Knoxville (WVLT) -- On Monday, March 19th, we will have been fighting in Iraq for four years. In that time almost 3,200 U.S. Troops have lost their lives. That coming anniversary fueled protests all across the nation on Saturday. Just the day before, marchers in Washington D.C. gathered at the National Cathedral and the White House. On Saturday they headed across the Potomac River to the Pentagon.
Some polls suggest almost three times more Americans oppose the war as support it, and right here in East Tennessee those feelings are strong on both sides of the argument.
One side says it's a war that never should have started. That sentiment was echoed by the peace protesters that lined Kingston Pike in front of West Town Mall. Standing two and three deep on the curbs they held signs making it clear that four years in Iraq is four years too long.
"We think the best thing we can do for our troops is to help bring them home as quickly as possible," said Bob Grimac of People for Peace.
"We want you home alive," said Jerry Bone of Veterans for Peace, "and we want you home whole, with all your limbs and both your eyes.
On the other side of town the men of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1733 swapped their olive camo drab for kelly green in celebration of Saint Patrick's Day. But many of these veterans insist now is now the time for Americans to change their colors on the war.
"We don't know who our enemy is now," said World War II Veteran Jesse Lee Hicks. "they could be a civilian, walk up with a bomb, and blow up a facility."
For Bone, it reasons to fight sound familiar.
"We heard all of that in Vietnam too," he said.
Daniel Fritz, a veteran who had three tours of duty in Vietnam likes to look at the big picture.
"We're still Americans," he said, "and we need to support these soldiers and sailors and airmen and not get tied up in the political thing of what this person did or what that person did.
The protest continues and the debate about who's right has spanned human emotion from serious to comical.
"Them Muslims," on VFW member says, "are going to make you girls go back to the kitchen cooking!"
And while both sides disagree with what the Nation should do about the war, body sides do share one thing in common. Each side maintains they fully support our troops.
"Some of them probably regret the decisions they made," said Fritz, "but that was a decision they made. I had to live with my choices and I guess they'll have to live with theirs."
Out in front of a busy West Knoxville Mall, Jerry Bone looks toward the future.
"What I'm hoping is when this war finally stops that we start re-ordering our priorities and start thinking about why we fight and what it's costing us.
Four years of war haves cost about $500 Billion tax dollars.
The planned troop surge that has already begun will raise the troop level in Iraq to its highest ever.
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