Show of support for U.S. troops also boosts pride for 0) Maryland
Some people looking for ways to demonstrate their support oU.S. troops in the Middle East are discovering Maryland in the process.
Celebrate Maryland, a shop on Ellicott City's Main Street, specializes in state flags and mugs, T-shirts and books about Maryland. But last week, traffic through the store nearly quadru- pled as people looked for "anything with an American flag," said manager Cindy Shock.
And, although American flags and merchandise with pictures of flags accounted for 40 to 50 percent of sales last week, few customers left the store without a Maryland item, Shock said.
"The patriotism sort of crosses over -- from the United States to Maryland," she said.
BL-EWS, the Black-Jewish Forum of Baltimore, has released a four-page statement that calls attention to the special anxieties of blacks and Jews as the war continues.
For blacks, the statement says, there is the "specter" of black soldiers "fighting and dying in numbers out of proportion to their numbers in the greater American community."
The statement adds: "Those of us who see the realities of the American economy and American society know full well that it is poverty, joblessness and inadequate educational opportunities which have led African-American youth to seek success in voluntary military service in such large numbers."
In the aggression of Saddam Hussein, Jewish Americans face the prospect of "another Holocaust, this time one which would obliterate Israel, the Jewish homeland and the real and spiritual sanctuary for Jews around the world," the statement says.
It concludes, "Part of the greatness of America is its unity in diversity; let us share our commonality, but let us also recognize and understand our diversity in our reactions to the Persian Gulf crisis as in our daily lives."
PHONE LINES GET JAMMED
Whenever Iraqi missiles strike Israel, telephone circuits between the United States and Israel get jammed.
AT&T spokesman Andrew Myers said "calling to Israel shot through the roof" following the first attack on Israel. "So it was very difficult for the average person to get through."
The situation is repeated every time there is an attack as Americans call to check on their friends and relatives.
Myers says the system isn't crashing; there are simply too many people calling on the fixed number of circuits available.
Myers advises callers to be patient. "Just keep trying," he said, "because you will get through."
GRIM EXPANSION AT DOVER
A $1.5 million expansion of the military's largest mortuary is under way at Dover Air Force Base to handle casualties from the Persian Gulf war.
Two temporary steel-frame structures totaling 13,000 square feet are being built behind the mortuary. They will be used to identify and prepare war dead for burial, according to Capt. Christian Geisel, a base spokesman.
The permanent 30,000-square-foot mortuary can prepare 100 remains a day and has storage space for 1,000.
Geisel would not say how many more bodies could be handled by the new facilities. Refrigerated vans will be leased if more storage space is needed, he said.
Construction of the temporary facilities began the week war broke out. On Jan. 15, the deadline for Iraq to pull out of Kuwait, the base denied plans to expand.
"I have no idea when that decision was made" to expand, Geisel said.
"It would be safe to say senior planning officials" made the decision, Pentagon spokesman and Air Force Capt. Sam Grizzle said. "I don't have specifics on exactly when or who made the decision."
The facilities are expected to be completed within three weeks.
TOYS AND BOYS AND SIGNS
In a normally crowded Toys R Us store on Baltimore National Pike in Catonsville, the aisle containing GI Joes and other military toys -- including "Desert Shield" combat gear -- was almost empty on a recent visit. One young boy ventured to pick up a toy rifle, but his mother quickly ordered him to put it back. "No guns," she said firmly. . . . Perhaps the loftiest show of backing for the American military can be found on the steel structure being erected for the new IBM building on Pratt Street downtown. "Support Our Troops," is the spray-painted message a steel beam that will someday be part of the building's 16th floor or so.
HOSPITAL BEING READIED
An empty building at Crownsville Hospital Center is being put back into service to treat Persian Gulf soldiers who have psychiatric problems, state officials said.
The state hospital in Anne Arundel County was asked last week to join 30 other Maryland hospitals as backups to Walter Reed Army Hospital for war-related casualties, said Helen Ladue, assistant superintendent of Crownsville. Crownsville is the only state hospital that has been asked to participate, so far.
At Crownsville, the maintenance crew has been working around the clock repainting the building that once housed an adult psychiatric unit, Ladue said. The hospital closed the building because of declining admissions, she said. Up to 60 beds would be available in the building, Ladue said .
"When this call came, it was quite an undertaking," she said. But the staff was "very much in favor of doing this. They felt very patriotic."
If you have an interesting story about how the war is affecting people on the home front, let us know. Call 332-6457.
PERSIAN GULF SHOWDOWN
Thomas W. Waldron, Norris West, John Fairhall, Timothy B. Wheeler and the Associated Press contributed to this report.