WASILLA, Alaska — Gov. Sarah Palin kicked off the first of three picnics marking her departure from office with a hometown tribute to the troops and an elbow at the news media.
Speaking before a friendly crowd of nearly 5,000 at a park here Friday night, two days before she resigns, Palin invoked her soldier son to assure supporters that she is not downcast over the political frustrations that are prompting her to quit before her term is up.
She told the hundreds gathered in a military “Honor Garden” that she wanted to “do something… more worthy than speaking politics” before sharing a story about a reporter who had asked her about how she handles difficult days.
“I said, ‘Oh no,’ it is not a down day – my son called this week from Iraq,” Palin recalled, referring to her son, Track, an Army enlistee. “He is safe, he is sound. It is always a good day when my son calls.”
Interrupting the applause, Palin said: “I wish that some in the media would keep things like that in perspective, what is really important in our country. And what is important is our freedoms, America’s security, our liberty.”
Later, citing military families that have lost loved ones, she again drew loud applause by saying: “Let us continue to love our country, be proud of our country, never apologize for our country.”
She concluded her remarks by noting that it was the last time she’d appear in her hometown as governor, thanking the city that first elected her as mayor.
After she was done, one man yelled out, “We want you as our commander-in-chief,” prompting more cheers from the crowd and a military-style salute from Palin. Others yelling, "Øbama is a disaster".
Dressed casually in jeans and boots, Palin wore a blue star pin over her sweatshirt, signifying her son’s deployment. She spoke for about five minutes before spending over a half-hour greeting scores of people with relatives on active-duty.
With an emcee holding the microphone, a procession of Alaskans and some from the Lower 48 states came forward to briefly introduce servicemembers they were honoring, before shaking hands or hugging Palin and taking a blue star flag from her.
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