On April 24, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank reported on the Pentagon’s effort to keep media out of earshot and photo range of the funeral of Lt. Col. Billy Hall, the 4,011th American to die in Iraq. Milbank wrote that Gina Gray, Arlington’s new director of public affairs, “pushed vigorously to allow the journalists more access to the service yesterday — but she was apparently shot down by other cemetery officials.”
Today, Milbank reports that Gray was demoted and then fired by the Army for trying to investigate the restrictions on the media:
When Gina Gray took over as the public affairs director at Arlington National Cemetery about three months ago, she discovered that cemetery officials were attempting to impose new limits on media coverage of funerals of the Iraq war dead — even after the fallen warriors’ families granted permission for the coverage. She said that the new restrictions were wrong and that Army regulations didn’t call for such limitations.
Six weeks after The Washington Post reported her efforts to restore media coverage of funerals, Gray was demoted. Twelve days ago, the Army fired her.
Gray told Milbank that Arlington’s deputy superintendent “has been calling the families of the dead to encourage them not to allow media coverage at the funerals — a charge confirmed by a high-ranking official at Arlington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.”
The Pentagon seems determined to keep the media away from the realities of war. Just 10 days ago, the military kicked out an embedded blogger for photographing the body of a Marine killed by a suicide bomber, in late June. Last month, CBS’s Lara Logan said she believed “the soldiers feel forgotten” because Americans don’t understand the harshness of the Iraq war. “Tell me the last time you saw the body of a dead American soldier. What does that look like? Who in American knows what that looks like?” she asked.