- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2004

Big foot

On Nov. 21, Vice President Dick Cheney, with about six Secret Service agents in tow, made a personal visit to the Johnston & Murphy retail store at Tysons Corner to figure out why his shoes don’t fit anymore.

Mr. Cheney has been a longtime Johnston & Murphy customer, but recently found it necessary to make a personal visit “because his shoe size has changed to a size 10EEE,” explains Kristen I. Smithson, who handles public affairs for the retailer in Nashville, Tenn.

Are Mr. Cheney’s feet getting bigger or smaller?

“They are apparently getting wider and flatter, which happens over the years,” she tells Inside the Beltway.

“Cheney selected the Lasalle wing tip loafer in brushed mahogany,” she adds. “He also bought a pair of shoe trees to keep his 10EEEs in top shape.”

Bob Ciuffoletti, the Tysons store manager, says he has measured Mr. Cheney’s feet in the past.

“He used to shop with us often when he was secretary of defense. It was such a pleasure to see him again and help him select a pair of shoes that fit,” Mr. Ciuffoletti says.

Not for everybody

The Air Force is seeking military volunteers to assist wounded troops returning from Iraq when they land on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, Inside the Beltway has learned.

“Several times during the week, aircraft bringing home wounded troops arrive at Andrews AFB,” says a memo to personnel from Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gerard V. Gething. “Sometimes, they arrive during late evenings; sometimes, they arrive in the middle of the night.

“Regardless of when they arrive, they always need help carrying the litters (stretchers) from the aircraft to awaiting ambulances or assisting passengers to awaiting buses … Please keep in mind that this detail isn’t for everyone.”

Once carried

Retired Army Maj. F. Andy Messing Jr., a Vietnam combat veteran, won’t forget the day in 1967 when he was airlifted to Andrews Air Force Base and carried by litter to a waiting bus.

“The poor guys pulling litters off the plane — and there were about 30 litters at the time — started dropping them and slipping in the rain, a really hard cold rain. It was this time of year,” he recalls. “Being bumped around and literally thrown onto a bus ain’t no fun when you are in pain as the rain pelts you in the face.”

Given the call for military volunteers to assist on the tarmac with U.S. troops wounded in Iraq, Mr. Messing appeals: “If you can’t lift a litter, hold an umbrella or tuck a blanket.”

Now executive director of the National Defense Council Foundation, Mr. Messing traveled to Iraq three months ago on a medical mission, ferrying medicine and other needed supplies to local hospitals. While there, he met with senior military and diplomatic personnel and had a private session with U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte.

Epic battle

As U.S. troops continue to wage battle in Iraq, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat, turns his thoughts this December to the 60th anniversary of another courageous battle fought by Americans: the Battle of the Bulge.

“On December 16, 1944, during the coldest, snowiest weather in memory in the Ardennes Forest on the German-Belgium border, the German war machine started their infamous ‘Ardennes Offensive,’” Mr. Hastings recalls.

“Even though the German offensive achieved total surprise, nowhere did the American troops give ground without a determined fight,” he says. “Within three days, the unwavering American stand and the arrival of dominant reinforcements ensured that the German goal was far beyond reach.”

Sadly, 19,000 U.S. troops perished in the Battle of the Bulge, which lasted a month.

Governor’s gig

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his rock ‘n’ roll band, Capitol Offense, will headline the Jan. 20 inaugural ball hosted by Free Republic, a grass-roots conservative news, analysis and activism forum, in Washington.

It’s a repeat performance for the 49-year-old Mr. Huckabee, whose gubernatorial term expires in 2007. Because of the high-spirited show put on by his band at the 2001 Free Republic Inaugural Ball and Count the White House Silverware Party, guests left other inaugural balls in favor of the governor’s less-formal gig, which, this year, honors the U.S. armed forces.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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