Belair-Edison puts up sign to greet returning soldiers Sign of spirited support: 'Welcome back, troops' to greet 3 gulf soldiers.

March 12, 1991|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Evening Sun Staff

Don Kelly, 55, stood and surveyed the new sign that will greet three Belair-Edison soldiers when they return home from the Persian Gulf to their northeast Baltimore neighborhood.

"It's very beautiful," Kelly said of the red, white and blue sign. "It's a great thing, something to be proud of. It brings tears to your eyes."

He said he's glad the military personnel of Operation Desert Storm are coming home.

"It's a shame the veterans of the Vietnam War didn't get anything like this," he said.

Old war veterans, their wives, Boy Scout troops, neighbors and politicians -- about 70 people in all -- stood in the gusting wind Sunday clapping and cheering for the unveiling of the sign that reads "Welcome home, troops."

"It's just this neighborhood's way of saying thank you," said Barbara Przybylski, president of the Belair-Edison Improvement Association, which put up the $100 for the sign. "It's more than just this community's troops. It's everyone's troops."

The sign, made of metal and propped up by wooden stakes, stands at Belair Road and Shannon Drive, in front of a 70-year-old cast-iron memorial for World War I soldiers.

Barbara Kelley, whose father's name is inscribed in the World War I memorial, said she was excited when she heard the new sign was going up.

"It makes everybody happy to see that their loved ones are being honored," she said. "This honors the boys in the First World War and it continues to honor the boys overseas now."

Delores Cannon, the mother of one of the soldiers still in the Persian Gulf, took part in unveiling the sign, along with Mayor Kurt Schmoke and City Council President Mary Pat Clarke.

Cannon wore a green down coat adorned with two yellow ribbons and carried an American flag in one hand and a photograph of her son, Stephen L. Cannon, in the other. Her son, an Army officer with the 3rd Armored Division, is expected home by early April.

"It's a very nice gesture from the community," Cannon said. "It makes you feel good when you see someone wearing a little flag or a yellow ribbon."

The other two men overseas from the neighborhood are Bruce Roudette, a Marine, and Terry Bard.

Another resident, Teresa Kress, 31, is a flight nurse in the Air Force reserve. She returned home from Spain over the weekend after having spent time in Saudi Arabia.

"That sign, along with the yellow ribbons and the flags -- it makes you feel like you belong here," she said. "It made me feel warm that people had support, but there's also melancholy. I think of the people who were not as fortunate as I was, who could not come home, who were injured and who died."

The idea to put up the sign as a way to support the troops came two weeks ago to Steve Simpson, the association's vice president.

"We needed a positive action in the community," said Simpson, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 17 years. "We've been tying yellow ribbons since January, when the war started."

Last week, the first wave of soldiers returned home from their tour in the Middle East, forcing the association to scramble to put up its sign.

Przybylski said she got a lot of help and support. The assistant vice principal at Brehms Lane Elementary School had fliers printed and sent them home with children, urging people to attend the ceremony. Students at Shrine of the Little Flower Elementary School gave out flowers during Mass to remind people of the event. And word of mouth attracted others.

"Immediate reaction was, 'You're darned right I'll be there,' " Przybylski said. "It's just been fantastic."

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