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Oklahoma Pledges not to Abandon Troops

Lawmakers Pass Resolution, Veterans Stage Capitol Rally

Mon February 19, 2007

OKLAHOMA CITY – Crowding the Oklahoma State Capitol plaza, over a thousand veterans, lawmakers and soldier well wishers pledged their support for U.S. troops in Iraq despite the low temperatures and biting wind.   The rally was organized by Vets for Victory to coincide with the Oklahoma State Legislature’s passing of a resolution pledging that the state will not abandon the troops in this war.

"It's time America found its spine," said retired Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell, chairman of Vets for Victory.  The unit Russell commanded in Iraq played a central role in the hunt and capture of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

"The biggest mistakes being made in this war are on the home front, not the battlefront.” Russell said. “We never thought that our own people would betray our efforts." (Read Russell's entire speech here)

The crowd, many carrying signs that read "Iraq: In It to Win It" and "We Won't Betray Our Troops," rallied a day after the Democrat-controlled U.S. House passed a nonbinding resolution opposing President Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.

"To come home to a patriotic rally after the week I've had in Washington, D.C. is refreshing," declared US Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Okla. in remarks to the rally.  Fallin, who voted against the resolution said the resolution "sends a strong signal of weakness" to our enemies.

"Failure of the U.S. in the war on terror is not an option." Fallin said.

"Congress can play an unintended role in losing wars."

Russell said the soldier’s view of resolution “is like someone coming up to you at work, slugging you in the gut and saying, “ Oh, that was not meant for you.  I like you.  That was meant for your boss.”

"If this is the kind of support that opponents of our efforts overseas offer, we reject it. We despise it.”  Russell said, drawing shouts of approval from the crowd.

"Mistakes that are based on the ‘safety-first’ and ‘peace at any cost’ principle—mistakes of turning away from our enemies; these deserve our highest rebuke and acid consideration.” Russell said.

The rally featured music from the Norman North High School Jazz Ensemble and speeches by veterans of the war in Iraq with moving personal stories.  Kevin Pannell of Dierks, Ark., who lost both of his legs in a grenade ambush while serving as an infantry soldier in Iraq in 2004, told the crowd that lack of support by the nation's leaders has a negative impact on the troops.

"This is a war that cannot be won? -- what kind of message is that?" Pannell said. "This can be a morale killer."

Mike Carmack

“People have told me I ‘lost’ my leg in Iraq,” said Ed Pulido of Oklahoma City, another veteran who was severely wounded in a roadside bomb ambush.  “I didn’t ‘lose’ anything.  I ‘sacrificed’ my leg defending my country.” said Pulido to rousing applause.  “And I would do it again.”

“The message being sent by our Congress is clear.  If you bloody us enough, if you kill enough of our soldiers, we will quit-- just like we did in Vietnam.” said John Reitzell of Huntsville, Alabama, a wounded veteran of Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia.

Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs who served in Iraq and Afghanistan capped the event by reading the Oklahoma Concurrent Resolution 8, which was passed by unanimous consent in both the senate and house.  The bi-partisan resolution was sponsored by Afghanistan veteran and State Sen. Tom Ivestor, D-Elk City, and Gulf War and Ranger veteran State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore. 

The Oklahoma resolution declared, “the Oklahoma State Legislature on behalf of the people of Oklahoma is on record that we will not abandon our service men and women in this time of war and pledges full support to them and their efforts to secure victory.”

The rally was peaceful with only a few counter-protestors showing up with two signs saying “Veterans for Peace.”  The individuals were removed by the Capitol Police. 

Also among the crowd were veterans with banners and flags flapping in a brisk north wind that memorialized the conflicts they were from Vietnam to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"We're just here to support the troops -- and the mission," said Larry Stewart, an Oklahoma Air National Guard veteran. Vets for Victory plans more rallies across the nation that Stewart said will draw enthusiastic support.

"The silent majority is still out there," he said.

