Army Hospital Picketers: 'Thank God for Maimed Soldiers'

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

See Video of Protest at Walter Reed Army Hospital

- The man responsible for the "" and "" websites picketed the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Thursday with a dozen of his family members and followers. They carried signs stating "Thank God for Maimed Soldiers," "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "God Hates You."

Fred Phelps, pastor of the independent Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., claimed the injuries and fatalities suffered by American military personnel are the product of God's wrath.

"God almighty is punishing this evil nation by killing their kids over in Iraq and by maiming, crippling and mangling their kids over in Iraq," Phelps told Cybercast News Service. "This nation is going to continue to be punished by God until they repent, but we don't believe they're going to repent." See video.

Phelps believes military personnel share the blame for court decisions and legislation favoring homosexuality, even if those service members do not support that lifestyle.

"It's irrelevant whether they as individuals support them. They joined an army and became a part of a military establishment, voluntarily, knowing that that military establishment was packed and jammed with homosexuals," Phelps argued. "If they join an army that they know is a sodomite army and fight for a nation that they know is a sodomite nation, they are equally guilty."

O.P. Ditch of Woodbridge, Va., retired from the U.S. Air Force, learned of Phelps' planned protest and displayed his own printed sign at the main gate of the Walter Reed hospital.

"I disagree with anybody who comes to a military hospital and, you know, says trashy things like 'God Is America's Terror.' I'm reading their signs right now, 'Thank God for Maimed Soldiers,'" Ditch said "That's the same word that Code Pink uses -- 'maimed' soldiers. They said the soldiers were 'Maimed for a lie,' and this guy's using the same words."

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the anti-war group Code Pink began picketing Walter Reed in August of 2005. The group lost its permit to protest at the main entrance to the hospital last month.

Ditch held his sign, which stated, "Code Phelps -- Human IED," an acronym for "improvised explosive device."

"He doesn't belong here," Ditch concluded. "If he wants to protest, go to the White House or to Capitol Hill and he can protest, but he shouldn't be here protesting the troops."

Wesley Cook of Philadelphia agreed, calling Phelps' and his followers' actions "a disgrace.

"We have soldiers here that are healing. They need peace and quiet. Mr. Phelps, 'Pastor' Phelps, Mr. Phelps is just looking for publicity," Cook said. "I am also a Christian. He is not practicing a brand of Christianity that I recognize. I think he's shaming the name of Jesus Christ."

Don Smith of Maryland turned up the volume on his opposition to Phelps' protest. The owner of what he described as "the loudest Harley I know of," Smith brought his motorcycle and had other friends bring theirs to wait for Phelps' group.

Shortly after Phelps and his followers marched into position -- singing "God Hates America" to the tune of "God Bless America" -- Smith and his friends started their engines.

In law enforcement and military circles, the procedure is called "acoustical countermeasures." Smith referred to it as "protestus interruptus."

"I understand First Amendment rights, but my personal feeling is, there [is] a time and a place for everything," Smith argued. "These people are protesting at funerals of guys -- men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and outside a funeral or outside an Army hospital, holding signs that say 'God Hates Wounded Soldiers.' It's not the time or the place."

After approximately 30 minutes of no one being able to hear their chants and songs over the motorcycles, a large group of off-duty military personnel in civilian clothes approached Phelps' followers and began verbally challenging the anti-military signs. Phelps' group packed their belongings and walked away, followed briefly by the servicemen.

Members of and immediately took up positions on all four corners of the intersection at the main gate to the hospital, waiving American flags and displaying signs supporting the troops.

Make media inquiries or request an interview with Jeff Johnson.

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

E-mail a comment or news tip to Jeff Johnson.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.