News of American losses on Sunday — and reports that the Iraqis were holding at least five American POWs — deepened concern for families whose loved ones are among the the 267,000 American troops in and around Iraq.
"It was a bad day," said Bill Eastwood, whose 19-year-old son Airman Billy Eastwood is a crew chief at a base in Qatar, providing ground support to F-16s flying sorties over Iraq. "I'm a veteran of the Vietnam era and I have a hard time watching all these young men go in there."
Roz Turner, who lives on an Army base in Germany and whose husband, Spc. Randy Holloman, is in Iraq, said what she saw of the POWs only made her more angry about the war.
"It makes me feel like if this wasn't going on, those people would be home safe," said Turner.
Sunday was the first day when there was extensive coverage of combat between U.S. and Iraqi troops, including film of Iraqi soldiers and civilians trying to find a purportedly downed U.S. pilot, and there was also news of increased casualties and reports of Americans taken prisoner.
The coverage might have caused some to turn away, but Charles Elwood of Milton, N.Y., said he let his 17-year-old daughter Danielle watch, even if they made her worry more about her boyfriend, Jason Sarbacker of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Division.
"I want her to learn about what's going on," Elwood said. "I don't have any problem with her or her younger brothers watching anything they want to show on TV because it's reality. It's important that they see all the aspects of it."
Anger Over POW Family Interviews
Some families were angry that the media interviewed families of some of the newly captured POWs.
"That was a totally uncalled-for approach for us families that's got people over there," said Elbert Birge, father of Navy Petty Officer Brian Birge, who is deployed in Iraq as part of a land-based unit providing harbor security.
Birge and his wife Linda, of Lee's Summit, Mo., were furious to see a reporter ask a sobbing Anecita Hudson how she felt on learning that her son, Army Spc. Joseph Hudson, 23, had been taken prisoner by the Iraqis.
"She was already under enough stress as it was… That was exploiting something. We can see [the war] by watching the reporters that are embedded with the troops. We don't have to hear from a mother that's grieving because her son was captured," said Birge. He suggested that the media wait at least 48 hours before approaching the families of Americans who are killed or taken prisoner.
Coverage Makes Family Feel Closer
In general though, families were happy with the coverage of the war, saying it gave them a better understanding of what the troops might be going through. They praised the major television networks for choosing not to show the Iraqi TV footage of the American POWs and bodies.
Many family members said they were glued to the coverage, following it intently to pick up any clues about where their loved ones might be or how they might be doing.
The Birges said they were watching 14 hours of television a day. "It puts me closer to knowing where he's at," Elbert Birge said.
David Rozier, whose son 2nd Lt. Jonathan Rozier is with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, says he is "surfing channels all the time."