Psychology of media: Why are heroes like Sgt. 1st Class Hairston ignored?

Obit for Sgt. 1st Class Samuel C. Hairston

From the obituary for Sgt. 1st Class Samuel C. Hairston; [Snip]

Did you know our soldiers are still dying in the war against Islamist radicals, terrorists, and international rogues? No one even seems willing to pin down a name for those who are killing our troops in the country we saved from Russia, Afghanistan, and in other countries.

Army Times noted the passing of one of several soldiers killed on August 12:

“Sgt. 1st Class Samuel C. Hairston was killed Tuesday in Ghazni, Afghanistan, when his unit took small-arms fire from the enemy, the Defense Department announced Wednesday.

Hairston, 35, was a paratrooper and platoon sergeant with A Company, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.” 

Writeups ensued at sites like Freedom Remembered and in local newspapers. There was no adoring account featured on cable news or legacy TV networks, no sharing of experiences friends had with him in life.

Hairston’s unit held a memorial for him at Forward Operating Base Ghazni in Afghanistan. His parents live in The Sunshine State, and the local newspaper in that Northwest Florida community published an article about him, including the memorial:

“During the ceremony, Hairston’s soldiers spoke of how he always brought a positive attitude, even in stressful and dire situations.

Hairston’s Platoon Leader, 2nd Lt. Cody Chick, said the Army lost a soldier who was driven to be the best leader he could and guided his junior enlisted soldiers to the same.

Hairston joined the Army after earning a bachelor’s of science degree in economics from the University of Houston where he also played football.”

The Army Times covered Hairston’s story, quoting the soldier’s commander: “We have suffered a great loss in the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment and express our deepest condolences. Sgt. 1st Class Samuel Hairston was an exceptional noncommissioned officer and a valued member of our team.”

In college at the University of Houston, Hairston played football, playing defensive lineman. His jersey number was 34. It would be a good thing if the University paid Hairston tribute and retired his jersey.

Just as he succeeded in academics and on the field, Hairston succeeded in the military, receiving:

“[T]he Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Citation with two oak leaf clusters, Army Good Conduct Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, Iraqi Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Among his qualifications are the Ranger tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Military Master Free Fall Parachutist Badge and the Basic Parachutist Badge.”

The Dept. of Defense announced Hairston’s death in a 3-sentence news release.

KPRC News in Houston said Hairston is survived by his wife, Staff Sgt. Tawana Hairston, and his son, Hayden.

The Northwest Florida paper said, “Hundreds turned out for his funeral Sunday, lining the route between the funeral home and the cemetery, waving flags and holding signs.”

Why is it that when the good die, their life and death take a back seat to others whose life work was largely dedicated to personal profit?

Why is it that we do not widely tell stories about the real heroes among us, especially at a time when so many young people would benefit from a role model such as Hairston?

Why is it that our national homage frequently centers on entertainment figures whose personal lifestyles were largely self-gratifying?

America buried a hero when Samuel C. Hairston was killed by the enemy. It’s  a tragedy national media didn’t tell Americans, especially our children, what this man accomplished in his life and what he gave on behalf of his countrymen.

Featured Photo: From the obituary for Sgt. 1st Class Samuel C. Hairston; [Snip]

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Aug. 29, 2014)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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