Karen Meredith, One of More Than 4,000 Mothers in the U.S. Feeling The Pain and Heartache of War

    By Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel

    April 16, 2008

  Karen Meredith, a mother who lost her only child, Kenneth Michael Ballard, a First Lieutenant
  who was killed in Najaf, Iraq on May 30, 2004, one year and 29 days after U.S. president George
  W. Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.  Ms. Meredith, a
  single mother was at last night's Bay Area premiere screening of "Body Of War", the new anti-war
  documentary by Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue, with whom Ms. Meredith is pictured with, below  
  at the right hand side.  "Body Of War" opens on April 18 in San Francisco and Berkeley.
  (Photos: Omar P.L. Moore/; photo of First Lt. Ken Ballard below courtesy of


 First Lieutenant Kenneth Michael Ballard, pictured here in Baghdad, Iraq.  He was just 26 when
 he was killed in Najaf on May 30, 2004.

For more about First Lieutenant Ken Ballard, visit

  Copyright The Popcorn Reel.  2008.  All Rights Reserved.

    Click here: Please listen to this before reading below (two minutes)

     SAN FRANCISCO, California

      There she sat, alone, but very much connected to the woman
   shown  on the big flickering screen before her: Cathy Smith, the 
   mother of Tomas Young, the U.S. soldier who after five days
   in Iraq in early April 2004, was shot just below the left collarbone
   and left paralyzed as a result.  "Body Of War" is the documentary
   that features Mr. Young and his mother as they are shown fighting
   to bring an end to the invasion in Iraq and to tell Mr. Young's story.
     Last night, which was also tax deadline night, was difficult for Karen
  Meredith, a single mother from Mountain View, California.  Her only
  child, First Lieutenant Kenneth Michael Ballard, was killed on May 30,
  2004 while serving in the U.S. military in Najaf, Iraq.  "May is really
  bad for me, I hate May," she would say to me just prior to
  the start of the documentary by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro,
  which opens here in San Francisco and in Berkeley on Friday.

    Ms. Meredith is a member of Gold Star Moms Speak Out, and she
  saw herself on the big screen about halfway through during a rally to
  end the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq in Washington, D.C. 

     She spoke tearfully to me about the multitude of well-wishers who
  mourned her loss and commiserated deeply with anonymous notes,
  the vast majority very kind and inspirational.  She agreed with a point
  that was made prior to the start of the screening of "Body Of War", that
  most Americans -- outside of the 1% that constituted the military  
  families who were going through unimaginable hell with their sons and
  daughters in Iraq, some alive, some never coming back -- have not 
  sacrificed anything at all in the invasion of Iraq.

    "In some ways," she said, "I have it easy.  My son is gone forever.  But
  I feel so much pain for Cathy, who's got Tomas as a living reminder
  every day about what . . . ".

    Tears flowed from Ms. Meredith at this point.  She has never met
  Ms. Smith, but would like to. 

    She talked to the hundreds that remained in attendance following the
  screening, waiting patiently as many questions were asked by audience
  members.  She spoke of the U.S. military's response when she asked to
  have a photograph of her son's body.  (Click on the audio link above.) 

    They refused, saying that "'it was against army regulations,'" she said,
  adding that the photos weren't released, citing "privacy of  the families".

    Karen Meredith never got a photo.   

    "What will future generations see of this war?  They will be as sanitized
  as what we're feeling right now," Ms. Meredith said, speaking about the
  mainstream press and its sparse coverage of events in Iraq, as well as
  the U.S. Army's closed-door policy on relatives seeing photos of their
  fallen children.

 Karen Meredith, whose only child was killed in Iraq, with "Body Of War" co-director and co-
 producer Phil Donahue last night.  (Photo: Omar P.L. Moore/

                                          "Body Of War" opens in San Francisco and Berkeley on Friday, April 18, 2008  



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