Fce8e669b9bf4076995b232e356285d7_sp KABUL, Afghanistan Apr 23, 2007 (AP)— An Army sergeant complained in a rare opinion article that the U.S. flag flew at half-staff last week at the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan for those killed at Virginia Tech but the same honor is not given to fallen U.S. troops here and in Iraq.

In the article issued Monday by the public affairs office at Bagram military base north of Kabul, Sgt. Jim Wilt lamented that his comrades’ deaths have become a mere blip on the TV screen, lacking the "shock factor" to be honored by the Stars and Stripes as the deaths at Virginia Tech were.

"I find it ironic that the flags were flown at half-staff for the young men and women who were killed at VT, yet it is never lowered for the death of a U.S. service member," Wilt wrote.

He noted that Bagram obeyed President Bush’s order last week that all U.S. flags at federal locations be flown at half-staff through April 22 to honor 32 people killed at Virginia Tech by a 23-year-old student gunman who then killed himself.

"I think it is sad that we do not raise the bases’ flag to half-staff when a member of our own task force dies," Wilt said.

According to the Defense Department, 315 U.S. service members have died in and around Afghanistan since the U.S.-led offensive that toppled the Taliban regime in late 2001, 198 of them in combat.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said that the flags of all its troop-contributing nations are flown at half-staff for about 72 hours after the service member’s death "as a mark of respect when there is an ISAF fatality."

Sgt. 1st Class Dean Welch, who works with Wilt at the U.S.-led coalition public affairs office, said the essay is a "soldier’s commentary, not the view of the coalition and not the view of the U.S. forces."

Welch added that such outspoken opinion pieces are rare.

Wilt suggested that flags should fly at half-staff on the base where the fallen service member was working and in the states where they hail from. He said some states do this, but not all of them.

He wrote that the death of a U.S. service member is just as violent as those at the university last week, but it lacks the "shock factor of the Virginia massacre."

"It is a daily occurrence these days to see X number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan scrolling across the ticker at the bottom of the TV screen. People have come to expect casualty counts in the nightly news; they don’t expect to see 32 students killed," he wrote.

"If the flags on our (operating bases) were lowered for just one day after the death of a service member, it would show the people who knew the person that society cared, the American people care."


  1. I agree with Sgt. 1st Class Welch. Our nation’s flag should fly at half mast when we have lost a hero. The loss of one defender is as important as a senseless massacre, to my way of thinking. I will be driving 150 miles one-way to attend the funeral tomorrow of an 18-year old hero, PFC Steven J. Walberg, from Magalia, CA. He died as he wished, serving his country. I wonder how many people in this country know or even care that this young soldier, who never got to really live life, died for a cause he believed in. Well, I do. May God bless and keep all our heroes.

  2. I agree. I’m very sorry for the loss of those students at Virginia Tech but I’ve seen too many friends / family buried in the service of our country. Despite what the news reports and the Democrats say, I mourn their loss for the fact they are not in my life. I’m proud they died the way they did… in service of the country they love. My flag flies outside my house every day and it’ll never come down. The ones who aren’t flying it are too busy burying their heads in it and complaining about it.

  3. All honors, flag lowering everywhere included should be a given for each and every fallen Hero.I feel bad for the Virginia Tech people, but not enough coverage is given to the fallen Heros and I missed hearing alot of news this week. In a way, I feel the Virginia Tech tragedy is being exploited by the media. More news and honors of Heros, please.

  4. I recently read a great suggestion, one that should apply to the VT students as well as our fallen troops: Rather than focus 24/7 on the murderer(s), focus on the lives of those who died. Let us know these people, who they were and what they had to offer in their brief lives.

  5. I was on a business trip (which means I am generally in a news black out) and saw the flag at half staff and wondered “who” died. As I was in San Diego and my room looked out over to Coronado I thought maybe it had something to do with the military.
    I then saw the news — while I am completely sorry about the deaths of the VT students, I too was surprised at the flag lowering and feel that while this is a tragedy, it is not as tragic or better yet significant as the lives lost of all these soldiers/marines/sailors dying for MY FREEDOMS. As a nation, we truly do not deserve these men and women – but thank God for them!

