SAN DIEGO -- Relatives of US service members said they were nervous but hopeful yesterday as they embarked on a private peace mission to Iraq, where they will bring their message of friendship and doubts about the war.
The leader of the 10-member group, Fernando Suarez del Solar, said it is important for Iraqis to realize that not all Americans support the US military presence in Iraq. His son, Marine Lance Corporal Jesus Suarez del Solar, 20, was killed in Iraq eight months ago when he stepped on an American cluster bomb.
"The regular Americans like peace," Suarez del Solar, 48, said in a telephone interview a few hours before the group's scheduled departure. "The enemy is not the people from America.
"The young boys in Iraq only see the American flag on the uniforms. They see that as the destroyer of their life and family," he said.
The group included two wives of soldiers based at Fort Bragg, N.C., and four veterans of the Vietnam and Gulf wars, two of whom have children on duty in Iraq.
"I know the military commander over there in Iraq doesn't like my trip, but more important is the people in Iraq," Suarez del Solar said. The group raised donations to pay for the trip, and received letters of support from 25 members of Congress. After a flight to Jordan, they planned to drive into Iraq.
In Baghdad, coalition spokesman Sergeant Danny Martin expressed concern about the safety of the delegation, but said last week that their effort would be appreciated. "Any assistance in keeping the entire nation stable and peaceful and secure is more than welcome," he said.