First Call for Help, a United Way-supported information and referralagency, began a referral service Sunday to military families in needof human care during the Persian Gulf war.

Round-the-clock referral service is being provided to military families in need of counseling, crisis intervention, financial support, legal aid, parenting assistance and employment and career guidance.

Information and referral service in conjunction with area military bases also is being offered.

Military families can get help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling (800) 492-0618.

First Call for Help began the referral service because it has been receiving a weekly average of 150 war-related phone calls in the past month, most from people in need of care whose loved ones are overseas.

"We have identified an urgency to provide support services tomilitary families -- the men, women and children in our community who are most directly affected by the Persian Gulf war," said John Geist, executive director of the Health and Welfare Council Inc., under whose auspices the service is provided.

"The special human careneeds of military families evolve and multiply each day the Persian Gulf war continues," he said. "It is important that these needs be met."


WESTMINSTER -- A support group for families of Desert Storm personnel had a somber show-and-tell as members passed around a gas mask and chemical warfare suits.

The mask,hoods and bulky charcoal-lined jacket and trousers are designed to protect their relatives in Saudi Arabia from an Iraqi chemical attack.

The display was sponsored to offer reassurance to the families gathered at the National Guard Armory last weekend. Some were encouraged by the level of training and protection soldiers receive as they watched two sergeants demonstrate how to don the suit and seal the mask.

For others, such as Pam Stedtler of Owings Mills, just talking about what a son might go through in battle seemed to heighten parental alarm.

"Without the suit, the mask is no good, right?" Stedtler said.

No, said the sergeants, the mask enables the soldier to breathe, and his clothes provide some protection while he dons the suit.

"Is the suit something they carry with them at all times?" she demanded.

Yes, the sergeants said.

"How come they don't wear bulletproof chest shields?" she said.

A shield would be too heavy and would slow the soldiers' movements, the sergeants explained.


WESTMINSTER-- The Maryland State Police will be sporting yellow ribbons on their marked patrol cars in support of personnel serving in Operation Desert Storm as soon as the Westminster Barracks prepares some 2,000 of the bows.

Saturday, the Law EnforcementExplorer Post, along with other barracks volunteers, spent the morning cutting, preparing and packaging the ribbons for distribution to all state police facilities, said 2nd Lt. Otis L. Trost of the Westminster Barracks.

The yellow ribbon campaign aims to show support forstate police personnel who have been called to active duty in the gulf war.

"The ribbons will be displayed on all marked units on the outside mirror," Trost said. "Each one of the installations will havea big yellow bow at the entrance."

So far, 16 agency personnel have been called to the Middle East, but none from the Westminster Barracks, Trost said.

"We are placing these yellow ribbons on the patrol vehicles to serve as a constant reminder of these brave men and women who are proudly serving their country," said Col. Elmer H. Tippett, MSP superintendent.

"These yellow ribbons symbolize our thoughts and prayers for the safe return of these dedicated men and women we refer to as not only Maryland's finest, but America's finest."

Agency personnel serving in the Persian Gulf include 14 troopers, onecadet and one chaplain. As many as 100 agency members, both sworn and civilian, are estimated to have some sort of current military obligation.

Tippett announced the campaign in special ceremonies last Friday at the Pikesville, Baltimore County, headquarters, where he attached yellow ribbons to 16 marked cruisers. Also supporting the campaign are the MSP Alumni Association, Maryland Troopers Association, Coalition of Black Maryland State Troopers, and Lodge 69, Fraternal Order of Police.

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