MEDFORD, Ore.– Former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush were honored with Liberty Medals at the 2018 Liberty Medal Ceremony this past Sunday in Philadelphia.
But a Medford woman’s actions at the event made headlines after she denounced the former president and gave back a medal she received for her family’s service in the Iraq war.
Stacy Bannerman, the author of Homefront 911 and When the War Came Home, has advocated for veteran families and highlighted the personal struggles they face. She also created the Heart2Heart Tour, a group made up of veterans and their families speaking out about “love, war, and enough folded flags.”
The group traveled across the country last week and ended in Philadelphia where Bannerman interrupted the ceremony to give back her Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal she received when her now ex-husband was in the war.
“Part of the reason we went on that tour was to speak from the heart of the American homefront about what these endless wars are costing,” she said.
As the former president was receiving the Liberty Medal, a medal given to those who work to secure liberty across the globe, the scene cut deep for Bannerman.
“I’ll be very frank with you. It was excruciating to be sitting in that audience just 24 rows from that stage,” she said. “Close enough to see the shine on his face, as he was laughing and smirking.”
Stacy’s ex-husband Lorin was a National Guard soldier that fought in Iraq for 12 months. She received the Freedom Medal because of his service in the Iraq War but on Sunday she decided it was time to give it back.
“He heard me say, ‘President Bush, your war based on lies cost millions of lives, it destroyed millions of lives – including my own,” said Bannerman, recounting what she stated to the former president.
She ended up dropping her medal on the floor at the ceremony before being escorted out. A signal of the life and the husband she has now left behind.
According to Bannerman when Lorin came back from the war he suffered from PTSD and a traumatic brain injury and in order to dull the pain began to self-medicate with crystal meth.
When he came home, she says he was a stranger.
“I had to run for my life, literally I had to run for my life,” she said. “He had strangled me nearly to death upon one occasion.”
While they’ve been separated for some time she admits that she still loves him.
“He was my first and only husband. He was the love of my life and on some level, he always will be but it was not safe for me to continue,” said Bannerman.
But she says like so many other veteran families the decisions made by those in office destroyed her life and many others. She hopes her books can help more people understand what families of veterans face and the casualties found at home as well.
“See this doesn’t go away,” she said holding back the tears. “And I want people to understand that.”
NBC5 News Reporter Miles Furuichi graduated from Chapman University with degrees in English and Journalism. He received post graduate experience in Los Angeles in photojournalism and commercial photography. He also spent time in Dublin, Ireland working in print journalism and advertising.
Miles is a Rogue Valley native, raised in Ashland. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking and photography.