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February 26, 2009

Gates Blows Off Military Families on Coffin Ban

Color me unsurprised:

The Pentagon lifted its ban Thursday on media coverage of coffins of war victims as they arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, according to a senior U.S. defense official with direct knowledge of the decision.

The coverage must be approved by families.

Some families have said they want the return of their family members' remains to be private, Pentagon officials say.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is to announce the policy change at a news conference at 2 p.m. ET, the senior official said.

Gates ordered a review of the policy after President Obama asked for more information on the Pentagon's longstanding policy of barring media from viewing the coffins as they come into the base.

h/t: Carrie

Savor the irony:

According to an informal survey of its members by the group Families United, which says it represents 60,000 military families, a majority opposed changing the policy.

John Ellsworth, the group's vice president whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004, argued that if Obama chooses to reverse the ban, he should have the military take photographs and release them to the families, who could then decide whether they want to share them with the media, or see them at all.

Shorter Gates: so what?

What a jerk. This is the kind of person we're going to trust to be sensitive to the family's feelings?

Update: via CNN

"Military Families United is disappointed in the president's decision to overturn the ban that has been in place for over 18 years," the group said in a release.

"Just last week, Families United released the results of a survey conducted among military families, which found that more than 64 percent ... believe that this ban should not be overturned. It is evident that military families were not consulted nor their wishes honored when the decision was made.

"This is a complete disregard for the will of America's military families and their need for privacy during this solemn moment," the release said.

I know that's how I feel.

I wrote the SecDef and expressed, in no uncertain terms, what a disaster changing the policy would be. I got an autoresponse. I can't tell you how many other military wives wrote the SecDef.

Here's the Military.com poll - it's back up to 70%:

coffin_poll.jpg

Listen to his video announcement. He didn't even bother to speak with any military families personally. I guess that was too much trouble, and after all he'd already made up his mind.

Posted by Cassandra at February 26, 2009 01:19 PM

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That is all.

Posted by: Sly's Wardrobe Mistress at February 26, 2009 02:18 PM

The coverage must be approved by families.

I think it's the best we could've hoped for...

Posted by: FbL at February 26, 2009 02:33 PM

I just wrote a post about this at The Thunder Run and John Donovan's place, in which I stated:

The only silver lining to this is that they must first gain approval from the family, and I'm sure we can see how that is going to go.

No need to gain approval if you are using a telephoto lens and are several hundred meters away....the family may never even know you are there.

The policy is based upon the policy adopted at Arlington National Cemetery, but the is one thing that isn't being reported here and that being that by the time the family arrives at Arlington, they have already had their private time with their loved one. This is a bad policy and one that needs to be rethought. We can not allow the only time the families of our fallen warriors have to be alone and mourn the loss of their loved one, be turned into a media circus just so a floundering industry can sell some more dead trees.

General Casey, I am terribly disappointed, how could you turn your back on fellow Gold Star families?

Disgraceful.


And disgraceful it is!

Posted by: David M at February 26, 2009 02:43 PM

Yes.

But who in the families?

The authorized family member? All of the immediate family member?

What if they don't agree?

What about situations where the parents are divorced or DoD can't get in touch with everyone in time? Will they just skip over that person?

The fact is that most servicemembers do NOT keep up to date records of their next of kin even when they are reminded to do so OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

Many of these guys are very young. They leave their Mom in their records after they get married as their primary representative. Their wife runs off and they leave her on their paperwork even though she took them to the cleaners. So now the military doesn't have up to date contact info for the family.

It's easy to argue that "they should know better" but no one ever thinks they're going to die and the fact of the matter is that they will be gone. It is the families who will have to make this decision, and I can't see how that doesn't place additional pressure on them at a time when they are still reeling from shock and grief.

If you've ever supported a family under these circumstances, the first thing you see is that often they DON'T agree on lots of things.

I think it would be OK to allow families to ask for media coverage. I don't think they ought to have that decision forced upon them.

Posted by: Cass at February 26, 2009 02:45 PM

NO NO NO THIS IS TERRIBLE! Of everything we ask these military families to give to this country, why can we not just give them one moment of peace!? Just one moment to them and them alone! There is absolutely no need for any media present. They say with family approval. I don't buy it. The picture in the article shows 5 coffins. Did all 5 families approved that shot? I don't believe so. When a family in this new horrible state of mind the last thing they want is to be bombarded by requests to have the coffin photographed. This is a disgrace. Leave the families alone - for just a moment!

