More Messages: Still Saluting

Categories: Media
"Final Salute," a Pulitzer Prize-winning opus about the Marine Corps' approach to casualty notification that was written by Jim Sheeler (pictured), was published in the Rocky Mountain News on November 9, 2005. But the story, which also earned a Pulitzer for photographer Todd Heisler, remains at the forefront of the Rocky's collective mind.

On October 14, John Temple, the paper's editor/publisher/president, devoted his column to the discovery that Vernon Robinson, a Republican Congressional candidate from North Carolina, had used the most striking of Heisler's images in a campaign commercial without receiving permission to do so. Turns out, though, that Temple wasn't in town on the day this piece hit the streets. Instead, he was in the company of Sheeler, Heisler and Major Steve Beck, the central figure in "Final Salute," at a panel discussion on the University of Kansas campus. According to an article by Kim Lynch that appeared in KU's student newspaper, the Daily Kansan, the Rocky quartet, who were invited to the Jayhawk state as part of an event dubbed Kansas Editors Day, offered up a slide show of Heisler's shots "on a screen towering over the speakers, accompanied by the deep, powerful music of a cello." These dramatic devices undoubtedly contributed to the emotional reactions of some attendees; Lynch notes that "many in the audience openly sobbed."

This presentation was made in an educational enviornment, and there's a good chance that Sheeler, who's definitely the real deal, could have reduced folks to tears without musical accompaniment. Nevertheless, there's something a bit strange about the Rocky choosing to turn its most well-regarded recent series into a road show. Not that strangeness is likely to put the kibosh on future revivals. Given the KU crowd's response, and Temple's well-known fondness for self-promotion, betcha this particular "Salute" is far from final. -- Michael Roberts

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