Mostly unreported, President Bush did more than attend a fundraiser during his trip to Wisconsin Thursday. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Beth Karlson, who lost her son to the Iraq war, wanted something when she met Thursday with President Bush.
For well over a year, the 63-year-old woman – “just a little bumpkin from Wisconsin,” she says – has repeatedly sought information from the Army about the 2003 death of her son, Army Staff Sgt. Warren S. Hansen.
He and 16 soldiers from the 101st Airborne were killed when two Blackhawk helicopters collided above Mosul on Nov. 15, 2003. It was the single deadliest episode in the war for U.S. forces up until then.
Karlson learned Wednesday from the White House that she and her husband were invited to meet with Bush on Thursday during his Green Bay visit. Away from the public eye, he met with five families who have lost loves ones in the war, a White House aide said.
Karlson, a retired school “lunch lady” from Clintonville, has been frustrated by multiple attempts to obtain the official Army report on the crash. So she broached the subject with Bush.
“He seemed very interested,” the mother said. The president told her that an aide who was on hand and taking notes would look into the matter Friday.
Karlson and her husband, Jim, met with Bush for 20 to 30 minutes. It began with a “great big bear hug” from Bush. He gave her a presidential coin. He signed a scrapbook she’s amassed about her firstborn son. It was the only time he didn’t hold her hand during the meeting.
“He said, ‘I just love the military. There’s just something about miliary families.’ And he thanked us for raising the type of child we did – that’s part of what he wrote in the scrapbook,” Karlson said.
Hansen, 36, who’d seen the world with the Army but called Clintonville home, was an Army brat and veteran. He had 17 years in when he died.
Karlson first met Bush in March 2004 at Fort Campbell, Ky., home of the 101st.
Thursday, the five families gathered in separate rooms at the Oneida Police Department for their visits, she told the Journal Sentinel.
Karlson – who makes it plain she’s no Cindy Sheehan – voted twice for Bush and supports the war. Preparing for her meeting, she vowed to tell him that her late son “loved what he was doing, he believed in what he was doing and he was honored to serve his country.”
She was told that the collision was not an accident, but a “combat loss due to evasive maneuvers.” Karlson was referred to Fort Belvoir, Va. She followed up with calls, e-mails and Freedom of Information requests.
In May 2005, Belvoir officials told her the investigation had been finalized and that requests for information were being processed in chronological order based on the date in which they were received. Still, nothing.
On Thursday, Bush told her: “You will get that report.”
The next day, the Journal-Sentinel reported:
On Friday morning, [Karlson] awoke to a call from a White House aide who told her he had been called Thursday night by Bush.
The aide, whose name Karlson did not know, said he asked officials to turn the report around in 12 hours. The aide told Karlson the report might become available on Monday.