Young says he never wanted to go to Iraq; he enlisted two days after 9-11 because he wanted to hunt down terrorists in Afghanistan. Last month, he joined the pilgrimage to Crawford to ask Bush why he sent him to fight the wrong war. “Bush said he wouldn’t meet with Cindy because he’d already met with her in 2004,” Young says. “I figured my life has been severely impacted. So I wanted to hear his excuse about not meeting with me.”

The Iraq vets were followed by about three dozen members of Gold Star Families for Peace, who marched bearing laminated photographs of their fallen loved ones. In contrast to the buoyant, celebratory feeling in the rest of the crowd, the mood here was determined and grave. “It’s hard to get into the joyousness of it all,” shrugged Steve DeFord of Oregon, watching a rather militant group of Bread and Puppet activists bang drums and stage a mock die-in with lumpy cardboard shapes that were meant to represent dead Iraqi civilians.

“I’m proud of each and everyone of these people who came out here today,” said DeFord, whose son Douglas was killed by a roadside bomb a year ago Sunday. “It’s beyond my expectation, but it’s too late for me,” he said with tears in his eyes.

DeFord and the other grieving parents were among some 250 military family members who marched on Saturday. Many said they had no patience for President Bush’s claim that to pull out now would mean their loved ones died in vain. “Twenty thousand more people could die and it wouldn’t give my son’s life any more meaning,” said Diane Santoriello of Pittsburgh, whose son, First Lt. Neil Santoriello, was killed by when a bomb exploded under his tank while patrolling in Iraq. “I think the situation is out of control and we’re making things worse.”

Several blocks away, Robin Godrey and his group West Virginia Patriots for Peace marched with a series of large banners bearing the names and dates for all 1,906 servicemen who have died since the war began. “Our local paper runs the body count on the front page every day,” said Godfrey, a lawyer whose own son did a year’s tour with the Army in Iraq. Over the past year, Godfrey says his group has grown to 1,000 members. “We’ve got Republicans and Democrats. They just can’t label us as one thing.”

The march spilled onto the Washington Monument grounds for the “Operation Ceasefire Concert” and rally hosted by United for Peace and Justice. The scene was a bit of a flashback to the 1960s, with Joan Baez singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” and Wayne Kramer of the MC5 strutting with his guitar, followed by the hard-rocking soul of the Bellrays. Emcee Jello Biafra cracked jokes holding a cardboard sign: “Make Pizza Not War.”

Protesters lounged on the grass or milled around the various tents and booths set up on the grounds by peace and counter-recruitment activists—part of an effort by organizers to make sure that that the protest amounts to more than just a one-day blow-out.

“People know that this war is not going to end on Monday,” says United for Peace and Justice leader Leslie Cagan. “They know they need to go back to their communities and keep the pressure on their Congress members and the media and their schools.”

The peace fair will be going on all day on Sunday, as will trainings for Monday’s non-violent civil disobedience outside the White House. There will also be a big grassroots lobbying push on Capitol Hill on Monday, with more than 700 activists already signed up to pay visits to their House and Senate representatives.

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