On Sunday evening Air Force Staff Sergeant Phillip Myers passed through Dover Air Force Base on his final journey home, from the battlefield in Afghanistan to his resting place in the United States. As part of a new policy approved by the Pentagon, his family graciously granted permission to the media to take photos of his flag-draped coffin as it was transferred to a waiting hearse by fellow warriors in a dignified ceremony on the airport’s tarmac. He was the first American to fall in battle whose coffin was photographed by the press since 1991. It is incumbent upon the media that they not allow heroes like Staff Sergeant Myers to become pawns in some political game. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that this does not happen. We won’t let it happen. In the meantime, perhaps we can reflect on the words of Pericles, whose funeral oration honoring the Athenian war-dead in 431 B.C. captures the valor of Sergeant Myers: “When the moment came they were minded to resist and suffer, rather than to fly and save their lives. They ran away from the word of dishonor, and on the battlefield their feet stood fast, and in an instant, at the height of their fortune, they passed away from the scene, not of their fear, but of their glory.”
— Joseph Morrison Skelly is co-editor of Ideas Matter: Essays in Honor of Conor Cruise O’Brien and a college professor in New York City.