Raymond L. Luhn had heard about the red tape in Washington, but this was ridiculous.

Luhn, of Damascus, served with the Army in Europe in 1945 and received the Combat Infantryman Badge for his service. But that service also qualified him for a Bronze Star.

Last week, more than 57 years after returning home from battle, Luhn finally received that honor.

In a ceremony in Rockville, with Luhn's family and friends in attendance, U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen pinned the medal on Luhn's suit jacket, directly over his heart.

The touching scene served as an important moment not just for Luhn and his loved ones, but for Van Hollen as well.

In the weeks leading up to the start of the war in Iraq, the first-term Democrat had been grabbing a few rays of the spotlight by loudly proclaiming his opposition to the planned invasion. He preferred giving the diplomatic route more time, and warned that marching to war could heighten homeland security dangers, not reduce them.

In presenting Luhn his Bronze Star, Van Hollen clearly was reaching out to the region's veterans and its active military, as if to say his antiwar stance is nothing personal.

"We gather here today at a very solemn time," he told Luhn and his supporters. "It's a fitting moment to honor someone who fought to protect the freedoms we all enjoy."

Luhn appeared deeply moved by the honor. But he was also mindful of the others who stood in harm's way.

As he looked down at the medal, he said to the gathering, "So many more did more than I."

Survey Says . . .

A new poll suggests a majority of county residents, 58 percent to be precise, support County Executive Douglas M. Duncan's plan to raise property taxes by three cents, so long as the money is spent on transportation and education initiatives.

The nonpartisan Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute interviewed 401 county voters by phone in early March and found that there is also support for a user fee for ambulances -- if covered by insurance -- and an increase in the fire tax to avoid staff cuts.

County voters were less kind to any plan that involves making cuts to education or public safety programs. Eighty-five percent said they would oppose a reduction in education spending to balance the budget, and 77 percent said the same about public safety spending.

If the poll is correct, folks in Montgomery are pretty happy with life in the county.

A whopping 91 percent think public safety in the county is excellent or good, and 87 percent said the same about quality of life, according to the survey, which was released this month. Seventy-three percent are at least somewhat satisfied with the county services they receive for the amount of taxes they pay. Sixty-seven percent rated the public schools excellent or good, and people with children in the schools were more likely to praise the system.

The margin of error is 5 percentage points. Full results can be viewed online at www.marylandpolicy.org/MarchPollfinal.pdf.

Questionable Coverage

There may be popular support for Duncan's plan to create an ambulance fee to help raise money in tight fiscal times, but at least one group might resist: insurance companies.

Under the proposal, Montgomery would charge $650 for an ambulance ride that includes advanced life support. Basic life support would cost $350. All that assumes that insurance would cover those costs.

Indeed, Gordon A. Aoyagi, the county's fire administrator, said one key to the plan is that those without health insurance would not be forced to pay.

That would be an unspoken policy (although it's important to talk about so residents without insurance are not afraid to call an ambulance in times of crisis.) The idea, Aoyiagi said, is that people may be sent bills, but the county simply would not pursue those who fail to pay.

But many health plans, including the Postmasters Benefit Plan and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan offered to federal workers, don't cover services that are exclusive to people who are insured.

Both plans name "services you would not be charged for if you had no health insurance coverage" in their list of "things we don't cover."

The County Council will wrestle with that and other budgetary issues in coming weeks.

Assistant Chief to Lead Police

With Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose called up by the National Guard, Assistant Chief William O'Toole has been tapped to take his place temporarily.

Moose, who is a major commanding the 113th security forces squadron with the D.C. Air National Guard based at Andrews Air Force Base, was activated on March 18.

O'Toole, chief of the Field Services Bureau, was named acting chief by County Executive Douglas M. Duncan on March 20.

Staff writer Fredrick Kunkle contributed to this report.