Citizens hold rally, wave signs and flags to support troops
by Sue Forde & Lois Perry
Olympic Peninsula, WA - 1/25/03 - Approximately 100 people showed up to demonstrate in Sequim and Port Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2003. In Sequim, citizens sported signs in support of America's troups at all four corners of 7th and Washington downtown, while in Port Angeles, a group displayed a variety of signs at the corner of Highway 101 and Golf Course Road. The Port Angeles group was joined by another group of young people who had heard about the rally, and were already demonstrating across from the courthouse in Port Angeles, where anti-war activists were also picketing.
Among the crowd supporting America's troops were American Legion members, Vietnam war vets, young mothers, teenagers, and men and women from all walks of life. Mike Lemon, a Sequim insurance agent, explained his reason for participating:
"I don't want the outcome to be the same as it was with the Vietnam War - where our
troops were treated very poorly. I don't like how some of my friends were treated because they were doing their jobs," he stated.
Tom Santos, a World War II veteran, said he stood for "solidarity for America." Many individuals said they had come to "support our troops" and let them know we're here for them. Robert McGonigel said he was there to "exercise his freedom of speech toward 'the other point of view' [referring to the several anti-war protests that have been held in recent weeks]". We should get more than one point of view, he explained.
"This group isn't sponsored by anyone in particular; we're a group of individuals voicing our support of the troops."
Ralph Gatien said he too was there to show support for the troops in these troubled times. "They need it," he said. "If more people took to
the street corner, we wouldn't be ignored."
American Legion Post Commander Phil Faulk said he'd like to see the United States "get this thing over with - it's absolutely senseless, just like the Vietnam War." Bob Slad, Sargeant-at-Arms for the local American Legion, said "we have to support our troops because there are so many rallies against them - to show our boys that we really care."
Doug McClary stated that he had never been a demonstrator before, but that "this is a good reason to do it." He added that he "thinks it's time that we as a country begin coming together like this." A speech he had heard helped motivate him into action - Lee Emery, a Pearl Harbor survivor, shared that one of his biggest disappointments is that people have forgotten about 9/11. "Kids don't seem to be getting all the facts in the history books, but they're hungry for information," McClary stated.
Norris Hart said he was there to "support my country. I've known bullies as a child; and bullies won't back down." Referring to Saddam Hussein, he continued that there is less likelihood of war with a strong stand on the part of the U.S. "If he knows we'll go ahead, he may back down." He said that the anti-war demonstrators were doing more to make war than for a peaceful solution. "You don't back down from bullies," he said.Gil Lujan said he's an ex-Marine Corps veteran. "This is where everyone should be," he said. "There's a lot of guys who have fought and died for our country; I'm here to support them."
Karen Hull and her twin sister Sharon waved their signs and flags. Karen said "Nobody wants a war of any kind. We're here to support our troops going to fight for our freedom." Her husband, Dave, served during the Vietnam War. "We desperately need to stand behind the young men and women who are defending our country," he said, as he remembered how the lack of support felt when he came home from Vietnam, a tear in the back of his eye.
Don Boensel was there because he has two sons in the Navy, and it seemed like an appropriate thing to do.
In Port Angeles, Terry Roth shared how one veteran had pulled over, gotten out of his car, and come over to say "thank you" for the demonstration there.
State representative Jim Buck (24th District) stood alongside the local citizens with his sign and flag. "I'm here to show support of my troops and my president," he said. "What happened in 1965, '66 and '67 will never happen to our guys again as long as I'm alive." He had gone to witness the New York Trade Building only 18 days after the attack
Of the people responding driving by, approximately 90 percent were favorable, honking their horns, and giving a thumbs-up. Only 10 percent seemed to be opposed to the demonstrators.
In Port Angeles, a number of young people participated in the event. Kay Fitzgerald commented that she has a 6-year-old son, and "I want him to grow up safe and not afraid." She added that "if it weren't for the previous wars, we wouldn't have our freedoms today."
Jennifer Inman, a Peninsula college student, explained how the anti-war protestors attempted to aggravate problems when they were demonstrating across the street from them at the county courthouse. One person came across the street and told her "you don't have a right to an opinion," she said.
A lone individual, saying he had been present at the earlier peace march, later claimed he was the one making the remark to Inman. Rik Reynolds, who showed up later during the demonstration for support of the troops to pass out anti-war literature, told our reporter later that ...."What I said to her was, after she refused to even look at the facts in "Addicted to War" [an illustrated expose' by Joel Andreas] which I was offering her free of charge in an attempt to educate her, was "If you refuse to consider all the facts before you make up your mind, you don't have any basis to form an opinion."
Carol Hancock-Fields said she was there to "support our president, our troops, and our country."
There will be another demonstration taking place next Saturday at 1 p.m. in both Port Angeles and Sequim.
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