Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pictures, Coffins and Families

As you may have read, the Secretary of Defense is reviewing the policy of taking photographs of coffins of the recently fallen soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan arriving at Dover AFB. This is one of those subjects that makes those of us who have family members serving - think, twitch and wonder what would we do.

As Andi on SpouseBuzz said - we plan funerals, in our heads. Yes, I've planned DH's, (with no help from him, other than a request for Dixie played by bagpipes). And I haven't thought about the media, other than to hope they will show some respect. That, unfortunately, isn't what has happened at many funerals. I went to nine funerals last deployment, and the media held back - it could have been that Midwestern reticence, but I'll figure it was the Patriot Guard!

So how do I feel about it? I don't honestly know. I've read other blogs about it, I've always thought that maybe the other 99% of the US population should see the true cost of the war; not just the money, but the lives - the lives lost, the lives shattered, the lives of the children losing a parent, the lives of the friends who mourn. But those same families and friends have the right to mourn in private, to survive the pain without cameras in their faces.

How do I feel? Confused. I know that I understand the families' point of view that don't want the pictures taken, I know I understand those that say these coffins, when they arrive, don't have names on them that can be seen by photographers, that no-one is saying that they want to take pictures of widows and parents receiving the coffins, but is this the slippery slope we hear so much about? If we allow a photograph of a coffin on a plane floor, does that mean we will allow a picture of a woman kissing the coffin, of a child hugging the coffin holding her daddy?

And I want Secretary Gates to ask us. Not the Generals, not the under secretary of whatever, ask us. We are the ones who this will affect, we are the ones who live with this possibility. Please, tell me what you think.



AirmanMom said... you, I am confused regarding this matter. Is the picture of the coffin, any different from the faces inside the Washington Post and other newspapers? Do the families grant permission for these face shots to be printed? I do not know.
Throughout our country's history, when we have been at war, pictures of coffins are shown. Death is real. Perhaps today it is different, since we are saturated with news 24/7...whereas once upon a time there was the morning paper and the 6pm news. Perhaps it is simply overload of our minds and emotions.
Excellent post! Truly thought provoking!
And of course, it takes me to a moment of prayer for all who have paid the ultimate price and the families who love them so!!!


Tucker said...

I too am confused, but I 110% agree that WE need to be asked. No one else. WE who have loved ones in this fight, WE who may someday have to be there, WE who will have lost a loved on, and WE who will have to grieve. Do I want a camera there if, God forbid, I find myself in that situation. Hell NO. But, do I think folks need to SEE this? Yes. I don't know how to reconcile that.

Julie said...

I had to really think about this one. My thinking is ultimately the privacy of the family should protected. As a member of the Patriot Guard I have been to many funerals. Only one family wanted the press there. And trust me when the press was not welcome, those big biker guys did not hesitate to get rid of them. Andi was right about her speculation

If God forbid something happened to my son I would want private pictures taken at the service but not pictures to be published in the newspaper. The service is always so special for our fallen heroes and I would want to keep that memory. But not on his journey home. The utmost respect should be the bottom line in my opinion.

And yes, I agree we, the families shoud be asked. Wonderful thoughtful post!

Rebekah said...

Hi there. I've been a reader for awhile--slowly made my way here via SSM, who I originally discovered when she wrote about the funeral of a friend's husband.

I had to comment on this post, because I was relieved to see I'm not the only one who is torn on this issue. You summed up my thoughts on it exactly. The American people need to see the cost of war, but how to balance that need with respect for and privacy of the families is a question I don't know how to answer.

(army)Wife said...

I'm torn on this subject. On one hand, a funeral isn't an entertainment event that should be splashed across the papers and TV. The families should be able to mourn in private and on their own terms. On the other hand, the longer we're in Iraq the more the American public seems to forget that there are soldiers who are still sacrificing their lives over there and that there are still families here sacrificing as well. These photos in the media help remind the rest of the public that we shouldn't be numb to what is happening overseas, this isn't an event that our politicians just talk about and we still need to support our military and their families.

Kanani said...

I saw the posting on Spouse Buzz and am glad you've brought it up here as well. You have a way of bringing up issues and not skirting around how you feel, but doing it in a way that asks questions in an intelligent way.

I've thought about this a lot. And I've written about it over here.