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Since before the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Independent has spoken out against the war in Iraq. We wanted America and our allies to enforce a U.N.-sanctioned total blockade, allowing passage of only humanitarian aid with nothing allowed out not even oil. We still believe such a plan would have greatly reduced the human and environmental costs over the past four years.

Regardless of your position, it's critical that community members of all orientations reach out to the 25,000 soldiers and their dependents who will be relocating over the next few years to southern Colorado.

The average age of incoming soldiers is just 23. About 60 percent will arrive with family members in tow. Most will be living on very modest budgets, far from relatives, often with the added tension of a family member being deployed.

While opposed to this war, the Independent always has supported our troops. To help the region be better prepared to welcome soldiers and their families, we have helped organize Tuesday's April 17 town hall meeting.

It's at the Pueblo Convention Center, open to anyone from Colorado Springs as well. Admission is free, and the subjects will be of great interest to everyone in southern Colorado.

We hope to see you there.

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