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THE NATION | COLUMN ONE

She's on Activist Duty Now

Mary Ann Wright quit a 30-year Army and diplomatic career in protest of the Iraq war. She's now a soldier for the antiwar movement.

January 20, 2006|Elizabeth Mehren | Times Staff Writer

Within seconds a guard was escorting her out of the room. Wright slipped her arm through his elbow and walked out as if he were her date.

She has heard nothing from Washington officials: "They just ignore me."

But Tom Stockton, 35, paid careful attention as Wright addressed the gathering here that was part of a larger conference on globalization. Stockton, an education student, spent nine years in the Army.

"The protesting part kind of bothers me," he said. "But the message she is portraying is a good message. She is talking about the impossible situation our military is in trying to fight this war. Usually, the issues of the soldiers are not being addressed, so it is good to hear from an insider -- who is now an outsider."

Keene State education professor Susan Theberge said the audience left inspired because of Wright's ability to connect with her listeners.

"She was on the inside, and so she really understands what's going on. And yet she gave up all that power and privilege," Theberge said. "To me, that is the definition of what an active conscience is. And that is her real draw."

After decades of government service, Wright, in turn, has found a new community. The Army officer and diplomat is at home among Americans who are anguishing about this war. "We are on the same sheet of music," she said, adding that she would continue to make her voice heard, as long as the war goes on.

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