S.C. Capital Joins 'America Supports You' Team
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
COLUMBIA, S.C., May 4, 2005 About 1,000 flag-waving people flocked to Finlay Park here May 3 to help Columbia become the second city in the nation to join the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program.
Barbara Brand chats with junior ROTC student Ton'Dray Woods during the America Supports You rally in Finlay Park in Columbia, S.C., May 3, highlighting that city as the second in the nation to join the Defense Department program. Woods was walking through the park passing out small American flags and yellow ribbons to visitors. Photos by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Enid, Okla., became the first city to become an America Supports You team member on March 31. "I'm proud to announce that Columbia is the second city in the United States to join America Supports You as a city," Mayor Bob Coble told the patriotic crowd. "America Supports You is a nationwide program launched by the Department of Defense to recognize citizen support for our military men and women and to communicate that support to members of our armed forces at home and abroad."
Coble said he was inspired to make Columbia one of the first cities to join America Supports You during a briefing by Pentagon officials when he was in Washington in March as part of a delegation of mayors - the same meeting that sparked Enid's involvement.
"America Supports You will spotlight what Americans are doing all across the country," Coble noted. "The America Supports You dog tag is the official emblem of the program. Tonight our goal is simple; we want everyone to go to the Web site www.americasupportsyou.mil and sign up to join the effort to support our troops.
"Everyone can help," he continued. "You can donate frequent flyer miles or telephone cards, you can give gift certificates, you can send letters and messages, you can help the wounded and disabled, you can support military families, you can send packages, and you can do much more. Let's show our troops and their families that Columbia supports them - we love them and we stand beside them."
An airman at the event had experienced support while deployed and said she was touched by Columbia's outpouring. "When you see people that you probably have gotten care packages, cards or prayers from while you were in the desert makes me feel blessed and honored to be here and to have other people here to support us," said Tech. Sgt. Topeka Blackwell from the 169th Fighter Wing, South Carolina Air National Guard.
Asked what she thinks troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will feel when they find out about the America Supports You rally in Columbia, Blackwell said, "I'm sure they'll probably cry to know that the city cares and shows appreciation for its military means a great deal to everyone."
The event featured patriotic and contemporary music from the 282nd Army Band from Fort Jackson, S.C., an F-16 flyover by the 169th Fighter Wing of the South Carolina Air National Guard and a fireworks display. Participants were given small American flags, yellow ribbons and free ice cream as they entered the park.
"I came here to support the troops, because they deserve more than the Vietnam people got," said Lloyd Cartledge, 81, a World War II Army corporal who earned three battle stars in Europe. "And I hope we don't let that happen again."
His son, David Cartledge, brought Boy Scout Muscogee Troop 221, which he advises, with him. "I thought it was a good event for them to see and also for them to participate in by demonstrating their support of our folks in harm's way," he said. "We actually have two of our scouts serving in Iraq now. One of our troops received a Purple Heart in April 2004. He got blown up by an improvised explosive device on a convoy.
"Most of the folks around here hold our services dear to our heart," said the former Army Ranger who was given a medical discharge in 1979 due to an injury on a training exercise. "We understand what they're going through and why they're committing their personal resources and their lives to protect our freedom. And we're here to show that support."
Johnny Mayo, a scout dog handler in Vietnam with the Army's 173rd Airborne Division, brought his scout dog, Buck, to the event. He said Buck accompanied him on his first visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Washington Mall in 2000.
The former Army specialist said his "patriotic blood" brought him to the America Supports You rally. "Buck and I just wanted to be here to support the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan," Mayo said. "It was a lonely trip home for me from Vietnam - almost like being invisible. The only person that talked to me was a mother who had two young children sat down beside me and asked me, 'You going home?'"
Decked out in his junior ROTC uniform, Ton'Dray Woods, 17, walked around the park passing out little American flags and yellow ribbons to visitors. "I have family in Iraq, so I support the troops a lot," said Woods, who said he is going into the Coast Guard when he finishes school in June.
Woods gave a flag and yellow ribbon to Barbara H. Brand, who said her husband, late father and other relatives served in the Army. "I'm a big supporter of American troops," she added.
Charles Schenck, a civilian employee at nearby Fort Jackson, said, "I'm here in support of the installation where I work and the Army. To the troops, I hope they feel as proud as I do. I believe they're doing a great service for the Iraqi people. I firmly believe that the Iraqi people appreciate what we're doing for them."
Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Janice Negus said she attended the event because "I support the troops every way I can."