Hockey Salute

John McCaslin

2/22/2008 10:39:55 AM - John McCaslin

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England noted before the Washington Capitals hockey game Wednesday night that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates remains "on injured reserve" after slipping on an icy path near his home and injuring his shoulder.

Otherwise, it was Military Appreciation Night at the Verizon Center, where the Capitals honored 5,000 service members and their families with free admission and hosted dozens of wounded warriors from U.S. military hospitals. Some 18,000 fans attended the Capitals-New York Islanders contest, and they all rose to their feet to give the deserving troops an extended standing ovation.

It was the sixth year that Capitals owner Ted Leonsis hosted the military. He pointed out before the game that his father, Louis T. Leonsis, came to America from Greece and spent seven years in the U.S. Navy, serving on the USS Bunker Hill. He died last September just shy of his 94th birthday.

"My father was an American first and foremost," Mr. Leonsis recalled. "We should never lose sight that our country is made up of individuals, and the men and women who serve our country really deserve our respect and our thanks, and this is our small way of doing it."

Gas problem

We bid welcome — and happy 100th birthday — to the National Governors Association and its respective members who are arriving in town for the organization's annual winter meeting, which will include dinner Sunday night with President Bush and first lady Laura Bush at the White House.

At the top of the governors' list of concerns is the price of gasoline. We checked yesterday and residents of Hawaii are paying $4.14 per gallon of gas, while drivers in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Pixley, Calif., are forking over $3.80 (this columnist paid $54 to fill up one of the smaller Jeep tanks yesterday).

The governors will seek some much-needed advice from energy experts at the J.W. Marriott hotel, although as Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin points out many have already "taken strong steps to create innovative energy initiatives in their states."

Note to Republicans

Talk about timely, this g entle reminder from George Washington was posted yesterday by the Republican Study Committee on Capitol Hill: "Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation. It is better to be alone than in bad company."

Burris' final act

Who knew it is not a federal crime to vandalize the grave of a member of the U.S. armed services buried in a private cemetery?

Last fall, Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremy Burris from Liberty, Texas, was killed during his tour of duty in Iraq. At his funeral, he was honored by his entire hometown, then laid to rest. A few days later, his grave was desecrated.

"Cemetery officials found flags, posters and floral arrangements ripped up and strewn about the gravesite," reveals Rep. Ted Poe of Texas, who says police have made one arrest so far on state charges. In other words, whereas federal law protects gravesites of military men and women buried on public property, it has no jurisdiction on private burial grounds.

The Republican congressman's bill to make such desecration a federal crime is appropriately titled the Lance Corporal Jeremy Burris Act.


"I hate the use of the term 'gook' used by the American GIs to identify the Vietnamese people — both North and South. I hated the use of the term while I served in Nam and I still hate it," writes Fred Wright of Palm Bay, Fla.

The reader is referencing our earlier item about Republican Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, insisting on using the term "gook" to describe his Vietnamese captors, until public outcry during his 2000 presidential campaign forced him to issue an apology.

"I'm sure that McCain suffered greatly at the hands of the North Vietnamese, but a person who is incapable of forgiving others is not one I care to have as a president," he says. "What happened to him happened a long time ago. We need someone in the White House who is too big to harbor hate."

Speaking of the military, past and present, A. Lawrence of Alexandria read a survey we published of 3,400 active and retired officers — ranked major or lieutenant commander and above — that found that nearly 90 percent saying the war in Iraq has stretched the U.S. military "dangerously thin," with 80 percent saying if the United States were to enter a major war at this time it could not be successfully waged.

Mr. Lawrence guesses "the sample of 3,400 only included 340 officers with boots on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan, so a good many of the poll respondents are armchair quarterbacks of the worst kind — paper pushing, desk jockeys with no face-to-face enemy contact to color their judgment.

"Are there problems in the military community? Sure, but this sounds like a Chicken Little poll used to prove a political point."

Quote of the week

"If al Qaeda was on steroids, then the House would take it up."

— Sen. Kit Bond, Missouri Republican, speaking on the Senate floor this week