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Florida Challenged not to Abandon Troops

Lawmakers Mull Resolution, Troop Supporters Organize Victory Rally

Tues June 12th, 2007

TAMPA – A man that was central in the hunt and capture of Saddam Hussein is challenging Florida lawmakers and citizens not to abandon the troops.  "Our troops should not have to fight terrorists abroad and be betrayed at home," declared retired Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell, who chairs Vets for Victory, an organization he founded to put the soldier's voice in the national debate on the war. Russell, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, is bringing his message to Florida this week. 

"As someone who has been on the ground in Iraq, I understand more than most just how important our mission there is," said State Senator Cary Baker (R-Eustis), a Florida Guardsman and veteran of Iraq.  Taking a stand for veterans across the state, Baker and State Representative Trey Traviesa (R-Tampa), a Navy veteran, have shown interest in special legislation in the form of a proclamation to declare Florida's support of service men and women.  The resolution declares in plain language that Florida will not abandon servicemen and women in this time of war and pledges full support to them and their efforts to secure victory. Hillsborough County recently passed a similar resolution.


Bayshore Patriots show support to returning troops

Now, Baker and Traviesa have pledged to support such proclamations to send a clear message to soldiers serving that they will have Florida's full commitment.  How anyone can take a stand "against a resolution supporting victory when documents found in Iraq show that even Al Qaeda is confident of our victory is inexplicable and deplorable," said Baker in comments earlier this year about war funding and timetables.  Both believe they can garner support for a simple and quick declaration of such support without affecting the special session.  They became interested when contacted by Russell, who has successfully worked several such legislative efforts in other states.

Now, concerned citizens, veterans support groups and others plan to declare their own support in a rally at Joe Chillura Park in Tampa on Saturday, June 16th, 10:00 am, sponsored by the Community Issues Council.  "The brave men and women who are fighting this war want to win," said Council President Terry Kemple.  "Don’t sell them out before the job is finished!

That is a perspective that Florida's Iraq veterans would agree with.  "I think Floridians need to understand that their troops really care about finishing the mission and about the people we'll leave behind," said former Army Sergeant and two-tour Iraqi vet Travis Van Buren in West Palm Beach.  "I think the only people in our country that really care about Iraqi people are the troops" added Van Buren.


University of South Florida Student and returning Iraqi veteran Dave Sampson agrees.  "The only quagmire that I see about Iraq is the barrage of misinformation that is presented by the media.  The pursuit of freedom in Iraq is not a one night stand!"

Russell, who is slated to speak at Saturday's rally, encouraged the public to show their support with deeds and not just words. "If you have done nothing for soldiers this year, now is your chance to just come and spend an hour standing up for the troops.  And if you have helped them, we'll see you there." In addition to Russell, Silver Star recipient and retired Army Lt. Col. Scott Rutter, whose battalion captured the Baghdad International Airport, will also speak.  Kemple added that other expected speakers include US Congressman Gus Bilirakis and State Representative Trey Traviesa.  The event is free of charge and open to the public.


Vets for Victory to hold rally in park Saturday

The goal is too offer a counterpoint to the media coverage of the war, a speaker says

St. Petersburg Times

Friday, June 15th, 2007

by Michael A. Mohammed

Times Staff Writer

TAMPA - Annoyance creeps into Lt. Col. Steve Russell's voice when he discusses the unpopularity of the war in Iraq.

"I was shocked, as many returning soldiers were, when I came home from another war, to see large segments of American people criticizing our mission without good clear facts from those that had been there," he said.

Russell recently retired from the Army.  In Iraq, he led an infantry battalion in the hunt for Saddam Hussein.  He will lead a rally Saturday morning in honor of [Florida's] soldiers.

Such rallies "have a real effect on the moral of our soldiers," he said.  "They also declare a position of support when so many are speaking out against the troops and our mission."

The hour long event will feature speeches from Russell, a Silver Star-winning commander of another infantry battalion, and two local Iraq veterans.

The goal, Russell said, is to offer a counterpoint to the grim media coverage of thewar.

"The average American sees the worst of all possible events on the evening news," he said, but"we care about the Iraqi people."


The rally starts at 10:00 a.m. Saturday at Joe Chillura park.  The hour's speakers will include retired Army Lt. Col.Steve Russell, who commanded an infantry battalion in the hunt for Saddam Hussein, and Lt. Col. Scott Rutter, whose battalion captured Baghdad International Airport.  The crowd also will hear from local returning Iraq vets Travis Van Buren of Brandon and Dave Sampson, a university of South Florida student.


Location of Vets for Victory / Community Issues Council Rally - June 16th, 2007

The Vets for Victory Rally sponsored by the Tampa Community Issues Council is located in downtown Tampa near the courthouse at the Joe Chillura Courthouse Park.  Event will kick off at 10:00 am and will be over by 11:30 am.  Event is open to the public and is free of charge.



