Beyond bringing down "his daddy's enemy," as she calls the Iraqi dictator, Natalie fears, as did her son, that the war is largely about oil. "If this is all about oil, I don't want it. I'll park my car and walk," says the lifelong Democrat. "It's not worth a human life."

The Wilkinses say they are angry, too, that so many Reserve and National Guard units have been sent to Iraq, ironic to them because Bush, as a National Guardsman during the Vietnam War, avoided combat and had his pilot qualification suspended because he did not appear for a required physical examination, according to his service records.

"If position will buy you privilege, that's awful," says Natalie, who worked as a supervisor at the Ohio Department of Insurance before rupturing a disk and having to retire in 1996. "That means little people like me who believe in the Cleveland Browns and the neighborhood, we've got no hope."

Not only has Chuck's death stirred passionate feelings about the presidential race in the Wilkins family, but it has also energized some in their community. At Carol's Cakes, a bakery in nearby Bexley where Natalie is a regular customer, owner Stephanie Matthews has decided to organize voter registration drives, political forums and a car-pool service to get people to the polls on Election Day.

"I have a great deal of support for the troops. I just do not support this war," says Stephanie, 31, a Democrat who also holds book-signings by African-American authors at her shop. "Every day it's brought home - we're losing so many of our sons and daughters."

As Eddie Wright did, Natalie, too, is planning to write the president a letter - a very different letter. But not yet.

For one thing, she has dozens of thank-you notes yet to write. But more important, Natalie says she is too angry and bitter right now and wants to wait until she can say something constructive.

She won't ask for an explanation, she says. It's too late for that. She will only make a plea - stop the war.

"I want to tell him my son died, and before anyone else's son dies, would he bring our troops home? Truthfully, I don't expect an answer. I just want to tell him how I feel."

It's one of the few things she says might give her a little peace of mind - if she thought President Bush understood. She watched him speak at the Republican convention - little more than a week after getting the worst news of her life - and his words about the sacrifices of Americans like her son didn't strike her as heartfelt.

He does not know, she said to herself.

"That's my son," Natalie says of the child she bore when she was a mere child herself, before she had even finished high school or married Chuck's father or graduated from Ohio State. "He'll never know, he'll never know the pain. He'll never lose a loved one to the war. He doesn't have a son, and his daughters aren't going to war. It's so foreign to him; it's just, send in more troops. The troops don't have faces to him; the troops are just numbers.

"These are people. These are not numbers. These are people, real people with families.

"These people are dying," this mother says she wants to tell the president. "And we're not even sure what they're dying for."