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Death, fantasy and reality
Posted by: mcq on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I want to preface this by saying I don't have a thing against Heath Ledger. In fact, until yesterday, I didn't even know who he was. I'm not a movie buff and don't spend much time watching them.

But today at lunch, I happened to be in a restaurant in which a news program was running on one of the TVs. And, of course, his story came up. The coverage was extensive, interviews with fellow actors were conducted, his dad spoke, and everyone was obviously saddened by his loss.

I guess the irony came as I happened to look away from the TV and onto the page of the USA Today I was reading. Page 8A. A small box in the middle of the page which held 4 names. Names of troops killed in Iraq. One name caught my eye. SSG Justin R. Whiting, 27, of Hancock, NY.

The reason his name caught my eye initially was his age. He was a year younger than Heath Ledger. I read the short description in the box for Justin Whiting.

"died Saturday in Mosul from wounds suffered when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device; 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)."

That's it. That's all. Page 1D and 4D in the paper were all about Heath Ledger. Whiting got a sentence.

But that sentence said a lot about Justin Whiting. A 27 year old SSG, he was one sharp soldier. That's a fairly young age to make that rank. And, of course he was a paratrooper. In fact, I'd bet my bottom dollar he had served with either the 82nd Airborne Division or the 173rd Airborne Brigade - or both.

And he was Special Forces. He had earned and wore the coveted green beret. He was quite a young man and I know all of that from that one simple sentence, because I know what it took to be where he was, wearing the rank and beret he wore at his age.

I don't begrudge Heath Ledger his fame. I'm sure he was a fine actor. I certainly am sorry about his death. But I often think back to what Henry Fonda is credited with saying about being honored for his acting. He said he was surprised by all the hoopla because, in reality, all he did was pretend to be someone else who had actually done something. Perhaps if Ledger had lived he might have found his greatest role playing Jason Whiting in some future movie.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

very true.
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
I’ve, on occasion, thought the same thing. Never as eloquently.
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
That’s just the saddest of many related phenomena. Any random passerby can probably tell you all about Michael Vick or the latest trevails of Britney Spears or detail the latest charges against OJ Simpson. But only perhaps one in four or five at best could tell you which candidate won the South Carolina GOP presidential primary.
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
It occurs to me that between fantasy and reality, fantasy is the harder to say goodbye to.
Written By: Bithead
thats why they are called the quiet professionals they dont seek or want the attention. the simply serving is a privilege in it self.
Written By: SLNTAX
URL: http://
I agree with your sentiments and yet -
In a cold reality way, having those 4 names on page 1 with a full write up would actually work against what they are working for. It would draw attention to a valued loss - and would arm those who would rather cut and run than finish. Meanwhile Heath’s death draws attention to the stupidity of using drugs - although that isn’t the angle they portray it’s the angle parents should point out to kids.

I would however hope that SSG Justin R. Whiting and his compatriots names are remembered for far longer then Heath’s.
Written By: BillS
It’s a tricky thing for the media to honor those killed in Iraq. If the media spend too much time honoring the dead, occupation supporters will accuse them of spending too much time dwelling on bad news, i.e., dead American citizens. If they spend too little time honoring the dead, you get posts from the right like this one by McQ.

This is not to defend the media. It’s just that this meme has bounced around the rightwingosphere today in the wake of Ledger’s death (Laura I. talked about it on her show, for instance). With respect to covering this aspect of the Iraq story, however, the right wing damms the media when it does, and damms the media when it doesn’t. Heads I win, tails you lose.

Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Ledger’s death has gotten way too much attention. I mean everyone’s ready for a break from the Primary coverage, but seriously is this story worth more than a few minutes in the normal entertainment segments of the various cable news channels?
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
Ya know, MK, you never cease to amaze me.
Every time I manage to classify you, you manage to go lower.

Had it occurred to you our judgments of the media are based on HISTORY? History is a stubborn thing. The only time in the last 40 years, the Media has ever paid any attention to those who died in Iraq, it was when they had some sort of agenda to push. As an example, I don’t recall ABC running the names of he dead "to Honor them" during the many many military operations order by Bill Clinton.

You can thank Cronkite and company for starting that one.

And I’m not even going to TOUCH your little "Right wing media" fantasy.

Written By: Bithead
As usual MK is clueless.

