Yellow Ribbon Ties Soldiers To Financial Assistance

Program Seeks Toaid Call-ups With Cut Pay

March 10, 1991|By Jodi Bizar | Jodi Bizar,Contributing writer

The cease-fire in the Persian Gulf may have stilled the gunfire, butit has not put an end to the financial struggles facing some families of area reservists and National Guardsmen, some of whom experiencedpay cuts when they donned the uniform for their country.

"The warhas been quite a financial imposition on reservists and guardsmen and their families," said Harford businessman Mark Noske.

Stories of those hardships has prompted Noske to organize a county effort to collect food, home supplies and money for the families ofMarylanders whose finances have been affected by

call-up of reservists and guardsmen. He's dubbed it the "Yellow Ribbon Campaign."

Noske said he learned that some Maryland reservists called up to serve during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm saw their monthly incomes reduced by as much as half when they left their jobs to serve.

Salaries for members of the guard and reserves are the same as for soldiers on active duty, depending on their rank, specialty and years of service, said George Mercer, spokesman for Aberdeen Proving Ground.

A specialist-E4, one of the most common ranks in the reserves, earns $932 a month, Mercer said. A sergeant with six years experience earns $1,268 a month.

Noske, president of Blue Waters Pool and Spa Service in Joppa, said many families of reservists and National Guardsmen are having trouble meeting their usual financial obligations, including mortgages, rent, insurance and car payments.

Mercer agreed. "A reservist or a National Guardsman will have another job andwill be put in a situation when they are called to active duty wherethey will have to take a cut in pay," he said. "Most people are willing to do it, but it's a shock to your life emotionally and financially."

Noske said he first got the idea to start the Yellow Ribbon Campaign shortly after the war started when he saw a television reportabout a citizens' effort in Dallas, collecting and distributing foodand money to families of reservists and National Guardsmen called to active duty.

"I thought, 'Gee wiz, what a great idea,' " he said, adding that he promptly set about launching a local campaign; he contacted officials at Forest Hill Bank, Comcast Cablevision and Busy Bun Biz, a catering company in Kingsville. All agreed to contribute something to the effort.

With the help of these businesses, and other volunteers including Noske's own employees, Yellow Ribbon Campaign was officially started Feb. 28. Six branches of Forest Hill Bank haveoffered to leave boxes in their lobbies where patrons can deposit non-perishable food and money.

Harford Comcast Cablevision will be providing free publicity about the campaign in addition to collecting goods.

Noske plans to pick up the collected goods and money with trucks donated by Busy Bun Biz and deliver them to Fort Meade. There, the proceeds will be distributed to the affected families of reservists and National Guardsmen.

Noske said they will continue collecting and distributing goods at least through the end of the month.

"It's going to be two to six months before these people are deactivated," Noske said. "So even though the war is over, there is still a need. They did a good job for us, let's help them."

Noske said baby supplies, such as disposable diapers, are in high demand. "If you have children, you know how expensive that stuff can be," he said.

Other goods requested are non-perishable canned and boxed food and home cleaning supplies.

By last week food and household goods already were deposited in a drop box located in the Comcast Aberdeen office, said Pat Donovan, director of public affairs for the company.

"Active duty military are prepared for an emergency," Mercer said.

"Basically you're on duty 24 hours a day. As a reservist or National Guardsman, the military is a secondary service. They're holding a job or going to school, and their families are used to that situation. Even though you're in the Reserve or the National Guard, you never expect to be called up."

Noske said he knows of one Bel Air family where the husband, an airline pilot and Navy Reservist, was called to activeduty. The family suffered a slash in pay that cut his monthly incomein half. Currently, the pilot is stationed in Germany, and his wife and three young children are having trouble making ends meet.

"Youwouldn't believe what a hard time they're having," Noske said.

Marci Emerson is a family services coordinator at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County where the Yellow Ribbon Campaign donations will be delivered for distribution to affected families.

She said the Navy Reservist's situation is not unique.

In fact, some families are worse off because more than one member has been called to active duty, she said. The children of one family had to be taken to their grandparents' home when both their parents were called to active duty, she noted.

She added that the financial burden to these families is often aggravated when government paychecks are late in arriving or do not arrive at all.

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