By Aaron Mackey
CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
More than 3,000 people gathered at Reid Park Saturday morning to show support for U.S. troops overseas.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday March 31, 2003
Standing in front of a camera at Reid Park Saturday, family and friends of troops stationed in the Gulf recorded messages of love and thanks during the Support America/Support our Troops Rally.
The messages, many filled with tears, will be sent to troops to show Americans support them, even if the media does not always portray that sentiment, rally-goers said.
Mathematics freshman Tyler Harris said the media portrays only an active minority who are against the war, which, he said, is not an accurate representation of the American psyche.
"The majority (of Americans) absolutely, wholeheartedly support our troops, all the way from the fighting men in Iraq, to the troops abroad, to the President of the United States," Harris said.
That is what motivated Harris, along with over 3,000 other students and Tucsonans, to attend the rally, with American flags and a message to America's armed forces in tow.
UA College Republican President Scott Weller said he was impressed by the turnout and glad to see so much encouragement for the troops.
"There are a lot of people here who are praying and supporting our troops," he said.
The crowd chanted, "We support our troops," and "USA," throughout the morning as guest speakers voiced their support from the stage.
"We really want to make sure that (the troops) know we love and support them," said history junior Carrie Ramsey.
Ramsey, whose brother Sean serves in a Marine reserve unit, is part of the Support America/Support our Troops committee.
The committee, made up of families of Marine Reservists, came together two weeks ago to plan the event, with a goal of showing troops that America supports them and their efforts in Iraq.
Ramsey said that, despite the short time in which the event was planned and staged, the group found quick and helpful corporate sponsorship. Her mother rented the band shell, where the rally took place, out of her own pocket.
"It takes a lot of money to do something like this right," Ramsey said, adding that the demonstration was well worth the cost.
"These are the people that make Americans free," Harris, a member of UA College Republicans, said.
Numerous speakers, including U.S. Eighth District Representative Jim Kolbe, echoed Harris' thoughts.
Kolbe acknowledged the patriotism of the crowd and thanked the troops for their willingness to fight for the country's freedoms. Kolbe said later that while some Americans hesitate to speak in support of the troops and the war, it is important to voice encouragement to them.
"Today we're not being silent," Kolbe said.
Both throughout the crowd and on stage, several called anti-war protests unpatriotic and un-American.
Harris said he thought that characterization was misguided, though not entirely untrue, citing how he saw protesters at the UA Mall "Speaker's Corner" wearing slashed American flag pins on their shirts.
Harris also said he did not believe that a person could support the troops while not supporting their cause.
"I think that in order to support the troops, you have to support their actions," Harris said.