Saturday, August 23, 2008

The death of a Marine from Pearland

They needed a photo of a dead insurgent.

For their newspaper.

When the Marines showed them where they could get one, it was at the top of a minaret in Fallujah, after the heaviest of the fighting had subsided, in November 2004.

Twelve marines went with the reporter and photographer, so they could get the photo, but two marines stopped the journalists from going up the stairs first. They wanted to make sure it was safe, so they led the way up the darkened stairway, followed by the photographer and writer.

That's how Lance Cpl. William L. Miller, 22, of Pearland, met his death -- helping a couple guys from The New York Times get a picture of a dead Muslim insurgent.

Dexter Filkins writes about this in the Sunday The New York Times Magazine.

He also writes of meeting the slain Marine's mother and father, Susie and Lewis, back in the United States, at a memorial service in North Carolina.

I wasn’t sure if I could face the Millers, but I felt as if I needed to say something.

I walked up to the Millers with some hesitation, and they saw me. I was carrying a notebook. I figured the Millers would say something cutting, something full of despair, maybe even lunge at me. The father of a woman who had been murdered in Palm Bay, Fla., did that to me once, in the waiting room of the local hospital. Grabbed me and threw me into the door, shouting in my face. I hadn’t even asked him a question. I hadn’t even gotten his daughter killed.

“We’re so grateful to you,” Lewis said to me when the service was over, down on the gym floor. “If it weren’t for you, we would never have known how our son died.”

I guessed he was referring to the article I had written about the battle. My eyes met theirs, but I don’t remember too well what they looked like. They looked tired. Exhausted eyes. When I was a kid, I had a friend who shot himself, Pat Galloway, and I went to the viewing, and his mother and father, Bob and Natalie, had the same eyes. All cried out. After he died, the Galloways put Pat’s high-school graduation photo on the mantel above their fireplace. I imagined a photo like that of William on the mantel in the Millers’ home.

I asked them about Pearland, Tex.

(Earlier, the reporter wrote that the slain marine's hometown made him think of pearls or a pearl necklace.)

“Pear-land,” Lewis said to me, “Pear-land. We’re known for our pears.”

The reporter met the parents again in Arkansas, where they buried their son. There were no recriminations then, either.

They say now we're winning the war. The politicians say that. But for the life of me, I'm not sure what it is that we've won.


Anonymous said...

Pearland is known for its pears? I didn't know that. I mean, once, maybe. But now? I doubt it.

Sometimes, and I say this because I know, it is better for the parents not to ever know what really happend to their kid, in a war.

Do you think Pat Tillman's parents feel better, knowing it was a colossal screwup that got him KIA? I doubt it.

I could tell some parents some things, too, but I always figured that there there is no reason to cause more pain, unless you enjoy that kind of thing.

Many "reporters" seem to get a big charge out of it.


Banjo Jones said...

you'd know better than me, jd.

all i can say is this is one fucked up war.

Anonymous said...

Ain't they all? Preventable, most of them, but mainly in hindsight.