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Mrs. Ewert’s son is in the Marines. “I don’t want him coming back to the same things the Vietnam vets came back to,” she said.

Veterans, many holding flags and military banners aloft, stood or sat in lawn chairs listening. A smattering of younger protesters, many wearing anti-Kerry T-shirts, were sprinkled among the mostly middle-aged crowd.

Christy Williams, 28, and Olivia Tauthus, 27, said they were members of the conservative group Protest Warriors. “We are here to support the troops,” Miss Williams said.

“This has nothing to do with political affiliation,” said David Skocik, 56, who drove from Dover, Del., for the rally. His son was partly disabled serving in the military during the Persian Gulf war era, and his son-in-law recently returned from active duty in Afghanistan.

“I feel very strongly that we have to look out for our vets and to be sure that their best interests will be in mind from the White House,” he said. “I don’t think Kerry can do that.”