Hundreds gather to offer support for BV area's service people
Red, white and blue were the colors of choice at a Support the Troops rally Wednesday night in Alta, as speakers ranging from a U.S. Congressman to a wife of a National Guardsman praised the men and women serving the country stateside and overseas.
A crowd estimated near 800, including many motorcyclists who had paraded to the site carrying flags, gathered inside the Summit Evangelical Free Church for the 75-minute service. The event included a multimedia presentation with photos honoring dozens of local men and women serving their country, and the families that miss them. There was the Pledge of Allegiance by children from local elementary schools, and a massive color guard in which young scouts joined veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Area pastors gave prayers in both English and Spanish, and standing ovations honored former and current soldiers.
The event was meant to act as a strong counterweight to recent anti-war protests which have been taking place in major cities across the country, and Kristin Fansega, the wife of National Guardsman John Fansega, said it was uplifting to see so many people in attendance.
"It's great to know that there are this many people who want to support our troops and who will come together for something like this," Fansega said. "It really means a lot."
"This would be a good thing to have anytime, but it's especially important right now," Jane Weber of Alta added. "Being able to show our support in this way is something that is a great thing to do."
Those sentiments were echoed by Karen Musselman and her son, Mike, whose husband and father, Dave, has been deployed with the National Guard in Storm Lake since September. Karen said the wartime experience impacted the entire family, and said it was touching to see such a large event take place in a relatively small town such as Alta.
"This is something that you might think would take place somewhere where there are more people, so this is great to see this happen in a place like this," Karen said. "It's great to see that a smaller community has come together to do something like this."
The entire service was meant to honor not only the troops but their loved ones as well, and Sonya Schnetter, whose son, Berry, is deployed overseas with the 129th Transportation Company, said the rally was encouraging for her.
"It's really nice to see all of these people here," Schnetter said. "The support here is just fantastic."
The keynote speaker of the rally was U.S. Representative Steve King, who told the audience he was extremely proud of those who have served in recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"There has never been a United States military that has been short on courage, and these men and women certainly fall into that category," King said.
King also said he could not quantify the importance of the Iraq campaign, particularly given the speed with which it was carried out over the past month.
"I don't know how we can tally up the magnitude of this victory," King said. "It was an astonishing military accomplishment that has never been done before."
The audience also heard emotional words from Tami Otterstatter, whose husband, Keith, is in the National Guard. One of her main stories focused on her son's description of the U.S. flag as a "hero flag," and said there are many more people in the U.S. who share that view than those who hold opposite feelings.
The rally was organized by Michael Ross, Albert City, with some 60 volunteers and many business supporters.