At the start of the war in Iraq, I was a booker for the network’s coverage, assigned to work from 4pm – 4am in the Atlanta newsroom. Part of my assignment was to assemble numbers and reach out to family members of those killed or captured during combat. To be honest, this is the worst part of my job. It is never something I want to do, but in the interest of telling what was going on in those early stages of the war, it was a necessity.
I was looking over my files Monday morning from our initial war coverage, and could not believe just how many names were on my list, and how many people I called. One of the greatest pleasures of my job is seeing an interview that I coordinated and knowing that the people who watched it were touched by it. I don’t know if anyone was touched by watching the interviews with the family members of those killed in Iraq but there is one that still resonates with me, even 5 years later.
The first family that I remember booking was with the parents of Sgt. Donald Walters, Norman and Arlene Walters. He was a member of the 507th Maintenance Company that, so famously, had Jessica Lynch and 5 other members captured by the Iraqi’s after their convoy was ambushed in Nasiriyah.
That night, March 24th, 5 years ago, the Walters family did an interview with CNN. It was just hours after they found out their son’s convoy had been missing. I still remember the look on Arlene’s face. It was pure agony. She didn't know what was going on, had no communication with the Army, which was speaking with Donald’s wife, and had no clue where to turn. She told us, “I just keep watching, naturally, CNN and looking to see if maybe, you know, I see a picture of him or something - alive.”
Five years later, we know that Sgt. Walters was executed after being captured by the Fedayeen. It took an Army investigation, and the relentless pursuit of the truth by his parents, for this information to be released, but somehow I think that not many people knew this, and it was probably not widely reported.
That family will always hold a place in my heart, as well as the other families I spoke to and gathered information from for CNN’s coverage. But, as the news of more troops being killed over the past few days, and the number reaching 4,000 troops who have died in Iraq, I know that there are still more families going through this pain and agony, not knowing what happened to their sons and daughters on the streets of Iraq.
– Kay Jones, 360° Booker
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