Posted by: Kate at February 26, 2009 03:09 PM

Good points, Carrie; it's gonna be a mess in practice.

Kate, I didn't say it was good. I said it was the best we could hope for under the circumstances.

Posted by: FbL at February 26, 2009 03:25 PM

Excellent points, Cass. So, in practice if I say now (and I would - LOUDLY), can my crazy MIL invite media in by the truckload?

Posted by: airforcewife at February 26, 2009 03:29 PM

This is what bothers me.

How many times have we seen married couples who really don't agree about the war? Where one supports it and one doesn't? Imagine how devastating a disagreement like that becomes when you lose a son.

In my own family, my MIL opposes the war. I support it.

Having to make that kind of decision would cause bad blood, though I'm fairly sure she wouldn't want the media there. I got the feeling her problems with the war had more to do with Bush than they did with the war per se, but fortunately she isn't the kind to want the press everywhere and I think she would respect my wishes (and my husband's for that matter - he would rise up in his grave if I allowed something like that).

But that's just my point: why are we introducing something potentially this controversial? Because Obama, Gates and the media want it.

The fact is that families have ALWAYS been able to invite the press in before this. And there is a VERY simple way they could allow families who *aren't* able to travel to Dover to have a permanent record: just film the ceremony without turning it into a media spectacle and make the videos available to the families privately.

Yet even that is fraught, because more than one soldier or Marine may be on the plane and if the family released the video, other families would not have been consulted.

There are so many logistical problems associated with this that I just can't believe DoD is being so foolhardy. I hope they think this one through, but given past implementations of anything coming from the Pentagon, I am not holding my breath.

Posted by: Cass at February 26, 2009 03:36 PM

I'm too angry to say much in public just yet. I think I'll send a follow up blast to my Senators and Congressman this evening. Not that it will do much good since according to their responses so far, they are in agreement.

It's just amazing to me that we're once again going down this path. A path that reminds me in so many ways of all that was wrong with our nation during the 60's, 70's and early 80's.

Posted by: bt_hang-em-high_hun at February 26, 2009 03:57 PM

I feel like we've all just been stabbed in the back.

And that's all I'm going to say about it. Unsurprising.

But sad. Very sad.

Posted by: Cass at February 26, 2009 04:01 PM

Sly's Wardrobe Mistress said:


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and I agree. Well said.

He demonstrates a total failure to imagine the images that will be published (whether he is Gates or Obama is yet to be determined; it's possible that the "allow" is Obama and the "with consent" is Gates.)

Posted by: htom at February 26, 2009 04:18 PM

A relatively minor point, perhaps, but it really set my teeth on edge that the CNN article referred to "coffins of war victims". I don't think of people who gave their lives doing what they believe in as "victims".

Logistically, I agree this will be a nightmare. Leaving aside the valid questions of who in the family decides, how is that decision going to be solicited? "I'm sorry to tell you your loved one is dead. Do you want media coverage when the body arrives at Dover?" That seems intrusive to put it mildly.

If this decision stands perhaps a better approach would be to ask the servicemen and women themselves what they'd like. That's not exactly pleasant, either, but I assume they all have to fill out a next-of-kin form on joining so perhaps the question could become part of that form.

Posted by: Elise at February 26, 2009 04:21 PM

I agree, Elise.

That's another person who won't be consulted: the servicemember.

I also know many military couples who don't agree about how this sort of thing should be handled. My husband would be absolutely furious if I allowed media to photograph his casket (not that I would ever do such a thing). No one wants to be used after giving everything for their country.

With all the crap military people and their families have to put up, it just astonishes me that the Pentagon would allow this kind of obscene exploitation of dead soldiers and Marines who can't speak for themselves.

The press keep citing that disgusting incident where the press put military coffins on a split screen to make it look as though he were joking around as coffins were landing in Dover. But that incident doesn't "prove" what they think it does (i.e., that the only reason for the ban is to shield politicians from public censure or "hide the cost of war").

