EDGEWOOD -- Cheri Nelson wore a peace-sign pendant over her Army T-shirt at yesterday's Desert Storm victory rally at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground. She stuck a U.S. flag into the collar of Gizmo, her pit bill terrier, and said: "He's waiting for his daddy."
"Daddy" is Mrs. Nelson's husband, Sgt. Warren Nelson, who remained on duty yesterday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as she and about 150 others attended the rally on the Harford County military base.
She said the rally was a morale-booster. "We see everybody on TV coming home. It's good to know people haven't forgotten the ones left over there."
The rally -- similar to one held yesterday afternoon in Morrell Park in Southwest Baltimore -- took place under a cloudless sky on the parade ground near the banks of the Gunpowder River. It was arranged by Aberdeen Proving Ground's six "quality-of-life mayors," who represent the 300 military family members living at the post.
The gathering was originally planned as a support rally for the more than 40 families with loved ones in the gulf region. But with the swift end of the war, organizers changed yesterday's event to a victory celebration.
The Maryland National Guard's 229th Army Band played patriotic tunes as red, white and blue helium balloons bobbed in the breeze, their strings tied to an outdoor podium.
Many of those in attendance wore yellow ribbons, symbolizing their support for the military personnel who could not be there.
"We are proud of them, proud of ourselves, and we are proud to be Americans," quality-of-life mayor Heather Pearce said as she choked back tears.
Ms. Pearce said she had no family members in the Middle East, but she added, "When you live on an Army installation, it's hard not to be emotional."
Members of RAMS, a student group from nearby Edgewood High School that visits senior citizens and does volunteer work at hospitals, unfurled an 8-foot-by-8-foot quilt with 289 squares -- each with a message to troops signed by a student or teacher.
Because the war ended before the students could send the quilt to the Middle East, they decided to give it to Brig. Gen. David A. Nydam, commander of the Army's Chemical Research, Development and Engineering Center at Aberdeen. The general said he would try to find a public place, such as the post gymnasium, to display the quilt.
Sandy Lindsay, whose husband, Col. Rodney C. Lindsay, is in Riyadh, said the rally was a needed diversion from the waiting.
As a candlelight ceremony was about to begin, Mrs. Lindsay chatted with Staff Sgt. Elvin A. Study, a member of her husband's unit who returned to his Dundalk home last week on emergency leave.
The sergeant said he has received champagne and fruit baskets since his return and hopes others will be similarly welcomed.
"They'll be home shortly, and they're in good hands," Sergeant Study said.
"Thank God things have quieted down and it's just a matter of time until they come home."