The Joe Chillura Courthouse Park in the heart of downtown Tampa, Florida


Florida's Veterans, not citizens stand to support Troops

Despite patriotism of many, few willing to show for rally

Sun June 17th, 2007

TAMPA – Even at mid-morning on a clear day, few Floridians answered the call Saturday to spend an hour to show support for the troops in downtown Tampa.   An array of speakers, some traveling from New York and Oklahoma, addressed only a few score of people at the Joe Chillura Park in an event sponsored by the Community Issues Council in cooperation with Vets for Victory.

"We had hoped for a better showing but are still very pleased with the resolution passed by the Hillsborough County Commissioners," offered Terry Kemple, of the Council.  The event was an effort to show support to the troops and put the soldier's voice in the national debate on the war. For those who did come, including representatives from the offices of Senator Mel Martinez, Governor Christ, and US Rep Gus Bilirakis, they were not disappointed with the strong message to those opposing the war.

"The biggest mistakes being made in this war are being made on the home front," said Scott Rutter, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who commanded the unit that captured the Baghdad International Airport.

"Wars are not won by withdrawals, but by victory," said Steve Russell, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who led an infantry battalion on the hunt for Saddam Hussein. "We believe in America, and we believe in winning."

"How do you intend to win a war that you refuse to admit exists?" asked Marty Van Buren, a Florida native and Marine veteran. "Like Vietnam, we will only lose this war if we choose to. Please, do not let this war become my generation's Vietnam."

Those in attendance agreed.  "We have to win no matter what the cost," said Dave Smith, 51, a peacetime Army veteran from Tampa who heard about the event on the radio Friday. "Defeat is not an option."

Martin Van Buren, 53, said he drove down from Brooksville to support his sons, a former Marine and an Army sergeant who is going back on active duty this week.  He remains steadfast in his support.  He said he has to, for his sons.

"The insurgence is emboldened by what our media have done," said Cathy Davis, 48, of Tampa, who took home two yard signs that said AMERICANS ARE NOT LOSERS. "I've had these feelings for a long time, but there's no voice for it."

"The voice is there," declared Russell, the founder and chairman of Vets for Victory.  "America needs to listen to her soldiers."



Hillsborough County Commission Resolution approved June 6th, 2007


WHEREAS, almost 2 million American military men and women – including those who are active, guard and reserve - are on duty around the world to protect all Americans from those who would do us harm;

and WHEREAS, many troops are making long-term personal sacrifices to be engaged in combat in lands far away from their families, friends and homes, while others have been wounded in combat or made the supreme sacrifice;

and WHEREAS, there are more than 7,000 military men and women currently serving in Hillsborough County at MacDill Air Force Base;

and WHEREAS, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners has created an Active Military Combat Duty Grant to offer a financial grant for active duty military members to assist them in the maintenance and support of their family and home while serving in combat, and has dedicated a memorial site in Joe Chillura Courthouse Square in downtown Tampa to honor our fallen soldiers in the Middle East;

and WHEREAS, Hillsborough County is proud of the sacrifices and bravery of our service men and women and expresses gratitude for their heroic service to the United States of America.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT PROCLAIMED that the Board County Commissioners of Hillsborough County, Florida does hereby recognize June 16, 2007, as Vets for Victory Day and encourages all residents of Hillsborough County to continue to support our troops in times of conflict and times of peace, as our military heroes pay the price for our freedom every day.

Executed this 6th day of June, 2007

signed by unanimous consent of all commissioners


State of Florida House Resolution #22100

Pro#22100 (Successfully submitted on June 15th but tabled until the next regular legislative session)

Whereas, almost two million American military men and women (active, guard, and reserve) are on duty around the world and many of them are engaged in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting the “War on Terror”; and

Whereas, over 100,000 military men and women are based in and deploy from Florida; and

Whereas, members of the United States military are making considerable personal sacrifice including long separations from their families; and

Whereas, many troops have made the supreme sacrifice while others have been wounded in combat; and

Whereas, the United States military continues to protect all Americans from those who are their avowed enemies.


THAT the FLORIDA SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES declare full support of our troops and their mission in conducting the “War on Terror”.

THAT the FLORIDA SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES on behalf of the people of the State of Florida are on record that we will not abandon our service men and women in this time of war and that we pledge full support to them and their efforts to secure victory.

THAT the FLORIDA SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES are proud of the sacrifices and bravery of our service men and women and express gratitude for their heroic service to the United States of America.

THAT the FLORIDA SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES designate June 16th, 2007 as “Vets for Victory Day” in the State of Florida.


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