Not too late to send Valentine to war zone PERSIAN GULF SHOWDOWN

DESERT STORM Notes from the home front

February 13, 1991

Yes, you still can send valentines to loved ones in the Persian Gulf.

At the Sears in Security Square Mall, families can type in messages that will be electronically delivered to the gulf. There, a computer will print them out, the messages will be put into envelopes and sent to a Military Post Office for distribution.

The high-tech partnership involves not only Sears, but the Prodigy computer service and the IBM Information Network. There is no cost for the service.

The service will be available tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those who wish to send letters to Desert Storm personnel are advised to have the name, rank, Social Security number, ship or unit, and APO/FPO number of their Valentine.

PREACHING IN THE GULF

When Sgt. Robert Wise of Baltimore was ordered to the Persian Gulf, he had a vision: hundreds of souls, saved by a desert preacher.

And after more than two months in Saudi Arabia, Wise the preacher has come close to fulfilling his dream.

A telephone technician, he has organized prayer meetings, set up his own mobile church and claims he's saved 200 of his fellow soldiers.

"Right now, I'm preaching to a group of people who love God, but have forgot the power of God," said Wise, 28.

Each time his unit moves, Wise's church follows. His first was set up at a motor pool in the port of Dammam, a second arose in a tent north of the port, a third was created in a mess hall and, finally, he has one in a field hospital.

The church is for Americans only.

Rules against religious services in conservative Muslim Saudi Arabia have eased somewhat to allow unobtrusive prayer meetings. But Wise isn't about to have a try at proselytizing the Saudis.

"God gives you wisdom. And wisdom tells you not to do that," he says.

PROTESTERS CLEARED

A Baltimore District Court judge has dropped charges of failure to obey a police officer against six protesters participating in an anti-war demonstration five days before the start of the gulf war.

Charges were dropped against the protesters -- all members of Baltimore Emergency Release Network -- yesterday at the District Court on Wabash Avenue. About 100 people participated in the Jan. 11 protest, but police arrested only the six adults and three juveniles who blocked traffic at Northern Parkway and York Road.

"We were crossing the street west to east, with the green light," explained Richard Ochs, one of the protesters. "We wanted to show our signs to the traffic and wanted to be part of a nationwide activity at the time. Activists everywhere were trying to make a strong impression on Congress, as they were considering whether to vote for war."

The rally was sponsored by the Baltimore Student Coalition Against U.S. Intervention in the Middle East. The juveniles were released to their parents at the time, and charges against them were dropped immediately.

READY, IF NEEDED

If ground combat begins on a large scale, the American Red Cross reports it will be ready to help the military meet its blood needs.

"In times of emergency in this country and also abroad the response of American blood donors has always been tremendous," said Elizabeth Hall, spokeswoman for the Red Cross national office in Washington. "We are fairly confident we will have plenty of people who will want to donate blood."

For now, however, the military is able to meet its blood needs with minimal help from the Red Cross.

Before the war began, the Red Cross was sending 1,000 units of blood a week to McGuire Air Force Base near Trenton, N.J., for shipment to the gulf. A unit is almost a pint.

In the first three days after war broke out Jan. 16, the military asked for 1,000 units a day, then scaled back its request to 300 units a week "because they were not experiencing the casualties they expected," Hall said yesterday. The 300 units come from a revolving list of regional blood centers.

Laura Lippman, Bob Hilson, John Fairhall and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

If you know of an interesting story of how the war is affecting people on the homefront, please call 332-6478.

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