Local group plans to host candelight vigil for area troops

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 10, 2003

Putting a face with a prayer, a name with a lighted candle &045; those small gestures will add a personal touch often missing when large groups rally for military troops overseas.

For Sharon Goodrich, wife, mother and daughter of military veterans, the candlelight service planned for Saturday at the Natchez bluffs on Broadway will be an opportunity to voice support in a physical and visual way.

Along with other members of a support group begun earlier this year for relatives of military men and women on duty in Iraq and elsewhere, Goodrich has organized a program that will begin at the gazebo at 7:15 p.m.

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&uot;We hope someone in Vidalia also will organize, perhaps at the new amphitheater,&uot; Goodrich said.

The plan will be for supporters on both sides of the river to gather at the same time and to read aloud the names of the servicemen from the Natchez and Vidalia, La., areas who are now serving in war zones and worldwide.

&uot;With all the protesting going on in Hollywood and elsewhere, we wanted to do something to call attention to our support of the troops,&uot; Goodrich said.

Once all the names are read, supporters will line up along the fence on the bluff and light candles. It is hoped that lighting, expected to take place between 7:45 and 8 p.m., will occur at the same time across the Mississippi River on the Vidalia riverfront.

So far, about 250 names are on the list to be read on the Natchez side, Goodrich said. Anyone who has a name to add may call Pam McNeil at (601) 445-5797 or Kitty Dunagan at (601) 445-5240; or names may be e-mailed to Goodrich at sgoodrich@bkbank.com.

&uot;Our troops are getting the stories over there about the war protesters. I say that it doesn’t matter what your politics might be; let’s support our troops and leave our politics at home,&uot; she said.

Goodrich recalls the Vietnam War era with horror. &uot;My main bottom line is that what happened in the Vietnam era must never happen again,&uot; she said, referring to the cold reception, even rejection, received by veterans upon their return from Vietnam.

&uot;These are not the military. They are our kids,&uot; Goodrich said. &uot;So many people are saying we really didn’t need to do this thing in Iraq. But do you think there was anyone on the day after the World Trade Center incident who would have said that?&uot;

Reading the names will make the event &uot;intensely personal,&uot; she said. &uot;We need to say ‘Ben is there; Mickey is there; Kevin is there.’&uot;

Everyone is welcome. In fact, everyone is urged to come, she said.

&uot;Bring a candle. Let’s join together and make this the largest show of support for our sons, daughters, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters and friends that the U.S.A. has ever seen,&uot; she said. &uot;Let’s make sure the world knows that we in Mississippi and Louisiana love our troops.&uot;