Local vets, residents show troops support
A Salem teen set to be deployed to South Korea was among those attending.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Veterans wearing sport jackets and Army hats stopped to slap Jim Stein on the back and shake his hand.
"I have a lot of people thanking me," Stein said Saturday after the conclusion of the tribute to American troops on Federal Plaza. "I think it was very well received."
Stein, 38, of Youngstown, organized the two-hour tribute, which featured speeches by local veterans, a 21-gun salute and a bugler playing taps. He said the tribute was needed to help show soldiers in Iraq that they still have the support of Mahoning Valley residents.
Sending the message
"Our soldiers are still in harm's way. A lot of them have been out of this country for a long time," he said. "I think the message still needs to be sent that we're supporting them."
About 75 people attended the tribute, which was held at the small stone stage at the east end of the plaza.
Stein said he has no ties to veterans groups or relatives serving in Iraq. He said he decided to organize the tribute after reading about anti-war protests that had taken place in Youngstown.
"I felt there was only one message coming out of Youngstown concerning our troops," Stein said, noting that Youngstown City Council had passed a resolution opposing the war. "I didn't want that to be the only message."
Stein, who works at Rainbow Rentals in Warren, paid for the permit to hold the tribute. He said it took about two weeks to organize.
Robert H. Brothers of the Korean War Veterans Association, Chapter 137, added that representatives from local veterans groups held several meetings to prepare for the tribute. When asked what he thought about the number of people who attended the tribute, Brothers responded, "It's never as big as you want."
He also said, however, that he was pleased at the wide variety of people and veterans groups at the tribute.
Among those attending was Sarah Adams, an 18-year-old Salem resident who serves as a medic with an Apache helicopter unit in the Army. She is expecting to be deployed to South Korea in the coming weeks.
Adams said she was there to support her friends serving in Iraq. The crowd gave her a round of applause.
Speakers included Nikki Mendicino, 14, of Springdale, Pa., a well-known veterans' advocate. Mendicino opened her speech by thanking the veterans for their service.
"I never knew that just saying thank-you could mean so much to so many people," she said.
Mendicino went on to say that she plans to run for president in the future, and called for protests against the war to stop.
Other speakers also talked about the war protests and expressed their support for President Bush.
Dean McClain, president of the Mahoning County Veterans Council, called the protesters "sidewalk lawyers." He described the terrorist attacks on Americans over the last several years as "acts of war" and said that even though he's a Democrat, he thinks Bush is doing a good job.
That earned a round of applause from the audience.