Hundreds rally at fairgrounds in support of troops

Published 12:36 am Friday, May 2, 2003

By By JOHN EBY / Cassopolis Vigilant
President George W. Bush and Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm added their voices to a chorus of hundreds supporting American troops in Iraq Sunday by rallying at the Cass County Fairgrounds.
Village President Julia Bell said, "These young men and women are risking their lives, doing what they are taught to do to protect this great country of ours. Without their help, we wouldn't have the freedom we have today. These brave men and women need our support. Let us pray for world peace."
Dowagiac Mayor Donald D. Lyons quoted a Washington Post editorial about its columnist and Atlantic Monthly editor Michael Kelly, killed in Iraq.
A dove on Vietnam, Kelly became a hawk covering conflict in the first Gulf War and compounded by Bosnia.
Cass County Sheriff Joseph M. Underwood, a Vietnam veteran, felt "mixed emotions" with two corrections officers overseas in Iraq.
Attorney Philip Harrison, a Vietnam Marine, urged "support of our troops at all costs. Some of us came home not receiving accolades that these people now deserve today. Receive them home with all cheers and glories. They are brave people and their sacrifices cannot be replaced."
Attorney Thomas Swisher said we were already well at war when most Americans became aware of it on Sept. 11, 2001, as thousands lost their lives flying in commercial jets, at the World Trade Center in New York and at the Pentagon.
John Proos apologized for the absence of his boss, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan. Cass County's congressman's mother-in-law's hospice care kept him home with his family.
Upton's message said "how proud we all can be of our troops and all of those folks in the coalition partners who have fought so valiantly to bring freedom to Iraq. The successes have been tremendous, the effort has been great and the sacrifice has been large."
State Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, focused on duty, honor and country.
State Rep. Neal Nitz, R-Baroda, said, "It's my sincere hope that in these days of uncertainty more Americans have grown to recognize and appreciate the courage and sense of duty of our troops. The people of Iraq will be far better off and the world will be a safer place and the message will have been proclaimed loud and clear: the United States will not allow itself to be threatened by power-crazy terrorists with evil desires. We will not let terrorism scare our society or change our way of life. Many have given their very lives in the name of spreading freedom and eradicating an enemy who has no regard or conventions for war or rules of morality. The United States has earned its independence because of the valor of people like these. Our nation was founded on the bedrock principle of individual, God-given liberty. We have the freedom to worship as we please, vote for whom we want and express our political beliefs without fear of persecution. We are blessed with unprecedented prosperity and opportunity, even in slow economic times. Contrast that with horrible, oppressive conditions so many souls endure in all corners of the world."
America stands for the world as an "oasis of tolerance, a beacon of hope and a fortress of freedom. It takes sacrifice, love of country and the courage of men and women such as our troops to keep it that way. Their willingness to put the greater good before their own comfort and convenience, their solemn vow to defend our nation against all enemies -- foreign and domestic -- are qualities more precious than gold," Nitz said. "As long as Americans continue to be blessed with citizens such as these -- courage, honor and integrity -- our nation will survive and thrive."
Rep. Rick Shaffer, R-Three Rivers, said regardless of where anyone stood as individuals about war, citizens must rally around their troops. "We're all Americans and our thoughts and our prayers must go out to the men and women of the U.S. military called into battle on our behalf … they have fought brilliantly and bravely and, thank God, successfully. They have been victorious … let us not forget the brave men and women who gave of their lives in service to this nation during this period of conflict. To their families and friends … we express our heartfelt gratitude, our deepest sorrow and, certainly, our condolences. We will stand behind their families as they face the future."
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who visited Dowagiac April 14 and Kuwait in February, came away from the latter "impressed at the extraordinary dedication and motivation" of this "professional group of fine men and women that we have … Their morale was extraordinarily high. It is my sincere hope and desire that each and every American will stand behind our military personnel and their families during this difficult time. I think we can all agree that they deserve the respect and gratitude of the American people. The men and women of our armed forces need to know that they have the unified support of the nation they love for which they are willingly serving and for which they are willing to give their lives. They are in the prayers of every American and we hope for a speedy conclusion to the war with a minimal number of casualties."