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NewsReal Sunday: How Should Fallen Soldiers Affect the Press, the President and Politics?

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Posted on November 1 2009 6:30 am
Paul Cooper is a husband and father above all else. With a wife and 2 daughters he could use a dog, but sadly he only owns a cat – a female cat no less. Paul is also a pastor, blogger, and business owner. Find him on Twitter.
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How the press and US presidents should treat the returning bodies of fallen American soldiers has long been a topic of debate. But when a hero — a soldier — comes home in a box draped with an American flag, it’s time to let presidents and the families of soldiers do what they think is best.  It is not the time to throw political grenades.

This issue of playing politics with fallen soldiers was covered on CNN this past Friday, when Liz Cheney (daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney) said:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/user/News1News#p/u/2/OZNOwub7nU8]

“I don’t understand sort of showing up with the White House press pool, with photographers, and asking family members if you can take pictures.  That’s really hard for me to get my head around.”

Different presidents have handled things in different ways with fallen soldiers.  Liz Cheney adds her voice to the chorus of other conservatives who have called out President Barack Obama on how he does things.

I am not saying it isn’t a debate worth having at some time.  What I’m saying is, now is not that time. Don’t try to fight the President on this one while he and the families are trying to honor the dead.  It’s just not the time.

Up until recently there had been an 18-year ban on the media covering the transfer of the bodies of fallen soldiers. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush all followed that approach since the first Gulf War.  Bush 43 got a lot of criticism during his presidency for meeting with families of fallen soldiers in private rather than in forums covered by the media. Many on the Left thought he was trying to hide the cost of war. Now President Obama has allowed for families to decide whether the media can cover the “dignified transfer” (the military does not call it a ceremony, for there is nothing to celebrate) of a soldier’s body.

The picture above shows the coffin of Sgt. Dale Griffin of Terre Haute, Indiana. Dale and I graduated from the same high school (Class of ’99 and ’96 respectively).  I knew who Dale was, but I didn’t really know him. He had two older brothers who were about the same age as me.  I knew them both well in high school though we weren’t best friends. From all I have seen and experienced, the Griffins are a great family and are now in mourning.

The Griffins were asked in a very respectful manner if the press could cover the transfer of Dale’s body. They felt it would honor their son to show the transfer. It was their personal decision and was not forced on them. The Griffin family was the only one, of the 18 that Obama honored that day, to agree to let the press cover the transfer process. The President treated all 18 fallen heroes with equal respect. I think it honored those soldiers, and it gave Dale’s mom Dona a chance to tell the President her hopes for Afghanistan.

“I leaned up to his ear and said, Mr. President, don’t leave our troops hanging,” Dona Griffin said.

The Scriptures tell us there is a time for everything:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Right now is the time to mourn and to honor our fallen soldiers.  It is not time to play politics. Thank you, Griffin family, for your great sacrifice for this great country. I have been praying for you and will continue to do so.

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