- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2007

A caravan of military family members is driving cross-country to show their continuing support for the troops, culminating in a large pro-troop rally in Washington this weekend.

Calling their effort “These Colors Don’t Run,” the series of rallies, which was organized by the Move America Forward organization, is making 25 stops before arriving at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Saturday.

“Some politicians don’t seem to have the will and fortitude to stand behind our troops when they need us most, and that saddens me,” said Deborah Johns, whose son, William, is serving his third tour of duty in Iraq with the Marines.

Members of the caravan say they have collected more than 5,000 U.S. flags since their trip began. The group plans to simultaneously display the flags during the rally, creating what they call a “giant flag city” on the National Mall. Afterward, the flags will be mailed to military service members in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of the other groups joining the rally say they have another mission: Protecting the Vietnam memorial from anti-war protesters who will also be marching on the Mall that same day.

“We do not want, nor will we tolerate, a repeat of what happened at the U.S. Capitol,” read a statement from Rolling Thunder, a war veterans support organization.

During a January anti-war protest near the Capitol, some anti-war demonstrators spray-painted slogans on the Capitol Steps.

Move America Forward organizer Robert Dixon said the caravan has been well-received during the cross-country road trip.

“There have been a couple hundred people at each stop and more people joining the caravan in each city,” he said.

Joseph Williams, whose son, Lance Cpl. Michael Jason Williams, was killed in Iraq in March 2003, said he joined the caravan to support the troops and the continuing mission in Iraq.

“I think the troops have a lot more support today than when I was in Vietnam,” Mr. Williams said. “The majority of people are very supportive.”

Mr. Williams said he thinks President Bush will resist the urge to withdraw American forces from Iraq despite growing public impatience with the war. “I think he’ll see it through. He doesn’t seem to be caving in to the pressure.”

Another caravan participant said the group wants “to remind people that it’s not about the cost of war, it’s about the cost of freedom.”

Deborah Argel Bastian’s son, Air Force Capt. Derek Argel, was killed in Iraq during his second tour of duty on Memorial Day in 2005.

In addition to supporting the troops, Mrs. Bastian said the trip has been beneficial for her because of the opportunity it provides to bond with other military family members who have lost loved ones in the war.

“It’s a trip I’ve really wanted to go on,” she said.

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