Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

I'm writing you today as a Soldier in the Army over which you preside as Commander in Chief. I'm writing because should the time ever come that my wishes need to be heard, I shall not be able to utter them. Please allow me to speak them to you now, and please hear me. Please remember these words should I not be able to speak them.

It is not my wish to be overly dramatic. I have seen others who have failed to ask for such favors before, who have waited until too late to make their wishes known, who have been made a mockery to their own values. I do not wish to be one of those, and so I speak while I still carry breath. I speak it now because I fear that I have reason to be concerned that such things would happen if I were to return home without my life from my next deployment.

Each of us who has gone into harm's way has had an opportunity to reflect in our own way on our mortality and what the possibility of the ultimate sacrifice means to us. I have had this moment, and before I left for my tour, I considered very carefully what I would like for those who know and care for me to know should I not return home with my life intact. Among other things, I wrote them a letter, to this point unopened, detailing my wishes for their conduct surrounding my death. I made it clear that should the ultimate sacrifice be taken from me, and rest assured that I risk this willingly but do not suffer it willingly, I do not wish to be made use of for anyone's purposes or for the influence of my fellow citizens.

When I went into harm's way before, I had no fear that my return to the United States would be made with less than perfect dignity. The recent consideration of revising the policy concerning the return of our fallen to Dover has caused me to feel that I need to express my wishes now. Consider this, if you will, an addendum to my Last Will and Testament.

I do not wish for the press to have access to the repatriation of my remains, Sir. I do not wish for the image of my returning casket to made available to anyone. I wish to maintain the privacy and dignity that my return to my native soil has been promised to this point in my service. I will not be able to defend myself from predation for the use of others, Sir. Please protect me when and if I cannot protect myself; when I cannot open my own mouth in protest, when I will not have breath in my body to form the words, "Please, leave me in peace. I just want to go home."

Once the image of my returning remains has been captured, you cannot control its use. It does not matter that no one can see my remains, Sir. It is my body, and the vessel that carries it will belong to me, too. It will be the last possession I have, and one of very few that I will take to my grave with me. Please don't allow others, who do not know me, who do not love me, who do not care for what I wish, to make use of me in such a way when I may not respond. Please do not even risk that I may be in one of those caskets used for a purpose of which I would not approve. Please do not chance letting the risk I took as a willing Soldier for what I believe be used as a tool for someone with whom in life I respectfully disagree. This, Sir, to me, would be the ultimate insult and disrespect to my service.

Please, Sir, do not let them count coup on my defenseless remains.

These are my wishes, Sir. I wish, should my life be required of me so that my children may live in a country that remains free from terror, for the same dignity that has been afforded those who have gone before me in this effort.

If the day comes when I am on that plane, unable to speak for myself, please remember what I have asked of you. Please defend me then, Sir.

Until then, Sir, I remain,

Very respectfully,

An American Soldier


  1. Thank you for this. I posted Robert Stokely's views the other day, and have now posted your opinions. The excerpt is linked to you here, of course!

  2. We thank you as well for this. I have posted an excerpt as well with links back to you. God Bless.

  3. Thank you for this post. The ban needs to be upheld. I speak from two sides, one an army Mom, my son and daughter and as a former photo journalist.

    In working for the news papers that I did, I was consistently chastised for not photographing the grieving during spot news stories. Getting in someone's face with a 24 mm lens when they are distraught is and was repugnant to me. Taking photos of other human beings during their worst moments for the sake of circulation, in my opinion, was beyond contempt. It is one of the main reasons that I am a former photo journalist. The simple moral ethic of "allowing" those in pain to not have to not have those moments hijacked, was a standard that I would not sacrifice. My last straw came when I was looking at a professional magazine that was displaying photos that had been national award winners. The "best" picture of the year was a photo of a family around the body of a just drowned 7 year old boy. The emergency services had already responded and had recovered the body, attempted resuscitation. Efforts had failed and the young child was put into a body bag. The family requested to see the child. When the body bag was unzipped, The photographer photographed the scene as the family screamed, wept and literally tore at their own faces. This photo was taken with a 28 mm lens. This means that the photographer was right in front of that family, clicking away. I understand as a photojournalist that a photo evoking emotion is the main purpose, the photo must tell a story. The factor that can not be mandated is that all of those photographing would have respect for the fallen and their families. I know this to not the main pursuit of many photojournalists. I know that you can not mandate ethics or moral courage to stand up to an editor or to go all out to be "the best".

    It should be exclusively the wishes of the fallen and their families to decide if they want media attention at a funeral. The sanctity of the moments at Dover should never be one of those places. If people so desperately want to know about the costs, then why aren't they looking for the information? It is readily available online and yet most are uninterested unless the story meets their need for sensationalism.

    The ban should hold.

    Thank you for your service to our country.

    an Army Mom

  4. These are all very nice comments. It saddens me to let you know, as if you don't already, that he lifted the ban. Oh yeah, with the family's consent. Yeah, right. You know how these hacks are. Do you really believe if they're given an inch, they're not going to seize the moment? God helps us all.

  5. Thank you for this! God has certainly given you a gift with writing! Thank you for your service to our beloved country, Sir!
    From a grateful and proud fellow American


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