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The picture of reality

Reality bites, sometimes. The tough news of a soldier’s death in Iraq has come to be routine. But not when the Marine in this case is from here. This was a first, and a body blow to our community.Lance Cpl. Evenor Christopher Herrera, 22, a 2001 graduate of Eagle Valley High School, was killed in combat a couple of weeks ago near Ar Ramadi. He was laid to rest last Friday by a deeply saddened and proud family.His family also gave of their time and their souls in the wake of this tragedy to share openly with the whole community. They were open with the reporters writing about it, J.K. Perry and Scott Miller. And they allowed photographers to capture their at-times bitter anguish with the loss of a beloved son and brother.It was an incredible gift to the wider community that shares in their grief, their pride in their son and has a little better sense of this reality that inevitably comes with war. Even, occasionally, to the High Country.Reality bites, sometimes. This does, certainly. The very rawness of this loss can indeed be very uncomfortable even for readers removed from the moment by time and newsprint.When a photojournalist catches one of these moments, it can be very disturbing. I would say for all the right reasons. We should be disturbed sometimes. Life here is not all ice cream cones and powder days.And so it was that Daily staff photographer Preston Utley’s classic close-up of Herrera’s stepfather above the Marine’s coffin proved too much for at least some readers.A couple of callers to Tipsline complained about Saturday’s front page photo of this moment of stark, agonizing reality.The found the photo “distasteful” and “disrespectful.” The paper was lacking class to publish the picture, in this view.This reaction to disturbing glimpses of reality is common, and newsrooms across the country deal with the question of which to print and which to withhold. These decisions are never easy.There’s reality, and there’s being gratuitous and invasive about printing, say, pictures of bodies and gore at accident or murder scenes. Or running a picture of a juvenile victim of a sexual attack. Or nudity. There are some photos we don’t print.But I don’t judge a natural expression of grief as disrespectful at all. This boy was everything to his parents. This Marine was a source of pride for our whole valley. I don’t think that ducking reality in favor of a child eating an ice cream cone for page one would have conveyed the deserved respect to the Herrera family, whose child became Eagle County’s first sacrifice in a war on terror, whatever your politics. This thing is real, even if we want to pretend we are removed from the world’s turmoils. We don’t do anyone favors by ducking.If we are disturbed, well, we should be. Going to war has consequences. A father expressing his grief over a stepson is one of them.This young man was deeply loved. In reality, there’s nothing disrespectful in showing that truth, as raw as it sometimes is.Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.comVail Colorado


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