Operation Iraqi Freedom supporters wave the red, white and blue

At sunrise Friday a group of about 75 Kaua’i residents gathered in support of troops serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War, and supporters and family members of troops now stationed overseas stood at the Kapule Highway- Ahukini Road intersection from 6:30-7:45 a.m.

The flag-waving event was organized by state public defender Jim Itamura, who is active in the Hawai’i Air National Guard and an Air Force veteran.

Using war protesters to further propaganda is part of Saddam Hussein’s war plan, Itamura said. “We know a lot of people who are right there at the front lines,” he said, adding that while peace protesters and anti-war messages are getting more media coverage, polls show the majority of Americans support President Bush and the war.

“We wanted to confront this notion that people can oppose the war but support the troops. That’s just not possible,” he continued.

Hartwell Blake, former County attorney, held his American flag as he told how his daughter, 1st. Lt. Courtney Blake Sugai, 101st Airborne Division, called him at 5 a.m. yesterday from Iraq. Sugai, 25, a University of Hawai’i-Manoa and Kaua’i High School graduate, served in Afghanistan and had been home for just six months before deciding to return to the service, he said.

“A French journalist let her use a satellite phone, so she came in clear as a bell,” he said with tears in his eyes, “I was just so thankful.” He hadn’t heard from his daughter during her deployment prior to Friday, and no mail has been getting through. Still, he related, morale is OK and troops are never without their goggles and utility knife tools.

Joe and Terry Reyes were supporting their grandson Joseph Stevens, 25, who is aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. The Reyeses have 10 relatives in many branches of the military, all serving in Iraq. “That’s why we come out and support,” Terry said. “Hawai’i people are patriotic,” Joe said.

“I don’t like war, I was in World War II,” said Joe Stoddard. “There are other alternatives, but there was no other choice,” said the Navy veteran who served aboard an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.

America needs to get rid of “a man who want to take protesters and put them in a meat grinder,” he said, referring to a recent TV special focusing on the lives of Iraqi women.

Scott Theis, 29, of Hanapepe, is an eight-year veteran of the Marines, having served in the 2nd and 3rd Light Armor Reconnaissance divisions.

He stated that though he left the Marines, he is considering re-enlisting, as both of his units are still in service.

As to the war protesters, he said that it is a younger generation and also older people who “want to rekindle what was going on in Vietnam,” but he thinks for the most part, young people do support our troops in the war.

“For veterans and those who have served in the armed forces…It’s a time of war. We should support the troops, not rally against people,” he said.

Another rally is set for 6:30 a.m. next Friday at Puhi Park across the highway from Kaua’i Community College.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at mailto:kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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