What it shows is that the press can't be trusted to show proper respect for the dead and that they will do ANYTHING to generate sensational stories and sell advertising. The media are quite good at lying with photos - images are powerful and the real reason they want access to our private grieving process is NOT to "honor" the families.

They could easily do that by writing about our heroes, but they have no interest in doing anything that reflects well on the military. Now, they will be using soldiers and Marines who can't speak for themselves to make money and score political points.

Typical.

Posted by: Cass at February 26, 2009 04:29 PM

To address the ambiguity of my original statement,

"Not that it will do much good since according to their responses so far, they are in agreement."
I will submit this correction.
"Not that it will do much good since according to their responses so far, they are in agreement with maintaining the exclusionary privacy for the survivors of the fallen."
The press and in this case, their enablers, have become permanently associated in my mind with a pack of ghoulish, yellow journalists, who would lift their soiled skirts for a shilling. Pack of worthless .

On second thought, I extend my apologies to hard working  worldwide who display even the slightest modicum of integrity and humanity in pursuit of their profession. IOW their ability to arrive at the right course of action using their good judgment.

Posted by: bt_hang-em-high_hun at February 26, 2009 04:42 PM

Why this? And why this now? Our short sighted and immature new President will live to regret this decision. Who ever referred to this "a mess in practice" gets it. This isn't about what's right for these military families, it's all just political currency.

Posted by: Kevin at February 26, 2009 04:55 PM

I would like to know what military families were "surveyed" ... we certainly weren't one of them, and as a wife whose husband is currently on his second deployment, I agree with this overturn 100%. And, I know many other wives and families who feel the same way.

But just as this "overturn" says, it's up to the families to decide. Letting us speak for ourselves, heaven forbid. If you don't want the media there, don't invite the media. It's that simple.

Posted by: The Army Wife at February 26, 2009 05:16 PM

I agree that military families ought to be the ones making the decision, but it's far from simple.

Have you ever done a CACO notification?

I have been there, and things aren't "that simple". People are very emotional and in shock, and family members don't agree on what is to be done. The family I notified, there were parents, a wife and an ex-wife and two kids.

The military isn't always dealing with a straightforward scenario, and there isn't a whole lot of time to track everyone down and get their permission.

I see complications regardless of whether they only ask the primary next of kin or try to get consent from the entire immediate family.

What bothers me, Army Wife, is that it's not as though military families haven't had the ability to ask the media to attend the funeral and photograph the casket. They've always had that freedom and many military families have chosen to allow the media access.

So why do they need to be at Dover, too? Can you explain that?

Why do they need more images when literally hundreds are already out there?

Why do the media keep implying the only reason for this is to provide political cover when the majority of military families surveyed at both Military.com and Military Families United were against it? Don't our opinions count?

Apparently not.

The thing is, a family can have the media present at the funeral without inflicting a painful choice on other families who find that idea abhorrent. To me, it seems odd to force others to say "no" if they want to be left alone (and that's the way this will work in practice) whereas before, they didn't have to deal with that choice unless they wanted to.

Posted by: Cass at February 26, 2009 05:36 PM

Once again the right wing of America prefers to edit reality into their own reality. Firs of all how can you say the wishes of the families are ignored if the wishes of the families make the final decision? You can't but you do anyway. Second the big fear in showing the returning heros is that it gives people more information. Information the wingnuts can't control, change or twist (though they never stop trying)and teh fearis when people have all the facts they might not blindly follow the GOP into the next needles war. These pictures are the truth, bold and in your face reality, it speaks loudly about those that want to censor the truth and substitute their own version fox news style.

The blood is on your hands, no wonder you don't want anyone to see the truth!

Posted by: John at February 26, 2009 05:52 PM

If you want to make a point, John, do try and do it civilly.

You do your side no credit by childish namecalling.

Firs of all how can you say the wishes of the families are ignored if the wishes of the families make the final decision?

That's the question, isn't it? Which family members will be consulted? You don't know that, do you? And you haven't thought out the practical problems with this policy.

Second the big fear in showing the returning heros is that it gives people more information.

More information? Does a photo of an anonymous casket with a flag over convey information that isn't already available?

No. DoD releases information about every single soldier or Marine who dies and it's all readily available to the press. There are also literally nundred of photos already out there that were released by mistake.

