Residents show support for troops, bring donations to rally

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 31, 2003

Hundreds showed up at a support-the-troops rally outside the Albert Lea Union Center Sunday afternoon, many wearing military uniforms, waving flags or toting plastic bags full of toothpaste, batteries, snack foods and other goods that will be shipped to soldiers overseas.

&uot;We need more support like this,&uot; said Don Shuck, who showed up wearing a new T-shirt with &uot;Hasta La Vista, Saddam&uot; on the back. &uot;This is great.&uot;

Shuck, whose brother was in the military for many years, said the U.S. troops are helping make the world a safer place.

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Even before the rally’s start at 1 p.m., people began dropping off bags of &uot;quality-of-life&uot; items that the Red Cross will ship to the troops in the Middle East.

&uot;When I arrived, there were already like five boxes of stuff,&uot; said local Red Cross Director Ann Pribyl. The Red Cross youth group is coordinating the local quality of life campaign and hopes to continue collecting donations that will help keep the troops more comfortable.

By 2 p.m., Pribyl and other workers had counted around 20 knee-high boxes full of donations.

Some people stopped by to drop off goods; others stayed and waved flags or held up signs as passing cars honked. At one point when the crowd was at its peak, the group held hands and sang &uot;God Bless America.&uot;

&uot;We’ve had some good response from everybody out here,&uot; said John Severtson of Albert Lea, who organized the event.

&uot;A lot of these people have got sons or daughters or grandsons over there,&uot; he said.

Severtson said the rally was intended as a way for people to show their support for the people in the military, regardless of people’s opinions on the war itself. He said more rallies may be held in the future.

Weekly peace rallies have also been held at the corner of Bridge Avenue and Fountain Street on Thursdays at 4:30; counter-demonstrators have also become a fixture at those gatherings.

The Red Cross, located at 1606 Fountain St., will continue collecting the donations, as well as cash to help pay for shipping. Call 373-4544 for more information.