Topeka - The widow of Army Sgt. Dominic Sacco, killed last month in Iraq, says she's grateful that people stood up to anti-homosexual pastor Fred Phelps' protest outside her husband's funeral.
About 25 Phelps followers protested during the Dec. 2 service, but some 500 veterans and other supporters lined both sides of the street outside the funeral home to show their disgust for Phelps and his group.
"The support alone on the day of my husband's funeral was enough for me," said the widow, Brandy Sacco. "I was extremely impressed. All I could do was cry. What do you say?"
She had endorsed the idea of a counter protest when Phelps vowed that backers of his Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka would picket the funeral. Phelps and his followers have protested more than 60 funerals of soldiers across the country, claiming their deaths are part of God's wrath against the United States.
Sacco said the turnout in Topeka illustrated the public's distaste for Phelps' tactics.
"If they need to protest, go to Congress and the White House," she said. "Don't protest a fallen soldier."
There have been offers to baby-sit her children, infant son Anthony and 4-year-old daughter Elissa. Neighbors brought food. They offered condolences, sometimes struggling to put into words the sense of loss.
"I've received over 200 sympathy cards," the widow said. "People I don't even know, or know Nick's parents, have donated thousands of dollars to my son's memorial fund."
Dominic Sacco, 32, grew up in Albany, N.Y., and had been stationed at Fort Riley since 1997. Assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 13th Armor, he was killed during a firefight Nov. 20 at Taji. It was his second deployment to Iraq, and he was the 59th soldier from the post to die in Iraq.
At least 2,150 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.