Sec. Gates Overturns Dover Ban Without Consulting Military Families
Dear Military Families United Member and Supporter,
As many of you already know, Defense Secretary Robert Gates today announced that the current ban on the media photographing the transfer cases ceremony at Dover Air Force Base has been overturned. We at Military Families United are disappointed with this decision because we feel that the families of the fallen heroes were not consulted prior to announcing this unnecessary change in policy. Despite Sec. Gates saying that he received “input from a number of sources, including all of the military services and the organizations representing military families,” Military Families United, the largest military family organization, was not contacted or consulted. To read the Military Families United press statement about this click here
John Ellsworth, President of Military Families United, sent the following letter to Secretary Gates tonight.
Dear Secretary Gates:
Let me begin by thanking you for your service and your leadership for this country. I am a Gold Star father, and am painfully aware of the sacrifices that you have made and the tremendous successes that you have achieved with the surge in Iraq. With your leadership and guidance you have played a crucial role in fostering Iraq as a more stable and secure ally in the Middle East.
However, as the President of Military Families United, I am disappointed in your recent actions during your review process of the Dover AFB media ban at the transfer cases ceremony. At your press conference today you said that to make your decision to overturn this ban you received “input from a number of sources, including all of the military services and the organizations representing military families.”
As the nation’s leading military families organization, we are wondering why we were not consulted before your decision was announced today. We represent the largest number of military families around this nation, including those whose family members have paid the ultimate sacrifice for this country. If you did not consult with the largest military family organization, who did you speak to you?
Last week, Families United asked our military families to tell us how they feel about the possibility of the media ban being overturned. We heard from nearly a thousand families and the overwhelming majority, more than 85%, told us not to overturn the ban. We heard from mothers terrified that their fallen hero would be used as political propaganda; from fathers who didn’t want to have to answer media questions as they watched their son come home; and from parents who wanted their solemn moment to remain private and far from the media lenses. We would have been happy to share these responses with you and play a role in your decision making process, but unfortunately that was not an option presented to us.
You have been an unwavering advocate for America’s military families and we know your heart aches with every fallen hero and their family. This is why this decision, and the “review process” that apparently advised it, was so out of character. We respectfully ask that as you form the task force to answer the many unresolved issues surrounding your decision, that you allow us a seat at the table. We would also like to know what military family organizations you consulted to make your decision to reverse the ban? We are America’s military families and our voices deserve to be heard.
John EllsworthProud Father of Lance Corporal Justin Ellsworth (KIA 11/13/04)