Bands, Speakers Gather To Lend Support To Troops

Saturday, July 7th 2007, 4:24 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ With a son-in-law now serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq and a soldier son that has served in Afghanistan, Kathy Johnston of Purcell is tired of hearing people say they're growing weary of the war on terror.

Johnston wants to make sure that her five grandchildren understand that no matter what one believes about the war, it's important to support U.S. troops.

That's why she, her daughter and daughter-in-law brought them Saturday afternoon to the Oklahoma version of ``Operation America Rising,'' an event touted as a nonpartisan way to express appreciation for the job that U.S. soldiers are doing.

``Her husband wants to be here (at home),'' Johnston said, motioning toward her daughter-in-law, Melissa Morning of Fort Bragg, N.C. ``But he knows what he is doing is right.

``There is a lot of good going on over there, and we hear about it firsthand, even if the media doesn't report it.''

According to the Operation America Rising Web site, events were planned Saturday in 35 states. The Oklahoma event, held at State Capitol Park, included a lineup of three speakers and six bands, including five from the Sooner State.

All the participants offered their services for free, said Ren Schuffman, the lead singer for Oklahoma City-based band StoneWater and one of the event's organizers.

Another organizer, Cheryl Johnson of Oklahoma City, said proceeds would go toward military charities. As part of the event, the Oklahoma Blood Institute conducted a blood drive.

``It's not anti-war. It's not pro-war,'' said Schuffman, who noted his best friend is serving his fourth tour of duty in the war as an Air Force pilot. ``It has nothing to do with war. It has to do with supporting our military. Our military goes where they're told to go. We're completely behind our soldiers.

``We certainly don't want our troops coming home and feeling like they're not appreciated. We want them to know that, no matter what people's personal views on politics or the war in general, that we as Americans stand behind our soldiers who go out there and fight and sacrifice their lives.''

Scheduled speakers included state Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs; author Robert Orbach, who wrote a firsthand account of his experience as a World War II soldier in a book called ``Not All Hell;'' and Oklahoma Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon.

``This is a statement that we believe in what (troops) are doing,'' said Dorman, in whose district lies Fort Sill, a large Army base near Lawton. ``We have to send that message ... We've got to send a message to every politician in Washington, D.C., that they've got to provide money for the troops.''

Dorman said that ``whatever the news reports say, people want freedom ... and our soldiers are providing that opportunity for them.'' He said that in doing so the troops are fulfilling ``an obligation to humanity.''

That message certainly resonated with Johnston, Morning and Johnston's daughter, Jennifer West of Purcell, whose group carried signs saying ``God Bless Our Troops'' and ``United We Stand'' and adorned the area around their chairs and blankets with small U.S. flags.

The event ``is a great opportunity to teach the kids about patriotism and supporting your country,'' West said. ``You don't have to worry about being Democrat or Republican. You can come out and say, you know what, we just support our troops and we hope that they all come home safe.''