I know, I know, I have been back for almost a week and have left people hanging. Here is the wrap-up from my last day at Fort Leavenworth.
After checking out of the hotel and dropping my bags off at 7:30 a.m., I headed over to the Command and General Staff College and the Lewis and Clark Center one last time for an 8 a.m. interview with Major Nathan Trussoni, a La Crosse native. To learn more about Major Trussoni, click http://bit.ly/R1loyy.
After that, we had an opportunity to learn about what top-ranking military officials think about the media, as we were granted the opportunity to interview Major General Anthony A. Cucolo III, the commanding general at the U.S. Army War College. Major Cucolo held no punches, answer our every question, from how he weighs the privilege of free speech with the safety of deployed service men and women to bridging the gap between perception and reality when it comes to the Army.
At one point, the general said he asks journalists not to show the bodies of deceased soldiers, as they try to protect the families of the dead. Stacey Cameron, a fellow journalist questioned whether not showing the bodies of the fallen actually hides the brutality of war from the public. I will admit, I did think he made a good point. After all, a picture is worth 1,000 words. Typing up what happened is one thing, but it is easy to read “23 soldiers killed in airstrike” or a similar heading, another to see the bodies of the men and women who died for our country. Words can desensitize us, a photo gets right up in your face.
However I also understand the general’s concerns. I’d imagine that the last thing a loved one would want is to see the face of their son, daughter, husband or wife permanently imposed on the front page, for all the world to see.
One thing that stuck with me was when General Cucolo said there is a way to show the brutality of war without showing the dead. He mentioned a soldier, horribly disfigured by fire and missing his ears. In spite of his appearance he was speaking to a group of people, and everyone listened to him with rapt attention, the sacrifice he made for his country plain on his face. As more and more of our military population are returning home, some bear the marks of their service: burns, missing limbs from IEDs, and some marks are below the surface, invisible but there.
Our nations’s military is strong, powerful and always ready to answer the call. They suspend rights we take for granted to serve, and when duty calls they answer without complaint, leaving behind their families and friends, some never to return.
As the Year of the Veteran wraps up, take a moment to think about everything you have, and who is responsible for it. Our military answers to the Commander-in-Chief, whoever is President of the U.S., but when service men and women enter into service, they swear to uphold the Constitution. As such, they give up their right to criticize the President, and instead back him 100 percent. The men and women who choose to picket military funerals ironically are able to do so because of our men and women in uniform and the freedom to assemble and freedom of speech.
Over the next couple weeks, I will be spending my free time compiling more and more stories about my time at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Leonard Wood. There really was a plethora of information shared with us, more than I could possibly write in these shorter blogs or even in my newspaper. I have also started another blog dedicated to military affairs, which can be found at www.wittrockra08ma.blogspot.com. All my stories will be posted there as well, along with other military topics I will be covering on my own. If interested, feel free to follow me.
To see the first of two parts chronicling my time at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., check out http://bit.ly/RgwVKE.