Queens Rallies to Support the Troops

Thousands of troops risking their lives in Iraq were honored on Sunday afternoon outside the Kew Gardens Hills Library. Hundreds turned out, braving the blistering cold in a show of support for American and coalition forces.
But the chill in the air was quickly replaced by feelings of warmth instilled by speakers who addressed an inspired crowd.
The roar of Marchs lion was muffled by thunderous chants of "USA" and "Support Our Troops," echoing as each new speaker approached the podium.
Councilmember James Gennaro, along with many sponsors, helped to organize the event.
"The sons and daughters of Queens are fighting and dying for our freedom," said Gennaro. "All we can do is join together as a community and offer our thanks. They deserve our support and our eternal gratitude for their great sacrifice."
Those in attendance hoped to send a message: The issue is not about supporting or opposing the war. Instead it is a way of standing behind them[the troops] and showing appreciation for their courage, sacrifice and heroism.
One by one, speakers addressed the flag-waving crowd. Local elected officials included Councilmen John Liu and David Weprin, Assemblyman Mark Weprin and Congressman Anthony Weiner. Members of the NYPD, the US Army, family members of those at war and many concerned residents of Queens took the mic offering words of strength and consolation.
Tom Henderson, father-in-law of Lance Corporal Pedro Quintana of the US Marines, could not have felt more uplifted.
"I have a new lease on life today," said Henderson. "To see everyone supporting the troops like they did today just shows that there is a silent majority out there who does support the war, stands behind their troops and loves their country. Most of the attention usually goes to the protesters. Today we were heard."
Another consensus of the sometimes deafening crowd was their support for a war mandated by extreme circumstances. Many spoke of Saddam Hussein as having created just such a circumstance.
Vietnam war vet Butch Blum of Bayside Gables explained it this way: "Some people still dont understand what happened in Nam. But this is different. This is not a war. This is the threat of Armageddon. This man [Hussein] is not a dictator. He is the devil."
"We would have preferred not to go to war but, really, we have been at war since September 11. I think people forgot too easily," said Diedre Miller, a Kew Gardens resident, her face painted with the words "US Troops." "They show pictures on television and in the newspapers of children over there who are now without parents. What about the children here who became orphans the day the World Trade Center went down? Im sorry, but if its going to be me or them, its going to be them."
The crowds excitement was dampened by a sole protester standing near the stage, who asked to remain unidentified. As though competing with the booming unified voices surrounding her, she cried out at the top of her lungs, "War mongers, racist bastards." She was referring, she said, to the troops and the Bush administration for sending them to Iraq. Infuriated by her remarks, the crowd shot back with sharp remarks and looks of disbelief.
Barry Simanowitz, who thinks troops should have been sent to the Middle East long ago, said, "I cannot understand people like that. Im glad she wasnt next to me spitting out that garbage. We wanted this to stay a peaceful rally."
Councilmember David Weprin believes in the right to voice opinions against the war, but clearly it is the time now to show unconditional support for American and coalition forces. "There was a time and a place [for opposition], but the moment those soldiers had missiles flying over their heads, that should have been over," he said. "The troops are there to fight for my freedom, for your freedom, and for our children and grandchildrens freedom. God Bless America."
The rally ended with a prayer and a song. But it was very well understood by all that the volume of voices raised on this evening could never compare to the welcome that awaits homecoming troops.

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