Editorial: God, Marines, and the Media


imgGod, Marines and the Media

CorpsStories 1st Anniversary Editorial, Memorial Day 2003

The forming of CorpsStories.com was an act of frustration. I was angry at an editor.

He had changed “Marine” to “soldier”, in what was for me a groundbreaking story, because he said I had, “used the word Marine too often.” Although since then my Marine subjects have witnessed firsthand this practice by editors hundreds of time due to the war coverage, and possibly I have now been vindicated as not guilty, I still cringe at the thought of that story – the story of Lt. Col.’s John and Marcela Monahan.

But their lives were well represented in that Worcester Telegram piece, in part because that same editor found it just as important as I that the Monahan’s spirituality not be blanketed. They had inspired me. Not them alone, but somehow meeting and knowing them, and the manner in which they conduct their lives, was providential for me as a journalist.

Journalists often find themselves focused, either by accident or purpose, over time, on specific subject matter. I found, as I covered various types of stories, that features, profiles, were where I was able to express my heart in terms of fact. Military profiles were easily the most comfortable types of stories for me because of my love of our military, especially the Marine Corps.

George Barnes is very well known local writer. He has written and edited for the largest central Massachusetts papers for many years and has a column in the Telegram, aside his local news stories. All this matters because when I was first writing for Barney Cummings in Athol, I aspired to write as well as George.

We didn’t know each other very well, but one day, after I had written a profile on a local Army general come home to retire and marry his high school sweetheart, I ran into George in town. “Oh, and Meriwether, I liked that Meehan story. Nice job,” he said as we passed. I had dug way down inside with that story, and I was somewhat afraid that I had been too colorful – until then.

General Meehan had expressed to me how blessed he had been throughout his life. So had the Colonels Monahan. So had my beloved Aunt Betty, wife of my Uncle Dave, a Marine pilot. They were adding up.

One benefit of not being a twenty something journalist is that readers and sometimes even editors, give my personal perspective some respect. I’m a Christian woman. I want to reveal to my readers, when possible, a subject’s thoughts about God in their newsworthy experiences. But this is not often a welcome angle by those who publish my stories.

Many spiritual people focus their lives around what they believe God’s will is for them. When such a person emphasizes this while being interviewed by the press, the average reporter will note it, write it, and fully expect it to get cut before print or broadcast.

About a week into the war with Iraq, three wounded Marines were being interviewed from the military hospital in Germany where they were recuperating. One First Sergeant was asked why he thought he survived that attack in Nasariah, while 18 other Marines were killed. When he responded that it was nothing short of the grace of God, I thought, you’ve just been asked your last question, my friend. Well, I was wrong. The interview continued for about another half hour. He was asked one other question.

I’ll be the first to admit that not every Marine is an example of great moral values. However, when a second-to-the-highest enlisted ranking Marine is sitting before the entire world saying that God delivered his safety – this is significant. It is as significant, factually speaking, as if he has said it was the outstanding equipment, or flawless training, which had saved him.

I want to know as a journalist, how is God a part of that Marine’s professional experience? He is x-thousand miles from his family. Who knows how long it has been since he has had contact with them. He has watched his Marines die and get wounded. He has been hungry and filthy and starved for sleep – while hundreds looked to him for leadership and strength and encouragement. And this is what inspires me as a reader, as an American, as a Christian.

I want the moral quality of my life to be that of that Marine. I want to be very, very brave in life. I want to be humble and know that I am giving something to this world with sacrifice on my part, but not with self pity, as I know how blessed I am. Blessed by God. By the Lord Jesus Christ.

There have been times when maintaining CorpsStories has been very discouraging. In this year since it’s launch last Memorial Day, I’ve had one major professional disappointment, which left tears streaming down my face for three days straight. And I’ve shed a lot of other tears for those who’ve died. And I’ve gone to bed way too late. And I’ve wished that more folks wanted to read about these Marines.

CorpsStories is not for everyone. High hits may just not happen. But as long as the site stays focused on the lives of some Marines – and the place of God in their lives – I will know the quality of my journalism has never been higher.

Meriwether Ball, Editor in Chief, www.CorpsStories.com