Long letter to GIs WAR IN THE GULF


The crowd at the Linwood Tavern in Highlandtown wants to make sure U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia know the home front is cheering them on. Two weeks ago they started writing a giant letter that has grown to more than 40 feet, containing thousands of names and expressions of support.

The idea came to bar owner Ray Baxter one day as he was writing a letter to GIs in the Middle East.

"People kept coming up and asking, 'Let me sign . . . let me say something,' " he recalls. "Pretty soon I had more than a page of names."

Today the letter is being written on 3-by-6-foot sheets of paper, posted in the back room of the tavern at Linwood Avenue and Orleans Street. A jar of felt-tip pens sits close at hand. As each sheet is filled, another goes up over it. Signers include the parents and spouses of men and women serving in the Persian Gulf, and well-wishers, the youngest only 4 years old. Most neighborhood residents have already signed, according to Mr. Baxter, and people have been coming from as far as Dundalk, drawn by word of mouth.

Among the sentiments expressed are those of Shauna Jones, who wrote "God Bless You All," and Cathy Trautfelter, who penned "May the good Lord always keep you all in His care."

Included with the letter are two large cartoons created by artist William J. Houston, retired from BG&E;, and inspired by the popular "Willie" character of World War II fame. One depicts two GIs in the heat of battle being reminded by the action of the daily commute they left behind. The missive will be up until 2 p.m. tomorrow, at which time it will be rolled into a tube and sent to "Any GI" in the war zone.

For their efforts on behalf of troop morale, Gov. William Donald Schaefer has issued citations to both Mr. Baxter and his wife, Stephanie, and to the Linwood Tavern.

Look for Homefront Journal -- a collection of information, local events and Marylanders' efforts around the Persian Gulf war -- daily in the Today section.

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