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Fallen Soldiers: Paying Tribute to America's Heroes

In February 2009, the administration under President Barack Obama lifted an 18-year ban on coverage of the return of military members killed in war by allowing families of the deceased to decide whether the news media may photograph the flag-covered caskets. The new policy, which was announced by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, reverses a ban put in place in 1991 by then President George H.W. Bush during the Gulf War. "If the needs of the families can be met and the privacy concerns can be addressed, the more honor we can accord these fallen heroes, the better," Gates said.

While some praised the move as rightly paying tribute to America's fallen and demonstrating to citizens the human cost of war, others criticized it as violating the privacy of grieving families. To hear both sides of the debate, listen to NPR's Tell Me More broadcast of mothers of fallen soldiers discussing the coffin photo ban.

As of May 5, 2009, The Washington Post's Faces of the Fallen database put the total number of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan at 4,944, with 4,269 casualties attributed to Operation Iraqi Freedom and 675 to Operation Enduring Freedom. To see the faces, names and even stories of the thousands killed in these conflicts, visit the Fallen Soldiers archives below.

  • Washington Post Faces of the Fallen
    A collection of information about each U.S. service member who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Search for service members by age, year of death, home state and military branch, or try an advanced search. Photos are available for some, with the most recent casualties posted on the front page.

  • The New York Times Faces of the Dead
    This interactive feature lets you scroll over a collection of small squares, each representing a U.S. service member who has died in Iraq or Afghanistan and has been identified by the Department of Defense. You can click on a square to learn more about that given person, and see his or her photo. Or, you can search by last name, home state or home town.

  • Military Times Honor the Fallen
    Honoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Search Dept. of Defense announcements; search by name, rank or service; or search by date. Photos available where applicable. Site posts most recent casualites.

  • Legacy.com In Remembrance
    Worldwide database of all American soldiers who have died while serving. Search by first or last name, alphabetically, by military branch, by date of incident, by state, by rank, by base or by location of incident. Site allows users to sign a specific fallen soldier's guestbook or create a tribute, free of charge.

  • icasualties.org
    Site offers two databases, one for Iraq and one for Afghanistan, that track the casualties of U.S. soldiers involved in these operations. Charts include casualties by month/year and casualties by ethnicity, while maps such as this one track casualties state-by-state. The site also lists information on international casualties, such as this chart of deaths by country, and a partial list of worldwide contractor casualties in Iraq. To see official listings of fallen U.S. soldiers during Operation Iraqi Freedom, view the sites' Dept. of Defense Confirmations.




    If you are interested in making a donation of time, money or volunteer services to the families of fallen soldiers, the Fallen Heroes Memorial lists numerous Web sites that may serve as a starting point.

   -- Jennifer Borders

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