Thousands rally in Silverdale to show support for troops

Seattle P-I


SILVERDALE, WA-- Thousands of flag-waving citizens crowded an overpass here on Saturday in support of U.S. troops deployed in the Middle East.

Rally organizers estimated about 3,000 participants had gathered in this town north of Bremerton and about 15 miles west of Seattle, across Puget Sound. The Washington State Patrol put the crowd count at about 2,000 people.

The pro-war rally was believed to have been one of the largest activist gatherings in Kitsap County. It far surpassed the size of protests in the 1980s against so-called "white trains" that carried nuclear warheads to the Naval Submarine Base at Bangor.

The protest, organized by Operation Support Our Troops, lasted about five hours, causing congestion along the quarter-mile section of Kitsap Mall Boulevard.

No anti-war protesters showed up.

The rally became a short parade route as flags also came out of car windows while drivers waved. On the street, participants held signs that read: "Strength, Valor, Victory," "Share Freedom with Iraq, Remove Saddam" and "Better to be a sailor's widow than a coward's wife."

"My first rally started back (during the Vietnam War)," said Charles Kindt of Poulsbo, who held up a cap that read Vietnam Veteran. "If there were no veterans, there would be no USA."

People also signed and left messages of support on a 5-by-12 banner that will eventually be shipped overseas.

"We just feel with the anti-war sentiment going on, it disheartens the troops," said Ben Gilson, of Bremerton, home to a naval station where the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Carl Vinson departed last month. "They need to know that they aren't being ignored; we need to show them that they are supported more than anything else."

Rallies were also held elsewhere in the nation, including Indianapolis and Orlando, Fla.

About 2,000 people turned out at an Orlando rally that featured a reading of the Gettysburg Address, while another 1,000 prayed and marched in Pensacola.

"I was so saddened to see so many in our nation not supporting our troops and our country," said Naval Warrant Officer David Wolff, a Desert Storm veteran who arrived at the Pensacola rally in uniform. "This is very uplifting."

Anger against last weekend's protests, which drew millions worldwide, was apparent. Echoing a slogan from the 1960s, one placard in Orlando read: "America -- Love It or Leave It."

"The anti-war protesters last weekend are aiding and abetting Saddam," said Sherri Tabb, who attended that rally. "Saddam has gotten emboldened, he is not cooperating. War is the only solution."

Some who turned out at the rally did not advocate military action.

"We don't want to have to fight," said John Newman, an Indiana National Guard member who was among 500 people rallying in Indianapolis. "But if we do, we want to let them know we love them."

Another target was France, which has stood in the way of a U.N. resolution authorizing force against Iraq. "Use your emergency duct tape to gag (French President) Jacques Chirac," said one sign at the Orlando rally.

Retired Air Force Col. George "Bud" Day received loud applause when he told Pensacola rallygoers: "Terrorists thought they could bring war on us, intimidate us and cow us. When we show them American power they'll take off like a bunch of scared rats."


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