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Martinsburg rallies for troops

March 24, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

A telling moment at a pro-troops rally in Martinsburg on Saturday evening came just before the rally actually began, when the crowd of hundreds spontaneously started chanting "U.S.A."

For more than an hour, speakers addressed the crowd, asking that troops in every branch of the military be supported.

In Martinsburg, members of the 157th Military Police unit with the Army National Guard and the 167th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard have been sent overseas.

Several speakers said they were pleased to see so many people who support the military. Police estimated the crowd at about 200 people.

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Del Puschert, a Marine who served in the Gulf War, riled up the crowd with his energetic speaking style. He said that, during the war 10 years ago, Kuwaitis ran up to American troops and hugged and thanked them.

"This ain't the time for debate. This is the time for support," he said.

No anti-war demonstrators appeared at the rally.

Pastor Jim Bishop addressed the crowd in prayer.

"We thank you, dear God, that we can be called Americans," he said. "For a quick and ultimate victory, we pray."

Hazel Hedges Whittington said her husband, Donald, may be 70 years old, but he's as anxious as men decades his junior. Shot down in Korea, Whittington rebounded and fought in Vietnam, she said.

"He's ready to go back," she said. "He said as long as he can fit in that ejection seat."

As darkness fell after the rally, Donnis Lloyd carried a framed 8-by-10 portrait of her stepson, Timothy Lloyd Jr., 20. A combat military police officer with a Georgia unit, Lloyd Jr. recently was shipped overseas.

"He's making his way across the desert right now," Donnis Lloyd said.

Showing support for the troops and attracting the media to pro-military rallies is important, she said.

"Frankly, I'm sick and tired of seeing people protesting," Lloyd said.

Although she and her husband know where their son is, they do not have an address for him and have not been able to contact him. Lloyd snapped digital pictures at the rally, and plans to put together an e-mail message she will send as soon as she gets his address.

Until then, she said other ways of communication have to suffice.

"We can't send him any support, except our prayers," Lloyd said.

At the rally, nearly everyone held or waved an American flag.

Others carried handmade signs. Among them were ones that read: "Support our troops in Iraqi freedom," "God Bless our troops and president," "Freedom is not free. Support our troops," "We love George Bush" and "Pacifists prosper because free men fought."

One boy held up a poster of a grinning Saddam Hussein, a bull's-eye printed over it.

"Saddam Hussein, the U.S.A. is going to give you something to smile about," the poster read.

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