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Originally published March 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 18, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Terry Harder: "I had seen the Vietnam War, and I did not like what it did to our country."

For most Americans, the fighting in Iraq unfolds from afar. But for others, including these six Puget Sound-area residents, the war is close to home.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Terry Harder, 55, Tacoma, pro-troops activist and salesman for Office Depot

Terry Harder was never an activist or politically aware. To this day, he votes for the person, not the party.

But he's always remembered how badly his military friends were treated when they returned from Vietnam — how they were spit on and called baby killers. "It just really sat poorly with me."

After his own two sons were deployed to Iraq, he got riled up after hearing about a war protest outside the gates of Fort Lewis.

"I was just livid ... I had to do something about it," Harder said.

Soon he was waving a flag at a support-the-troops rally. That led him to help found Operation Support Our Troops four years ago, a passion that has since consumed his life. The group has almost 500 volunteers who've packaged and mailed holiday gifts to almost 75,000 troops.

Harder also maintains a Web site, sends out a newsletter and answers hundreds of e-mails a week.

He has reservations about sending anyone off to war, unless it's truly needed. But he supports this war and the president.

And his connection with the troops, he said, has given him new respect for the sacrifice and character of people in the military.

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