American Legion National Commander Blasts AP Decision to Release Image of Fallen Marine Hero

Fri Sep 4, 2009 2:38pm EDT

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.

INDIANAPOLIS--(Business Wire)--
"Outrageously irresponsible," is how the leader of the nation`s largest veterans
organization characterized the Associated Press`s decision to release a photo of
a dying U.S. Marine taken in Afghanistan. 

"The lack of compassion and common decency shown by the Associated Press in
releasing this photograph is stunning," said American Legion National Commander
Clarence E. Hill, a retired Navy captain. "Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard is a
hero who gave his life for his country. His family is understandably offended. I
have asked the American Legion state commander in Maine to reach out to his
family. Indeed everybody in The American Legion stands with his family." 

The photo shows Bernard bleeding after being struck by a rocket-propelled
grenade in a Taliban ambush Aug. 14. Before the photograph was publicly
released, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates asked Thomas Curley, AP`s president
and chief executive officer to refrain from transmitting the image. "Out of
respect for his family`s wishes, I ask you in the strongest of terms to
reconsider your decision. I do not make this request lightly…The issue here is
not law, policy or constitutional right - but judgment and common decency." 

"Secretary Gates was right," Hill added. "The issue is judgment and common
decency. There is some information, some actions that occur, that are simply too
private, too personal, and too tragic to be intentionally broadcast into the
homes of millions. For families with loved ones overseas, the fear of what might
happen to them is a near constant companion. This photo not only keeps open the
wounds of war for the Bernard family, but it also increases the fear for the
families of those who are still facing the reality of sudden death every day." 

Hill called for a review by the Department of Defense of the rules governing
embedded media. "This should never have occurred in the first place, nor should
it be allowed to occur again," Hill said. "Ironically, when I visited Camp Delta
at Guantanamo, the photographer was prohibited from taking images showing the
faces of detained terrorists. Yet, photographers are allowed to shoot
photographs of fallen American heroes? Where is the common sense? Where is the
common decency?" 

With a membership of 2.6-million wartime veterans, The American Legion was
founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans
affairs, Americanism, and patriotic youth programs. 

A high resolution photograph of National Commander Hill can be downloaded at

The American Legion
Craig Roberts, 202-406-0887
Joe March or John Raughter, 317-630-1253

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