Fruitcakes have a friend at the top
Bob Patton said he couldn't believe the trouble he had sending his homemade fruitcakes to soldiers in the Middle East. It seemed no one could ship 100 pounds of fruitcake.
But the Stanton Community Center of Annapolis helped Patton send his baked goods along with some the center sent to the troops.
And there's at least one U.S. Army general who's glad the fruitcakes arrived.
Gen. H. "Stormin' " Norman Schwarzkopf sent Patton a letter thanking him for the dessert.
"Thank you very much for the large supply of fruitcake," reads the letter from Schwarzkopf. "They tasted delicious! I have had them distributed to many deserving troops. I know they will enjoy them as much as I did.
"Rest assured, I will strive to bring this operation to a rapid conclusion with a minimum loss of life. Thank you again for your support."
The letter was dated Feb. 14.
Patton, who said the cakes took about 50 hours to make, said he was truly surprised to receive the letter. "When I sent this over I knew I might get a note from someone," Patton said. "But I didn't expect this."
Members of an Army Reserve unit from Maryland are among 7,305 reservists from 20 states initially scheduled to be sent home, possibly by the end of this month, as the Army begins returning 227,490 "weekend warriors" to private life, the Army said.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said Company A, 2nd Battalion, of the 8830th Military Police, from Fort Meade, was the only Maryland unit among those in the first group to be demobilized. She said they would be released after processing at Fort McClellan, Ala.
The 8830th was mobilized at Fort Eustice, Va., at the end of January.
Sgt. John Ivins, spokesman for the 97th Army Reserve Command at Fort Meade, said the company, consisting of 20 to 25 members, has been at Fort McClellen ever since, providing military police training to regular Army and Reserve troops.
It wasn't clear when all the part-time soldiers mobilized for the gulf war will be released.
"It is a possibility that some other support units will be called up to help with redeployment of the American force from the gulf. But the total will be coming down," said Air Force Maj. Doug Hart, a Defense Department spokesman.
Since last August when Iraqi troops invaded and occupied Kuwait, the Pentagon has called 143,256 Army, 34,407 Air Force, 29,786 Marine, 19,159 Navy and 882 Coast Guard reservists to active duty.
Most of the reserve troops called served in support roles, ranging from maintaining aircraft to cooking and providing transportation or medical care for active duty troops.
THANKS FROM VIET VET
For Vietnam veteran Harold Payne, the flags, ribbons, sweat shirts and other expressions of public support for the soldiers of Operation Desert Storm have helped eased the burdens of the last war.
"It just feels like, hey, I've finally come home," he said.
Payne, 43, from Rosedale, served in Vietnam with the Army's 21st Signal Group in 1968 and 1969. He was mobilized late in December with the Air National Guard's 135th Mobile Aerial Port, and works handling incoming freight at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
"When we got back from [Vietnam] there was nothing other than what we got from our immediate families, and a majority of the guys to this day feel we got short-changed," he said.
"I don't know if any part of my feeling has lessened from Vietnam," he said. But "hey, this is great. When you drive through the neighborhoods and see all the flags, it's just unbelieveable. You can't express the feeling unless you've experienced both things first-hand."
"I can say I feel I received my just dues from this," he said. "I just wish all these other guys [Vietnam vets] could feel these feelings, too. It might lessen their burden."
THANKS FROM THE GULF
Members of Dens 2 and 7, Cub Scout Pack 18 in Owings Mills, have finally received thanks for the patriotic songs they recorded in January and mailed to eight soldiers serving with Operation Desert Storm.
The thanks came last week in the form of two letters from U.S. servicemen written on Desert Shield and Desert Storm stationery.
"That was exciting for the boys," said den leader Lauren Davis, of Randallstown, who suggested the recordings as part of an activity centered on patriotic songs.
"Hey, thanks for the tape; it was really great," wrote Marine Corps Cpl. Ken Edwards, a Detroit native and former Scout.
"It's really nice to know we have such dedicated support back home," he said in a letter that took four weeks to deliver. "Things here are going pretty smoothly. Every day we come one step closer to accomplishing our mission and coming home.
"Hopefully your generation won't have to worry about fighting wars. Thank God our country has the spirit to keep justice and democracy forging ahead. Thanks again for the tape. I will keep it always."
The boys recorded the songs in "one long sitting," said Davis, who accompanied them on her guitar. They sang "God Bless America," "America the Beautiful," "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy," "America," "This Land is Your Land" and several others.
The tapes were mailed to soldiers the Scouts' families had come to know after sending mail initially directed "to any soldier."
If you know of an interesting story about how the Persian Gulf situation may be affecting life on the home front, please call 332-6465.
PERSIAN GULF SHOWDOWN
Frank D. Roylance, Monica Norton and Kevin Thomas contributed to this report.