Anti-war demonstrations motivated about 200 Utahns to rally on the steps of the State Capitol in support of the troops fighting in the Persian Gulf late Saturday afternoon. Earlier, dozens of children marched to show their support.
Bundled against the winter cold, the children gathered at Constitution Park, 3200 W. 7000 South, at about 10 a.m. to begin their two- to three-block march. Accompanied by parents, they carried banners, yellow ribbons and flags to show their support for U.S. forces abroad. A police escort was provided and the Utah Air National Honor Guard participated.The afternoon rally was subdued and well-organized, with an abundance of flags and families. Most of those in attendance have friends and/or family members fighting in the gulf. Because a representative from the Utah National Guard was there to conduct a presentation of flags and lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance, the crowd was asked not to display any political or negative signs or banners. Most of the signs expressed love and support for the troops.
"I had friends and relatives both in Vietnam and this war, and I'm not going to let what happened to the Vietnam vets happen to these soldiers," said Richard Pyne, one of the organizers of the group that calls itself "Troop Boosters Local #1." Pyne said his reason for organizing the group was to show the troops that most Americans support them.
Ann Deeben, an organizer of another group that attended the rally, said she became frustrated with the negative feelings she got from the anti-war protests. Last Thursday, she decided to show the troops that, "We care, we support them, and we're proud to be Americans."
When asked if she had any friends or relatives fighting in the gulf she quickly responded, "Yes! I have over 450,000 brothers and sisters over there."
The crowd sang "The Star Spangled Banner," and a group of children sang, "God Bless the U.S.A.," as tears flowed among some in attendance.
A short speech by Congressman Bill Orton was met with cheers and applause.
"It warms my heart to see people who love the United States, the flag, and our troops who are fighting to preserve our freedoms," Orton said. He added that whether or not an individual supports the president or the policy, now is the time tosupport the men and women who are risking their lives in the gulf.
Elizabeth Redlin has a son, Army Sgt. Marvin Lovell, who has been in the gulf since Sept. 1. "I hope he comes home safe because his unit is on the border," said Redlin.
Lovell's sister-in-law, Sheila Swiger, said to the troops and her brother-in-law, "We love you! I'm really proud of all of the men and women fighting for our freedom and world freedom. I hope they all come home safe and we won't forget them."
Redlin added that she feels strongly about the anti-war protesters and added that, "Our men will not be treated like the Vietnam vets. Our men will come home as heroes."
John Neal and his family were at the rally to support his son, Joseph Yamez, a Marine serving as a hospital corpsman. He said he wants his son and others in the gulf to know that he loves and supports them. Neal is a Vietnam veteran himself.
Jeanne Neal said, "I think not knowing where they're at is the hardest part." Neal's mother has organized a program called "Operation Love," intended to send the troops things they may need like soap, deodorant and toilet paper.
Melody Anderson's 21-year old son, Ron Marler, is serving with the Marines. Her son called her several days ago and she said he is proud to be there and that morale is high.