Viral post pits coverage of Sheen, fallen soldiers
From left, Army Spc. Rudolph Hizon, Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt, Staff Sgt. Chauncy Mays, and Spc. Brian Tabada.
March 10th, 2011
03:19 PM ET

Viral post pits coverage of Sheen, fallen soldiers

By Wayne Drash, CNN

It started with a Facebook status update. Upset at the media's coverage of Charlie Sheen, someone took up for American soldiers dying in Afghanistan.

"Charlie Sheen is all over the news because he's a celebrity drug addict," it said, "while Andrew Wilfahrt 31, Brian Tabada 21, Rudolph Hizon 22, Chauncy Mays 25, are soldiers who gave their lives this week with no media mention. Please honor them by posting this as your status for a little while."

The status update has since gone viral, shared by tens of thousands on Facebook. An abbreviated version is on Twitter.

When a friend of mine posted the message on her Facebook page, it was a sobering reminder of the news media’s failings of covering the Afghanistan war. I kept returning to the names of the four soldiers. Who were these men? What’s their story?

I started by calling the father of Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt (pronounced WILL-fort) in Rosemount, Minnesota.

“I think it’s spot on,” Jeff Wilfahrt said of the viral post.

His 31-year-old son was killed while on foot patrol outside Kandahar on February 27, around the same day the Sheen media blitz kicked into high gear.

“From the Charlie Sheens to Lindsay Lohans, who are these people and what good have they done in society?” Jeff Wilfahrt said. “What are we collectively doing as a society? How do you wake people up?

“In part, sir,” he said, “I blame the press.”

Andrew Wilfahrt was a Renaissance man with an infectious laugh. In his obituary, his parents described him as “compassionate, smart and witty. He was an admirer, composer and player of music who believed deeply in art and humanity. Andrew was fascinated by math, palindromes, maps, patterns, mashed potatoes and the absurd.”

He was also anti-war - part of a “strong family of lefties” from Minnesota, his father said. Andrew stunned everyone when he announced two years ago he was joining the Army.

“He didn’t have a child and a wife,” Jeff Wilfahrt said. “In a way, he went over so that somebody with a young family wouldn’t die.”

The grieving father added, “He was a gay soldier.”

His son agonized over the decision to join the military because Andrew knew he’d have to keep his sexuality a secret. He kept quiet when he first signed up, but his fellow soldiers knew.

“Andrew told me one of the reasons he wanted to enlist was that he felt guilty as a civilian when so many men with wives and children were separated from their families," one of his comrades posted on Facebook. "He joined the fight so that guys like me didn’t have to. He is my hero, my friend, and I miss him. Sleep well, buddy. You earned it.”

Andrew’s younger sister, Martha, said the “least interesting thing” about her brother was his sexuality.

“Quite frankly,” the father said, “nobody gave a s*** he was gay. He was a good soldier.”

His mother, Lori Wilfahrt, told Minnesota Public Radio her son was an “interesting, wonderful young man” who joined the service because he was “looking for a purpose.” Andrew wanted to be with a “group of people that would be working together toward something.”

In a recent letter home, he told his mother that “everybody knows … [and] nobody cares” about his homosexuality. In combat, he rode with two other soldiers. One was African-American, the other from Hawaii. The unit called them "Team Minority."

“He was a gentle soul and he was very kind and compassionate,” said Lori Wilfahrt.

As Sheen’s every comment was dissected on TV and plastered across the internet, the Wilfahrts quietly buried their son.

“In exchange for a son, we got a flag and a bunch of medals,” his dad said. “That’s a helluva tradeoff.”

He’s torn by all that’s happened. Jeff Wilfahrt said he’s always been a peace activist and staunch opponent of war, yet he added, “I’m so proud of him and his service.”

His voice breaks. It’s likely his son is among the first gay soldiers to die in combat since Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed in December. “I’d do anything to honor my son.”

'Truly an American hero'

From Texas to Nevada to California, three other families mourned loved ones mentioned in the viral post. I was unable to reach those families, but I pieced together these snapshots from local reports and Army news releases.

Spc. Brian Tabada was the youngest soldier honored in the Facebook status update. A fire support specialist with the 101st Airborne, he was killed February 27 in northeastern Afghanistan when his patrol was ambushed by insurgents using small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

He joined the Army in 2008 and quickly earned an array of medals, including the Army Achievement Medal.

His mother met his flag-draped coffin at Dover Air Force Base and escorted her son’s body home to Las Vegas. Nevada’s governor ordered flags at half-staff.

“Tabada made the ultimate sacrifice and we are forever grateful,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a written statement. “I believe it is right to honor his life, service and his sacrifice.”

