When my son Casey was a newly formed solider, fresh out of boot camp, he was stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas.
The first time he came home to visit, he gifted me with a golden necklace which looked like a shamrock and had a small diamond in the center. On the back it said, “For Mom, With Love.” I loved it immediately and loved the gesture, but I said, “Casey, you can’t afford to spend this much money on me,” and I sent it back to the jewelry store in Killeen, Tx and told them to return his money.
Casey came home that Christmas and re-gave me that necklace and said, “Mom, you have to take it, it’s paid for now.”
After that dear, dear boy was killed in Iraq on April 04, 2004, and I became a noted antiwar activist, I wore the piece all over the world, and found myself fingering it for comfort more than once. In fact, once during a protest in Washington, DC, my sister was holding it for me and it fell from her purse. We were both distraught, but she found it hanging precariously from a subway grate on the sidewalk.
Subsequently, in my travels, I met the families of the “Cuban 5.” Briefly, the Cuban 5 were five anti-terrorist campaigners who lived in Florida and infiltrated counter-revolutionary groups there which had caused Cuba much pain and loss of life. The “5” were captured and send to US prisons for long and unjust prison terms.
To make a long story short, after my first trip to Cuba, at the beginning of 2007, I fell in love with the country and its beautiful and strong people. Surprise! It wasn’t the evil land of hopelessness and deprivation I had been (mis)taught about my entire life. I became very involved in the “Free the Cuban 5” movement and in November of 2011, I went to Holguin, Cuba to participate in an international conference: I met people there from Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Sweden and all over Latin America.
There, I spoke at a rally and march on November 19th (which is my other son, Andy’s birthday) and, there in the front row, were the mothers of Fernando Gonzales and Antonio Guerrero and other various family members of the 5. I often feel ashamed of the United States and it’s murderous callous way, but the imprisonment of the Cuban 5 and what it did to their families and the almost complete ignorance of the case in the states was especially frustrating to me at that moment.
When I was speaking at the rally, I removed my “most precious” possession (the necklace Casey gave me) and called Fernando’s mother, Magali Llort and Antonio’s mother, Mirtha Rodriguez to the platform. I presented them with the necklace my son had given me as a pledge to them that I would do everything I could to help their sons return to Cuba to be with their families and community. We were all in tears and Mirtha and Magali pledged to me that when their sons (and the others) returned to Cuba, I would get my necklace back.
So for the next two years, I did work hard: among other events, I went to Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic), Sweden, Canada, (back to Cuba), and Washington, DC. I spoke to activists and legislators; I protested in front of US Embassies and consulates; I wrote articles and had many shows devoted to The 5 on Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox.
The Cuban 5 were arrested in September of 1998, and two of them finished their sentences in 2011 and the beginning of 2014, respectively; and the other three had varying degrees of time (up to 60 years) left to serve.
I awakened on the morning of December 17, 2014, to joyfully discover that in a prisoner trade, the other three had been released back to Cuba. It was one of the best Christmas presents I have received since my son was killed. Of course, I wasn’t the only one around the world who felt that way.
As to the thawing of Cuban/American relations, I remain skeptical of US intentions, but if there ever were a people who have felt the oppression of the US and undermining of its revolution, it is certainly the Cuban people. However, as promised, I am returning to my home away from home this next week to receive my necklace back on Mother’s Day and to celebrate with my Cuban family.
Love never dies. The families of the Cuban 5 never gave up on their quest for justice, and I will never give up on my family’s drive to see US war criminals held accountable. This is not about hate, it’s about the love we have for our sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. It’s about the love we have for each other!
It has taken over two years for me to return for my necklace, because I have been taking care of my sister who has stage 4 breast cancer. We are now at a point where it is possible for me to travel to Cuba, but very expensive to do so.
The Cuban Friendship Society is hosting me in Cuba, but my travel to and from Miami is an expense that is hard for me to afford at present. Donations to Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox have tanked in this election year, and I am my sister’s financial caregiver, also.
I will provide photos and reports about my trip.
If you can donate to Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox at this time, I would certainly appreciate it!