A 570-foot-long letter of support signed by nearly 10,000 people is on its way to the USS Vincennes, the Navy cruiser that downed an Iranian airliner.
The letter is nearly long enough to wrap around the Vincennes, according to a statement issued by U.S. Rep. Bill Lowery, R-Calif., of San Diego, who organized the signature drive.Among those signing the letter was former Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, one of the principals charged in the Iran-Contra scandal.
The letter was put aboard a commerical airliner Monday and is expected to arrive Wednesday in Bahrain for delivery to the crew and officers aboard the San Diego-based ship, which has continued patrolling the Persian Gulf since Iran Air Airbus A300 was shot down.
All 290 aboard were killed in the July 3 accident, which U.S. officials said was a case of mistaken identity.
The letter was hand painted on a poster approximately 12-feet-square. The signatures, many accompanied by personal messages, were scribbled on rolls of 3-foot-wide butcher paper.
The letter said:
"To Capt. Will Rogers III and the crew of the USS Vincennes, the citizens of our home port San Diego show our strong support to you as you strive to do your duty to God and country in troubled waters far from home. You have our best wishes during a difficult time and we pray for fair winds and following seas in the future. Good luck and Godspeed."
Lowery said the signature campaign was conducted over the weekend in various spots around San Diego.
"I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support," he said. "In one weekend almost 10,000 people took the time to stand up and be counted for the Vincennes."
The Vincennes is expected to end its six-month deployment and return to San Diego in October.