John McCaslin

Four area World War II veterans are among those being honored this weekend by a society in France dedicated to remembering America's sacrifices on behalf of the French.

The Association of Vieux Pistons de Lixheim (The Old Pistons from Lixheim) will pay tribute to the 44th Infantry Division for its bravery and sacrifices during the liberation of Alsace-Lorraine during the bitter winter of 1944-45.

Amazingly, two veterans of the campaign, 84-year-old Jack Harney of New Carrollton and 85-year-old Bill Henoch of Potomac, both combat infantry soldiers, had not known each other during the war but met at the World War II Memorial in Washington.

"Almost unbelievably," Mr. Harney told Inside the Beltway Monday, they learned they were members of the same company -- G Co., 71st Infantry Regiment -- and had "fought together in the snows and mud of eastern France."

They've since reunited with two other veterans of the 44th, David Weaver of Falls Church and John Fountain of Silver Spring.

"The French Society will ride vintage U.S. Army vehicles from that era," Mr. Harney says. "Dressed in U.S. Army uniforms, they will trace the paths of the 44th Division from its initial deployment at Embermenil, near the city of Nancy, through its battles to clear the area of the occupying Germans. In the process the division brought to a standstill the eastern prong of the German attack in the Battle of the Bulge."

Thrills and groans

Washington political observer Howard Mortman ( has just posted another batch of the Top Ten Funniest Political Quotes So Far In 2008.

"Fortunately ... a wealth of material to work with," Mr. Mortman notes. "The challenge was trimming, not scrambling."

In our opinion it's difficult to beat No. 2 on the list, figuring MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews actually admitted: "It's part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama's speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often."

But former President Bill Clinton did not disappoint, expressing in no uncertain terms: "The country is groaning and moaning and screaming for change to turn this country around and get it working again."

End of an era

A "Bring Back Bill & Hillary Clinton" campaign button fetched 99 cents Monday on the Internet auction site eBay.

Rookie agent

It remains to be seen how much hot water surrounds former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge now that he has filed -- 20 months after the fact -- a required Justice Department registration for work he performed for Albania starting in September 2006.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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