Woman Who Took ‘Coffin’ Photo Hails Press Coverage

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By: Charles Geraci

Former contractor Tami Silicio, fired last week by Maytag Aircraft after her photograph of several flag-draped coffins of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq appeared in the press, believes newspapers have done an excellent job covering her story. “The newspapers have opened my eyes to what that picture meant for everyone in the nation,” Silicio told E&P this week. “I didn’t realize how censored the United States has been on what’s going on in Iraq.”

When Silicio gave The Seattle Times (Click for QuikCap) permission to publish the photo, she knew it violated company policy but was not aware of the Pentagon ban instituted in 1991 on taking coffin photos. “I learned that afterwards,” Silicio said.

She also revealed that when she was brought in to see her supervisor, after the photo appeared in the newspaper, she was verbally reprimanded and told: “This is a very serious situation. It has gone to the very top levels and the army is possibly going to file charges against you.”

Speaking from a hotel in Kuwait, Silicio admits it’s been difficult to keep up with media coverage but she has been following stories in The Seattle Times, which initially published her photo, and The Boston Globe. “I figured it’s just a local newspaper and that it would just run for one day,” she said. “I didn’t think it would be seen all over the world. I didn’t have a sense of how important it would be.

“From what I’ve seen, the newspapers have covered the story in a dignified fashion,” Silicio said. “They have honored my request by telling the story behind the picture. They are doing a really great job by expressing how I felt and why I took the picture. …

“Several contractors who I worked with have accused me and my husband of exploiting the situation for money,” Silicio said. “I took that picture from my heart, and I was feeling the grief and devastation that I knew the soldiers’ families were going through. It’s so incredible to watch the Air Force and army take care of their fallen heroes.”

Silicio maintains that her husband, David Landry, who was also fired by Maytag, was not involved in any way in the taking or publication of the photo. “The night I took the picture, David was home sick with a toothache,” Silicio said. “I was very sorry, very upset with myself when I learned he had lost his job. He should never have been terminated.”

Landry has also received criticism from former coworkers who are “giving me a cold shoulder and saying I took the photo,” he said.

He believes the publication of his wife’s picture could have negative repercussions, fearing he “may have lost my secret clearance which is required to work in many positions overseas,” Landry said.

The couple plans to leave Kuwait for the United States on April 30. “When I get home, there will be a stack of newspapers for me to read,” Silicio said. She plans to hold a press conference but plans beyond that remain hazy.

“I’m overwhelmed with all of the newspaper coverage,” she said. “The newspapers have done a lot of good for the country because people are realizing how censored things have been.”

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