Media: Love Them? Hate Them?


The other day my Husband’s unit had a send-off here in town.  I will say, the ceremony was wonderful and the venue chosen was beautiful.  At this point, we have done send-offs in about any venue you can imagine; ball diamonds, football stadiums, you name it…  This time the sendoff was indoors, with velvet padded seating (which helped, these ceremonies can be LONG) the band played, dignitaries spoke and for the first time, many of our family members were able to attend.  We have always been geographically separated from family, so this was the first time our extended family was there to say “see you soon”.

We had to arrive two hours in advance because my DH had to be there early.  The morning at the house was spent watching my DH pack his final items, round up paperwork, and final photos were taken.  I fed people that had no appetites, and then I just sort of wandered through the house.  Smelling the bathroom after he showered, and looking at the bathroom countertop knowing it would be half empty soon.

When we arrived at the venue, the people seating us wanted to make sure the front rows were filled first, (this always makes me nervous because of my sons Asperger’s. We are never quite sure how he might react to a band, or sound system, or a crowd, so we typically hide  in the back, just in case we need to make an emergency exit. However, my Son was in good form that day, and we went ahead and sat where we were instructed).  After sitting for about 10 minutes, I noted about 4-5 media outlets to my left.  I am unsure why they were there so early, as cameras and microphones were not rolling. All were standing relaxed.  For two hours, our party sat quietly, chatted with one another, mingled with a few friends. No media stopped us during that two hour time period to ask a question.  I have a love/hate relationship with the media.  I have been interviewed enough to know words get taken out of context, a two hour interview can be condensed to a sentence. I am also not a fan of the portrayal that gets painted of military and military families (most of the time).  However, I know far too many people who feel such a disconnect with our troops, so I was glad they were informing our community that men and women are engaged in many operations all over the World, and they continue to go with chins up even when leaving family, and these brave men and women leave comfortable lives to go where their country calls.

As I noted earlier, the media stood by our family and asked nothing when we sat for two hours.  However, when my DH came down to say his goodbye to our family, I found our family surrounded by cameras and spotlights.  My DH came to say goodbye to his 7 year-old daughter and knelt to hug her as she sobbed.  He had a few words and a hug to convey his feelings.  That is when  I saw bright lights behind my tears.  The camera man actually kneeled and had the camera within 12 inches of this private moment.  The news outlets then shined a bright light in my sons face and  asked him, “how do you feel?”  My son looked at them puzzled and said “emotional, but opptimistic”.  My son kept asking me why there were tears in my eyes off and on through the ceremony. His Asperger’s can make emotional interactions with people puzzling, and he does not always understand facial expressions or personal expressions of emotion.

I will say the entire time I saw the media invading our family’s goodbye, (because they did), I was tempted to take cameras away, and sit and lecture them about RESPECT, but was afraid of the impression I might leave them with.  I wanted the media, and our family, to see a gracious group of people who serve.  I did not think me ripping a camera away and a lecture should take place at that moment.  Frankly, it took a wild pack of dogs to keep me from throwing a fit.

My Husband finally got to me, and I got my hug, and many kisses, and all of the sweet words to go with them, and when I opened my tear-stained eyes, the media stood there with a spotlight on us.  DH and I said our final goodbye and he left for a year.  Three media outlets surrounded me. I was full of tears, running mascara, and a level of general anger I usually try and tamp down…and I had three separate reporters ask for my name, and my feelings about the deployment.  I asked them if they could wait until I got myself straightened up.  I wanted to be a good ambassador, I wanted to think about what I might say.  I then decided against speaking with them, and tried and sneak out the back.  I rounded up the 16 members of my family (akin to herding feral cats),  and found a back door so I could leave with my head held high, and a saturated handkerchief my Husband had given me.  I was stopped four feet away from my escape hatch.

They asked the usual questions “how do you feel?” “I imagine this is really an emotional time for you”.  Instead of asking them why in the hell they did not talk to us for the two hours we sat with no tears, or why in the hell they felt it was okay to talk to my children without my permission, or why they liked exploiting such a personal moment….I stood tear-stained and thanked the community for coming to send our brave men and women off, and told them how proud I was of my Husband’s military service.

Goodbyes are never easy, and the local news media and my personal reaction to them spoiled this send-off for me.  This is not a zoo, a production of  Wicked, or a sporting event. This was our last minutes together as a family for a very long time. I did not think I would have to explain this to grown men.  Next time, I will take your camera from you.

About the Author


Rachelle began her Military Spouse career when her future husband proposed to her in a letter during Desert Shield. Mail took over a month to arrive back then, and they only had three phone calls with each other in the ten months they were separated. They were married at a small ceremony a week after he returned home. Rachelle's husband moved her to Ft. Bragg, NC, all of their combined possessions filling her small, two-door car. In 1992, they left active duty and moved back to their home state where she went to nursing school and he joined the Army National Guard as a traditional Soldier as he went to school. In 1999, Rachelle's husband was offered a full-time National Guard position in Arkansas, where they lived for eight years.

