The sight was enough to stir the heart of any veteran: more than 200 Loyola College students singing "God Bless America."
But the message was more subtle than a show of patriotism as the students rallied yesterday afternoon on a campus bridge that passes over North Charles Street. Student government representatives who organized the rally said it was a show of support for the troops in the Persian Gulf and their families, not a statement about the war.
"This is the first war that any of us have been through," said Lori Largey, junior class president and one of the rally's three organizers. "Everyone had conflicting viewpoints [on the war], but everybody wanted to support the troops."
Students draped an American flag over the bridge and a banner that said, "Support Our Troops, Pray for Peace." Taped, patriotic band music blared over a loudspeaker, and one student played "Star-Spangled Banner" on his electric guitar.
Yellow ribbons were passed around, and students cheered when motorists honked their car horns as they drove past. Father Frank J. Nash, S.J., who has been holding an evening Mass for the troops five days a week, led the crowd in a prayer:
Comparing the Persian Gulf war with Vietnam, Father Nash said that many students today have been able to separate the action taken by the government from the people carrying it out. But the support is not blind acceptance. Supporting the troops "doesn't mean we can't question the war," he said.
Loyola, like most colleges, has spawned a number of groups that are questioning the need for a war. Kevin Kirby, a junior, said that a group called Students for a Peaceful Solution had a teach-in yesterday.
Mr. Kirby said he believes that a peaceful solution was possible before war broke out. But he also said that he got out of class early to attend the rally to support the troops.
"There's a time and place for the other rallies," he said.