Hundreds gather in Fairbanks for war rally

Posted: Monday, April 07, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) Hundreds of people gathered at Veterans Memorial Park to honor the Americans sent overseas to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The crowd waved signs and American flags, sang patriotic songs and occasionally chanted, U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.''

Several military veterans spoke to the gathering. Several war protesters also were on hand.

Stacey Fritz, an organizer of the Fairbanks Coalition for Peace and Justice, said the peace demonstrators support the soldiers, just in a different way. They support them by asking that they be brought home.

To me, supporting the troops is not supporting the president,'' she said.

Some who attended the rally said they feared anti-war protests have buoyed the people American soldiers are trying to defeat.

I think we need to show support for our troops so they know people care about them,'' Bettina Dukes said.

Timothy Billups said his son is stationed in Iraq.

We can't do much for him while he's away and we're at home,'' said Billups, an armed forces veteran. At least we can stand up and say, 'We support you.'''

Gene Riley said he fought in Vietnam.

It's so good to see the people support the troops,'' he said. It was all against with Vietnam.''

Signs read, We stand with our brothers and sisters in service,'' or Freedom is not free.'' A little boy held a sign that read, My father is a hero.''

John Poland, who attended the rally, said he appreciates the soldiers' efforts.

So many families have sons and daughters over there fighting for us,'' he said. We need to support them when they come home too.''

Also attending the rally were University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton, a retired Army general; former Fairbanks Sen. Pete Kelly, whose son is in the armed services and stationed in Iraq; City Council members Donna Gilbert and Bob Boko, who is a veteran; Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly members Randy Frank and Hank Bartos, also a veteran; and school board member Bart LeBon.

Veteran Dave Czech organized the event. Joseph Fields, chairman of the Interior Veterans Coalition, was among the numerous veterans at the rally.

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