Public sentiment displays its colors WAR IN THE GULF


February 03, 1991|By Robert A. Erlandson

Colorful wooden figures of soldiers and Uncle Sam march across Stiney Kasputis' lawn in Parkville, carrying small American flags.

In Dundalk, Juanita McLaughlin has festooned her house with flags, banners and yellow ribbons.

And in Essex, where scores of cars fly Old Glory on their antennae, one displays this blunt bumper sticker: "If I see you burning the flag of my country, I'll use my freedom of expression to adjust your attitude."

With war raging in the Persian Gulf, families throughout the region are putting their patriotism on display. Plenty of neighborhoods are unchanged, of course. But in many, particularly established communities like those in eastern Baltimore County, every day looks like the Fourth of July.

"We have the flags out for every patriotic holiday, but now everyone is flying them. It looks so pretty," said Jean Wirth, who lives in the Gray Manor section of Dundalk, where some blocks are ablaze in red, white and blue.

For many, like Ms. McLaughlin and Mr. Kasputis, the displays are a way of showing support for relatives or friends in the Middle East or standing by for duty.

Ms. McLaughlin's brother, Army Staff Sgt. Timothy Lee Byrd, was sent to the gulf Dec. 17, and his family adds yellow ribbon every day. Her banner reads: "Dear God, bring Tim and the others home safely."

"I support the war," said Mr. Kasputis, an Army Ranger in WorlWar II whose son, Michael, is an Air National Guardsman on standby. "Saddam Hussein should be put away."

Along Stevenson Lane in Rodgers Forge, some residents display flags almost daily anyway, but even more have blossomed since the fighting began Jan. 16. Still, Elizabeth Plasket regrets that there aren't more.

"When I went home to Alabama for the holidays, everyone had flags out. I'm disappointed that there are not more out here," said Ms. Plasket, whose husband, Capt. Richard Plasket, is on alert for reassignment from the Johns Hopkins ROTC unit to the war zone.

American troops, however, are not the only ones being honored.

An international display of support for the U.S.-led coalition flies in White Marsh, where a large British Union Jack flutters beside ++ Old Glory and a small U.S. Marine Corps flag adorns a beribboned wreath on the door.

"A lot of my buddies from the Falklands are over there now, so we have to show the flag," said Lt. Cdr. Roy Birch, a retired Royal Navy officer who fought aboard the HMS Broadsword during the 1982 Falklands War between Great Britain and Argentina.

His stepson, Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin McClure, has just received orders for the gulf, so the Marine emblem has joined the other flags, said Mr. Birch, executive director of the Patriots of Fort McHenry.

Some people draw a distinction between endorsing the war and supporting the troops -- among them Donna Lee of Middle River, who lost her only brother in Vietnam in 1965.

"I don't think I support this war," she said. "You have to be crazy to like war."

But she got so angry when Iraq displayed U.S. prisoners on television that she started putting yellow ribbons on her trees and sending articles from local newspapers to service members in the Middle East.

"I was against going to war, but now that it has started I fully support the armed forces," said George Stoll, a World War II Navy veteran who is active in the Parkville American Legion Post, Maryland's largest.

"I had no idea Saddam Hussein had such a tremendous military machine," said Mr. Stoll, whose home on the 1500 block of Putty Hill Avenue is one of many flying the flag. "We've got to stop him now."

The majority have no qualms about the war.

Raymond and Mary Sully of Stevenson Lane in Towson have no %% family in the gulf but fly the British and American flags and expect to add a French tricolor because Mr. Sully is English and the couple has many French friends.

"We support both the war and the troops," Mrs. Sully said.


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