Cape VFW post holds rally to support troops

Sunday, March 16, 2003

FRED LYNCH * flynch@semissourian.com

Brandi Brooks of Sikeston, Mo., checked for job openings on an Internet Web site from a computer at Career Services in the University Center, where she works part time as a student at Southeast Missouri State University.By Chris Pagano ~ Southeast Missourian

Dozens of people turned out Saturday to show support for U.S. troops overseas at VFW Post 3838 in Cape Girardeau.

The purpose of the flag rally was to raise the community's awareness in hopes of boosting troop morale, according to organizers.

"By word of mouth, marquee announcements, etc., this rally has grown since the last one," VFW commander Fletcher Chasteen said. "A rumor of cancellation went around. There's no way I could allow that to happen. This rally is not pro- or anti-war. We are here for support, remembering our comrades."

A similar rally was held a month ago at the VFW post, Chasteen said.

Chasteen read a code of conduct oath taken by those in the military and while he unsuccessfully held back his emotions, said, "It gets emotional when you take it seriously."

Relying on past experience as president of the Enlisted Wives Club during the Gulf War, rally organizer Donna Sternickle has planned a yellow ribbon display at 1049 Kingshighway, the VFW lawn, led by members of the community with loved ones on active duty. Anyone can attach a yellow ribbon with a nametag to a dowel rod and set it in the preplanted holders already in place on the lawn. Sternickle encouraged participants to pick up their yellow ribbons when their loved one returns, making a ceremony of it.

"Anything that shows our support, concern and interest is a positive thing to do," said Chasteen, a veteran of World War II. "When you're on active duty, any encouragement from home boosts your morale."

Girl Scouts participated in the rally and offered the post a commemorative picture of Junior Troop 41 in thanks for the support the post offered in buying cookies to send to troops overseas.

Marcia Williams, service project chairperson, borrowed the idea from a Sacramento, Calif., troop that sent cookies to soldiers to boost morale.

She said the 13 girls of Troop 41 received donations from the VFW and Drury Southwest and collected over $500 selling cookies, altogether raising $833 to purchase cookies for soldiers. They also had posters for anyone to sign or send a message along with the cookies.

On a laptop computer, Lt. Col. Dennis Vollink presented a slide show of scenes of soldiers from all over the United States in Afghanistan.

The next flag rally is planned for April 12.

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133

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