House shows support for troops

By SARAH COFFEY, UPI Correspondent  |  April 10, 2003 at 5:08 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 10 (UPI) -- A bipartisan group of more than 100 U.S. Representatives gathered in the Capitol building Thursday afternoon to show support for the troops and the war in Iraq.

Actor and Republican activist Arnold Schwarzenegger also attended the rally, shaking hands with thrilled young White House pages before joining the congressional throng to sing patriotic songs to the backdrop of the U.S. Army Band.

Surrounded by statues of past patriots in the Capitol's National Statuary Hall, also knows as the Old Hall of the House, the group was festooned yellow ribbons on their suits, and waving small flags for the hour-long ceremony.

The rally follows others this week, including a large spontaneous gathering of celebratory Iraqis in Dearborn, Mich., on Wednesday and a large rally earlier today in New York City.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said the country's troops are an "army of virtue" bringing freedom to the oppressed Iraqi people.

Iraq's people are "awakening to freedom for the first times in their lives," he said.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert noted the images of Baghdad residents pulling down a statue of Iraq President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.

"People for the first time in their lives breathed the air of freedom and tested what liberation is all about," he said.

But he cautioned, "This war is not over yet."

Attending the ceremony were several wives and children of servicemen currently serving in Iraq. Christine McNulty, wife of Air Force Maj. Daniel McNulty, said she was proud of her husband, a member of the airlift that rescued Pfc. Jessica Lynch from captivity in an Iraqi hospital.

Holding her 23-month-old daughter, Brianna, and with son Jacob, 6, at her side, she said her husband, who deployed one week before Christmas last year, is doing an important job.

"It was not only the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do to protect Jacob and Brianna and their futures," she said. "God bless you and God bring you home safe and soon."

After the ceremony, she said that her husband is just an ordinary guy who takes care of things in their Alexandria, Va., home. "He cooks, he cleans, he changes dirty Pampers, he pays our bills," she laughed.

Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, said the country is celebrating bringing freedom to Iraq, and the military's "endless pursuit of peace and your endless gift of freedom."

Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., held a moment of silence -- interrupted by the ring of a cell phone -- "for the men and women who have been answering the call, and have been losing their lives in the line of duty."

British Ambassador David Manning praised the 45,000 British troops serving in Iraq, noting that the U.K. troops have been playing a leading role in securing the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

"One cannot help but be moved by joyful Iraqis as they are liberated," he said.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., echoed the sentiments of his colleagues. "We will not relent, we will not rest until you (the U.S. troops) are safely returned to the country you call home -- home of the brave, just like you," he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., noted how famous World War II reporter Ernie Pyle chronicled the lives of American soldiers, writing: "In the end, they are the guys that war cannot be won without."

Pelosi said she visited wounded servicemen this week at the National Navy Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the Washington.

"Anyone who meets with them is completely inspired," she said.

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