Patriots on the Hill

CHAPEL HILL — While protesters can still be heard in front of the post office on Monday evenings protesting the War on Terror, some students are attempting to prove that not everyone in this college town agrees.

The Carolina Troop Supporters is a group of college students from UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State, and other colleges that have formed a bond to work together to support U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not a group concerned about the politics of intervention or the United Nations. Instead, the students want to do more to support the troops than place a yellow ribbon magnet on their car.

The group was started by club President Ashley Weeks and came through a discussion that originated in an anthropology course. Weeks said the professor discussed the sacrifices soldiers made to fight and she wanted to do something other thanb to simply say “thank you.”

“At the time, there was a lot of protests going on and a lot of negative stuff,” Weeks said. “This isn’t really supporting the war. Our main objective is to support the troops.”

Supporting the troops is something the group has done admirably since its formation. The group has active pen pal lists and communicates regularly with troops, receiving updates on the war’s progress rarely reported in the news media. Group members also prepared gift bags and carts to send to troops and special gift bags for returning soldiers. The gift bags include everything from a small bottle of shampoo to a gift certificate for dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant.

Some members of the supporters have even gone to military bases to welcome home the soldiers when they return from duty.

“I think it’s a good thing to do,” said James Boicourt, an N.C. State student and Carolina Troops Supporter member who drove from Raleigh to attend a recent meeting.

During a recent meeting, members gathered to fill bags of candy and decorate tiny red Valentines Day hearts to send to the troops. The hourlong meeting highlighted the respect the group has for the members, with each wanting to make each card special for their selected soldier.

With each card, a member would place a cut-out photo of celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Jennifer Aniston, Debra Messing, and Brad Pitt. They would also add cute Valentines Day phrases with the attempt to make a soldier smile.

“I left Brad for you,” was the inscription on a card with Anniston’s picture. It was signed simply “Jenn.”

There is more to the group than making touching Valentine’s Day cards or spending time with the troops when they return home from duty. Group members participate and coordinate with other groups across the nation to participate in fund-raisers to help support their efforts. One such fund-raiser was a trip to Foxboro, Mass., to work a New England Patriots’ concession stand booth during the team’s first exhibition game, which just happened to be against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The group is also planning a heavy-metal concert at Chapel Hill’s Cats Cradle, with proceedings benefiting their efforts. Group leaders simply dubbed the event “Hard Core for the Hard Corps.”

Through all the letters to the troops, the cards and spending time with each other, Weeks said the experience has been “eye opening” for some members.

“I really enjoy it,” Weeks said. “People really appreciate what we are doing.”

For more information on the Carolina Troop Supporters, visit the group’s website.