WASHINGTON, D.C. – A few days after the New York Times published a story detailing network reporters' concerns about war coverage, three soldiers wounded in Iraq expressed a dim view of how they see the war depicted on television.
"You always hear about the explosions or people being killed, but you never really hear about how the people are being helped, or how much they appreciate it," Spc. Hein Tran, 28, of Milpitas, Calif., said after receiving a Purple Heart today at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for wounds suffered May 10 in an explosion northeast of Baghdad.
|John R. Chew/ Walter Reed|
|Spc. Hein Tran, center, at the Purple Heart ceremony at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Friday.|
Pfc. Alex Knapp, 22, of Shelby Township, Mich., who lost both legs in a roadside bombing on March 14, agreed with Tran.
"It's a little on the negative side because all we really hear about are deaths and injuries," Knapp said.
Sgt. Francis Collins III, 24, of Laurel, Md., also wounded by a roadside bomb, said some things are accurately depicted on television, other things aren't.
"Sometimes it's dramatized, sometimes it's not enough, as far as what they show on TV," Collins said after being awarded his Purple Heart.
Some journalists would agree. Earlier this month, the New York Observer published an article in which many journalists who cover the war expressed frustrations about the difficulties of getting their stories on air or in print. "There's a marked drop-off in the appetite for stories from Iraq," ABC News correspondent Terry McCarthy told the Observer.
Lara Logan, CBS News' chief foreign correspondent, spoke during a recent appearance on The Daily Show of her frustrations, saying, "If I were to watch the news that you hear here in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts."
As the war continues into its sixth year, the amount of time the three network evening newscasts dedicate to covering the war has dropped significantly. Six months into the year, albeit one featuring a heated political campaign, the three network evening newscasts have devoted 181 weekday minutes to coverage of the Iraq war, compared to 1,157 minutes during all of 2007, the New York Times reported.
"For the most part, it gets as much attention as it's going to get," Collins said after today's Purple Heart ceremony at Walter Reed.
Knapp has noticed a waning interest in the war, but he is philosophical about it.
"It happens over time," Knapp said. "People have got to move on and think about other things. We don't forget about it."
Tran thinks the public's main concern is bringing the troops home, a position he supports.
"It is time for us to come home, and I truly believe that," Tran said. "I think Iraq can hold its own right now if we were to leave."
Regardless of the public's attitude toward the war or the media's interest in covering it, the soldiers say they don't feel unappreciated.
"There's not a day that goes by that someone doesn't come by and say 'thank you' and shake my hand, and I'm really appreciative of that," said Tran.
"I believe they show great gratitude for what happened to me," said Collins.
"We just really want them to remember the ones who didn't get to come home," said Knapp. "That's who we are thankful for."
John Rutherford is an NBC News Producer based out of the Washington, D.C. bureau and is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He also posts stories on the military at www.dailynightly.msnbc.com (click on "John Rutherford" under "categories").