Sue Neiderer (credit: Dith Pran/NYT)
Sue Niederer is just another Jewish mother in suburban New Jersey. But that’s where she parts company with all the rest. You see, her son, Seth Dvorin, 24, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in February. Sue never supported the war and didn’t want Seth to go. But he felt duty bound to honor the commitments he made not only to the Army, but to his comrades.
Chris Hedges has written a compelling acount of the anger, grief and surprising political voice of Sue Niederer in Mourning the Warrior, and Questioning the War. When Ms. Niederer heard that Laura Bush was to speak nearby, she dutifully stopped by the local Republican campaign headquarters and secured a ticket. Let’s let her tell the next portion of the tale:
“I wanted to confront Mrs. Bush because she, too, is a mother,” she said at the small office here where she works as a real estate agent. “I thought she might understand the pain we mothers are undergoing. I thought she might be able to hear me.”
Lt. Seth Dvorin KIA (credit: East Brunswick Sentinel)
As Mrs. Bush was lauding her husband’s war on terror, Mrs. Niederer slipped on the shirt, which bore a photo of the lieutenant and the words “President Bush killed my son.” Standing at the back of the crowd, she interrupted Mrs. Bush, shouting that if the war was warranted, “Why don’t your children serve?”
“She did not answer,” Mrs. Niederer said. “She looked stunned.”
Suddenly, Mrs. Niederer recalled, she was surrounded by “men in dark suits with little earpieces” as well as angry Bush supporters. She was escorted from the hall, and as she tried to speak with reporters outside, she was arrested, handcuffed, taken to the Hamilton police station and charged with trespassing. She was released soon afterward, and prosecutors later dropped the charge.
Imagine, a woman whose son died in George Bush’s war gets ARRESTED for interrupting Laura Bush! Removing her from the hall I could understand. But arresting her?? Either the local police or Republican operatives must’ve completely lost their minds.
Dvorin family at Seth’s funeral (credit: Barefoot & Naked)
Niederer’s grief at losing her son has been infinitely compounded by either the Army’s callousness or a deliberate attempt to conceal information from her about the manner of Seth’s death. Chris Hedges continues the story:
After he was killed, she said, she learned that he had been ordered in October to lead a platoon to search for homemade bombs left on roadsides. Lieutenant Dvorin was wounded in an explosion in November. When he returned on home leave in January, three weeks before his death, he wept in the arms of his stepfather, telling him he was afraid and did not want to return. He said nothing to his mother until they were at the airport in Baltimore.
“I asked him if he wanted to go back,” she said. “Seth said no. He told me we were losing the war. He told me we could not win a war when we did not know who our enemies were. He told me it was a waste, but he also told me he had to return to get the 18 men in his platoon home safely.”
Soon after he died, Mrs. Niederer said, she and her son’s widow ran into a wall of military bureaucracy. As an observant Jew, Mrs. Niederer asked that her son not be embalmed or undergo an autopsy, requests that she said were ignored. She asked to go to Dover Air Force Base to meet her son’s coffin, but says she was told that was against the rules. And she says she has tried reaching members of her son’s platoon to learn the circumstances of his death, especially after the Army told her he had been killed trying to defuse a bomb.
“He had no training in bomb detection or in defusing bombs,” she said. “He did not have proper equipment. When I complained in public about the inadequate training and lack of equipment, the Army changed the story. They told me he was not trying to defuse a bomb. I still don’t know how he died. They won’t let me speak to or contact members of his platoon.”
After reading Friendly Fire, a gripping non-fiction account of the deaths of U.S. troops in Vietnam at the hands of friendly fire and the military’s dogged attempt to conceal the truth, one can only wonder why the Army is not giving this woman the information she needs, and indeed deserves. For shame, Army.
Richard Dvorin too is involved in the struggle to make sense out of his son’s death. He wrote a heart-rending letter to President Bush which, you guessed it, our President never answered. Some touching condolence notes appear at Seth Dvorin’s portion of the FallenHeroesMemorial.com site.