Local Military Family Reacts To Photos Of Slain Soldiers

By Frances Kuo

(LOUISVILLE, April 23rd, 2004, 5:30 p.m.) -- The toll of the war in Iraq is now vividly displayed in several controversial photos that go against federal policy. Pictures of flag-draped coffins of American soldiers were published in a Seattle newspaper and a website. WAVE 3's Frances Kuo reports on reaction here in Kentuckiana.

The pictures show row after row of coffins of dead American soldiers. The photos were shot by a cargo worker in Kuwait, then published on the front page of the Seattle Times. The newspaper's executive editor, Michael Fancher, says "it was a very compelling image of coffins. It was just such a touching photo that we felt compelled to run it."

Dozens of the photos soon turned up on a website called www.thememoryhole.org.

Lynn Romans' son was killed in Iraq last September. Twenty-four-year-old Sgt. Darren Potter died when his Humvee plunged into a canal in Iraq. Lynn says she has mixed emotions about showing images of America's slain soldiers.

"On one hand, I feel this should be a very private issue," Lynn says, but realizes "this is a very public war, and this shows us the extent of the casualties."

The Pentagon does not allow the media to cover the arrival of soldiers' coffins on military bases. That policy forces news editors, like Jeffersonville Evening News Jim Nichols, to balance First Amendment rights with possibly offending readers. "There's a philosophy in newsrooms -- when in doubt, leave it out. When I saw those, I was really doubtful, those would not have appeared in my paper."

The sensitivity of the war hit home for Nichols last Friday. A reader blasted him when he ran a political cartoon showing U.S. soldiers digging their own graves. "I don't know anybody in this war personally," he says, but added that "a lot of people out there do, and that's what I have to keep in mind."

It's a lesson that not everything's fit for print.

Tami Silicio was the person who took the photo of cargo workers securing the coffins. She said she hoped the picture would show the care the workers take with soldier remains. The Kuwaiti contractor she worked for fired her for violating policy.

Online Reporter: Frances Kuo

Online Producer: Michael Dever