The "truth" here is that political partisans like you want to use images of dead soldiers in your obscene little information war because dead soldiers can't speak for themselves. They're a blank slate upon which any convenient narrative can be painted.

There's no censoring here. Only the determination of people who have no respect for the wishes of the dead or for bereaved families to stick their noses into a private moment. And for what additional "information"?

There is none that the media don't already have or families can't already freely grant them by inviting them to the funeral to see the flag draped casket. The "truth" here is that a policy that has been in place for 19 years and has been re-examined and approved by both Democratic and Republican presidents is being lightly cast aside without due consideration for the potential pain it will cause families who have already made the ultimate sacrifice.

Posted by: Cass at February 26, 2009 06:02 PM

"According to an informal survey of its members by the group Families United, which says it represents 60,000 military families, a majority opposed changing the policy. "

Breaking news! An informal survey by a right wing group staffed with Rumsfeld appointees found a small majority of its own memebers are against the change? You might as well have just asked Fox news what they thought. There is a reason you tried to lie and mislead people on this issue and media access has nothing to do with it. This whole article is a lie. As a vetran myself I find your tranparent attempt to use the deaths of military personel for your own political agenda disgusting!

Posted by: John at February 26, 2009 06:06 PM

"According to an informal survey of its members by the group Families United, which says it represents 60,000 military families, a majority opposed changing the policy. "

Breaking news! An informal survey by a right wing group staffed with Rumsfeld appointees found a small majority of its own memebers are against the change? You might as well have just asked Fox news what they thought. There is a reason you tried to lie and mislead people on this issue and media access has nothing to do with it. This whole article is a lie. As a vetran myself I find your tranparent attempt to use the deaths of military personel for your own political agenda disgusting!

Posted by: John at February 26, 2009 06:09 PM

Ah. Here we go.

You know, until you arrived, there has been no talk of "right wing" or "left wing" - just of whether this was really good for bereaved families. But you just can't leave your politics out of this, can you?

It's not a right wing or left wing issue. It's a human issue. But then you'd need to have some compassion and empathy for others in order to understand that.

Posted by: Cass at February 26, 2009 06:09 PM

Also, I invite you to specifically point out any "lie" here.

You won't be able to, but you're welcome to embarrass yourself trying.

Posted by: Cass at February 26, 2009 06:11 PM

Inconveniently for John, two other polls taken of both active duty and veterans opposed lifting the ban:

Military.com poll favors photo ban

A recent poll conducted by Military.com showed that 70 percent of its participants wanted to continue banning the media from photographing flag-draped caskets arriving home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The findings closely support the stance taken by American Legion National Commander David K. Rehbein on protecting the privacy of the fallen heroes and their families.

"From our point of view, there is nothing to discuss," Rehbein said, reacting to reports that the White House and Department of Defense are considering a change in policy. "Photographing the caskets containing the remains of men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice on behalf of our country and its freedoms is little short of sacrilege. The practice would be intrusive and hurtful to the warriors' families. The return of fallen heroes is also a sacred moment for our armed forces, and should be respected.

"In our opinion, our fallen warriors deserve to be honored without compromise and not made the object of a media event or be made vulnerable to exploitation for propagandistic purposes," said Commander Rehbein. "Unless a warrior's family expressly wishes media coverage of the return of their son or daughter in this fashion, and respectful accommodations can be made, we can see no good reason to allow it."


Posted by: Cass at February 26, 2009 06:14 PM

A comment from another vet and Army wife who has actually been there supporting a newly bereaved family:

I am an Army Vet and an Army wife who definately opposes this. There are a couple of reasons, and this has nothing to do with politics. Pictures of a soldier on his way home to his last resting place can be used in so many ways, including ways to support someone's political agenda. This agenda may or may not support this soldier's beliefs. When a military member is on his way home, he is honored in so many ways by his community and loved ones, there really is not a reason for a picture of that soldier at Dover Air Force Base. There is enough things going on there, who is to say that a reporter takes a picture of all of the coffins, with only having permission from one soldier's family member? Will he still go ahead and use that photo or do the right thing and destroy it? There is too much room for oops!!

