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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Protest focuses on war in Iraq

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Retired U.S. Army veteran Dick Burkett wore his uniform to the courthouse square in Greencastle, standing on the corner at Washington and Jackson in support of American troops. With him was Will Niebold, local veterans affairs officer.
Friday's anti-war demonstration on the Putnam County Courthouse Square in downtown Greencastle was the largest organized event yet planned by anti-war protesters.

And judging by the honks and waves generated from passing motorists, the protesters had numerous supporters in calling for an end to America's war in Iraq.

Organized by Greencastle resident Margo Bode, small groups of protesters have been convening on the courthouse lawn every Thursday at noon for several months. But Friday's gathering was meant to draw a larger, more diverse group, and it did.

"A lot of people have been looking for a chance to come," Bode said while she moved along the south side of the courthouse lawn. "We decided that noon Thursday is not a good time for a lot of people who would like to be here."

Keeping the war, and the men and women who are serving in the U.S. military, in the forefront of the public's mind is one reason for the protest.

"Anything we can do to make people start to pay attention," Bode said. Many people do not feel directly affected by the war, and many do not pay attention to news reports about it, she added.

The protesters ranged from small children and their parents, to teen-agers, adults and senior citizens.

Brett O'Bannon, who served for three years with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, was among the protesters.

"I'm one who says, let's support our troops by not sending them to an unjust, unwinable war," said O'Bannon, who is now a professor of political science at DePauw University. "We're asking our troops to die and kill for something that has only one outcome, and that is greater Iraqi civil war."

O'Bannon commended America's service people by saying they are ready and proud to serve their nation when called into action. But he questions the U.S. foreign policy establishment, which contributed to the negative social climate in the Middle East long before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.

"It's not about 9/11 or al Qaeda. They were all ruses to justify a war they had planned in the 1990s," O'Bannon said.

While Friday's protest was intended to catch the attention of those passing through downtown Greencastle, it most certainly caught the attention of one U.S. Army veteran who arrived downtown wearing commendations on his chest.

Dick Burkett stood at the corner of Washington and Jackson streets, watching the protest and leaning on his cane.

One of the protesters approached Burkett to ask if the veteran was upset by the event.

"I said, 'That's up to you, buddy. That's why we fought in our war,'" Burkett said, honoring the freedom of speech that the protesters were exercising.

Burkett, who now serves in the honor guard for the Greencastle VFW Post, fought in World War II and the Korean War, and served in America during the Vietnam War.

He said it was his goal Friday afternoon to stay on his street corner as long as the protesters stayed on the courthouse lawn.

Freedom is an important value to Burkett, who said he was more upset by the Greencastle City Council's attempt to ban smoking at all businesses and private clubs.

As a member of the VFW, Burkett said the smoking ban will hurt the post's major source of income, Saturday night bingo. And that will trickle down as the post is unable to donate as much to other community organizations.

Burkett pointed out that the post donated the funds for the restoration of the World War II-era buzz bomb, around which many of Friday's protesters congregated.

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