American Mourning: The Intimate Story of Two Families Joined by War—Torn by Beliefs
American Mourning is the story of two American families whose sons died in the war on terror. Casey Sheehan and Justin Johnson had been best friends since they first met at Fort Hood in Texas; they were killed within five days of each other in separate ambushes in Sadr City, Iraq, during Holy Week of 2004.
As the Sheehan and Johnson families have mourned their unimaginable loss, they have had little else in common and have taken entirely different paths as they mourned. Justin’s father, Joe Johnson, followed
his son to Baghdad, slogging through the open sewers of Iraqi slums to see where Justin had died and to avenge his death.
Cindy Sheehan wanted another kind of revenge. Blaming President Bush for Casey’s death, she called the Muslim radicals who killed her son “freedom fighters” and brought an entourage of antiwar activists and a coalition of the willing press to the president’s ranch outside Crawford, Texas. Demanding that the president meet with her in the sweltering Texas summer, she became a media phenomenon and America’s best-known antiwar activist since Jane Fonda.
The Sheehans and the Johnsons represent the extremes of grief-stricken parents in war, both families reflecting the gap in how Americans view the war on terror. The Johnson family has bonded closer, Justin’s parents have grown nearer, their faith has been strengthened; and their support for the war is stronger than ever. Meanwhile, the Sheehan family has fractured, and Casey’s parents have divorced. Cindy says she is no longer a Christian, and her opposition to the war is deeper and more bitter than ever.
The bodies of Casey Sheehan and Justin Johnson lie in their hometown graves. Justin’s finial resting place is decorated with handmade flags and miniature Uncle Sams. Casey’s had no marker for two years to tell the world that he lived, fought, and died a hero.
Both Joe and Cindy were shooting at ghosts. Cindy still is. This is their story. The story of American Mourning.