"There are millions of Americans who feel like we do.”  Russell said.   “It is time our voices are heard."
Mike Carmack
Mike Carmack
Mike Carmack


800 rally to support soldiers
Criticizing the war efforts aids terrorists, say veterans, speakers

Sun February 18, 2007

By John David Sutter
Staff Writer, The Sunday Oklahoman

Nearly 800 people crowded near the steps of the Oklahoma Capitol on Saturday morning to show their support for America's troops and to insist the war in Iraq is winnable.

The rally came a day after the U.S House of Representatives passed a formal rebuke of President Bush's plan to send more troops to the unpopular war in Iraq, where more than 3,100 U.S. troops have died.

Saturday's speakers assailed that resolution and said troops in Iraq need firm support at home. Support, they said, means fighting until the war is won. Criticizing the war effort lends support to terrorists, several said.

"Today we are telling the United States of America if they have lost sight of what our duty is — to support our troops in a time of war — then they can look to Oklahoma for an example,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell, who returned from Iraq in September.

‘Enemy is watching'
Speakers and members of the audience said terrorism likely will come to U.S. soil if the country pulls out of Iraq soon. Russell reminded the audience of the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, and in 1995 during the Oklahoma City Bombing, an act of domestic terrorism.

"Oklahoma has been touched by domestic terrorism. We understand the costs and consequences if we choose to lose this war,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, told the crowd the "enemy is watching” how Americans are reacting to the war.

"We do believe in victory,” she said, "and we will not abandon you (the troops).”

Fallin voted against the U.S. House resolution that rejects Bush's plan to send 21,000 more troops to Iraq. Oklahoma's other Republican representatives also voted against the measure. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, voted for the nonbinding rebuke.

Underlying the rally was the idea that victory in Iraq is sure, as long as Americans support the war morally and financially.

"Has America ever come across a war that couldn't be won?” asked Kevin Pannell, another speaker at the protest who lost both of his legs fighting in Iraq.

"No!” the crowd shouted back.

"Exactly,” Pannell said.

Some criticized public opinion polls that show many Americans are critical of the war and want to bring troops home.

They said such views are short-sighted and don't account for possible consequences of pulling troops out.

Among them was Mike Elder, whose 22-year-old son is a Marine being sent back to Iraq.

"We have a fast-paced society and everything has to be done quickly,” Elder said, "and if we're going to keep terror off of our shores, it's going to be a long struggle — but it's worth it.”

Taking a stand
Russell, the rally's organizer, put the war in black-and-white terms.  (Read Russell's entire speech here)

It is right to press on to victory, he said, and wrong not to, regardless of what most people think.

"Surveys and opinion polls obscure ... what is right,” he said.

Russell later added, "We must never be apologetic for taking a stand against evil.”

Supporters held American flags that flapped in a bitterly cold wind on the sunny morning. They carried signs with slogans such as, "Americans are not losers” and "We will not betray our troops.”

Many war veterans were in attendance, along with several motorcycle groups and a busload of people from a southern Baptist church.

Most signs offered support for U.S. troops. But others criticized those who might propose a withdrawal from Iraq.


Legislature shows troop support

Rally scheduled Saturday morning on the steps of the state Capitol
Fri February 16, 2007

By John Greiner
Capitol Bureau, The Daily Oklahoman

The Oklahoma Senate and House passed a resolution Thursday supporting America's military men and women.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 8 was authored by Sen. Tom Ivester, D-Elk City, a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, and Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, who served as an Army chaplain.

"It's important that the state of Oklahoma stands behind the troops,” Ivester said.

Wesselhoft said he wants to be sure today's military personnel will be acknowledged when they return from the combat zones.

The resolution also designates Saturday as Vets for Victory Day in Oklahoma.

The organization Vets for Victory is holding a rally at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the south steps of the state Capitol to show support for American troops.

Retired Lt. Col. Steve Russell, who was involved in the hunt and capture of former Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, is a rally organizer.

He said Oklahomans must let soldiers know that their state is behind them.


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