He was one of the infamous "Filthy 13" of World War II whose wartime experiences and heroics influenced the popular film "The Dirty Dozen," but just days before he was to be feted at the American Veterans Center’s 11th annual conference in Washington Miguel "Mike" Marquez died at the Beaumont Army Medical Center in Texas.
Shortly before his death two weeks ago, his obituary in the El Paso Times says, Mr. Marquez "told his family he thought it was ironic the American Veterans Center wanted to honor him because he never saluted Army officers during his time in the service."
Four of his fellow Filthy 13 — the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, who despised washing, shaving and cleaning their uniforms — were on hand for this past weekend’s conference, along with dozens of other military honorees who have fought in U.S. wars, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We just didn’t do everything we were supposed to do," Jake "McNasty" McNiece, commander of the real life "Dirty Dozen," told the Washington audience. "We were just always in trouble."
The Oklahoma native had conference attendees, many of them military officers, shaking their heads in disbelief when he recalled being at boot camp and coming to the aid of a fellow GI being "hassled" by a pair of military police officers. Mr. McNiece said he grabbed the MPs’ nightsticks, beat them "to a pulp," then unholstered their .45 pistols and shot out every streetlight.
Next to explain how he had become one of the Filthy 13 (on D-Day, the unit wore war paint and shaved their heads into mohawks), Robert "Bob" Cone told the audience that the Army had made him a medic, and at the midway point of one grueling 20-mile hike somebody from the front of the line was yelling, "Medic, medic."
One of the soldiers, he recalled, had taken ill and was in need of medical assistance. However, an equally exhausted Mr. Cone refused to rush forward, reminding his superior officers that he had walked just as far as the ailing soldier.
"Let him come back to me," he told them.
Among the dozens of speakers at the three-day conference were veterans of Jimmy Doolittle’s "Doolittle Raiders;" Brig. Gen. R. Steve Ritchie, considered "The Last Ace" pilot who flew over Vietnam; Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and United Press International correspondent Joseph Galloway, co-authors of "We Are Soldiers Still"; and Maj. Nicole Malachowski, an Iraq veteran and the first female pilot selected to fly with the Air Force Thunderbirds (she’s currently a White House Fellow assigned to Barack Obama’s transition team).
Also on hand were the legendary Tuskegee Airmen; military disc jockey Adrian Cronauer, who co-authored the original story for the movie "Good Morning, Vietnam"; and a half-dozen Major League Baseball players — Joe Anders, Lou Brissie, Jerry Coleman, Bob Feller, Monte Irvin and Ralph Kiner — who put their careers on hold to serve in World War II.
SO LONG, LUNTZ
"The end of the most interesting election in modern times will also be the end of my career with Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research," widely quoted Washington political pollster and consultant Frank Luntz writes to his long list of clients and colleagues.
As he puts it: "When I hired my first employee and opened up an office in the basement of my townhouse in 1992, I never dreamed that I would someday have the honor of working for presidents, prime ministers, and CEOs of the world’s most successful companies and most influential foundations."
Mr. Luntz is moving to Santa Barbara, Calif., where he will "start examining more closely what is really happening in American life and culture." He will still report back to Washington from time to time as "chairman emeritus" of Luntz, Maslansky.
"It ain’t gonna happen," says House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio, referring to congressional Republicans standing to the side and surrendering party principles in light of the Democratic Party’s Election Day sweep.
Announcing that he is running for re-election to his Republican Party leadership post, Mr. Boehner warned Democrats not to make the mistake of viewing Tuesday’s results as a repudiation of conservatism or validation of big government.
After all, he said, "America remains a center-right country."
HOPING FOR CHANGE
Aristotle reminds us, "Youth is easily deceived, because it is quick to hope."
Let’s hope youth is right this time, given its major impact in deciding the 2008 presidential election.
Indeed, overwhelming youth support for President-elect Barack Obama in battleground states turned out to keep this election out of reach for Republican John McCain, said Eric Greenberg, author of Generation We: How Millennial Youth Are Taking Over America and Changing Our World Forever.
