Maryland delegate wangles his call-up
Del. John Astle finally got what he wanted -- his call-up notice.
After three weeks of lobbying, the lawmaker received the notice in the mail Tuesday. "I feel some anxiety, but I don't have any second thoughts," he said yesterday.
A Marine Corps Reserves colonel who was shot down twice and wounded twice while flying helicopters in Vietnam, Astle, 47, is -- the first Maryland legislator called for active duty since the Persian Gulf war began.
Soon after bombing of Iraq began, Astle, D-Anne Arundel, was on the phone to people he knew in high positions at the Pentagon asking to be recalled.
"I know a lot of people think I'm crazy," he said at the time. "But I've trained to take my place alongside the active-duty forces in this sort of situation. I just feel like that's kind of what my purpose in life is."
He is to report Feb. 14 to the Marine Corps Mobilization Station at Aberdeen. His next stop will be Camp Lejeune, N.C.
After that, he doesn't know where he will go. "I'm fairly certain I won't be flying," said Astle, who has no plans to give up his legislative seat.
Some of the 75 people who went to Western Maryland College to show their opposition to the gulf war called themselves the true patriots.
"This war against Iraq has nothing to do with freedom, justice or democracy," said Pat Blackman, a student organizer of last night's protest rally at the chapel on the Westminster campus. He said the war was being waged for "Yankee power" in the Middle East.
"We who stand up against this injustice and murder are patriots," Blackman said. "The best way to support our troops is to get the hell out."
Apparently, some of the students with relatives serving in the war didn't feel that way. When another speaker at the rally, campus minister Laura Lee Wilson, asked how many of the protesters knew someone in the gulf, five raised their hands.
She knew there were many more on campus with family members in the war. "There's not as many of you as I thought there would be," Wilson said. "So I guess they didn't feel comfortable in coming."
Wilson said she felt "a lot of inner turmoil." Her brother is an Army chaplain.
"If I say I'm against the war, I'm against my brother, and that's not true at all," she said. "And yet if I go in the other direction . . . then I am going against the ethics, the morals, the teachings of the Jesus Christ that I say I follow. And I can't do that either."
SUPPORTING THE TROOPS
While high-powered advertising agencies fret in the Wall Street Journal over ads or promotions that use the war, a few local businesses have decided to appeal to their customers' patriotism.
In Ellicott City, Regency Dry Cleaning Service will clean flags free of charge -- whether or not you take in additional cleaning. A few customers already have taken advantage of the offer, a clerk said.
Meanwhile, Luskin's is giving away free American flags "while quantities last" and includes a salute to the troops in its advertisements. Hecht's stores are giving away a yard of free yellow ribbon to each asker.
Also saluting the troops is Gails Showbar & Restaurant on North Point Boulevard, which advertises itself as the "first and still the best" place for a bachelor party. While Gails maintains it 'N "supports our troops," additional details were not forthcoming, as the club has no listed telephone number.
A donated fir tree has been set up in downtown Annapolis and is quickly being covered in yellow ribbons. . . . Can you be green and yellow at the same time? People are using plastic newspaper bags and bits of yellow-hued waste paper to fashion ribbons for cars and trees. . . . In Catonsville, a sign outside a Royal Farm store advises: "Strike Iraq and make it back." . . . Cupids, flags and yellow ribbons vie for space on a Hampden rowhouse, a motif repeated at some area florists.
If you know of an interesting story of how the war is affecting people on the home front, please call 332-6478.
Laura Lippman, Stephanie Shapiro, Jay Merwin, Thomas W. Waldron and the Associated Press contributed to this report.