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War stories: Navy wives show support

Victoria Rice looks up at the flag during an Oak Harbor rally to support U.S. troops in the Middle East. She helped put together Wednesday afternoon’s rally the previous night after watching the news, which she felt went overboard on the anti-war rally coverage.  - Nathan Whalen / staff photo
Victoria Rice looks up at the flag during an Oak Harbor rally to support U.S. troops in the Middle East. She helped put together Wednesday afternoon’s rally the previous night after watching the news, which she felt went overboard on the anti-war rally coverage.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen / staff photo

It didn’t take Whidbey Island’s military supporters long to get organized after war broke out in Iraq Wednesday night. By Friday noon, there was a demonstration taking place in Oak Harbor.

Nicole Brown lives in Coupeville while her husband, Lawrence, serves on the USS Abraham Lincoln. When she drives through town, she is affected by the protesters who flock to the intersection of Main Street and Highway 20.

“I see the people on the corner and it makes me so mad,” Brown said. “It’s really hard not to say anything.”

She decided to let her actions speak for her, and joined other Navy wives Friday when they staked out a corner in Oak Harbor to show their support for their husbands deployed on the aircraft carriers Lincoln and the USS Nimitz, each of which carry Prowler squadrons from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

They showed their support by finding their flags, making posters and marching to the corner of Highway 20 and Whidbey Avenue to rally support for the troops.

“We decided to do this after last night’s news and seeing that there are too many protests against the war,” said Victoria Rice, who helped put together the spur-of-the-moment rally. “This is a big morale booster for the wives.”

She added that holding the rally was better than staying at home and watching events unfold on television, although some said it is the only information they receive about their husbands who are busy fighting the war.

Rice, who was waving a flag on the corner with her seven-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, took a moment to share her thoughts on the conflict in Iraq. Her husband, Tom, is on board the Nimitz.

“I think it needs to be done. I support our president and I support our troops. The Iraqi people deserve the same rights we have.”

Rice’s words were echoed by other wives who attended the rally.

“It’s not that we want war, but it’s necessary to get peace,” said Tanya Karsch, who last saw her husband, Kass, three weeks ago. He is also serving on the Nimitz.

For other wives, the time away from their husband has been longer.

Brown hasn’t seen her husband in eight months and doesn’t have any idea when he will return.

The Lincoln was scheduled to return home in January but was redeployed indefinitely.

Brown said she heard from him last week and the two keep in touch through e-mail, but that has its limits.

“When you’re worried about them it’s much easier to talk,” Brown said.

She added that the only information she’ll believe of her husband returning is when she sees him in person.

Jody Brown (no relation) is in a similar boat as Nicole. She also hasn’t seen her husband, Anthony, in eight months, when their daughter, Alexa was four months old.

Throughout the rally passersby joined also. There were soon more than a dozen wives and supporters.

“I think we need to support the troops. If we don’t support them, then what’s the point”” said Sharon Paulsen, an Oak Harbor student who, along with three friends, saw the wives on the way to lunch and joined in.

Oak Harbor wasn’t entirely pro-troops this week. Thursday afternoon four young people stood along Highway 20 and held up signs against the war and shouted peace slogans.

Next Saturday, March 29, a rally to support the troops is schedule to begin at noon at City Beach Park and march up the highway.

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