COMMENTS: Weariness of War

As for the observances of Memorial Day proper, coverage fell into three categories: cemetery remembrances; honors for the veterans of past wars; and the families of the military still fighting.

When President George Bush laid the wreath at Arlington Cemetery, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell noted "a different, more muted tone, choosing words tinged with the weariness of war" compared with previous Memorial Days "when he spoke of 'freedom on the march' and 'completing the mission.'" Bush singled out Christian Golczynski, an eight-year-old son of a slain Marine. "He managed to be brave while he held his father's folded flag," was the Presidential soundbite run by ABC's Dan Harris (subscription required), before Harris quoted the words of the "amazing kid" himself about his missing dad: "I will honor him by becoming a Marine and helping our country, too." ABC's Jonathan Karl told us the tale of a pair of Marines, both killed on Mother's Day in 2005--Lawrence Phillipon in Iraq, Nicholas Kirven in Afghanistan--both buried in Section 60 of Arlington Cemetery. The bereaved mother, Leesa Phillipon, was consoled by Brian Letendre, a Marine captain, who notified her of her loss. He became "a friend, almost a member of the family," Karl recounted. Just 360 days later, Letendre too was killed in Iraq and he too is buried in Section 60.

Lest They Be Forgotten is the title of a movie documentary oral history project, produced by Larry Cappetto, that Wyatt Andrews profiled for CBS. Andrews called Cappetto "relentless" is his quest for survivors of World War II: "In four years he has interviewed almost 400 combat veterans, assembling one of the largest oral histories ever recorded of Americans at war." On NBC, Bob Faw went one war better, showing us Frank Buckles, aged 106, one of only three surviving Doughboys of World War I. Buckles, then a 15-year-old youth from Missouri, served in the Ambulance Corps in France: "If anybody asked me how old I was I told them I was 21."

This is the fourth high school graduation in a row in Killeen Tex when Fort Hood parents are away fighting in Iraq. For the fourth year, the high schools set up a videoconference at the ceremonies. This time 55 military children waved by remote as "the soldier dads and three soldier moms watched the graduations from nine different bases in Iraq," as NBC's Lester Holt put it. And ABC's Dean Reynolds checked in at Goonie's Comedy Club in Rochester Minn to hear the stylings of Jan Donahue, whose husband is now in the 17th month of his deployment in Iraq. How lonely and depressed is she? "There I sat in front of the TV until 5-or-6 at night--then I got up and turned it on."


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