Names! All I wanted were names!

Just thought I’d blog for a bit about the journalistic process, as it pertains to my Jan. 15 column “Using soldiers as props,” which was hooked to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s State of the State Address.

“[I]f you look to the gallery, you will some Californians wearing the uniform of our country who have just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Schwarzenegger said near the end of his Jan. 6 speech. “To each of you, I say, welcome home.”

The governor didn’t identify the three soldiers who stood during the most sustained applause of the address, so I thought I would for my column. I started by calling the governor’s press office that afternoon, and spoke to Brittany Chord. I also asked her for an explanation as to how these two servicemen and one service woman came to sit in the gallery during the speech. Sure, she said, and said she’d get back to me by the end of the week.

She didn’t, so I called the press office the next week, on Jan. 12. Chord wasn’t there, so I left a message. The next day, I received a call from Major Tom Keegan of the California National Guard’s public affairs office. I repeated my questions (What are the soldiers’ names and how did they come to appear during the State of the State address). Major Keegan said sure, and that he’d get back to me the next day with the answers.

He didnt, but on Friday, Jan. 15, I got a call from Sergeant Jon Guibord, also with the National Guard PIO’s office. He explained (finally!) that the three soldiers were an escort for Major General William Wade II, the California National Guard’s adjudant general, and that they were (as is usual for the general’s escort) chosen at random. He also gave me their names:

* Captain Dave Weidman, 129th Rescue Wing, Moffett Federal Airfield

* 1st Lieutenant Muriel Mendoza, 168th General Support Aviation Battalion, Mather Air Force Base

* Staff Sergeant Emmett Spraktes, also of the 168th

And now I have a follow-up question for all concerned: why on earth did that take so long?

-Anthony Pignataro

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