Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Families hold the right to honor

War is a tragic thing. War is never fun. It ends lives, and marks the end of innocence for all involved.

No matter the good that is achieved during the course of a war, no matter the humanity that has occurred, the lives of those involved are never the same.

That not only goes for the brave members of the armed forces that serve the United States of America, but the families of those members as well.

For as long as wars have occurred, the families of those brave souls that serve fight a war of their own. This war is the constant guessing game of whether your loved one will one day make it back home or not.

When a family loses a son or daughter to a war, the emotions likely are a mixture of pride and grief. Pride because of the fact that they raised a person who fought and died for what they believed in. Sadness because that person is now gone forevermore.

For the families of those men and women that gave the last full measure of devotion to their nation, the ritual remains the same. Every single year, the bodies of those who have been killed in action are transported to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. This is where the debate begins. Should photographs be taken of the caskets of the honored dead?

There are many points to each side of the argument. Some say yes while others say no.

Those that say yes argue that these troops died serving their country. Therefore, the whole nation should be given the chance to honor them by seeing a photo of their casket. The supporters of this logic view the photo tribute as a badge of honor.

Those that say no state that, inside the casket, there is an individual that was somebody’s whole world. Shouldn’t we grant those that have already been devastated by loss a bit of privacy?

What this all really comes down to is the right to privacy. The only problem is that, on an issue that is so sensitive and emotionally driven, there is no right answer. Each person’s view on the matter is different. That is why the decision must be based on personal preference.

That decision is to let the families decide whether they want the casket photographed or not as it is unloaded from the transport plane.

This decision by President Barack Obama reverses the decision made by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 during the first Gulf War to ban all photos of incoming casualties.

Bush’s decision to ban the photos was based on the right to privacy and because he believed that Americans did not want to see how many of their troops were being killed in action.

This act was probably a result of memories of the infamously unpopular Vietnam War, where thousands upon thousands of American troops were shipped home in body bags.

Government is good for many reasons; there are times and places where the government should be the force implementing the rules. This, however, is not one of them. This is far too personal of an issue.

By letting the families decide whether media should be allowed to give a public viewing of one of the most sobering events that a military family can go through puts the baton in the people’s hands.

Through all of the triumph and grief of combat, we must remember that all of these troops ‘- living and dead ‘- are Americans just like us. You may not support a certain war, such as Iraq, but you should never decide not to support our troops.

These soldiers are noble individuals who are willing to fight for their country to grant those of us at home the freedom that we often take for granted. The soldier is simply doing his job. It is not the soldier’s fault that they may have been placed in an unjust war.

The members of our military are men and women that honor America with their sense of responsibility and loyalty.

Likewise, we should honor them ‘- and those that raised these heroic figures ‘- with what is true to their wishes. If a family’s wish is to grant them privacy while dealing with the loss of a loved one, grant them that honor. If a family wishes to honor their loved one by having their American flag-covered casket photographed, grant them that request. ‘-

This is the best thing that the government can ‘- and should ‘- do. They are neither forcing their will upon the American people with a decision too personal to characterize as a position of governmental rule.

Matt Kushi is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

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