It was billed as a visit by the Redskinettes, the "First Ladies of Washington football," to the Fort Belvoir commissary.
An article in the base newspaper, the Belvoir Eagle, urged fans at the Fairfax County Army installation to come on down Oct. 9 and check out the football team's cheerleading squad, along with the new Redskinettes calendar.
Not everyone was amused. The timing of the visit, coming during the Columbus Day weekend, infuriated one reader.
"As a woman, I don't care to see the Redskinettes," Shantel Sellers, the wife of a service member, wrote in a subsequent issue of the Eagle. "As a Native American, I wish they wouldn't come. But the fact that they are coming on Columbus Day weekend is so offensive as to render me nearly speechless."
Sellers said she called numerous officials, urging them to postpone or cancel the visit, but was told that the money involved in arranging the visit, a promotion sponsored by Frito Lay and Coca-Cola, made that impossible.
"We didn't see any need to cancel based on the one lone voice we heard," said Don Carr, a spokesman for the base.
But Sellers argued otherwise. "To combine a visit from the Redskinettes with what most Native Americans view as one of the darkest days in our history hurts us," Sellers wrote. "It is roughly the equivalent of reopening a Sambo's to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. The timing could not possibly be worse."
The Eagle agreed to print a column from Sellers expressing her views. "We did give her a forum to air her concerns," said Candice Walters, editor of the Eagle. "Her hopes were that it might educate some people."
Closer to Recognition
Alfred Rascon is one big step closer to receiving the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Vietnam War, a tribute many people say is long overdue.
Rascon, 53, a resident of Howard County, was a medic with a platoon from the 173rd Airborne Brigade that was ambushed by North Vietnamese gunners in 1966. Despite being wounded three times during the fierce firefight, Rascon rushed forward through bullets and grenade fire to save the lives of several of his comrades.
They recommended he be awarded the Medal of Honor, but the matter became bogged down in bureaucracy and was not pursued. His fellow soldiers picked up the cause again eight years ago when they learned of the omission.
The defense authorization bill passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton this month includes a waiver of time limitations requiring that the award be made within three years of the act justifying the medal. Awarding the medal must still be approved by Clinton.
"I won't believe it until it's draped over my neck," said Rascon, who now serves as inspector general for the Selective Service System in Arlington.
"It's a great honor, but it's not really for me," he added. "It's an honor for all the people who I fought with in Vietnam who ended up getting dumped upon."
Rascon, who was born in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, would be only the third Mexican immigrant to receive the medal, according to officials.
Marine Corps Gets a Lift
The Marine Corps is used to fighting our country's battles on the land as on the sea, but being delivered by a parcel post service may be a first.
Such was the case for Quantico's Marine band, which was supposed to fly to Lexington, Ky., on Friday to play at a Marine Corps University Foundation dinner saluting legends of the Corps, including retired Marine commandant Al Gray.
But the band found itself stranded at Quantico because no military transport aircraft were available, in part because of Hurricane Irene, which hit southern Florida on Friday.
Never underestimate the power of Marine networking. A foundation official called a former Marine buddy now working for United Parcel Service, and they quickly greased the skids to free up one of the delivery service's planes.
A group of about 50 band members--tubas, drums, uniforms and all--boarded a UPS plane at Dulles International Airport on Friday afternoon for the trip to Kentucky.
UPS officials said the shipment was a first for the delivery company. "We do fly things like whales and pandas, but not a Marine Corps band, that I'm aware of," said Shayna Mittler, a spokeswoman for the company.
"Kids today don't know the first thing about World War II," notes Byron Schlag, president of the National Capital Chapter of the 8th Air Force Historical Society. "They're just not getting it in school."
To help remedy the situation, the organization of veterans from the famed World War II combat unit is having a B-17 Flying Fortress and a B-24 Liberator flown into the Frederick Municipal Airport for a visit from Friday through Monday.
Schoolchildren and others are being invited to see some of the planes that fought in the war and to talk to some of the men who flew them.
"We're hoping this will get some kids interested in learning what actually happened during the war," said Schlag, who was the tailgunner on a B-17 as part of the 8th Air Force.
Among those on hand will be retired Col. Robert Morgan, pilot of the "Memphis Belle," the B-17 immortalized in a World War II documentary, as well as other combat crewmen.
The planes have been restored by the Collings Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization. The B-24 coming to Frederick is one of only two flying worldwide, officials said.
The planes will be available for tours conducted by veterans who flew on them. Donor flights, which offset the cost of operation for the nonprofit organizations, also can be arranged.
For flight reservations and information, call 301-695-9069 or 301-695-5077. School groups interested in visits on Friday or Monday also can call for more information.
Tours are available from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and cost $7 for adults and $3 for children younger than 12.
Military Matters appears every other week. Steve Vogel can be reached at email@example.com via e-mail.
CAPTION: Medic Alfred Rascon, center, is helped by fellow soldiers after being wounded in March 1966 during the Vietnam War.