This wasn’t about "the media".
Written By: McQ
My brother is on Justin’s team. Thank you for this. This post means something to him, and to all of their families.
Written By: Mo
McQ says:
This wasn’t about "the media".
Then, McQ complains about, you guessed it, the media’s treatment:
That’s it. That’s all. Page 1D and 4D in the paper were all about Heath Ledger. Whiting got a sentence.
Apparently. McQ doesnt understand that newspapers are part of the media.

Hey, McQ, look up the word "media." You might learn something.
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
SSG Justin R. Whiting,you are a true hero...Thank you cannot even cover the glory which you so justly deserve, but I say it any way...THANK YOU for loving our country...You and your comrades make all the pain worth it...No you won’t be forgotten...God Speed you ole glorious soul!...Rest in Peace...
Written By: Adrienne
URL: http://
To the individual who wrote this I thank you. Justin was a personal friend, who like all our other fallen troops, his story has been overshadowed by the ridiculousness that is Hollywood. It’s nice to know that there are people out there who still respect and mourn the loss of our heroes...From the bottom of my heart I thank you for putting a voice to these wonderful men who so willingly have given their lives. Thanks to you and others, Justin will never be forgotten..
With much love,
Written By: Megan Llewellyn
URL: http://
Thank you for the kind words, we’ll see you on Saturday Justin.
Written By: Kelly g
URL: http://
Apparently. McQ doesnt understand that newspapers are part of the media.
And again ... it wasn’t about the media. To really appreciate how big of an idiot you’ve been on this particular subject, read the three comments above this one.

THAT is what this was about.
Written By: McQ
Its great that there are people out there that truely see that a person who is willing to give up there life for OUR country should be recognized! This country is sooo over the top on Hollywood and "material" things that they forget those who truely do something good for our country. Thank you for being so brave and couragious Justin. You are truely a hero and forever in our hearts. Again, Thank You from the bottom of my heart.

Written By: jlb
URL: http://
After my first time reading your post, I had to re-read it - because frankly, it’s amazing. Justin wasn’t from a glamorized community, he worked hard and he led by example. The reverent respect and awe in which you use to speak of a man (who had flame red hair and whose father called ’Opie’)that you’ll never know.... is so refreshing and oddly validating. thanks again.
Written By: Kelly g
URL: http://
You might learn something
Mk, it’s clear this statement won’t apply to you.
Written By: looker
URL: http://
As usual MK is clueless.

This wasn’t about "the media".
Yeah, I know, Bruce, but even I, nice patient guy that I am, have my limits for toleration of stupidity, which apparently got passed. Hadda come out. Must be old age.

And MK, again, the complaint isn’t about the media per ’se. I know this is a strain, but think; The media is a subset of a larger unit. Can you imagine what that larger unit might be?

Written By: Bithead
Justin Whiting has been my friend since kindergarten. We rode the same bus every day from our first day of school until we were old enough to drive ourselves. Yes, that one sentence told about Justin’s achievements in the military, but I wish they could have added that aside from being a soldier and a hero, he was a son, grandson, and friend. To know him was to love him.
Written By: Jamie J.
URL: http://
I had to post a comment after reading this post regarding SSG Justin Whiting. I am a member of the Patriot Guard Riders and had the honor of standing guard for SSG Whiting. I’m sad to say that this wasn’t my first mission. I can’t begin to describe my emotions as I learned that his brother, his sister and his step brother all currently serve our country. It would be so much more refreshing for the media to focus more effort and interest on our Soldiers rather than Hollywood and it’s constant barrage of garbage.
SSG Whiting and his siblings were obviously raised in a small town atmosphere with powerful values and respect for Duty, Honor and Country. I’m not suggesting I am for the media honoring ONLY our dead, I am for them making public some of the GREAT and patriotic stories that are abundant within the ranks of people who aren’t acting out hroic roles, but living them.
To the friends and family of SSG Whiting, My condolences and thank you for allowing us the chance to speak as well as stand guard for this fine soldier.

Patriot Guard Riders-Zone 4 New York
Written By: Wayne H
URL: http://
I knew Justin all my life. He was a wonderful, funny, caring person. I have so many memories of him growing up, I will never forget him. He truly was a American Hero. And he is our Hero, to the community of the little town. He will never be forgotten. Justin, I will always remember you and i will always miss you, Rest In Piece
miss u always,
Sarah M
Written By: sarah
URL: http://

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