The faces of war

There are many pictures, the composition of which we’ve seen so many times, one would expect it would lose its effect. This is the exception:


It’s the family of Sgt. Nicholas Dickhut of Stewartville, who buried him on Tuesday. In a week dominated by football fans and politicians, MPR News’ editors made a fine choice in selecting this image at the top of their Photos of the Week presentation this week.

The expressions are haunting, and they’re shared by the families of other recent war victims.

Like Ronald Herbert Wildrick Jr. of New Jersey…


David A. Johnson of Mayville, Wisc. He was 24…


Brig. Gen. Terence J. Hildner…


Sgt. William C. Stacey, 23, of Redding, Calif …


and Maj. Robert J. Marchanti II.


  • Carol

    I really dislike these types of photos.

    I think they are unnecessary intrusions into what should be a private moment. Personal grieving should not be made into a public event. Even if the family invited the media into these situations, some things are and should remain intimate. I feel like I’m being forced to view a family in its most vulnerable position.

    While I understand the need to publish information about soldiers’ deaths, not everything needs to be put in the public eye.

  • Bob Collins

    // I feel like I’m being forced to view a family in its most vulnerable position.

    Well, that’s an interesting take and not an unexpected one. I think the question to ask the families is why they asked the media there.

    These particular wars are unlike any other in our history. We who were not called upon to serve, were not called upon to sacrifice. We were told to go shopping and be normal. And maybe we’d slap a magnetized yellow ribbon on the SUV or maybe we’d put a “Liberate Iraq” sign on our lawn, but for the most part we have been shielded from the fact the nation has been at war EXCEPT for these pictures.

  • John P.

    //Personal grieving should not be made into a public event

    I have to disagree, Carol. It should be public grief. We sent them there. We need to share in that and fully understand what we are asking of these people.

  • Jeff

    Thanks for posting these, Bob. I’ve scrolled up and down, looking at them, thinking about them for several minutes. We need reminders of the pain of war.

  • essjayok

    These need to be seen. As you point out, Bob, what other reminders do we have that we are a country at war?

    We need to be aware of the cost of war, the cost to individuals and to communities.

  • Carol

    I guess what I don’t understand is summed up by Bob’s question.

    WHY would the families invite the media (and by extension, the public) into this moment?

    I agree with John that we need to understand what we are asking of military families, and with Jeff that we need to understand the pain of war. But these remind me of paparazzi pictures.

    If the family is talking to the media, that’s one thing. When there’s a camera in front of you and you’re talking, you’ve likely given your permission. I can’t be sure that the families have OK’d these pictures.

    Are these funerals always open to the media, without giving the family the option of saying no? I simply don’t know.

    Perhaps it comes down to how you feel about keeping your personal life private.

    It’s just so contrary to what I would do that I can’t wrap my mind around it, and I need some help understanding.

    I would love to hear from someone who has been in this situation about their reasons for allowing these moments to be made public. Bob, is there a way to survey the Public Insight Network to find someone who would be willing to talk about this issue? Or maybe someone would be willing to comment about it here.

  • Jim Shapiro

    When someone enlists in the military, they give up a lot of rights.

    The right to control their own bodies, the right to think for themselves, the right to free speech, and the right to privacy.

    Once these individuals enlisted, everything they had and did was paid for and representative of the taxpayers of this country – from their first meal to their funeral, and now will continue through survivor benefits.

    You want privacy? Die on your own dime.

  • Eric Chandler

    You dislike the photos, Carol? Then you’re the one that needs to see them. People are fighting and dying on your behalf. Put down your Starbucks and pay attention.