Hospital extends benefits for soldiers
The Greater Baltimore Medical Center is going out of its way to show support for a handful of employees called to active military duty.
The hospital says it will extend all current medical benefits to any employees called to active duty. GBMC also will supplement their military pay to match their customary hospital salaries. The policy will be in effect for at least six months from the time the employee left to begin his or her service.
GBMC spokeswoman Vivienne Stearns-Elliott said only five of the hospital's 2,200 employees have been called up so far. Two or three of the reservists are believed to be in the gulf region. They are mostly professional medical personnel, including Dr. Stephen Amato, chairman of the pediatrics department. They began leaving in December.
Twenty-three more employees are believed subject to future call-ups.
Today, the hospital was distributing flags to all workers and holding a prayer breakfast for all employees with family members in the military. The hospital also will begin flying an all-weather, illuminated flag 24 hours a day.
RIBBONS FOR POLICE
Maryland State Police have announced a Yellow Ribbon Campaign, in which the nearly 2,000 State Police vehicles throughout Maryland will display ribbons to honor the 19 State Police members who have been called to active military duty.
The 19 include 17 troopers, a cadet and a chaplain. About 100 agency members, sworn and civilian, have some sort of military obligation, according to the State Police.
"These yellow ribbons are intended to symbolize our thoughts and prayers for the safe return of those dedicated men and women we refer to as not only Maryland's finest but America's finest," said Col. Elmer H. Tippett, State Police superintendent.
ELECTRONIC MAIL CALL
Students of Baltimore's Southeast Middle School and their family members can send messages by electronic mail to relatives serving in the gulf region,in a service available through the end of this month.
Letters are sent electronically through "E-Mail," by way of the General Electronic Information Network, directly to Saudi Arabia. They are then printed on electronic printers at Saudi-American General Electric Co., mechanically folded, inserted and sealed into envelopes.
The U.S. Armed Forces then deliver the messages to personnel serving in Saudi Arabia.
The mail service is one of several activities at the school intended to show support for the troops.
On Tuesdays and Fridays, the names of relatives who are serving in the gulf are read aloud over the school's public address system during morning announcements. Students and staff members follow the announcement by singing "Let There Be Peace on Earth."
Trees around the campus have been decorated with yellow ribbons.
Tattoos of U.S. flags and American eagles have increased in popularity at the Gemini Tattoo shop, which sits across Md. 175 from Fort Meade.
While preparing for deployment, many soldiers visit the shop and ask to have patriotic designs or the names of loved ones inked into their skin, said manager Gale Watkins.
"They can't have their loved ones with them so that's how they remember them," Watkins said.
One 33-year-old soldier, who had signed up for active duty after 10 years in the reserves, recently asked for a patriotic design to cover the "zig-zag man" party-guy character that had adorned his right arm since his youth.
Watkins covered the zigzag man with a flag, an eagle and the words "Desert Storm."
"I donated the tattoo for him," said Watkins. "Just being patriotic. I believe in this country."
Patrick Ercolano, Mark Bomster, Frank D. Roylance and Jay Merwin contributed to this report.
If you know of an interesting story about how the war is affecting life on the home front, please call 332-6478.