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Protest in a Military Town

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Along with memorial services, this Veterans Day will feature war protests. Sentiment against the war in Iraq has increased and Tuesday's election spurred defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. But one place you won't see any open opposition to the war is the town of 29 Palms, California. It's right outside the biggest marine base in the world and home to hundreds of retired military officers.

We've been visiting the town over the last year and a half. We've seen how the town says goodbye to marines, copes while they're gone and then welcomes them home. One thing we've never seen is any questioning of the war. Weekend America's Pat Loeb finds the town, in general, does not take kindly to dissenting views of the war.Notes From Producer Pat Loeb

I've been visiting 29 Palms for over a year, talking to people about all different things. But of course, the war would frequently come up. And I thought I detected a growing resentment toward the war and disenchantment with President Bush. They were subtle things. A lot of people in town are retired military and they take the "commander in chief" thing seriously. They didn't denounce the president or anything. But they would say they thought he was wrong when he said war protesters were unpatriotic. And when they spoke about the marines going to Iraq, they would quote the song: "They fight their countrya€™s battles," theya€™d say. "This is not their war."So I decided to do a story about this but I found, when I asked, point blank, "what do you think about this war," very few people would talk about it. The only straight answer I could get was from those who support the war. Those whom I suspected opposed the war would say they couldn't comment. It was a little creepy. After all, the marines they love are dying in order to spread freedom and these men and women felt they couldn't speak freely in their own home town. I did find the opponents. It took some persuading but they talked to me. I was sorry not to be able to include all of their comments. Karen Masterson, who owns the Wonder Garden Cafe, was very thoughtful about why it was so hard to express her opposition openly.

She said, "We're a little more sensitive here to, what does being right get you?" And one of my favorite interviews was with tattoo artist Caveman Kyle Stratton. Unlike most other small business owners in town, Kyle is an outspoken opponent of the war. I asked him if he worried about losing business from marines who are gung ho about the war. He maintains that most marines are much more anti-war than people in town realize but, regardless, he said, he wasn't afraid for business. "Art speaks for itself," he said.


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