CRAWFORD, Texas – A fallen soldier's mother who started an anti-war demonstration near President Bush's ranch returned Wednesday after a weeklong absence for a family emergency.
About a dozen protesters who have continued the peace vigil picked up Cindy Sheehan (search) at the Waco airport Wednesday afternoon, six days after she flew to Los Angeles when her 74-year-old mother suffered a stroke.
"This is where I belong, until Aug. 31, like I told the president," Sheehan said at the airport before driving about 20 miles to the Crawford site.
More than two weeks after Sheehan started camping off the main road leading to Bush's ranch, vowing to stay through his monthlong vacation unless he met with her, she continues drawing harsh criticism as well as support.
Conservative activists and military families were en route to Crawford from California on a tour called "You don't speak for me, Cindy!" The caravan coordinated by Move America Forward (search) plans to hold a pro-Bush rally in town Saturday.
Among those defending Sheehan are former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson (search), who believes that his wife's identity as an undercover CIA operative was leaked in retaliation for his criticism of the Bush administration in a 2002 New York Times op-ed piece.
"The Bush White House and its right-wing allies are responding to Cindy Sheehan and the military families vigil in Central Texas in the same way that they always respond to bad news — by unleashing personal attacks and smears against her," Wilson said in a statement released Wednesday.
Later Wednesday, Bush was to return to Texas after a three-day trip to Idaho where he met with some military families and gave speeches to rally support for the war. He said Tuesday that he appreciates Sheehan's right to protest and understands her anguish, although she does not represent the views of a lot of families with whom he has met.
Sheehan and other grieving families met with Bush about two months after her son died last year, before reports of faulty prewar intelligence surfaced and caused her to become a vocal opponent of the war.