My next reason that I think this was wrong of them to make this decision is that after helping my best friend who lost her husband in Iraq make all of the important decisions that HAD to be made in the first 24 hours of notification, this is only another decision that will be forced upon who ever is appointed to make those decisions.

Which is exactly what I've been saying all along.

I'm hearing a lot about how people who have no connection to the military and (apparently) can't be bothered to listen to the news have a "right" to know things they can easily find out without burdening military families.

Try listening to someone who has actually been there.

This isn't about politics. It's about human decency. There are a million ways the media can show us the "true cost of war" without sticking a camera in someone's face.

The families already have the freedom to request press coverage of the funeral, and to grant the media as much access as they want to. The question is, are we going to force them to take action to prevent media from taking photos of their loved one's casket?

Apparently so. Because people like John can't be bothered to pay attention, and they want to use images of the dead to make a point that can easily be made without intruding on the grief of military families at one of the worst moments of their lives.

Posted by: Cass at February 26, 2009 06:28 PM

In the interests of fairness, I just checked the latest results of the Military.com poll and they are not 70% against anymore. It's more like 57%.

The American Legion also opposes this. Are they all "wingnuts" too, John?

Posted by: Cass at February 26, 2009 06:33 PM

Primary Next of Kin makes the decision. End of story. It's really quite easy (figuring out who gets to make the decision).


John ~ exactly WHAT information is to be gleaned by viewing flag-draped coffins? Give me just one example of said information. All it is is an intrusion into what should be an intensely private, intimate, emotional, horrible moment. There is no justification for it.


That being said, I am relieved to a certain extent that the SecDef and the Pentagon have left it up to the decision of the family. Had it been opened up completely, I would be not held responsible for my actions should I ever (God forbid) have to be at that AFB for that reason. Part of the SGLI payout would go to my bail money.

Posted by: Sly's Wardrobe Mistress at February 26, 2009 06:49 PM

I agree that having the primary NOK simplifies matters...for DoD.

I disagree that it makes this any easier.

Usually the primary NOK was chosen because they are closest to the deceased servicemember. But they aren't the only family member concerned, and if there's bad blood in the family, choosing to allow the press could make it very difficult for already upset family members to pull together.

It's inserting a contentious decision into an already painful situation, and I'm sorry but I see no reason to do that. If someone in the family feels so strongly that they want media coverage, they can pick up a phone (or ask a family member to do so) and invite the press to cover the funeral.

The difference is, instead of only forcing families who want press coverage to make that decision, now we're going to force everybody to make that decision -- just so that people who already have the ability to invite the press to the funeral or to photograph the casket in transit from Dover to their home of record can have an additional opportunity to do that? That doesn't make sense.

The Army wife I quoted earlier was right - in the hours immediately after a family member is notified they have a bewildering number of decisions to make. They have to make calls to friends and family so they can attend the funeral. They have to make a million decisions about endless funeral options and they have to fill out paperwork.

Now we are adding one more thing to the pile, and let's not forget many people really aren't thinking straight and aren't sleeping. Somehow, I suspect this will come down to checking a box on a form: a decision many people will now have to make in a hurry, under less than ideal circumstances.

Don't get me wrong - I think if a family wants the press they absolutely should be allowed to invite them. But why at Dover - the very first opportunity a bereaved family member has to greet the casket and try to cope with the magnitude of their loss?

Why force families to make that decision in the hours right after they learn their loved one is dead? Because this decision will have to be made right away in order to allow the press to be there when that plane lands.

Sorry, but I fail to see the urgency.

Posted by: Cass at February 26, 2009 07:07 PM

I agree, Cass. After watching my friend M go through it all 2 years ago, I agree with you 110%.

But the door's been thrown open and now the decision to be made is WHO gets to decide. And *that* decision (DoD's decision) is easy. PNOK decides. No one else.

Because God help everyone if my MIL/FIL/BIL/SIL/neighbor's best friend's cousin's dog/etc. makes the decision and not me. Part of the SGLI payout would have to go to cover my bail.

Posted by: Sly's Wardrobe Mistress at February 26, 2009 07:56 PM

You know, I am really torn on this one.

My preference would be that all the immediate family have to consent.

