going to happen to any of us, make sure they continue with the war until it's finished,' " she said.