I am concerned that the newspaper article in the Westby Times and the Vernon Broadcaster on July 6 regarding the rally in Viroqua on June 30, which I feel presented a very negative view of the event. For me personally it felt like we as Americans were coming together to display our values -- keeping innocent children from harm. The article failed to mention that there were several people from other small towns who came here to rally together for the children our country has put in cages. The events included Dodie Whitaker and her dad leading songs, a poetic reading and several speakers.
When the organizer of the rally asked if anyone would like to say something, several people spoke, including my daughter, Alicia Leinberger, who gave a passionate speech. Alicia spent three years in El Salvador in the Peace Corps in the '90s. During her term, she saw many children who were poor and had little to eat. Some were on the streets after 10 p.m. selling candy and gum and could not to return home until all of it was sold. Other children are raped by gangs, when their parents were away trying to earn a living, while other children sniffed glue as a way to escape the horrors of their own lives. Alicia's campaign manager, Wayde Lawler and his wife, Dr. Taryn Lawler were in Honduras much later, and both recanted similar experiences.
Now, there is no Peace Corps presence in El Salvador because it has become too dangerous. These families may not be in the trenches fighting for their country, but they are most likely fighting for their lives. If they could afford to come into our country legally, and if the quotas would allow it, I believe they would choose that route. I don't think most people can even imagine the horrors that they face every day.
I have such respect for all of our military veterans, and I would never offend them purposely. Perhaps though, if the veterans who were upset by the rally understood the fight these people are involved in every day, they might better understand the desperation that brought these people to this point. But as the "veteran who was there" said, they do defend free speech, so maybe some of the people involved in the rally were veterans as well and it was their way to express their own freedom of speech.
For me, the rally itself was an experience of people coming together to mourn the country's decision to put innocent children in cages, away from their families. I could never imagine going through an experience like that living here.