You can't tell who will be most affected by grief, nor how much it might affect them. This is Canada's policy - the entire family - immediate only - must consent. I like that. It's a family decision, and when you stop and think about it, the primary can nix it simply by saying, "no". So it errs on the side of doing no harm, which I think is wise when you stop and consider that once images are in the public domain, they can be reprinted on political t-shirts, used in offensive ads or political posts, etc. Pandora is out of the box and there is no containing what may happen.

For that negative consequence, I think the whole family should have to assent.

Let's face it - if the primary wants to piss the rest of the family off by inviting the media to the funeral, he or she can do that. The fact is, most don't b/c they realize the same thing I wish Secretary Gates had stopped to consider: some moments are not media events. The public doesn't "own" the military, and for anyone who thinks they do, I think they should lose their right to privacy when a loved one dies and see how they like it.

Having seen the press obtain interviews under false pretenses and then proceed to misquote military spouses whose husbands are deployed, I have ZERO trust for the press.

Posted by: Cass at February 26, 2009 08:57 PM

Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press.

Shouldn't we be upholding the Constitution that these soldiers died for?

If 57% of military families don't want it, then they can just say "No" when the press asks for permission. Why should they get to make the decision for the other 43% of military families who DO want it? These are adults -- let's stop treating them like children and making decisions for them.

Posted by: Michael at February 26, 2009 09:41 PM

"I said it was the best we could hope for under the circumstances."

Ummmmm.........no, Fbl. The best we could hope for -- and what we should have been able to expect without question -- is for Gates to do the right thing. But, I guess, since he's given his tribute of earth, water and gonads to Xerxes so he could keep his cushy job, he has been subjugated and can no longer be trusted to do what is best for America or her military force.

Posted by: DL Sly at February 26, 2009 11:21 PM

Press freedom hardly includes being present when a family is first reunited with a deceased loved one.

And the last time I checked military installations were not open to the public, much as the Pentagon the CIA, NSA, Defmap, etc., etc., etc. are not open to the public.

And just to make sure that I understand John correctly, I'll attempt to follow his logic sans pictures.

"An informal survey by a right wing group staffed with Rumsfeld appointees found a small majority of its own memebers[sic] are against the change?"
Ok, forget trying to apply logic to that. But in spite of that start, onward...
You might as well have just asked Fox news what they thought.
Ah, no John. Many of us are old enough to know what we think without being guided by the media. Our parents and peers instilled a sense of right, wrong, appropriate or not in us. Now just to point out the obvious, these folks expressing their opinion here are either active duty military, spouses of same or vets.
" There is a reason you tried to lie and mislead people on this issue and media access has nothing to do with it. This whole article is a lie. As a vetran[sic] myself I find your tranparent[sic] attempt to use the deaths of military personel[sic] for your own political agenda disgusting!"
Ok, so an opinion expressed by the spouse of an active duty USMC Colonel and commented upon by the spouses of, or active duty military, or both along with other vets which does not agree with you is a lie. And allowing the survivors of the fallen the initial reunion in private without the press hyenas circling is a political agenda. Is that about it?

Well John, I'm a vet too and I find your opinion and willingness to loose the jackals on the grieving families of our fallen disgusting.

I would draw you a picture since words alone are apparently not sufficient for your cognitive process(es?), but in deference to the hostess and the other guests here, I'll just bid you a fond farewell. A very fond farewell.

Posted by: bt_hang-em-high_hun at February 26, 2009 11:36 PM

DL Sly,

Anytime you and yours are in town, the Sam Adams is on me.

Posted by: bt_hang-em-high_hun at February 26, 2009 11:37 PM

DL Sly: But, I guess, since he's given his tribute of earth, water and gonads to Xerxes so he could keep his cushy job, he has been subjugated and can no longer be trusted to do what is best for America or her military force.

Like I said, under the circumstances....

Please don't mistake my restrained response for any level of joy or support for this decision, or for a shallowness of emotion on the topic. But I have no family (though a number of friends) in this, so I didn't feel it was right for me to rant and rave about it (not that I'd have anything to add to the eloquence here, anyway).

Posted by: FbL at February 27, 2009 01:15 AM

DL Sly: But, I guess, since he's given his tribute of earth, water and gonads to Xerxes so he could keep his cushy job, he has been subjugated and can no longer be trusted to do what is best for America or her military force.

Like I said, under the circumstances....

