'My viewpoint about the war has totally changed,' said Reis. 'I support our President and the decisions he's made, but I think it is time for us to declare a victory and come home. No one should have to go through what our family has.'
Tucker grew up in Madras, Ore. and Reis here in the Bay Area, so her relationship with her cousin was peripheral. But a tight-knit bond has kept the families close throughout the years, and the horror of her aunt and uncle's loss has been keenly felt by Reis and her California family.
'It has been so devastating,' said a teary Reis as she struggled to finish her thoughts. 'To know that Thomas and the other soldier were tortured ... to know the details of how they died ... it's too much.'
A previous advocate of the war with a family history of service (Reis has a brigadier general in her family tree, and claims General George Meade as a Civil War relative) Thomas' death has left her heartbroken and at odds over a war she says she can no longer support.
'The saddest thing to me is to know that Thomas died in fear,' said Reis. 'His poor mother will never, never know peace because of that ... we need to be done over there. It all makes you feel very helpless.'
In fact, after sending flowers to her family up north, Reis says she was left with a void. The traditional gesture she felt, was too formal, too impersonal, too rote. So in the middle of the night last week, inspiration struck, and the home-based preschool teacher made a plan.
'I was so sad and I just couldn't put it away,' said Reis. 'And I thought, 'What can I do to remember Thomas, what can I do to honor him?' So I decided we would have a Fourth of July parade with the kids; make flags and sing songs. It was great; the kids really got into it.'
Walking the loop of her rambling court, Reis and her preschoolers, some in carriages, others on foot, strolled behind an Oakley police car, lights flashing. The apparently small gesture did much to ease Reis' pain and anguish. And while it can never be enough, it is, she says, a measure of respect.
'This is our way of saying to him, 'Thomas, we remember you,' said Reis. ''And you were loved.''