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Florida Patriot Group Sends Cheer to Deployed Troops

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2004 – Karen Williams, a self-described patriot who lives in Lutz, Fla., says Americans have a lot to be thankful for.

The American people, Williams observed, enjoy an enviable way of life, thanks in large part to the U.S. military. Today, she pointed out, servicemembers are deployed in harm's way worldwide in places like Afghanistan and Iraq in the war against global terrorism.

In April 2003, Williams and her sister, Barbara Mueller, started a military support group called the Lutz Patriots. Lutz is located about 20 miles north of Tampa.

"Barbara and I decided to wave American flags on (U.S.) Route 41 to show support for the troops and our country," Williams recalled, noting the sisters told a few friends and 80 people showed up that first Friday.

By the second Friday there were 150 participants, Williams said, including members of Lutz's fire and police departments and local Boy and Girl Scouts.

The flag waving, Williams noted, has continued every Friday since.

Williams said the group also solicits donations and forwards letters and care packages to U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait, and on ships at sea. The Patriots have also contributed children's clothing and books to a school and orphanage in Iraq.

Williams has another, more personal stake in the war -- her sister's 26-year- old son, Matthew, is in the Marines.

And so, Williams said, when she sees war protesters on television her red, white and blue blood runs cold. Williams agrees that war protesters have a right to voice their opinion. "But because of the military, they have the freedom to do that," she pointed out.

"It bothers me," Williams said, "that some protesters seem adamantly against our military. You can be against the war, but support our troops."

The local paper, "The Lutz Community News," runs notices each week soliciting cash donations and goods such as clothes, CDs, snacks, "anything the troops might want," Williams said.

"We just sent a bunch of medical scrub outfits to a U.S. military hospital in Iraq," she said.

"Every day we get more and more donations, and people send care packages," she observed. Postage is expensive, and Williams said much of the donated money goes for that.

Williams said letters she's received from overseas troops demonstrate that they appreciate the Patriots' support. "They say they're glad they're over there doing a job that needs to be done," she said, adding that the troops also write "thank you for supporting us."

One officer, Williams recalled, wrote that he'd observed one of his men crying after receiving a package from the Lutz group. The officer asked the troop if he'd gotten a package from home.

The man had replied, "'No, it's from someone I don't know.'"

Williams said she thoroughly enjoys working on behalf of U.S. servicemembers and appreciates the many people assisting the group's efforts.

The Lutz Patriots will continue to support America's troops "until the last one comes home," she said.

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