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Veterans in Ohio React to the State of the Union Speech

GARY SCOTT reporting:

I'm Gary Scott.

Last night at VFW Post 9927, in the Dayton suburb of Kettering, Ohio, fifteen members gathered round the horseshoe bar. They drank, smoked, played pull-tabs, and listened intently to the State of the Union address. Afterwards, a group of seven baby boomers, mostly Vietnam War veterans, gathered on the wooden dance floor to discuss the speech.

Most of them support President Bush and the war in Iraq. A couple support neither. Michael Wolley(ph) runs an ad agency in Dayton. He volunteered for two tours in Vietnam.

Mr. MICHAEL WOLLEY (Vietnam Veteran): Our troops in Vietnam did not lose that war. The war was lost by the political leaders of this country. I think the same thing is happening right now in Iraq.

SCOTT: In his speech, Mr. Bush said the United States will never surrender to evil. These veterans support the troops and the goals for Iraq. Some worry, though, that the United States doesn't have enough troops to complete the mission, and fear it could become another Vietnam.

Post Commander Jeff Carroll(ph) is an electronics technician from Kettering. He served two years in Thailand in the early 1970's.

Mr. JEFF CARROLL (Vietnam veteran): I think we need to have a complete and total victory, and nothing short of it. And anything else to me is totally unacceptable.

SCOTT: Most of the group agreed that domestic surveillance is essential in the war on terror. Laura Macy(ph) is a transplanted New York artist and actress, now living in Tipp City.

Ms. LAURA MACY: Because I was in New York at 9/11. And, also, I have relatives in New Jersey. And one of the terrorists stayed in Wayne, New Jersey, and was dating a girl that, like, worked in a fish store. And had there been surveillance, it's possible that that could have been averted.

SCOTT: For or against President Bush, most members of the group agreed that the speech was formulaic with nothing much new being said. Again, Michael Wolley.

Mr. WOLLEY: What he's trying to do is to make a mark. And he's trying to come up with some rhetorical flourish that his writers have come up with, you know, to make people to remember him forever, ala JFK, and all of the great speeches that have been made.

SCOTT: Some members of the group commented that, with the internet and access to up to the second news and information 24 hours a day, the State of the Union address may just be an old fashioned and antiquated tradition.

For NPR News, I'm Gary Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gary Scott