Please don't mistake my restrained response for any level of joy or support for this decision, or for a shallowness of emotion on the topic. But I have no family (though a number of friends) in this, so I didn't feel it was right for me to rant and rave about it (not that I'd have anything to add to the eloquence here, anyway). My first comment was offered not with lightness, but with sad resignation.

Posted by: FbL at February 27, 2009 01:18 AM

[If our kind hostess would delete this comment and the FIRST of the near-duplicates, I would be so grateful...]

Posted by: FbL at February 27, 2009 01:20 AM

"DL Sly,

Anytime you and yours are in town, the Sam Adams is on me."

I would consider that a given, my friend, if only to lay my hands once more upon my former digital torque wrench and give it a turn or three -- for "old times" sake, yanno.
0>;~}

Fbl,
Perhaps I am a little over-sensitive on this subject, I don't know. With the rawness of personal loss so very fresh upon my heart, I can't begin to imagine what it would be like to deal with the pain of that first moment AND a media circus.

I would not wish that upon anyone.
Ever.

And I wonder about the character of the person who would deliberately inflict such upon those who have given so very much already.

Posted by: DL Sly at February 27, 2009 02:30 AM

I don't think you're over-sensitive at all, DL Sly. Your response just led me to be concerned that the "tone" of my comments (and lack thereof) hadn't been clear.

Posted by: FbL at February 27, 2009 02:47 AM

As a vetran myself I find your tranparent attempt to use the deaths of military personel for your own political agenda disgusting!

Considering the tenor of this post (and those preceding it) has been an *opposition* to that use to advance a political agenda.

And, as a veteran myself, I think you're lying through your teeth in claiming to be a vet. You sound exactly like 100% of the wannabes I've run across over more years than I care to think about...

Posted by: BillT at February 27, 2009 07:08 AM

"And I wonder about the character of the person who would deliberately inflict such upon those who have given so very much already."
Naahhh, you know as well as I the character of such a person.

Posted by: bt_hang-em-high_hun at February 27, 2009 08:44 AM

So the media will now be pestering and harassing grieving military families for permission to film the casket.

When the two reporters were blown up, Bob Woodruff and another woman, that film was quickly tucked away. It was not played over and over again. They put that film in a lockbox.

Ask these reporters and interest groups if they would consent to having their child's casket turned into a political photo op. There are always two sets of rules. One for them, and one for everyone else.

Posted by: jordan at February 27, 2009 09:46 AM

So the media will now be pestering and harassing grieving military families for permission to film the casket.

Frankly, that's the part that worries me the most. Even if by some miracle the DoD manages the approval process and actual media attendance in the best way possible, you're still going to have media beating down grieving families' doors even more than they already do.

Ugh.

Posted by: FbL at February 27, 2009 10:35 AM

And FbL's comment above is the EXACT reason why, as part of our planning before MacGyver heads overseas again, I will be designating a spokesperson in case anything happens (and in case the PAO isn't up to the job). They will be my equivalent of a Rottweiler - a wonderful guard dog that will protect my family.

What's sad is that I even have to consider such things. Thank you Secretary Gates. I appreciate that.

Posted by: Sly's Wardrobe Mistress at February 27, 2009 12:25 PM

I will be designating a spokesperson in case anything happens...

Insist that all media contact be in writing.

No exceptions.

Posted by: BillT at February 27, 2009 01:10 PM

There will be NO media contact. None. All they would get is the official DoD release. Nothing more.

Our hometown paper would get the obit. I watched the local vultures swoop down on my friend M when her husband was killed in 07 and again when we lost 4 Coastguardsmen in the -65 crash last year. I will NOT allow my family to go through what those families endured at the hands of the local press.

Ever. Like I said - part of the SGLI payout would have to be used for bail money.

Posted by: Sly's Wardrobe Mistress at February 27, 2009 02:14 PM

It's private. It should be. I just looked at some pics of my son's funeral. Thank providence they were not released to the media. I did not recognize myself, my husband or our children in those photos. The shock, loss, grief and total vulnerability of my children leap out at me from those photos, and I could do nothing to protect them from it. Let someone exploit that?

Screw them.

