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Published June 05. 2010 09:00AM

I know Ed "Peewee" Mantz most of my life. I grew up just around the corner from him. He lived across the street from St. John's Lithuanian Catholic Church on Coaldale's Phillips Street. It's the same church where my grandfather, Joe Urban, lived next to when he was janitor of the parish following his coal mining days.

Peewee's a funny story teller, and a great guy to share a beer with at the Coaldale Gunny. His philosophy is, "drink 'em one at a time."

As long as I can remember, he drove a big Cadillac.

His son, Donnie, and a bunch of us, went on a memorable football trip to Charlottesville, Va. one year. I have the pictures to prove it.

So I thought I knew Peewee pretty well. Well, I didn't. I knew he was a World War II veteran. But I never knew he was a bonifide hero, not until I read TIMES NEWS reporter Chris Parker's riveting story about Mantz in last Friday's paper. Who would ever know, that back when he was an 18-year-old Army draftee, he found himself in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge? Three dead Nazi soldiers and 14 captives later, Peewee was having the coveted Silver Star pinned on his uniform by none other than Gen. George Patton himself.

Had I known this story earlier, I might have bought him a few drinks, to consume, of course "one at a time."

Peewee Mantz epitomizes a lot of our veterans, regardless of what war they served their country. Many return home reluctant to talk about their experiences. Others downplay their heroism. But here they are, just ordinary men and women, trying to scrape out a living, raise a family and hope that none of their children or grandchildren have to go through the horrors of war like they did.

I'm glad Peewee's story was told on the front page of this newspaper. It makes me proud to say I know him. Just a guy from the neighborhood who stood tall in the face of war.

Who said this country is running out of heroes? Just look around your neighborhood, you're likely to find one.

Columnists get a lot of weird requests.

They also get asked a lot of questions.

Here's a sampling from the pen of K. Treger of Lehighton, a faithful TIMES NEWS reader who often contributes to our letters to the editor page.

Mr. Greger asks:

Is it a good vacuum if it really sucks?

If Webster wrote the first dictionary, where did he find the words?

Why do we say something is out of whack? What is a whack?

Why does slow down and slow up mean the same thing?

Why do we sing take me out to the ballgame if we are already there?

Why is fat chance and slim chance the same thing?

If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?

Why is a shirt singular and a pair of socks are plural while a pair of pants are also singular?

And, some sage advice:

The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

Believe in miracles.

Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

A bicycle cannot stand alone because it is two tired.

Obama has a photographic memory which never developed.

The best is yet to come.

Eleven men killed. Hundreds of miles of shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico about to be ruined. Commercial fishing, a way of life for thousands along the coast, could be wiped out. Tourism, another big industry, seriously curtailed. Every day the oil slick gets bigger, and still the oil continues to gush into the water, polluting everything in sight. Still, there is no answer to the catastrophe. Somewhere down the line, someone from BP, the company responsible for this disaster, has to go to jail, right? Someone must be punished for this man-made disaster. The people who rely on the Gulf for their living are already paying too big a price.

The area cemeteries never looked more elegant than they did this Memorial Day, decked out with thousands of flowers, and red-white-and-blue American flags.

State Police in Pennsylvania investigated 16 fatalities from car accidents over the Memorial Day weekend. Of the 16 who died, none were wearing seat belts, according to the state police report. What does that tell you?

Just in case you were wondering. The winning word in last year's national spelling bee was "Laodicean", which means "lukewarm and indifferent, especially in religious matters. The winning word two years ago was "guerdon", which means "a reward." But, of course, you already knew that didn't you?

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