This small, northeastern Indiana town welcomed home its hero and booed a strong message to the national press that Republican vice presidential nominee Dan Quayle hopes will echo across America.

"You're going to be surprised how many people think it's patriotic to serve in the National Guard," he said to the wild cheers of the crowd gathered outside the Huntington County Courthouse.In their first real campaign stop since the conclusion of the Republican National Convention, presidential candidate George Bush and Quayle addressed about 10,000 people waving signs and flags.

Bush called Huntington "right in the heart of the United States of America" and said Quayle was a "man of vision and character."

Neither Bush nor Quayle criticized the press.

After the speeches, Quayle, standing in his shirtsleeves in the muggy heat, faced a circle of reporters who asked numerous questions about whether he was given preferential treatment in joining the National Guard in 1969 because of his family's connections.

Nearby, as Bush and advisers watched, campaign manager James Baker nervously paced back and forth.

The press conference, arranged by the Bush campaign, was broadcast over loudspeakers to the crowd, which surrounded the reporters who surrounded Quayle.

For about 20 minutes, the crowd alternately booed the reporters and cheered Quayle. Frequently they interrupted reporters' questions, chanting "Quayle! Quayle! Quayle!"

Some held hand-painted signs. "Quayle Country, Media Poachers Beware. No Hunting or Trespassing," read one. One man, his son at his side, held up a sign reading, "Hoosiers Against Press Hypocrisy."

In response to a question, Quayle said to applause that "I can only assure you that I asked no one to break any rules and that I broke no rules at all." He repeatedly said that "serving in the National Guard is patriotic" and noted that he had discussed the matter with his parents.

"I did what any normal person of that age would do at 21 years old," he said. "I told them (his parents) I wanted to get in the Indiana National Guard."

Quayle was 22 at the time and, upon graduating from DePauw University, had lost his deferment from the draft. He enlisted in the Indiana Guard as a private in May 1969 and was trained first as a welder, then a clerk-typist and later as an information specialist with the 120th Public Affairs Detachment of the Indiana Guard.

"I got into the National Guard fairly," Quayle told reporters Thursday. "I did not break any rules."

Had his unit been assigned to duty in Vietnam, he said, he would have gone.

He said reporters will be "surprised how outraged" most Americans will be at any suggestion that serving in the National Guard during the Vietnam war was not totally patriotic.