He points to exit polls showing the youth vote supported Obama/Biden over McCain/Palin 66 percent to 32 percent, which he said is the highest share of the youth vote for a presidential ticket since exit polls began reporting results by age groups in 1976.
Specifically, college towns in the battleground states of Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Florida saw increases of up to 92 percent in youth voter turnout in comparison with 2004 (Precinct 01 at Indiana University Bloomington saw at least a 287 percent increase in youth vote over 2004).
More broadly, 18-29 year-olds represented 18 percent of the electorate (some 24 million young Americans) while those identified as 65 and older made up only 16 percent.
"This is more than a voting bloc. It’s a movement," Mr. Greenberg said. "We are witnessing a changing of the guard, a new political epoch, a youth movement, and their call to restore the American dream. One only has to look at how the youth voted overwhelmingly for Obama this election to understand that a generational shift is occurring."
LOVELACE, YOU SAY?
While not a household name, Gail Lovelace arguably is the person responsible for the orderly transfer of power from President Bush to President-elect Barack Obama.
At least every eight years, the General Services Administration (GSA) turns over to a president-elect what has become a 120,000-square-foot, fully furnished, computer-equipped Presidential Transition Headquarters. This past week, it was Mr. Obama who was awarded the keys to the suite of modern offices in downtown Washington by GSA acting Administrator James A. Williams.
Congress in 1963 handed the GSA the responsibility of providing each new administration not only with office space, but information technology, furniture, equipment and other logistical support — including the federal funds to pay for it all.
The GSA even appoints a "Presidential Transition Director" — Ms. Lovelace — who said her staff "worked more than two years to complete this headquarters and help facilitate the orderly transfer of executive power."
Pretty impressive, figuring the GSA manages 8,600 government-owned or leased buildings, 425 historic properties, and Uncle Sam’s fleet of 208,000 vehicles.
"I enjoy being a plumber, and I’ll still do that,"Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher told this columnist in recent days.
Did the unemployed Ohio pipefitter ever dream his life could change so drastically, simply by quizzing then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama about his tax policy?
"When I dream, they’re big dreams, you know?" Mr. Wurzelbacher answered. "A little bass boat, maybe a four-wheeler, things like that. But I didn’t dream about becoming a household name right now. I’m right up there with Ajax."
THE ‘H’ NAME
Recognizing Barack Hussein Obama‘s White House victory on Tuesday, the Islamic Information Center in Washington pointed out that "even as this country has elected a president whose middle name is ‘Hussein,’ very few Americans have any idea as to the origin of that name, why it is important, or what it even means."
"Accordingly, it is incumbent for Muslims to explain the religion of Islam, and its key figures, to others," the center urged on Wednesday. "American Muslims, as a whole are the richest, most powerful Muslims in the world, and are thus in a unique position … to think about the types of positive, peaceful and productive goals that might be accomplished if the country’s Muslims were to come together, Inshallah.
"The [Koran] teaches that victory is in the hands of God – accordingly, let us all put ourselves in His hands and work towards a better future."
Plan on seeing Sarah Palin in Washington in early 2009 after all. The defeated Republican vice-presidential candidate, we’re told, is a confirmed speaker for the Conservative Political Action Committee 2009 conference in February.
"It’s obvious that she is the Reagan heir apparent, and so it is fitting that she follow in his footsteps," Republican activist and "Team Sarah" member LaDonna Hale Curzon said. "At CPAC 1975, one speech initiated the conservative comeback. That speech was by Ronald Reagan. I would like to see Governor Palin do the same at CPAC 2009."
HANG IN THERE, SIR
"I apologize for my laryngitis today. The good news is it’s going to be a short speech."
— A hoarse Vice President Dick Cheney, addressing students and faculty of Virginia Military Institute over the weekend. During the 42-minute flight to the campus, Mr. Cheney’s White House physician, Dr. Lewis A. Hoffman, was seen opening several cases of medical supplies.
FAIR, AT LEAST
It could not be confirmed whether Vice President Dick Cheney couldn’t help but chuckle when, at the campus entrance to the Virginia Military Institute, a lone man welcomed him with the politely worded sign: "Cheney and USA deserve a fair trial."