As anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan's (search) protest outside President Bush's ranch comes to an end, her supporters are embarking on a three-week bus tour of the country to continue rallying people against the war in Iraq.
The "Bring Them Home Now Tour" stops in Dallas and Austin Wednesday as it winds its way to a planned march in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24.
Sheehan, who had pledged to remain at her Crawford camp for Bush's entire monthlong vacation unless he agreed to meet with her, said Tuesday she's glad Bush never showed up to discuss her son's death in Iraq because his absence "galvanized the peace movement."
"I look back on it, and I am very, very, very grateful he did not meet with me, because we have sparked and galvanized the peace movement," she said. "If he'd met with me, then I would have gone home, and it would have ended there."
Sheehan and about 50 other peace activists arrived in Crawford Aug. 6, the day after she spoke at a Veterans for Peace (search) convention in Dallas. She and a few others spent that night in chairs in ditches, without food or flashlights, off the main road leading to the president's ranch.
Two top Bush administration officials talked to Sheehan the first day, but the president never did — although he has said that he sympathizes with her and acknowledged her right to protest. His vacation is to end Wednesday, two days early, so he can monitor federal efforts to help victims of Hurricane Katrina (search) on the Gulf Coast.
Sheehan's vigil attracted crowds of other anti-war demonstrators. Most stayed a few hours or days at the original roadside camp or at the second, larger site about a mile away on a private lot offered by a sympathetic landowner.
The massive response has transformed her life, she said.
"I thought nobody cared about our children killed in the war, but millions care, and millions care about our country and want to make it better," she said. "The love and support I've received give me hope that my life can someday be normal."
The protest also sparked counter-rallies by Bush supporters who accused Sheehan of using her son's death to push the liberal agenda of groups supporting her. Critics also said the protest was hurting U.S. troop morale in Iraq.
Sheehan will leave the tour next week to spend time with her mother who recently suffered a stroke, causing Sheehan to miss a week of the protest in Crawford. She plans to attend the march in the nation's capital, hoping to reunite with people she met on the Texas roadside that became known as "Camp Casey," after her son.
"When I first started here, I was sitting in the ditch thinking, `What the heck did I do? Texas in August, the chiggers, fire ants, rattlesnakes, uncomfortable accommodations' — but I'm going to be sad leaving here," Sheehan said. "I hope people will say that the Camp Casey movement sparked a peace movement that ended the war in Iraq."