U.S. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney was so busy getting an update on the war Saturday that he had to cancel a date with eight American heroes.

"We understand," said Spec. Dan Davis, 29, of Mobile, Ala."That's the military," said Lt. Pheobe Jeter, 26, of Sharon, N.C.

Davis and Jeter were among eight members of Patriot anti-missile batteries who received Army commendation medals Saturday for their role in shooting down Iraqi Scud rockets headed toward Riyadh Jan. 21.

Cheney and Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were to make the medal presentations on a sandy field near Patriot launchers at an air base in central Saudi Arabia.

Desert Notebook