ANNAPOLIS -- Turning his attention to events beyond the state capital yesterday, Gov. William Donald Schaefer announced an offer of postwar aid to Kuwait and said he wants to do more to help the families of servicemen and servicewomen in the Persian Gulf.
Families of those who have been called to duty in the gulf can get help from the state government by calling a toll-free number to reach "Operation Maryland Shield," the family-assistance program unveiled by Gov. Schaefer and Maj. Gen. James F. Fretterd of the Maryland National Guard.
By calling the number, which went into operation yesterday, military families can find out about programs that, among other things, provide emergency mortgage assistance and help with job placement, housing, and family counseling.
On Feb. 23, state officials will be available to answer questions at an open house at Ruhl Armory in Towson from 1 to 4 p.m.
"The common thread I get from the letters I get from the troops in Saudi Arabia is the big concerns for their families," General Fretterd said.
General Fretterd said Governor Schaefer also plans to ask for a moment of silence on Feb. 28, when Maryland residents will be asked to turn their lights on, fly their flags and display yellow ribbons to support the troops in the Gulf.
Governor Schaefer also said he met Kuwaiti Ambassador Saud N. Al-Sabah at his embassy in Washington on Wednesday to offer medical assistance and let him know about Maryland companies and transportation facilities that can help rebuild his country.
"When he gets back to his country, his country will be devastated from one end to the other," Mr. Schaefer said. "We made ourselves available to him. We want to set up a partnership."
The governor said a team of physicians and other medical workers from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University could be assembled immediately to assist the wounded in Kuwait.
Space at Baltimore's port and at Baltimore-Washington International Airport have also been made available to representatives of the Kuwaiti government, Mr. Schaefer said.
J. Randall Evans, secretary of the state Department of Economic and Employment Development, said a list of about 40 Maryland companies, from defense contractors to building contractors dTC with experience in the Middle East, was given to the ambassador.
The Kuwaitis "are anxiously anticipating the end of the war, and they want to be ready on Day 1," said Mr. Evans, who went to the meeting. "We recognize that, and we want to support their activity in the best way we can."
A spokesman for the Kuwaiti ambassador declined to comment on the meeting.
Mr. Schaefer's proposal represents his latest foray into foreign policy. Last May, the governor announced a plan to help Poland that would have been financed principally by the federal government.
The governor's offer was publicly refused by the State Department, but state officials insist most of the $1.9 million in programs to aid Poland have moved forward.
The toll-free number for Maryland families of men and women serving in the gulf to call for advice about assistance at the state level is (800) 564-9991.