» An Omaha-area Marine has achieved two major events: graduating first in a boot-camp class of 451 and then getting married.
Lance Cpl. Daniel Heng, 25, of Papillion married LaToshia Loux in Omaha on May 3, just after receiving top honors in San Diego. He has returned to California for combat training.
As the honor graduate, he received the Lt. Gen. Chesty Puller Award for demonstrating the highest potential for leadership and responsibility in the Marine Corps.
The son of Tom and Sue Heng became interested in the Marines while at Papillion-La Vista High School, where he played center field on the baseball team, but his parents persuaded him to go to college first.
He earned an associate degree from Iowa Western Community College and a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Meanwhile, he met LaToshia when they worked at Romeo's restaurant.
They got engaged in September, and he left for boot camp in January. “She is very supportive,” he said, “and very encouraging.”
He was older than most of the recruits. Regardless of age, Marine boot camp isn't for most people.
“It sucks,” Heng said. “It's a lifestyle adjustment more than anything. You have no freedoms, no comforts. A lot of people didn't like to accept the criticism or getting yelled at. To be successful, you've got to handle it.”
His family attended the graduation, as did Gunnery Sgt. Jared Fendrick, a Marine recruiter from Omaha. He recalls Heng walking in one day and saying, “I want to be a Marine.”
Fendrick, deployed three times to Iraq, said Heng's maturity and unselfishness helped him become, in effect, valedictorian.
Tom Heng said that after hearing parents of other recruits thank Danny for helping their sons, “I just kept asking myself, 'Who is this young man next to me?' It was about all I could do to keep from crying — he had grown up so much, and we were just so proud of him.”
LaToshia eventually will join her husband, who is committed for four years. After that, Daniel said, he hopes to use his leadership skills throughout civilian life.
His birthday came during camp on March 6, but he didn't tell his drill sergeant. “He would have made the day extra special.”
» For Memorial Day weekend, songwriter Karen Sokolof Javitch of Omaha has sent copies of her latest song to hundreds of radio stations — and is neither soliciting nor accepting royalties.
“You're Coming Home at Last” is sung by the Maynard Triplets of Omaha, who appeared on “American Idol.” Instrumentals are led by Chuck Penington, a member of Mannheim Steamroller.
“I wrote the song,” Karen said, “to honor the unseen heroes who fight for our freedom around the world, to let them know they are not alone.”
• Audio: Listen to “You're Coming Home at Last."
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» Jane Diesen of Omaha said she couldn't have been prouder than to open her newspaper May 12 and see that two grandsons made The World-Herald's all-metro academic team.
Grant Glazer of Westside will attend Stanford University, and cousin Avery Zaleski of Omaha Central will attend Rice. Both will study environmental issues.
“I'm sure I'm not the only proud and excited grandmother reading about the wonderful talent in these young people of our city and state,” Jane wrote, “but I would bet I could be the only grandmother with two in one package.”
|Columnists Michael Kelly, Erin Grace and Matthew Hansen write about people, places and events around Omaha. Read more of their work here.|
» Oscar-winning Alexander Payne of Omaha is getting a lot of buzz at the Cannes Film Festival for directing “Nebraska,” to be released in November.
This week he told the Los Angeles Times he likes shooting in his home state.
“It interests me,” he said with a smile. “It doesn't matter where you set a film so it might as well be a place you know well, so you get the details right. The Czech director Jiri Weiss once said to me, 'Oh, my dear, you have Nebraska. It's like having your own little Czech Republic.'”
» At the recent luncheon of the Nebraska Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, emcee John Nelson quipped that he was considering his doctor's suggestion to take up jogging.
“The only problem,” John said, “is that the wine splashes right out of your glass.”
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