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Published: Sunday, 4/6/2003

Perrysburg rallies in support of U.S. troops overseas

BY LUKE SHOCKMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ray Simoni, a Vietnam veteran, and his friend, Helen Osborne, show support for the U.S. troops fighting in Iraq. The pair were part of a rally yesterday at Woodland Park in Perrysburg. About 300 people, many with children serving in the armed forces, attended the rally. Ray Simoni, a Vietnam veteran, and his friend, Helen Osborne, show support for the U.S. troops fighting in Iraq. The pair were part of a rally yesterday at Woodland Park in Perrysburg. About 300 people, many with children serving in the armed forces, attended the rally.
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One by one they marched to the microphone and gave the name of their family member serving in the military.

Fathers, grandsons, mothers, husbands - all were remembered yesterday during a pro-troop rally held at Woodland Park in Perrysburg, where about 300 people gathered.

When it was Rick and Jayne Wagner's turn, they spoke of their son, James, 22, a corporal in the Marine Corps and graduate of Perrysburg High School.

“He's either in Baghdad or keeping the door to Baghdad open,” Mr. Wagner said after the rally.

He and many of those with family serving in the Middle East can't be more precise. The war in Iraq has advanced swiftly, and mail takes awhile to catch up with the troops.

Mr. Wagner said the last time he and his wife spoke to their son was in February, and the last letter they received from him dated March 15, three days before the war began.

McKenzie Phillips of Swanton holds a photo of her uncle, Rich, who serves in the Army. McKenzie Phillips of Swanton holds a photo of her uncle, Rich, who serves in the Army.
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Attending the rally was a nice break from being glued to the television, Mr. Wagner said. The news, broadcast 24 hours-a-day, has been both good and bad. On the one hand, he's pleased to see the war going swiftly. But he said he and other military families cringe whenever they hear the inevitable bad news.

“It's frustrating when you hear the reports come over that say, `Four Marines were killed,'” he said.

But yesterday was a time to cheer and share stories with other families.

“I'm tired of seeing all the [anti-war] stuff,” he said. “No one wants a war, but we're here to support our troops.”

No one had to ask Richard and Carol Eckermann to show their support.

The Millbury couple heard about the rally and drove to Perrysburg. Mr. Eckermann brought along a steel flag pole with a large American flag on it. He held the pole throughout the rally as the flag flapped over his head.

Dave Hecht, former NBC 24 weatherman and one of the speakers, told the crowd he has a brother serving in the Middle East and he himself is in the Naval Reserves and getting ready to ship out for South Korea. He reminded the crowd that as cold as it was outside, it sure beat the 100-degree temperatures the troops in Iraq were enduring.

Mr. Hecht, like Mr. Wagner, said he too was tired of peace protesters. As a former journalist, he said he supports the First Amendment. But he told the crowd that once a war starts, “it's time to shut up and support our troops.”

Mr. Wagner said he hopes his son returns home safely - and soon. But he said he also finds himself thinking of the irony of his prayers.

“Each night I go and pray for my son to return safely,” he said, knowing that somewhere an Iraqi father is probably doing the same thing for his son.

With a touch of sadness, he said if the two sons meet in battle “I hope my prayers are answered, and his aren't.”



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