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Hundreds rally for troops in Iraq at B-A Friday

With a picture of her husband held high in the air, Pamela Yohn used her voice Friday to show her support for the troops fighting the war in Iraq. As did her son Michael…and her daughter Ashley…and her mother-in-law…and the hundreds of other people who attended Friday’s “Rally ‘Round Our Troops” gathering at the Bellwood-Antis High School.
“I just want to let everyone know that we’re thinking about them,” said Yohn, whose husband Michael is currently moving with the U.S. Army Reserve in Iraq. “All of them.”
The crowd at the auditorium of the high school resembled a sea of red, white and blue as those who attended donned this nation’s colors and waived Old Glory high in the air.
The rally, sponsored in part by parents of local service people and the Bellwood-Antis High School Fellowship of Christian Athletes, offered numerous speeches by local dignitaries, songs by members of the B-A Chorus, and poem and scripture readings.
Blair County Commissioner John Eichelberger was attending his third rally in about 10 days. He said Friday’s rally in Bellwood was a little different than others he had attended.
“This group has a little bit more attitude and I feel a lot of love and passion in this room tonight,” said Eichelberger. “There’s a vibe here – an American pride that just can’t be beat.”
With the crowd chanting “U.S.A” and other slogans, Eichelberger discussed why he believes America will win the war in Iraq.
“We have the best fighting force in the world,” said Eichelberger. “It’s not because we have the best educated military leadership on the planet. It’s not because we have the highest trained fighting force in the world and the best equipped.
“It boils down to one reason why our troops are better than anyone else in the world – it’s because they are Americans.”
Those Americans, according to State Sen. Robert Jubelirer, are the reason that protesters all around the country have the right to express their opinions.
“There’s always been protesters, and frankly, the war is to protect the rights of those protesters to be able to protest,” he said. “If these people were in another country, they’d be shot, or killed or jailed. But not here.
“I’m glad to live in a free country where I can express my views while others express different kinds of views,” he said. “Regardless, we all are under the wonderful flag of the United States of America.”
Jubelirer reminded those in attendance that freedom can’t be taken for granted any longer after the events that unfolded on Sept. 11, 2002. He called this freedom “precious.”
“As we walk out of here tonight – not as Christians, not as black or white or Muslim or Jew – we walk out as proud Americans,” said Jubelirer, “We have a sense of pride that can’t be tainted by the unjusts in the world. We are American and we walk under this flag because we are proud – proud to be who we are.”
State Rep. Jerry Stern, like Eichelberger and Jubelirer, has attended a good number of rallies over the past two weeks. A recent gathering in Martinsburg really tugged at his heart strings.
“When I went home from that rally, I was quite emotional,” said Stern. “After reflecting on the songs and statements that were made, I was touched and felt really connected with the troops.”
Stern said he flicked on the television to see a 48 Hours program concerning a missing American troop named Jessica Lynch.
“I was not aware of her up to that time, but that program really drove home what our men and women are facing over there,” said Stern.
The next morning, while teaching his regular Sunday School class, he asked those attending to keep Jessica Lynch in their hearts and minds and to pray for her recovery and delivery.
“Sure enough, a few days later, my wife called and told me that Jessica Lynch was rescued,” said Stern. “All I could say was ‘Thank God’ and ‘it’s true, God does answer prayers.”
Prior to finishing his talk, Stern asked the hundreds of rally attendees to say a short prayer for the men and women overseas.
“Everyone can do something for our people in the military and it’s pretty simple,” said Stern. “Just say a prayer. And just don’t say a prayer for our people in Iraq. We have men and women stationed all over the globe that need to be in our hearts and prayers. Let’s not forget about the ones serving in Bosnia and Serbia and Korea. They, like the ones in Iraq, are all there for a single and important reason – Freedom. And they need our support.”
Others who presented speeches at the rally included BAHSFCA officers Jackie Davis, Tyler Elvey and Ryan Myers, Pastor Dave Ervine and Bellwood Borough Mayor Jim Bonsell. Songs for the evening were performed by the B-A chorus, including “The Star Spangled Banner,” “America the Beautiful,” and “God Bless America.”
There were also solo performances by Andrew Hostler and Pastor Norman Huff, and a duet by Melody and Jeff Plummer.
Emcee for the evening was B-A School Board President Ken Loucks.
“Everything went exactly as we wanted it too,” said Worthing, who helped organize the event. “We started out with 500 small flags, and there weren’t any left when it was over. I think we got our message out that we support everyone who are fighting for this country.
“So much support was a beautiful sight to see.”
Organizers gave yellow ribbons to all families who have relatives serving overseas. Worthing said nearly 50 bows were given away.
Inside the evening’s program, a detailed list of local service people were included. Listed were:
Navy
Matt Bell, PJ Bobak, Dan DelGrosso, Jeremy Diehl, Jeff Dry, Wade Finch, Nick Graham, Tommy Kovac, Lance Kustaborder, Chris Laird, Amanda Partner and Eric Schmidt.
Air Force
Chad Anthony, Bill Benner III, Angela Cherry, Ryan Cherry, Derrick Dean, Mark Hanna, Nathan Hoffer, Shawn Hoffer, Jeffrey Hostler, Christine Lewis, David Patterson, Joe Stuby, John Watters and Lindsey Cherry.
Marines
Scott Dickson, Jess Hanna, Joe Henry, Aaron King, Eric Liddick, San Maillard, Patrick Thornton, Andrew Walker, Adam Worthing and Mike Grazier.
Army
Bob Allen, Joe Bagley, Rachel Bower, Robert Boyer, Eric Detwiller, Brian Edmiston, Wade Finch, Comanche Garcia, Michael Hartz, Fred Loucks, Derrick Dean, Evan Good, Adam Culp, Christopher Ingram, Matt Miller, Daniel Moyer, Dustin Moyer, Phil O’Donald, Brad Snyder, Jerry Snyder Jr., Tammy Weiser, Chad Wesbrook, Mark Yohn, Travis Yarnell, Doug Walters and Michael O’Doud.
Army National Guard
Michael Allen, Christine Dell, Mark Decker, Lee Hayes, Sam Hayes and J.H. Nedimyer Jr.
Branch not noted
Mike Kissell, Jendi Marshall, Scott Brooks, Jason Treese and Jacob Pierce.