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CBS's Sunday Morning Airs Indictment of Media from Aunt of Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

The CBS Evening News may have only devoted 13 seconds last Monday night to the deaths of seven soldiers in Afghanistan - as Katie Couric anchored from the Staples Center the night before the Michael Jackson memorial - and just 15 seconds Wednesday night to their caskets arriving back in the U.S., but the producers of CBS's Sunday Morning should be commended for giving Martha Gillis, the aunt of an Army Lieutenant killed in Afghanistan the same day Jackson died, an "opinion" segment in which she conveyed the frustration of military families over the media's misplaced priorities.

"My 24-year-old nephew, Brian Bradshaw, was killed by an IED in Afghanistan on June 25th, but you'd never have known it from the national media. I cannot tell you how that silence added to the pain of losing this bright, funny, thoughtful young man," Gillis began as she expressed the "pain shared by many of the 4,000-plus grieving families whose loved ones have sacrificed their lives in two wars that have largely disappeared from the news." Enhancing the impact of her words, CBS interweaved still shots from the procession and funeral for 1st Lt. Brian N. Bradshaw.

After recounting the respect and support from those she encountered as she attended her nephew's funeral, Gillis powerfully concluded:

Once I left town, though, soldier's deaths once again became invisible. Because of the incredible kindness of the people of Steilacoom, Washington, I wonder how many other people, in Maine or Texas or New York City, would also have honored Brian and the other soldiers who have died in the last two weeks if the media had simply let them know: Somebody's little boy, all grown up, died today. Someone's little girl found out today that Daddy is never coming home.

That news is hard to bear. When the nation they died for barely notices, it's crushing.

Audio, which matches the video, of about two-thirds of her commentary: MP3 clip

[Since posting this, I've learned FNC had Gillis as a guest during the 6 AM EDT half-hour of Thursday morning's Fox & Friends.]

For more on the minimal July 6 coverage of the deaths in Afghanistan, check this BiasAlert rundown: "Seven Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan Get 1/20th Time Given to Jackson."

The names of those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, as posted by Military Times. The seven killed on the same day last week in Afghanistan:

# Army Pfc. Nicolas H.J. Gideon, 20, of Murrieta, Calif.; assigned to the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska; died July 6 at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered earlier that day in Paktya, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fires.

# Army Spc. Issac L. Johnson, 24, of Columbus, Ga.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 108th Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron, Georgia National Guard, Rome, Ga.; died July 6 in Konduz, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.

# Army Capt. Mark A. Garner, 30, of North Carolina; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Hohenfels, Germany; died July 6 in Argandab District, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.

# Army 2nd Lt. Derwin I. Williams, 41, of Glenwood, Ill.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 106th Cavalry Regiment, Illinois National Guard, Dixon, Ill.; died July 6 in Konduz, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.

# Army Sgt. Chester W. Hosford, 35, of Hastings, Minn.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 106th Cavalry Regiment, Illinois National Guard, Dixon, Ill.; died July 6 in Konduz, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.

# Army Sgt. Brock H. Chavers, 25, of Bulloch, Ga.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, Georgia National Guard, Americus, Ga.; died July 6 in Konduz, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.

# Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 2nd Class Tony Michael Randolph, 22, of Henryetta, Okla.; assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Eight, Sigonella, Italy, and was deployed with his platoon to Joint Task Force South conducting counter-improvised explosive device operations in support of Task Force Zabul in Afghanistan; died July 6 in an improvised explosive device attack on his convoy in northern Afghanistan.

The July 6 BiasAlert item, "Regrets Media Didn't Memorialize a Soldier Killed Same Day Jackson Died," highlighted a letter from Gillis the Washington Post printed:

Army 1st Lt. Brian N. Bradshaw was killed in Afghanistan, fighting in a war to protect all Americans, the same day that Michael Jackson died, prompting a letter to the Washington Post, which the paper published on Sunday, from Bradshaw's aunt, Martha Gillis, who scolded media priorities:

My nephew, Brian Bradshaw, was killed by an explosive device in Afghanistan on June 25, the same day that Michael Jackson died. Mr. Jackson received days of wall-to-wall coverage in the media. Where was the coverage of my nephew or the other soldiers who died that week? There were several of them, and our family crossed paths with the family of another fallen soldier at Dover Air Force Base, where the bodies come "home." Only the media in Brian's hometown [in Washington State] and where he was stationed before his deployment [Alaska] covered his death.

In the letter the Post headlined, "A Life of Worth, Overlooked," Gillis, a resident of the Washington, DC suburb of Springfield, Virginia, fondly recalled: "He had old-fashioned values and believed that military service was patriotic and that actions counted more than talk. He wasn't much for talking, although he could communicate volumes with a raised eyebrow."

She then asked:

He was a search-and-rescue volunteer, an altar boy, a camp counselor. He carried the hopes and dreams of his parents willingly on his shoulders. What more than that did Michael Jackson do or represent that earned him memorial 'shrines,' while this soldier's death goes unheralded? It makes me want to scream.

Kudos to the Washington Post for printing the letter and making it the top one in the letters section on Sunday.

The segment on the July 12 edition of CBS's Sunday Morning:

CHARLES OSGOOD: Millions around the world will remember the day Michael Jackson died. Martha Gillis will too, but she'll be thinking of someone else. She shares her thoughts with us now.

MARTHA GILLIS: My 24-year-old nephew, Brian Bradshaw, was killed by an IED in Afghanistan on June 25th, but you'd never have known it from the national media. I cannot tell you how that silence added to the pain of losing this bright, funny, thoughtful young man, whom I remember so vividly as a toddler, wandering the house in cowboy boots and hat - and nothing else.

I suspect it's a pain shared by many of the 4,000-plus grieving families whose loved ones have sacrificed their lives in two wars that have largely disappeared from the news.

When I flew West for Brian's funeral, the mayor of his small home town personally met each of dozens of flights of arriving family members. Flags flew at half-staff. Six hundred people attended the funeral service. That is partly a testament to Brian's remarkable capacity to connect with people and leave a lasting impression. His lopsided grins were so infectious. It is also a testament to the level of caring and support the town offered to my bereaved sister and her husband. Even the desk clerk, who checked us into our hotel, attended as a simple gesture of common humanity.

Along the route from the church to the cemetery, people came out of their houses to stand with their hands over their hearts or to wave small American flags. Cars going in the opposite direction stopped. Some drivers got out to stand in respect. To all of them, I say "Thank you. You know how to honor those who serve to protect you."

Once I left town, though, soldier's deaths once again became invisible. Because of the incredible kindness of the people of Steilacoom, Washington, I wonder how many other people, in Maine or Texas or New York City, would also have honored Brian and the other soldiers who have died in the last two weeks if the media had simply let them know: Somebody's little boy, all grown up, died today. Someone's little girl found out today that Daddy is never coming home.

That news is hard to bear. When the nation they died for barely notices, it's crushing.

CBSNews.com video of the entire commentary.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center