America Supports You: Teen to Lead Atlanta Rally for Troops
By Monique Reuben
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 19, 2006 A Georgia teenager is spearheading a troop-support rally to be held later this week in Atlanta.
Kierstyn Paulino, 15, said Operation Completion's fourth pro-military rally will take place on the Capitol West Steps on July 22.
Paulino has been organizing the rally since she joined Operation Completion in January.
The rally will begin at 4:30 p.m. and will feature military speakers and performances from The Right Brothers, a patriotic country/rock band.
"I've always been an avid supporter of our military, so when I got the call about joining Operation Completion, I immediately got on board," Paulino said. "What really inspired me was the fact that America's young adults are supporting our military and sending a message to not only our soldiers, but to America as well."
Created and maintained by teens, Operation Completion is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that holds pro-military rallies across the United States to support troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The organization is a member of the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program, which showcases Americans' efforts to support servicemembers and their families.
"What many young adults and even adults today don't remember is that freedom isn't free and never has been," Paulino said. "These rallies are important to remind the public that the only reason we are free today is because of the sacrifice of our troops, regardless of political affiliation or activity."
Micah Derry, 19, of Dover, Ohio, shares Paulino's sentiment. Derry envisioned what would later become Operation Completion after seeing a news report in which a woman said there's no progress being made in Iraq and soldiers are dying for no reason.
"I thought that that was a serious disservice to our military and for the kids that are my age that are over there," Derry said of the report.
Derry said he wanted to do something to counter what he called "inaccuracies" being reported about the war in Iraq.
He considered what would happen if a group of teens decided to devote themselves during the spring and summer to organizing a tour of pro-military rallies. But as a college student, Derry didn't have much time to make his vision a reality.
That changed in December, when he suffered from a brain hemorrhage that kept him out of school and made him ineligible to join the ROTC program to pursue his dream of entering the Air Force.
"With those two things out, it kind of left my spring and summer wide open," Derry said.
So Derry, along with some of his friends, established Operation Completion. So far, the group has held rallies in Sacramento, Calif.; Boise, Idaho; and San Antonio.
Derry stressed the importance of the rallies. "Usually people are willing to turn out to express that they are against something, (but) we want people to come out and show that they support something," he said. "We want them to come so that they can learn of tangible reasons why they can, in good faith, support their military."
Active-duty servicemembers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as veterans speak at the rallies about their experiences to educate people about what's happening in the war. Derry also talks about youth activism and the reconstruction process in Iraq.
Paulino stressed the nonpartisan aspect of the rallies. The entire public, regardless of political affiliation, are welcome to volunteer or attend, she said.
After the Atlanta rally, Operation Completion's next stop will be Richmond, Va.