Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A picture from the past

It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I think the best picture is the one that leaves you speechless.

This is a picture I've had folded up and in my wallet since 1991, and I have no idea who any of the people are. Now, 16 years later, I'm trying to find out.

This is the family of a dead American soldier from the first Persian Gulf war. I cut it out and stuck it in my wallet for a number of reasons.

For one, my kids were still small and I anticipated they'd go through the phase of glorifying war and I thought it would be a good reminder that the war movies on TV are relatively antiseptic portrayals of the real thing.

I had no interest in giving them my political thoughts on war -- I'm not sure what they are myself -- just that there can be no argument that in a war, there are usually families like this.

The other reason I cut it out is because that was a quick war, the war that would usher in a "new world order," and it didn't cost much -- only 147 American soldiers, a quarter of whom were killed by friendly fire. This was referred to as "minimal casualties," a phrase the media and politicians used, but one that I detested. I also thought the "minimal" casualties would turn us into a country with unrealistic expectations of war where casualties are concerned.

Minimal? Look at the faces.

I don't believe I ever had cause to pull the picture out of my wallet to show either of my sons. I pulled it out once in a news meeting to try to convince other editors in the mid '90s to do a story on our country's bravado and attitude toward war. But they looked at it, passed it along, and then made their assignments for stories about the corn crop and the State Fair instead.

And now I've pulled it out again, because I want to find these people. I want to find out who they are, where they're from, and what has become of them on the day when -- their faces said -- they looked at their past, and wondered about their future.

I need to hear a thousand words.

(Update 5/24/13) - I found them a few years ago. I've written about it here.

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