Denice Traina has received all kinds of responses to a street-corner protest: supportive honks, the rude gesture, even an occasional flying beer can.
Traina, who is in the CSRA Peace Alliance, welcomes all of them.
“At least people are paying attention, and maybe it’s waking people up,” she said.
While American troops fought a war with bullets and tanks, back home a war of opinion was raging. The largest local protest in Traina’s memory was in 2002, when Vice President Dick Cheney came to Augusta. Richmond County law enforcement made it clear that the U.S. Secret Service was running security and that any issues would have to be taken up with them.
“That was pretty touchy,” Traina said.
For her, demonstrations were as much about bringing troops home as protesting the loss of American and Iraqi lives.
Though the war in Iraq was a pivotal issue in the 2004 election, a tanking economy hogged the headlines in 2008. As the economy continued to nosedive, the national focus shifted from overseas to the problems at home and the support for the Peace Alliance dwindled.
Traina still believes that over time Americans have become more aware of the consequences of war. It’s her long-term goal to continue pushing for veterans to receive the benefits they need and deserve.
“We need to bring them home and take care of them,” she said.
The last American war of this duration was Vietnam, and it drew large crowds of protests.
The dynamic was different back then, Traina said. The military draft was a huge factor in the protests; when the switch was made to a volunteer Army, “it really did separate a lot of people,” Traina said.
Technology has also changed the way people express their opinions. Traina said it’s cowardly for people to gripe on a blog without backing up their words.
“I want to hear what you’re going to do about it,” she said.