By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Chanting such slogans as "surrender is not an option" and waving American flags, a few hundred people from across the country rallied and paraded in downtown Washington yesterday to support the war.
The demonstration was sponsored by Eagles UP!, an organization founded by veterans in the wake of a war protest about a year ago that drew thousands to Washington. Although small in number, the demonstrators said yesterday that they represent many others from their home towns who believe there needs to be a more vocal counterweight to the antiwar movement.
"We cannot be the silent majority again," Lawrence B. Hoffa of Mequon, Wis., a retired Marine who serves as Southeast coordinator of Eagles UP!, said at the rally on the grounds of the Washington Monument. "We've got to get more people here. We've got to get people motivated."
Debbie Lee, whose Navy SEAL son Marc Alan Lee was killed in Iraq in August 2006, urged the demonstrators to stand up against antiwar organizations such as Code Pink, which she asserted are "trying to destroy our military."
"I've used my voice to speak out for the troops," she said. "I understand the sacrifice they've made and how they've blessed this nation."
Demonstrators said they were motivated to rally by the bombing this month of a military recruiting station in New York's Times Square. Anger over an event in Silver Spring on Friday, during which several former soldiers and Marines sorrowfully described firing indiscriminately on apartment buildings filled with families in Iraq, also served as a rallying point.
"We're here to protest IVAW," the Iraq Veterans Against the War organization that sponsored Friday's event, David Russo, 47, of New York said in an interview. "We believe what all of them are saying is lies."
Russo, who has not served in the military, added that he and others recently held a rally in Times Square to show support for the military recruiters. "We brought them lunch, cake, ice cream and coffee," he said, adding that people in the station "loved us."
Harry Riley, a retired Army colonel who helped organize yesterday's event, which included a march down nearby streets, said he does not want the nation to repeat mistakes made in ending the Vietnam War.
"Our attitude is victory is the goal rather than surrender," Riley, of Crestview, Fla., said in an interview. Noting how some Vietnam War veterans were denigrated by war protesters upon their return to the United States, he added: "We want to make sure the same thing does not happen" to Iraq war veterans.