Groups rally to support troops


Associated Press
King 5 News

CAMP MURRAY, Wash. - About two dozen people braved the wind and rain for a support-the-troops rally outside Camp Murray, headquarters of the Washington National Guard and the nerve center for the state’s emergency operations.

Waving flags, dressed in flag-festooned sweat shirts and “USA” caps—even twirling flag umbrellas—supporters lined the Interstate 5 overpass near the entrance to the camp on Thursday, waving at drivers who frequently offered honks of support. The sign at the nearby Chevron station read, “Our prayers are with our troops.”

“Unfortunately, many of the troops have received a very negative message through the press,” said Claudia Joines of North Bend, who has two sons in the military. “They think that America has turned against them, and we just want to show them that that is not true ... we are behind them 100 percent.”

Demonstrators said about 30 soldiers stopped by during the early stages of the rally to thank them for their efforts.

“It brought tears to many of our eyes,” said Carol Stephenson of Tacoma, whose sign read, “Home of the free, thanks to the brave.”

Most people at the rally were members of Operation Support Our Troops, a group committed to supporting U.S. armed forces despite personal opinions for or against war. Members said they have been staging rallies every Saturday for the past eight weeks.

“We commend President Bush,” said Vince Wagner of University Place. “He exhausted every means for diplomacy and the time has come. There’s evil in the world that cannot be negotiated with, it can’t be reasoned with, and sometimes it has to come to this.”

With her son Tyler Kelly deployed with the Marines, Barbara Webb of Des Moines said she is “scared to death.”

“As well-prepared as you think you are, you never truly can be until that moment comes—it’s like a gut punch, it just knocks the wind right out of you,” said Webb, whose sign bore a photo of Kelly in his Marine uniform. “I pray that I’m one of the lucky ones to welcome my son home after this is all over.”

The show of support has been very touching for soldiers at Camp Murray, said Capt. Nancy Treder, public affairs officer for the Washington National Guard.

Treder takes the bus to Camp Murray every day from Seattle and has received a barrage of negative comments during her trips that often leave her speechless, she said.

“So when soldiers see someone out there being positive, of course they want to go out and thank them—their sacrifice and commitment are being acknowledged,” Treder said.

Inside Camp Murray, things were quiet and mostly business-as-usual. The only sign the war had started was the 10 people working inside the normally empty emergency operations center. The center has been staffed around the clock this week.

Gov. Gary Locke earlier reaffirmed that the state is prepared to deal with terrorist attacks.

Emergency operations staffers were closely monitoring “critical facilities”—roads, bridges, pipelines, hydroelectric dams—anything that could pose a threat to life if not functioning normally.

“We’re here, we’re ready—we’re always ready,” said Glen Woodbury, director of the Emergency Management Division.

Editor's Note: Groups are rallying in other areas, too, including Port Angeles and Sequim, WA. Two diverse groups have been standing on corners in support of the troops for over a month.


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