Wednesday's NBC and CBS evening newscasts paid tribute to only the third Marine private ever, and the first since Vietnam, to be awarded the Silver Star, for heroism in the battle for Fallujah, who was killed in July during his third tour in Iraq. “At Camp Pendleton today,” NBC's Brian Williams reported at the end of his newscast, “a ceremony to honor a fallen U.S. Marine.” Williams outlined how “Corporal Sean Stokes was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, accepted by his dad for his heroism during the battle for Fallujah back in '04 when he was a private. Stokes is just the third buck private to receive the Silver Star in the past 40 years of U.S. military history, the first since the Vietnam war.”
The CBS Evening News concluded with a full story on the award to Stokes. Reporter Ben Tracy explained how Stokes was a “former athlete who chose the Marines over college after 9/11.” Noting he was “only a private,” Tracy related how “Sean stood out, often volunteering to go in first, directly in the line of fire. Wounded several times, he made it home twice.” Interspersed with reflection's from the Marine hero's father, Tracy observed that “this morning, on what would have been his 25th birthday, Sean was awarded the coveted Silver Star for courage in battle.”
(Such prominence in the media for a military hero is unusual, a 2006 MRC study discovered. “Touting Military Misdeeds, Hiding Heroes” determined that the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening shows gave little attention since 9/11 to those who have earned the military's highest honors.)
A February 5 Sacramento Bee article, “Father hopes fallen Marine's heroism will inspire others.”
A Human Events posting from last summer which recounted Stokes' heroism.
The Sean Andrew Stokes Memorial Organization Web site.
The short, but respectful, item from Williams at the end of the February 6 NBC Nightly News:
We want to take a moment to give recognition to a member of the U.S. military as they so often do not get the recognition they deserve. At Camp Pendleton today, a ceremony to honor a fallen U.S. Marine. Corporal Sean Stokes was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, accepted by his dad for his heroism during the battle for Fallujah back in '04 when he was a private. Stokes is just the third buck private to receive the Silver Star in the past 40 years of U.S. military history, the first since the Vietnam war. He was killed in Iraq last July, three years after the action for which he was honored today. It was his third tour of duty in Iraq.
The Nightly News Web site has a longer “Web-only” video story from NBC's Peter Alexander.
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the final story on the February 6 CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: With violence in Iraq down, it's easy to forget that Americans continue to die there. The toll now approaching 4,000. Americans like Sean Stokes of Auburn, California, the only Marine private awarded the Silver Star in this war. Ben Tracy tells his story.
BEN TRACY: This may be one of the proudest moments of Gary Stokes' life, but it's also one he would trade for anything in the world.
LIEUTENANT COLONEL BENJAMIN WATSON, US MARINES: Today we honor the memory of a man who has joined a distinguished fraternity of heroes.
TRACY: This past summer, his son Sean, a Marine who had served in Iraq, told his family he was now floating on an aircraft carrier far from danger. When did you know something was wrong?
GARY STOKES, FATHER OF US MARINE: I didn't even know he was in Iraq until the Marines knocked on my door. "We regret to inform you that your son has been killed in Iraq."
TRACY: Sean had been in Iraq for 45 days. It was the third tour for this former athlete who chose the Marines over college after 9/11.
TRACY TO STOKES: Did you say, "I don't want you to do this"?
GARY STOKES: Yes.
TRACY: In Fallujah, Sean moved house to house, hunting down Iraqi insurgents. What he did was so dangerous it was documented by journalists.
SEAN STOKES, US MARINE CORPS, ON THE HISTORY CHANNEL: Every house I walk up to, I'm saying a prayer like, "Get me out of this one, Lord, please."
TRACY: Only a private, Sean stood out, often volunteering to go in first, directly in the line of fire. Wounded several times, he made it home twice.
GARY STOKES: At first, we were going, "Sean, please, you know, you've done your part, buddy. No more, please."
TRACY: But Sean wouldn't let down his fellow Marines. He returned to Iraq for a third time. While on patrol, he stepped on a roadside bomb.
LIEUTENANT COLONEL BENJAMIN WATSON, US MARINES: We'll never forget the example that Sean set for us.
TRACY: This morning, on what would have been his 25th birthday, Sean was awarded the coveted Silver Star for courage in battle.
GARY STOKES: The fallen are all heroes. It's not, it's all of them. And it helps recognize those guys, too.
TRACY: Because their fellow Marine proved at such an early age that being a hero has nothing to do with rank. Ben Tracy, CBS News, San Diego.
CBSNews.com video of this story.
Video of a story aired on San Diego's Fox affiliate.
And video of a piece run by San Diego's NBC affiliate.