Local Veterans Angry Over Funeral Protests - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/18/06-Longview

Local Veterans Angry Over Funeral Protests

Veterans and some religious leaders in East Texas are angry and shocked at the latest form of protesting by a church group from Kansas targeting the funerals of military personnel killed in Iraq.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church were caught on film waving anti-American signs and walking on the flag at the Temple, Texas funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq.

"Well, it's truly disgusting. They wrap themselves in the First Amendment and they serve no purpose that anyone can see other than getting a lot of press," said U.S. Navy veteran Amos Snow of Longview.

"I think it's outrageous that anyone would do that at a veteran's funeral," said Korean and Vietnam veteran Don Upton of Longview.

The group has gained national attention for showing up at slain soldiers's funerals to protest homosexuality. Longview minister David Benson's son served in Iraq, and he can't believe what this group has done. "These people purporting to be Christians, that even shocks me more so that someone who is said to portray the lord Christ would actually turn up at someone's most tender time," Benson says.

The church says soldiers are dying because God is punishing the United States for harboring homosexuals. But their method has angered veterans old and young.

"Honestly, it makes me sick. It's hard to think that someone who classifies themselves as an American would do something like this," says Iraq war veteran Stephen Benson.

"They slap every American in the face doing what their doing right now. These soldiers protecting us, it's not right," said Longview Vietnam veteran Jerry Westphalen. More than 100 members of the veteran's group Patriot Guard from all over the country have been trying to block the protests to keep them from disrupting military funerals.

Legal action has been taken against the church in Kansas forcing them to stay at least 300 yards away from any military funeral.

Bob Hallmark reporting, bhallmark@kltv.com

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