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Hang In There, Sir

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

"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.



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."


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.

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