I was shocked and brought to tears when I saw flashed on a TV screen the news that one of the missing soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division who has been missing for almost two weeks may have been found dead, news now confirmed by the DoD. On every news channel, the reporters, like jackals, then went on to give details on the soldier that were so specific that any family member of that soldier watching the news would know immediately that it was their loved one that had been found.
Imagine that you are a family member related to one of the soldiers who is missing in Iraq, and while watching the news a reporter breathlessly announces that they have "breaking news" about the missing soldiers with details that only you know about your son. That is what happened today before the military could notify the family in a humane, dignified, and personal way that their son had sacrificed his life for us.
One of the things that we learned decades ago was that hearing of the death of a loved one via news outlets is the worst, and some would argue, an immoral way to learn this news. The press that works with the military is given strict rules by the DoD on what and when they are allowed to report about a casualty in war.
I was talking to a friend of mine who happens to be a military chaplain. He is called on often to be the person to notify a family then their loved one has been killed in action. The stories that he tells are heart-rending. Please, think, for a moment, that you have a loved one fighting oversees. You live in fear your loved one will be killed. Then one day, several military people, dressed in their "Greens" or "Blues", or "Khakis" knock on you door. Think of your feeling of knowing that they have come to give you the news that you fear the most.
This is the dignified method that has evolved in the military over generations, through painful trial and error. The media, knowing the rules, totally disregarded the feelings of the families for a "scoop".
No doubt the media, in righteous indignation at being confronted with this totally selfish act, will claim that the information would have come out anyway, that the DoD can't tell them what to do, and that the American People have a right to know.
But they fail to understand that this death is not about them, their carriers, or the freedom of the press. It is about the soldier and his family as people, not news!
This is just one more incident that illustrates that the American media has a very selfish agenda that is focused on themselves. The information on casualties will come out. In most cases just hours later than when the reporter first got the information. What will waiting a few hours matter? It is a soldier's life first, a news story after.
The loss of a loved one in war is a sacred matter. For the families' sake, allow the families that sacrificed their loved one for our freedom to be afforded the dignity and respect of learning of their loved one's death in a dignified and personal matter.
What happened to doing the humane thing, and sitting on the information, even if a reporter loses a "scoop"?
Gerd Schroeder is a Major in the United States Army. Major Schroeder has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. His views are his own. He does not speak for the US Army or the Department of Defense.