In 2002, their son was born (MFO Deployment) and in 2003, their daughter was born (OIF2). In 2008, they moved back to their home state to live close to family. Rachelle has been an active contributor with SpouseBUZZ since 2005. She currently works full-time at a physician’s office, and is active with her church and school's PTO. Her son has recently been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a subject that she is exhaustingly studying and learning to work with day-by-day. In 2010, Rachelle's mother-in-law moved in with the family, and they added a German shorthaired pointer named "Poncho" to the tribe as well. Rachelle enjoys spending as much "down time" with her family as possible - usually something outdoors or movie nights. Her favorite foods are sushi, steak, chocolate, and coffee. Her special skills include being an awesome cook, identifying odd accents by state or country, having an incredible sense of smell (almost bloodhound-like), and watching people at airports during long, unexpected layovers.

13 Comments on "Media: Love Them? Hate Them?"

  1. Why do some people think that holding cameras gives them free passes to be intrusive and ignore the bounds of good taste and propriety? I am so sorry their rude interruptions impinged on your family moment.

  2. Yeah, this is terrible. What a public way to say goodbye. Makes me glad that my last goodbye was just at a playground on post, eight solders and their wives. The time before that was dropping my husband off in a parking lot at midnight. I sometimes have wished there was a tiny bit more fanfare, something to mark the significance of the moment. But goodness, not paparazzi.

    I feel for you, wanting them to butt out but not wanting the headlines to read "Army Wife Angry Over Husband's Deployment." Because surely it couldn't be THEIR fault you were angry, right?

    Best wishes as you begin this year.

  3. You handled it much better than I would have! I probably would have gone ahead and thrown the fit! As you said, this is not a zoo! It makes me angry to hear that they exploited your situation like that, and in my opinion it is NEVER okay for the media to interview/film a minor without parental consent!

  4. 19DeltasGirl | June 14, 2011 at 4:11 pm |

    Ugh. As a photographer myself, a humble apology. That was totally uncalled for. That’s what zoom is for. Get your camera out of their faces, unless you have been given SPECIFIC permission ahead of time by the person themselves! Even with zoom, an emotional event like that requires you ask PERMISSION. Basic ethics people. Seriously, I can’t believe they did that. I’m so sorry that your goodbye was marred by their disrespect.

  5. KateKashman | June 14, 2011 at 4:25 pm |

    Oh, Rachelle, how frustrating. Bless their hearts! They clearly have no idea. I'll pray for them.

  6. SemperSteen | June 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm |

    That's kind of disgusting. The media was clearly exploiting your family's pain and emotion because they know drama gets viewers. To film your family's tearful goodbyes at all is in poor taste in my opinion, although I suppose one could justify it by saying it shows the public how much military families sacrifice. However, getting all up in your faces in such personal moment is inexcusable.

  7. I thought it was such a showing of lack of respect, and exploitive. I am also tired of trying to be gracious, and having it being mistaken for being stupid. This scenario will not happen again.

  8. TV news is not news. TV reporters are not reporters. They're just entertainment trash. If you want news, read newspapers. Yeah, right … that would require you all to become literate.

    • Speaking of trash…. What, exactly, did your bottom-feeding comment have to do with the story?

  9. armygirlarmywife | June 15, 2011 at 10:59 pm |

    Good tips from the PAO!!!

    But with that being said, if you don’t want your family to be in the news, don’t sit next to the reporters. If you don’t want to talk to the media then politely decline their interview requests, if you don’t want a reporter to take your picture say so. Ironically, interacting with the media is like interacting with our husbands, they can’t read our minds and know what we are thinking, so it’s up to us to tell them.

    In this case, it seems to me like they were simply trying to capture the emotion of a family saying good-bye. If this were a redeployment ceremony you probably wouldn't feel so exploited. Agreed, that it was in poor taste but I don't think the media was out to upset you, I'm just sorry that they did.

  10. hank hill | June 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm |

    "Media: Love Them? Hate Them?" the headline really should be do you trust them?? and of course that answer is NO! big time NO!.

  11. Nomadgirl70 | July 10, 2011 at 11:49 am |

    That's why when he leaves, I drop him off and try to get away without shedding a tear. NEver works, all it took this last time was helping him carry in his gear. But, we don't attend any send off's or that final huddle where there isn't a dry eye and you wait and wait and wait for their inevitable departure. That's something private and for the kids and I it has been better to 'go about our business'. The kids went to school, I went to work (after dropping him off) and while it is hard as hell on us, it would be doubly hard to sit through some talking head preaching to us and several dozen other teary eyed families blubbering along with us. Nope, not our cup of tea. lol So, when he comes home we will be there, happy to see him, but we make it a point to NOT be that family who ends up being the poster child for 'happy returns'. ;) We are much more private then that.

  12. Good luck on your year!

    I agree with every word of this post.

    Thankfully our good bye ceremonies aren’t much of ceremonies, we do the drop and go and see ya soon.

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