  6. There’s seems to be very little focus with couth. Using the flag as a signal (of respect) is a good thing… it can help. In Maj-P speak “can make a difference”. Seems a good essay (SGT 1stC Welch) and although I don’t know all of the logistics of every station doing this or that, letter writing or more such articles might move more to demonstrate respect for our warriors. Domestically, the media makes the usual sideshow of a horror without much respect for those who’ve passed. Couldn’t help but think of how many don’t have a flag, don’t seem to think, but parrot the tube or whatever’s in someone else’s craw at the moment. The flag’s a symbol. Feels good when it’s used to signal respect. When I see (the few) in a home’s window-gives me a little hope. I know the quiet, little worn one sewn on my jacket is one of belief. Maybe such demonstrations help… like writing to soldiers, like letting them know they mean something to us before any flag (should have) gone to half-mast. Like supporting their service, their returns (in all circumstance) and like respecting their bereaved. Didn’t see anything wrong with lowering the flag when a bunch of American students/teachers were massacred. Can’t imagine any warrior’s family taking that away from them.

  7. While it isn’t everything, Michigan’s flags fly at half mast for a month after the loss of any soldier, sailor, or Marine from this state.
    This dad of a Marine appreciates that.

  8. I agree with Cheryl except they might always be at half-mask. Monday I didn’t drive nearly that far, but attended the funeral LCpl Daniel J. Santee USMC. Not sure of attendance, but they had planned for 800. After a service where it was clear this Marine had special gifts, love of God, and all the qualities of a great Marine (in part the words of the First Shirt) the procession lead by some 2 dozen police bikes, 2 fire trucks in a seemingly never ending procession with NO protestors in sight, they took Danny to where the Corps did its honors like no other can, and Danny was laid to rest. We will never forget!
    EGA and Stars and Strips fly here every clear day.
    Semper Fi,

  9. Despite all the hoopla over “embedded reporters”, 24 hour satellite news, and the internet, the broad presentation of the current war has been sanitized, and micromanaged to a point unheard of during the Vietnam era. The result of which, as odd as it may sound, leaves a population that much more out of touch, and out of tune with Iraq. As an aside, Clint Eastwood’s film “Flag of our Fathers” struck me as being as much about the struggle of a small group of combat Marines with propaganda spin, as it was the actual combat on Iwo Jima.

  10. I felt more than a twinge of injustice when the flag was flown at half staff in the wake of the Virginia Tech killings. While I think the response to the Virginia Tech massacre was altogether proper, I think it would be equally proper to bestow the same honors on those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    In my more cynical moments I wonder if this is a social class issue. I wonder if the elite in society do not value the potential of those serving, because they don’t believe the potential is there. If this is true it is tragic, and is one more obstacle veterans must overcome in order to someday participate in the American dream that they protect. Rest assured, every life lost in this war, or any other, is every bit as devastating to America as the lives lost on a college campus.
    Semper Fidelis,

  11. What’s the matter, not the center of attention anymore? Poor baby. You all complain, but you volunteered. These VT students didn’t volunteer for anything, (yet), they were just murdered by a gun nut. How dare you begrudge these kids of any sympathy they might get instead of you.
    Flags? This country is not about flags, it’s about people. One day, if you are lucky, you will become one of them again. Then you can display all the damn flags you want.

  12. Mr. Sanchez,
    I think you may misunderstand the point some of us are trying to make. I wouldn’t begrudge VT students any sympathy whatsoever. Nor would I begrudge sympathy for any volunteer who dies on my behalf. I do, however, begrudge the lack of such sympathy for those volunteers that is evidenced in the press, and–if I may say so–in your statement. Our service men and women should be honored more than they are. They are not throwaway people, whether they volunteered or not.

  13. Gannon
    I think the “media” is falling all over itself to “honor” vets. If people don’t want to put out flags, well then it’s the people not the media.
    After reading further, I see its the half-masting of the nation flag that has gotten your panties in a bunch. Well, that was a presidential order I believe. So blame him not “the media” or the “the people”….or would that term be “slimey civilians”?

  14. I will agree that all the American flags should be at half-mast every time that one of our fellow men and women died in combat, never thought about that.
    What we can do is get enough signatures and to bring it up to our representatives in the area so something can be done about it, just a suggestion.
    Semper Fi,
    Cpl. Barrios

  15. It’s QUITE obvious that “Brain” Sanchez (God Bless GN, that’s a good one!!!) never intends to put his life on the line for his country. He probably thinks the cowards who flee to Canada are in the right.

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