Pro War? Anti-War? Common Bond? Bring the Troops Home Safely

Mister D: The only thing though…in war…it’s just a pipe dream…so you pray and hope that the casualties are minimal….

Rallies share common hope
Stratford, Branford gatherings want troops home safe
Rebecca Baker, Register Staff April 07, 2003

The steps of Town Hall in Stratford and Branford became a sounding board Sunday for people who wanted to express their views on the war in Iraq.
The two rallies couldn’t have been more different, yet they shared a similar hope — that American troops in the Middle East come home safely.

More than 300 people crowded in front of Stratford Town Hall for a rally sponsored by the town and Raymond T. Goldbach VFW Post 9460.

Almost everyone in the crowd held a small American flag and wore a thick yellow ribbon that volunteers handed out for free. Red, white and blue was splashed across jackets, bandanas, sweaters and posters. The VFW color guard marched and played “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” with bagpipes and a drum.

John Scanlon of Seymour drove to Town Hall in a pickup truck with two large American flags in the back, and flags from every branch of the military.

Scanlon, a member of Conecticut Rolling Flags, an advocacy group for prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action, said the men and women fighting in Iraq are protecting freedom here.

“These guys and ladies have to know we support them,” he said. “Patriotism is a beautiful thing.”

Candace Fabian of Ansonia brought her mother, future daughter-in-law and best friend to the rally. Her son, 22-year-old Marine Cpl. Matthew Fabian, is deployed in Baghdad.

“The protesters were doing me in,” she said, holding a picture of her son in his uniform. “I felt I had to come out and support our troops and let them know we’re here for them.”

Fabian last heard from her son in a March 22 letter. She hasn’t talked to him since February, when he was in Kuwait.

“We pray all day, all night,” she said. “We can’t take ourselves away from the TV. We try to get a glimpse of him.”

Matthew Fabian’s grandmother, Anna Condello of Stratford, wept as Ray Charles’ version of “America the Beautiful” played over the loudspeakers.

“He’s never been away from home,” she said. “We saw him on TV once. It did my heart good.”

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a former Marine reservist, came to Stratford to share his support with the crowd.

“You are making a difference,” he said. “We are all in this fight together.”

The crowd chanted “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” as John LaBarca of WICC-AM 600 in Bridgeport thanked the crowd for supporting the troops in Iraq.

“When you honor our troops, you honor America,” he said.

Meanwhile, about 75 people attended a peace rally on the Branford Green to protest the war and promote nonviolence.

Concerned Citizens of the Shoreline coordinated the event that featured antiwar speakers, bongo drums and a woman playing a guitar and singing “From a Distance” by Bette Midler.

Lindsay Mathews of the Shoreline Green Party criticized the invasion and offered a different opinion of what it means to support the troops.

“We demand the (Bush) administration put an end to this war,” she said. “We must find another way.”

Michael Heaney of Madison, a Vietnam veteran, said no one realizes that young American soldiers in Iraq are seeing images of death and carnage that will haunt them for years to come.

“They’re going to have flashbacks,” he said. “Their lives are already changed forever. My heart goes out to those guys.”

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