War rally brings out American pride in the capital city

Under a blue sky on the steps of the state Capitol, more than 500 people carried signs, waved flags, and held hands Wednesday in support of the nation's troops in the last hours before impending war.

People cheered. They dabbed their eyes as they heard the words of "God Bless the U.S.A." and the national anthem. Children played on the grass.

Meanwhile, troops half way around the world readied for conflict as President Bush issued a letter to Congress offering the administration's formal notification of war with Iraq. News stations counted down the minutes of the official time limit of the president's ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Those on the steps of the Legislative Building prayed for the troops poised in the Middle East, hoping to send a message of support to balance coverage of anti-war protests that have taken place.

"We have gathered here to offer our support," Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war Ray Alcorn told the crowd. "We support the policies of our commander in chief ... and we do it with the grace, dignity and style that our president and our troops deserve."

"Sending our troops into battle is not something to take lightly," Alcorn said. "Freedom comes with a price tag, and sometimes the cost of freedom is war."

Alcorn read a letter he sent to his nephew, who is in the Marine Corps flying an H-53 helicopter in Kuwait. Alcorn encouraged the crowd to support families left behind by service members.

"They are our neighbors, and it is a responsibility for us, the silent majority, to comfort and support them," he said.

Former Sen. Lawrence Jacobson, R-Minden, led the crowd in prayer, saying thanks for "the beautiful place where we live."

"Bring them safely home when the job is done," Jacobson said.

The emotional outpouring of patriotism brought nonstop honks of support from drivers passing by the Capitol. People from Reno, Lake Tahoe, Carson and Douglas County came out with signs, flags and a lot of pride.

"I think we should kick some butt over there," said Julie Rubin, 38. "I hope everybody is safe and returns safe."

Assemblyman Ron Knecht, R-Carson City, said he was proud to be at the rally and supports the plans to liberate the Iraqi people and the development of plans of recovery and reconstruction.

"The ceremony was inspiring," Knecht said. "America is once again fighting a war of liberation."

Douglas County Commissioner Steve Weissinger attended the rally along with other local officials.

"It makes you proud to be an American," he said. "It's a time to unite and stand for one purpose. It's time to move forward with whatever decision is made at the highest levels of government."

Many veterans brought out their medals, hats and flags. A former Army reservist, Larry Dilley, 65, of Minden said he feels the troops are the best in the world and stand a good chance of coming home.

"Sometimes you almost start to well up, you feel so proud," Dilley said.

Many people at the rally expressed their concern about anti-war protests and how similar actions affected Vietnam War soldiers. The reason for Wednesday's rally was to show that many people support the troops and national policy, organizers said.

Alcorn said the anti-war protests shown to him when he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam gave support to the enemy.

The protests "prolonged my stay in the wretched cells of North Vietnam," he said.


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