Honoring the Fallen

Ronald Griffin, whose son Kyle was killed in action in Iraq last May, has an op-ed in today’s WSJ weighing in on the various controversies over how to honor the fallen.

The idea of criticizing President Bush on his choice not to attend the funerals is ludicrous. The simple fact is that President Bush either attends all or attends none for to attend some could be interpreted as an insult to those fallen heroes whose funerals he is seen to have “spurned.” Besides, the logistics are impossible. On the day that my son was being buried in New Jersey his two buddies he was killed with were being buried at the same time at opposite ends of Pennsylvania. What was the president to do when the helicopter crashed and killed 17 soldiers? How to attend 17 funerals without forcing the families to wait for the president?

I would not have wanted the president to attend my son’s funeral, for it would have changed the entire dynamic of the day. The church service was a “Celebration of the Life of Kyle Andrew Griffin” and had President Bush honored us with his presence that would have all changed. It would have become a media circus. I knew full well how much President Bush honors my son, and I am comforted by that.


The arguments put forth to have the ban on media coverage lifted vary from allowing the American people to bear witness to the sacrifice of the soldiers and thus honor them, to the need to deny President Bush the opportunity to hide the real costs in human terms of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Steve Capus, executive producer of “NBC Nightly News,” arrogantly and presumptuously spoke for me when he stated, “It would seem that the only reason somebody would come out against the use of these pictures is that they are worried about the political fallout.” Well I am that “somebody,” and as I looked at those pictures the tears were not running because of my worry about political fallout. In all the criticism there has never once been put forth a single argument of how having the media coverage lifted would be of benefit to the loved ones of these heroes. We are never taken into account. We are the collateral damage in this all so obvious ideological struggle.

I’m sure there are family members who disagree with Griffin on these issues and it’s arguable that public policy considerations might trump the wishes of families in any event. But this piece does demonstrate that there are legitimate reasons for the policies that are in place beyond whatever political calculations have been made.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.