KENNEBUNK (AP) – Several family members of five soldiers killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, said they were happy President Bush took time to meet with them at the start of his weekend trip to Maine.

Nancy Kelley, whose son, Army National Guard Capt. Christopher Cash, was killed in Iraq in 2004, came away from the meeting impressed by the president’s sincerity.

“He cares about every single family, and he has been doing this all around the whole country,” said Kelley, who brought a framed photo of her son with Iraqi children. Cash, who grew up in Old Orchard Beach, was deployed with the North Carolina National Guard.

The closed-door meeting at the Sea Road School in Kennebunk was arranged by U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, at the request of Hildi Halley, whose husband, Army National Guard Capt. Patrick Damon, died on June 15 in Afghanistan.

Halley said she used the opportunity to express her anti-war beliefs. She said the president responded by saying, “There was no point in us having a philosophical discussion about the pros and cons of the war.”

The president became emotional, according to Halley, when she tearfully described the effect her 41-year-old husband’s death has had on her and their two children, ages 12 and 14, both of whom attended the meeting.

“He wept and hugged me and apologized for my pain,” Halley said.

Bush later spoke separately with Damon’s mother, Barbara Damon-Day of Newcastle.

She has been seeking a congressional inquiry into her son’s death. She questions the initial conclusion that her son died of an apparent heart attack.

“I came to get contacts. I wanted to talk to people who could make a difference in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “I am so glad I came.”

David Schlegel came with his mother to honor the memory of his brother, Navy Cmdr. Robert Schlegel, who died in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.

Schlegel said his impressions of Bush changed in the quarter-hour they spent together.

“You see a different side in person from what you see on the TV,” he said. “Once I met him in person, I was very impressed by his genuineness and sincerity.”



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