"You're in the Army now," the song goes. And it's a lot harder to get out than to get in, the three soldiers held prisoner last spring by the Serbs found out. The trio, on patrol in their Humvee in Macedonia on March 31, were ambushed by Yugoslav soldiers and held until May 2.

One of the three, Staff Sgt. Andrew Ramirez, was granted a transfer to finish his last year in the Army near family in Los Angeles. The two others, Staff Sgt. Christopher Stone and Spc. Steven M. Gonzalez, wanted out but had reenlisted for several years just before their capture.

The Army command in Europe cleared their resignations, they told the Associated Press, but the Pentagon has not approved them.

"We're kind of in limbo," Stone told AP last week when the soldiers were in Washington to be honored by a veterans group. "We're waiting, biding our time, as day after day goes by."

Deadlines for the Mug

Contest reminders. . . . Remember, Wednesday, Sept. 22, is the deadline for the First Annual Help Me Terry Contest. This one is to suggest what politician or cause Democratic fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe might want to give millions to after having put up $1.7 million to guarantee Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton's home in New York.

And the deadline for the Name that Month Contest, to find a name for the budget gimmick some Republicans have proposed--characterized by opponents as a slick ploy to add a 13th month of spending to the year--is Friday, Sept. 24.

Please include home and work phone numbers. Hill and administration folks may submit entries "on background." Send entries via e-mail to loop@washpost.com or mail to In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC, 20071.

In addition to bragging rights, winners will receive a commemorative In the Loop coffee mug like the one pictured here.

In Defense of Marriage

Congress has long revered the institution of marriage--some lawmakers just can't get married often enough. So it comes as no surprise that the Senate voted 94 to 0, with no debate, to condemn the Census Bureau for removing a question about marriage from the short form.

The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), notes that the short form, sent to 83 percent of the population, traditionally has seven questions, but now will have six "because marital status has been dropped--while two questions regarding race remain." This, he says, "sends a false message that marriage is no longer highly regarded by the federal government."

So the resolution will "condemn" the bureau and "put the Senate on record" that "marriage is highly regarded" by the feds.

It won't, Helms concedes, mean printing new forms to include the marital status question, "since most forms have already been printed" and a change would cost millions.

So wait for the next census to get married?

No. 1 for Public Television Viewers

Who says Congress doesn't listen to the voters? Looks like the House even pays heed to viewers of the "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer." The public television show has been asking viewers since late June what they think this election should be about.

The results so far, with 8,400 ballots in, show campaign finance far and away the No. 1 issue. More than 1,000 viewers, 12.1 percent, picked that issue. A distinct second place, with 7.1 percent, went to "health." Foreign policy was mentioned by 6.3 percent, education was the choice of 5.9 percent and the "poverty/wage gap" was mentioned by 5.8 percent. (Remember, these are public broadcasting viewers.)

Leadership was mentioned by 4.6 percent, but if you add "character and values" (3.8 percent) to that, personal qualities rank high. Other issues registering some support included: budget/debt (4.9 percent), environment (4.4 percent) and the role of government (4.4 percent). Taxes, gun control, drugs, race relations and immigration were further down on the list. Abortion was mentioned by only 0.5 percent of the viewers, gay rights by 0.4 percent and gun rights by four viewers, or a statistical 0.0 percent--even less than "conspiracy," which is a hodgepodge of X-Files folks worried about the United Nations, the FBI and such, which got 0.2 percent, or "public broadcasting," which got 0.3 percent.

Burundi Bound

On the ambassadorial front, career foreign service officer Mary Carlin Yates, senior cultural attache in Paris and before that press attache for the late ambassador Pamela Harriman, has been tapped to be ambassador to Burundi. Yates, whose husband, John Melvin Yates, is ambassador to Cameroon and to Equatorial Guinea, has served in Zaire and Korea and in the public affairs office at the State Department.

One More Time

That Janet Reno just won't stop messing this up. The National Economic Council aide's name is spelled Patrick Dorton.