Rather Addresses Military Journalists, Visual Communicators
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md., May. 21, 2004 Using words and pictures to tell the truths of war, even the difficult ones, is essential work both inside and outside the military, CBS News anchor Dan Rather said at the Defense Information School here today.
Rather was keynote speaker at a ceremony honoring the military services' top visual information specialists and print and broadcast journalists for 2003. DINFOS, as the school is known, is the U.S. military's training institution for those specialties.
"It is, I believe, best to tell as much of the truth as is possible, as quickly as possible," Rather said, "particularly when it is not an easy truth. And those of you who photograph, shoot videos, who report on war from the inside in all of the various ways in which you were trained, have access to certain truths faster and with greater clarity of detail than those of us who report from the outside."
These records of war, and even of the day-to-day lives of people in uniform, are vital to sustaining the American way of life, Rather said.
"I believe so strongly that in an open society such as ours, in a constitutional republic built on the principles of democracy and freedom, there may be no more patriotic good than a truthfully informed citizenry," he said, "particularly when those citizens are asking the bravest and best among us to fight on our nation's behalf in faraway and dangerous places."
Perhaps no less noble, but more concrete, he continued, is that the military's journalists and visual information specialists help others in uniform get the attention and recognition they deserve.
Rather noted he has reported from many war zones throughout his career, including some that did not involve U.S. armed forces. "I've had a fair amount of experience around soldiers of all nations," he said, "and I have time and time again been borne out in the opinion that America's fighting men and women are, in every respect, the finest on Earth, and that our military does represent the strongest military in the history of the human race."
The veteran journalist said press restrictions prevented history from giving a rightful measure of recognition to the people who fought the 1991 Persian Gulf War for what he termed their "brilliant victory."
"As much as this working journalist hopes that the press will continue to have freer access to report on war when the nation must wage war," Rather said, "I also hope that history will eventually reveal and come to appreciate what was achieved in that war and the wars our nation has waged since."
He told his audience of military communicators that it may well fall on them "to make certain that the people at home do give victory the full measure that those who earn it in sweat, blood and tears deserve."
"You speak for the men and women who serve this country, and you are the eyes and ears of this country," he continued, "especially when the winds of war blow."
The nominees and award winners being recognized at the ceremony, he said, "have carried out this duty with particular excellence, and shouldered a great responsibility with grace and skill." He offered them a tribute unusual in military circles, but which qualifies as high praise in his native Texas.
"Perhaps as a civilian, it's not my place to salute you," he said, "but I do offer all of you a sincere tip of the Stetson."