Pro-Kerry Vets Barred From Bush Event

About 30 Oregon veterans who support Democrat John Kerry (search) for president were rebuffed Tuesday when they showed up at a Republican rally in hopes of delivering a letter to first lady Laura Bush (search) criticizing the war in Iraq.

Bush spoke to about 3,500 of her husband's supporters at Chemeketa Community College here and, as with other Bush-Cheney events in the state, admission was by ticket only and was limited to supporters of the administration.

Before the rally, the group of pro-Kerry veterans asked Secret Service agents at the site to deliver a letter to Bush, but were told they would have to mail the letter to the White House.

Terry Kirsch, a Vietnam veteran from Canby, Ore., said he later tried to use a ticket to get into the event, but was told the fire marshal had closed the site.

"It was very disheartening to me as someone who fought in the war and was wounded in the war, and now I'm not allowed to hear my government speak," Kirsch said.

Kevin Mannix, chairman of the Oregon Republican Party (search), said the decision to close the event had to do with safety, not politics. He also dismissed complaints by Kirsch and other Kerry backers about access to the rally.

"This was a rally for Bush-Cheney supporters," Mannix said. "If people have already made up their minds to support John Kerry, then they are welcome to attend John Kerry's rallies."