How the Gov Honors the Dead

Anthony Pignataro: 16 soldiers, sailors and marines who were either from California or stationed here died in Afghanistan in July. I know this because Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sends out a press statement every time such a service member dies.

“Maria and I were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Lance Corporal Shane Martin,” reads one recent statement, sent out on July 30. “He fought with courage and steadfast loyalty, and our nation is forever indebted to him for his selfless sacrifice. On behalf of all Californians, we send our thoughts and prayers to Shane’s family as they mourn the loss of this brave Marine.”

I’ve been reading a lot of these statements lately, and I noticed something peculiar – with small exceptions, they tend to use much of the same language.

The deaths of Specialist Chase Stanley (USA), Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin McNeley (USN), Lieutenant Colonel Maria Carazo (USMC) and Major James Weis (USMC) were “tragic losses.”

Staff Sergeant Conrad A. Mora (USA), Sgt. Daniel Lim (USA), Staff Sergeant Marc. A. Arizmendez (USA) and Specialist Roger Lee (USA) suffered “tragic deaths.”

The killings of Corporal Paul J. Miller (USMC), Gunnery Sergeant Christopher L. Eastman (USMC), Lance Corporal Tyler A. Roads (USMC) and Staff Sergeant Brian F. Piercy (USA) were “devastating losses.”

Both Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria were “deeply saddened” by the deaths of Lance Corporal Shane R. Martin (USMC), Corporal Julio Vargas (USMC), Staff Sergeant Christopher J. Antonik (USMC) and Corporal Larry D. Harris (USMC).

The assignment of these phrases seems random. Why would Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver feel “deeply saddened” by the deaths of four marines, but not express such feelings for four other marines? Were only half of the 16 deaths “tragic?”

Though I have no doubt that both Schwarzenegger and his wife feel very bad each and every time they hear that someone new with some connection to California has been killed in war, the repeated (but not universal) use of such phrases as “devastating losses” and “deeply saddened” implies an intimate connection to the dead that simply didn’t exist. There are no hard and fast rules on how to handle situations like these, but in this case, maybe it’s best to use the same simple wording for each and every statement.

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