Responding to ‘An Editor’s Son: Storming Fallujah’

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By: Greg Mitchell

A column posted here Monday by frequent contributor Dennis Anderson, “An Editor?s Son: Storming Fallujah,” has earned extraordinary reader response. Dozens of heartfelt emails to Anderson or to E&P have poured in.

Eighteen months ago, Anderson, the editor of the Antelope Valley Press in Palmdale, Calif., served as an embedded reporter with a local National Guard unit in Iraq. He was known at the time as possibly the only chief editor in the program. Later, he served a second tour of duty as an embed.

His latest column, while drawing on his own experience, focused on the pride, and anxiety, he feels this week, knowing that his 19-year-old son, Garrett, is among the Marines fighting in Fallujah.

Below is a selection of comments drawn from e-mails we have received. Since most of the letters were addressed to Dennis Anderson (they have been forwarded to him) and are highly personal in nature, we have decided to omit the names and locations of the writers.

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Thank you for your service as an embed and thank you for raising such a wonderful young man.

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Thanks for the poignant reminder in your article that our fighting forces are not nameless faces but so many loved ones, and so dear and precious to us all within our American human family.

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Thank you for your moving article about your son. I pray for the Marines often, and now I will pray for your son, Garrett, by name. My son, Allen, is waiting at Camp Bucca. May God protect our boys, and bring them home safely.

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A friend sent me your article this morning via e-mail. I know your feelings. My son came home from Fallujah in a flag-draped coffin last April. Stay strong; pray. I am going to dinner tonight with the families of four Memphis-area Marines who have been KIA since April and then to a Veterans Day service tomorrow. I will keep your son in my prayers for his and his men’s safety and that you will get him back alive. May God be with you and your family and I pray that Marines never grace your door with tragic news.

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I have a 19-year-old son, too. Though he’s not in the military I can identify with your expression of acknowledging your son’s manhood but also remembering the special qualities that only a parent can notice — even when they are on the other side of the planet.

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It is the custom in our parish church to pray each Sunday for “all those in the military and foreign service, at home and abroad, especially those serving in positions of particular danger, difficulty, and temptation,” and to mention by name those known to us. With your permission, I would like to mention your son by name from now until he leaves the war zone. In any event, I will certainly be thinking of him and of you in all of my prayers from now on. Finally, thank you for your previous service as an embedded reporter. [From an Episcopal rector in Virginia]

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God bless your son for his courage and his service to our country. I will pray for him. My son is there, also. God bless our boys.

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Thank you for your lovely piece in today’s Editor & Publisher. It moved me to tears. And thanks to your son and your family for your sacrifices.

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Thank you for being embedded, but even more kudos for raising or helping to raise such a son. I have 21-year-old and 18-year-old sons, both in university studies at the present time. One is hoping for a draft; the other plans to enlist when his studies are completed.

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This piece brought tears to my eyes as I read it, and I felt I just had to write you and assure you your son and family will daily be in my prayers. My own father is a retired Marine, a veteran of Iwo Jima, Korea, and Vietnam, and I grew up with the stories of the bravery of our amazing troops. My dad was exactly your son’s age when he went to Iwo Jima. After reading your article I have your son’s young image to hold in my soul, though I know all those troops are our sons, as you said. Your article will add intensity to my prayers because you made him so real — and for all of us who read your words, I am sure this battle is more personal. I wish the media did more of this — but don’t get me started on that.

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