Posted by: Cricket at February 27, 2009 03:06 PM

No, my son was not a casualty of war. Something else entirely, and his obit was printed in another newspaper. However, his funeral was announced in our local paper, and there were a few people there that I would have preferred NOT to see, but I had no control over the PR. Others were making decisions for us that we were in no condition to understand the ramifications of, and we had no advocate, having only been here a year.

Posted by: Cricket at February 27, 2009 03:08 PM

Hey. Hey. HEY!

DOVER IS OURS!

Maybe it would take the practices of the left to affect the desired results. Lay down in front of the gate to block access, signs, pickets, screaming and yelling.

DOVER IS OURS!

The simplest way to fix it is for the Commander of DAFB is to get his cojones and, citing the internal security act of 1950 (as was always posted at the SAC bases we lived at), as well as 18USC67§1382, to wit:

Entering military, naval, or Coast Guard property

Whoever, within the jurisdiction of the United States, goes upon any military, naval, or Coast Guard reservation, post, fort, arsenal, yard, station, or installation, for any purpose prohibited by law or lawful regulation; or

Whoever reenters or is found within any such reservation, post, fort, arsenal, yard, station, or installation, after having been removed therefrom or ordered not to reenter by any officer or person in command or charge thereof—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

In other words, Col Manson O. Morris, Commander of the 436th MAW, JUST SAY NO.

Your stated mission is (from your DAFB Fact Sheet):

What We Believe …

• 436th Airlift Wing Mission: Looking towards the future to: 1) safely fix and fly aircraft; 2) prepare and deploy Airmen; 3) move cargo; 4) return America’s fallen with dignity, honor and respect


With emphasis on item 4.

DOVER IS OURS SIR.

Posted by: CW4 at February 27, 2009 08:04 PM

CW4...as the commander, he *does* have that discretion, does he not? I mean, it is martial law on military bases, correct? And...isn't the interpretation and execution of same with regard to Presidential Directives also part of the commander's prerogative?

Posted by: Cricket at February 27, 2009 10:49 PM

Questions such as 'relationship to the deceased' and 'stated purpose' would get most journalists in trouble because they would be lying, press credentials notwithstanding. Or a thorough vetting process that might not get cleared in time...oh there are all kinds of ways to keep them out administratively, and until the troops come home.

Just saying.

Posted by: Cricket at February 27, 2009 10:54 PM

I do not take kindly to ghouls. Never have.
Must be that I'm wired wrong. Or that they are.

Someday, maybe the media will get past its fixation on the dead, and discover how much there's still to be done for the living.

Posted by: spd rdr at February 28, 2009 12:33 AM

In that the media, in general, has had no respect for service members, or their families, for many, many years; I see nothing in this policy change that is going to generate any beneficial change or new found respect in that mindset. I think that this policy is an ill timed, ill conceived, and unwarranted intrusion at the ,perhaps, most vulnerable time. What an amazingly poor choice of policy from those whom should know better.

Posted by: Edward Lunny at February 28, 2009 09:26 AM

The logistics of this would probably be impossible, but how about each servicemember being required to make known either through notification to family or to superiors that permission to photograph a coffin is confirmed or denied? Those who do want the world to see the coffin will be in one section and those who do not will be in another section. Not knowing the layout of Dover, this may or may not be possible. It's the servicemember's body and shouldn't he/she have the final say? Just asking.

Posted by: Lynda at March 1, 2009 12:29 AM

Not knowing the layout of Dover, this may or may not be possible.

Not possible, unless they build a complete new ramp and hangar, with taxiway access, at the opposite side of the field. Of course, that will require expanding the base perimeter in that area, so several dozen civilian businesses and a one-mile section of the highway will have to be relocated and re-routed. It could be done inside of five years and shouldn't cost more than $500 million to implement...

Posted by: BillT at March 1, 2009 01:33 AM

Thanks, BillT, for your answer. I'm just one of the poor schlubs you're fighting for.

Posted by: Lynda at March 1, 2009 05:22 PM

None of you are "poor schlubs," Lynda.

Posted by: BillT at March 2, 2009 12:13 AM

Miserble vultures i wouldnt want them with in a mile of ARLINGTON they are a whole bunch of rotten scavengers they are more vile then ever

Posted by: Flu-Bird at March 3, 2009 10:25 AM

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