I attended this rally yesterday for a few hours.
Solidarity fills SR square
300 attend Support the Troops rally honoring servicemen and women; number disappoints organizers
By MARTIN ESPINOZA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Several hundred people gathered beneath a hot afternoon sun Saturday at Santa Rosa's Old Courthouse Square to pay homage to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq.
Amid red, white and blue balloons and American flags of all sizes, the friends and families of local servicemen and women said prayers for their loved ones and shared words of support and encouragement.
"Where else can a mother come and carry pictures of her son?" Windsor resident Melinda Anderson told the crowd.
Anderson said her 24-year-old son, Marine Sgt. Bobby Anderson, has been deployed twice in Iraq, and her 22-year-old son Kenny, a lance corporal with the Marines, is waiting for his deployment.
"They look at it as that's what they've been trained to do," she said. "Just like a teacher who has gone to college to teach, a soldier looks at being deployed as their job. It's what they've been trained to do."
The people who attended the rally paid special tribute to service members who had fallen in Iraq, including six from the North Coast.
A booth at the rally prominently displayed a newspaper clipping of the most recent death, 31-year-old Army Sgt. Jason Buzzard of Ukiah. Buzzard died Wednesday when a bomb exploded near the cargo truck he was in, Army officials said.
The rally was sponsored by Sonoma County Support the Troops, a group formed in 2004 to demonstrate public support for the military.
The event, which has been held for the past three years, attracted about 300 people, the same as last year's rally.
Although temperatures in downtown Santa Rosa reached only 80 degrees, it felt significantly hotter directly under the sun. But that didn't stop about a dozen members of Mothers of Military Servicemembers, MOMS, from sitting front and center for more than three hours.
Some lamented that more people did not turn out.
"It's something we as Americans should all be proud of," said Dennis Viglienzone, the father of Army Pfc. Caesar Samuel Viglienzone, 21, who was killed in Iraq on Feb. 1 by a roadside bomb.
"The saddest thing is that if you look around, there is such a small group here when you take into consideration the size of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County," he said. "We need to support the troops because they're our friends, they're our neighbors. It's because of what they're doing that hopefully we'll continue to have the freedoms and liberties that previous generations gave us."
Also present was Linda Kynoch, the mother of Spc. Joshua J. Kynoch, 23, who was killed Oct. 1, 2005, in a roadside blast. Kynoch said she wakes up every day wondering how she will honor her son's death.
"It's going to be a daily thing for me," she said.
Organizers said they wanted to avoid the partisan politics surrounding the war in Iraq and simply honor service members. But speakers such as conservative radio show host Melanie Morgan made it clear that politics were unavoidable.
Morgan, who co-hosts The Lee Rodgers & Melanie Morgan Program on KSFO radio, blasted liberals such as Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Jane Fonda and Cindy Sheehan, who has protested the Iraq war since the death of her soldier son.
"They are of us, but they are not us," Morgan said.
Only a couple of war critics showed up to protest.
For troops supporter Allise Yochim, 13, of Santa Rosa the politics of the war take a back seat to her concern for her father, Army Staff Sgt. Mario Moreno, who just got back from Iraq.
A student at Willowside School, she was among a handful of people carrying signs at Santa Rosa Avenue and Third Street.
"We don't know everything that's going on in Iraq, but we're supporting our friends and family that are there," said Allise.