Was the Pentagon Right to Lift Military Coffin Photo Ban?

Critics argue that photos honor the fallen, proponents say families don't need more tough decisions.

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The Pentagon has lifted a ban on photos of service members' coffins as they are repatriated. Media will be allowed if families OK it. Ban critics argued that photos help the nation honor its fallen, but proponents said grieving families don't need more tough decisions. Was it the right call?

Was the Pentagon right to lift military coffin photo ban?


Ron Milam
Vietnam vet, interim director of Texas Tech's Center for War and Diplomacy in the Post-Vietnam War Era.

"On behalf of a grateful nation" is a phrase that we who have worn the uniform of our country's military know may eventually be heard by our families and friends as they gather at our final resting place. The American flag draped over our coffin—stars above our left shoulder—will be folded with great dignity by an honor guard and handed to our loved ones. This burial ceremony is repeated hundreds of times a day as we bury our veterans of America's wars.... Read more >>


Bill Martel
Associate professor of international security studies at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

The ban on photographing soldiers' coffins as they return to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware was not simply about images but also about shielding grief-stricken military families from a media maelstrom. It was not an issue of freedom of the press but one of respect and one of fairness.... Read more >>

Corrected on 03/09/09: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Bill Martel.