Army recruiting offices swamped by volunteers

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The Independent US

It is a time of mourning and shock across America, but it is also a time for swelling patriotism and old-fashioned allegiance to the flag. The red-white-and-blue motif of the Stars and Stripes has rarely been raised over so many households.

In small towns, in churches, and even on the steps of the United States Congress there have been spontaneous renditions of God Bless America and other patriotic hymns. Volunteers are beating down the doors of armed forces recruitment offices. Yesterday, several internet sites urged US citizens to wear red, white and blue clothing to show their allegiance to their country.

The demand for flags was so great that giant department stores were reporting record sales and demand that was sucking supplies dry as soon as they became available. "I wish I had a truckload,"' said Barby Fryer, the manager of a Kmart discount store in Schenectady, New York. Others, including numerous estate agents, were simply giving the flags away.

The unabashed patriotism was even felt in Amherst, the liberal-minded home of the University of Massachusetts, which only on Monday had conducted a city council vote declaring the number of US flags on downtown streets to be "a bit too much". By Tuesday, all the newly banned flags were back, albeit now at half-mast.

A huge stars and stripes banner was draped over the roof of the Pentagon for President George Bush's visit on Wednesday, not far from the area where at least 180 people are believed to have been killed. Another was displayed prominently amidst the debris of the World Trade Centre to hearten the rescue workers in their grim efforts.

The patriotic swell has gone hand in hand with ever more vociferous demands for revenge, in the form of military retaliation against targets yet-to-be determined.Americans are openly discussing the prospect of a ground war in Afghanistan – if Afghanistan is deemed to be the appropriate country to invade – or some other form of deep involvement in a region which most Americans know little or nothing.

Zach Smith, a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, told the Associated Press he had been an opponent of the military draft, until Tuesday. "I'd be happy to go into the draft now," the 20-year-old said.

In Atlanta, 24-year-old Josh Gipe signed up on Wednesday morning and hopes to be in basic training in two weeks. "Our freedom has been put in jeopardy, and I want to be someone who helps defend that," he said.

Not everybody feels the same way. In the Los Angeles suburb of Rancho Santa Margarita, the father of one of the dead aeroplane passengers, Lisa Frost, told reporters he and his family were "totally non-violent people" and that killing others overseas "would serve no purpose whatsoever".