As American warplanes bombarded Saddam Hussein's army in Iraq and Kuwait on Jan. 27, 1991, Whitney Houston sang the Star-Spangled Banner in front of millions of viewers tuning in to watch the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills play a memorable Super Bowl XXV.
Houston's performance was indisputably magnificent. Not only did it show the entire world that Americans were united behind their fellow countrymen in harm's way, it showed the troops themselves that an entire nation supported them.
Tragically, less than a week after another memorable Giants Super Bowl win, this time against the New England Patriots, Whitney Houston is dead and the sacrifices of our military are being overlooked by a largely irresponsible, unpatriotic national press corps. Some in the media, who exploit the deaths of celebrities like Houston and Michael Jackson amid the endless quest for ratings, have helped create this glaring void in our national consciousness.
It is inexcusable that while almost every American knows about a pop singer's death, very few know about the passing of Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca. The 20-year-old Marine, who returned to the country he fought for on Monday in a flag-draped casket, died on Feb. 10 while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. The Marine's death, which has been confirmed by the Pentagon, came a day before Houston passed away in Los Angeles.
Image courtesy: U.S. Air Force/Steve Kotecki
Lance Cpl. Montes De Oca was from North Arlington, New Jersey, yet for the next several days, much of the national media will be fixated on Newark, which is just five miles away. That's because Whitney Houston's funeral is reportedly being held there, and in the eyes of most journalists, that event dwarfs the death of another Marine in Afghanistan.
The point of this post is not to link this fallen Marine and his grieving family, including two brothers who serve in the Marines, to the death of a celebrity. It's to point out that as our men and women fight every day in Afghanistan, elements of our society take their sacrifices for granted while attention is routinely lavished on singers, actors, and sports figures.
As Americans, we must demand more from the reporters and pundits who help shape our national conversation. While journalists routinely speak of their responsibility to hold the powerful accountable, it's time that their work is subject to the same brand of intense scrutiny.
On the night Whitney Houston inspired millions with her stirring rendition of the national anthem, the death of any U.S. service member was considered a shocking national tragedy. Just over 21 years later, an American warrior's passing is usually treated as an afterthought by the national press. Like the deaths of Whitney Houston and Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca, that is also a tragedy.
As a nation and a people, let us rededicate ourselves to getting this country back to where it was on the night of Jan. 27, 1991. It won't bring the singer or the Marine back to life, but it might just help us all rediscover how lucky we are to live in the United States of America.