Shoppers skip tribute but support U.S. troops

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Only a few passed through the Court of Honor at Westfield Shoppingtown West Park on Friday morning -- mostly power walkers on their regular route or distracted mothers whose active offspring had to be chased down in the display.

But then came Valerie Marler, who walked with purpose into the military tribute area. She glanced across the construction-paper flags and handmade cards pinned to a long, white wall. And then she approached the display's centerpiece, a growing list of area men and women serving in the military during war with Iraq.

There it was, almost the 300th name: Daniel Marler, her son.

"I like to think that he has one of the safer jobs," the Jackson woman said, readjusting a silver bracelet with American flag charms. "He's refueling helicopters at an airbase in Saudi Arabia. That's what he told us."

Even if they didn't visit the Cape Girardeau mall's recently dedicated court, interviewed shoppers said the war was almost constantly on their minds, and they support America's troops, even if they initially weren't in favor of fighting.

Eric Kent of Charleston, Mo., said he's been glued to media reports about bombs and battles since Wednesday's declaration, concerned about a cousin who is serving in the Army.

"I watch TV all the time," he said. "I'm waiting to hear when it's going to be over."

Truman Waddle of Whitewater said he'd hoped America's leaders would give diplomacy more time to work, but the time for protesting has passed.

"It's demoralizing for America," he said. "I give the boys over there all the support in the world. We should stand behind them 100 percent."

Bill and Rebecca Fix of Knoxville, Tenn., in the area visiting relatives, had stronger words about protesters.

"I don't think they know what they're talking about," Rebecca Fix said.

"There aren't as many as we are lead to believe," her husband added. "It just makes a good news story."

335-6611, extension 121

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