Governor apologizes to peace group

Gov. Joe Manchin has apologized in writing and in person to the West Virginia Patriots for Peace for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan that offended them.

Manchin accompanied three other governors on an Easter weekend trip sponsored by the Department of Defense that concluded with an Oval Office meeting with President Bush and a Rose Garden press conference.

The Rev. Jim Lewis of Charleston said he was surprised that Manchin wanted to talk to representatives of the group when they delivered a complaint letter.

“He was gracious and very apologetic,” Lewis said.

Manchin also sent a letter to group President Carrie Swing.

“I wish to apologize if I offended anyone. That certainly was never my intent,” Manchin wrote. “As I look back, I realize I could have chosen better wording; however, I was caught in a moment of excitement and camaraderie with our troops.”

The Patriots for Peace letter to Manchin said they were shocked to see a photo of him signing a Hellfire missile with the words, “Sending you to Hell! From Almost Heaven WV.” He also signed a missile with the words, “For West Virginia’s brave and fallen.”

“Considering the fact that our Jewish brothers and sisters have been celebrating Passover, the remembrance of having been delivered from death, and that Christians were celebrating Easter with its theme of life defeating death.

Given that reality, your words etched on a missile seemed to contradict not only your own deeply held Christian faith, but the good spirit of West Virginians trying, in the face of war, to escape hateful and vengeful feelings,” the letter said.