World War II, Korea veterans join anti-war protests in Carson City

CARSON CITY -- Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night have prevented a group of four to 12 senior citizens from turning out every Monday afternoon in front of the Legislative Building to protest America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They might not have as good a record as the U.S. Postal Service -- they have missed two Mondays when they decided against standing in deep snow -- but they're pretty close.

They have been protesting the wars for three years, usually two hours each Monday.

"We are here because the war is still on and we are opposed to it," said Bill McCord, an 80-year-old retired Methodist minister. "We will be here until the war is over."

McCord is a former Marine and combat veteran of the Korean War.

Fellow protester Jim Knister, 82, is a Navy veteran of World War II.

On one recent Monday afternoon they stood along busy Carson Street with Mary Ann Jennings, a retired state employee, and Knister's wife, Jackie.

They held signs that read "Honor Warriors, Not War" and "Support Our Troops, End the War."

Most passing motorists honked their horns, flashed the peace sign or waved in support. Once in a while, a driver would give them the one-finger salute.

They estimate that 75 percent of those who drive by support their cause.

"We aren't naive," Knister said. "Some people think we are crazy. I wish we were in a position to send 30,000 trained teachers to Afghanistan, not 30,000 more troops. Our problem is not the al-Qaida. It is ignorance and poverty."

Their opposition to the war is based mainly on religious reasons. As much as they protest, they realize the U.S. military might be stuck in the Middle East for many more years.

Still they remain optimistic. The war will end, and the economy will improve.

"Yesterday after church somebody said it is getting worse," McCord said. "Look at it in Jesus' time? Slavery was accepted. What place in the world is slavery accepted today?"

Tim Tetz, executive director of the state Office of Veterans Services, knows McCord well, recognizes his right to protest, but supports the war on terrorism.

"Bill McCord is an absolutely sincere, decorated hero of the Korean War. It was what he experienced in Korea that made him choose his career as a pastor," Tetz said.

He said there are groups, although not as visible, that support the troops in pro-war marches in the capital city.

"At the end of the day, we all served so we can give these folks the right to free speech and the ability to protest," Tetz said.

Knister and McCord come from families where sons from each generation dating back to the Civil War served in the military.

Jennings' children and grandchildren were veterans or National Guard members.

They do not oppose all wars. To them, World War II was a justified war. But the wars on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan are not.

"We go to war when we are attacked, directly attacked," McCord said. "What happened at the World Trade Center was a terrorist act by Osama bin Laden. It was not attacking or creating a war against the United States. It was fulminating terrorism."

Bin Laden should be captured, but his capture should be done through the Navy Seals and commandos, spies and intelligence, McCord said.

What you don't see on Monday afternoons are young people, teenagers and those in their 20s.

McCord attributes that to the fact that the draft ended after Vietnam. Today there is an all-volunteer military service.

What disturbs him is the perceived mistreatment of the American military.

He has talked with a young man who served six tours in Iraq. Others have done tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

During Vietnam, soldiers served a year and went home. Too often the soldiers today are coming home with delayed-stress syndrome and receive inadequate medical help, McCord said. He sees them every Sunday in church.

The military presence in Afghanistan is not going to deter many farmers there from growing poppies or stop discrimination against women, Knister said. He is embarrassed that many of those poppies end up as heroin purchased by American drug addicts.

McCord is concerned about anti-Islam feelings spreading.

"I see Islam as a peaceful religion," said McCord, a Methodist minister for 43 years and still a chaplain for the Sheriff's Department and veterans groups in Carson City. "But you have fundamentalists in both Islam and Christianity. People read the Scriptures in ways to justify wars and killing people. I don't."

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.