Spc. Rudolph Hizon, a 22-year-old Los Angeles native, was killed when insurgents attacked his brigade with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan’s eastern Logar province.

A Bronze Star recipient, Hizon was best known for his radiant smile and love of life. Hizon enlisted with the Army in January 2009 and was deployed to Afghanistan last October.

“I will always think of him as the happy and cheerful person he was,” Spc. Joshua Gonzales told Task Force Patriot public affairs. “I’m going to miss him dearly.”

“He is truly an American hero,” Tito Pong wrote on a Los Angeles Times obituary tribute page. “We are very proud of him and we are very much going to miss him.” Added Pfc. Lorien Rilate, “You had such a big heart and you always knew how to make someone feel better.”

In the eastern corner of Texas, residents in the town of Cookville honored Staff Sgt. Chauncy Mays, a father of two young girls. Mays, a member of the 10th Mountain Division, was killed February 28 in eastern Afghanistan’s Wardak province.

A highly decorated soldier, Mays worked as an explosives ordnance disposal technician; the Army credits him with saving countless lives for disarming hidden bombs in the region.

“He was a leader who led from the front,” Army Sgt. Chandara Hak told Task Force Patriot public affairs. “He was always careful, but never fearful. I will do my best to follow in his example.”

Army Capt. Aaron Teller said Mays epitomized the best of the American soldier. “He would give you the shirt off his back without hesitation.”

Those were traits Mays displayed even in high school. "He cared about people and worked hard to encourage them," his teacher, Josh Stegall, said at a memorial service. "He lived to serve."

Since February 26, when the Sheen story began dominating headlines, at least 13 U.S. troops have died in support of the Afghanistan war. Besides the four honored in the Facebook post, seven others were Sgt. Kristopher Gould, 25; Spc Christopher Stark, 22; Pfc. David Fahey, 23; Spc. Jason Weaver, 22; Cpl. Jordan Stanton, 20; Staff Sgt. Mark Wells, 31; and Pfc. Kalin Johnson, 19.

Senior Airman Nicholas Alden, 25, and Airman Zachary Cuddeback were killed in a March 2 attack on troops at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany.

Italian Lt. Massimo Ranzani, 36, and British Lance Cpl. Liam Richard Tasker were also killed in Afghanistan in late February and early March. Another British soldier whose name has not been released was killed Wednesday.

As I looked at the names of those who’ve died in the last two weeks, I thought about my phone conversation with Jeff Wilfahrt.

“Get this on the front headlines,” he said, “and make people aware of what’s going on.

“That’s what I’d do if I was king. But I'm just an unemployed 58-year-old man in Minnesota who misses his son.”

Check out’s Home and Away special dedicated to fallen troops

Filed under: Casualties • Kandahar • Troops
soundoff (1,323 Responses)
  1. Torchwood

    Let us keep all who have fallen in our hearts and minds. And pray that the reset come home safe. And to all who serve now and have in the past I and my family thank you for your service to us, and the rest of these United States.

    March 11, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CHRIS

    March 11, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Proud Army Wife

    To anyone who wants to dis the military and the men and women serving, shame on you! These men and women are over there trying to give people the benefits we have, while taking a stand against the people who demolished the twin towers. Did you forget that? Maybe next time we'll luck out and they'll land a plane in your house. When they do, don't bother calling for help cuz the so called "baby killers" wouldn't want to offend your sensitive nature.


    March 11, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • ProudofmyAirman

      I don't think those on here speaking out against OIF and OEF are the majority. I suspect they aren't even from the US with their lack of english grammar and spelling. I also am a military wife but even if I weren't, I still give credit to our service members. They do their job, regardless of their view on the war. Not because they all are blood thirsty animals with guns, as some people claim, but because they love their people and they love our Country. It may not be perfect, it may have corrupt government officials here and there, but they fight for us: Their family and that is something to be proud of.

      March 11, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tami Willmann

    Please let Mr. Wilfahrt, and ALL the other families of our fallen sons, that there ARE people who are grateful for the sacrifice they are making. I am so grateful for so many reasons, I cannot even begin to list them here. But I AM blessed because there are those who have made a sacrifice so that we, as Americans, can stand proud. I am so sorry for every single loss–whether that loss comes from the loss of a limb, the loss of one's innocence, the loss of sanity, and even the loss of life...all things that our boys & young ladies are losing every time they set foot on foreign soil in the name of democracy. But I am still proud. My heart swells to the point that it overflows with tears...from sadness, pride, and the love that I have for this nation.

    March 11, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DJinNH

    My son, a USMC Sgt currently deployed in the Middle East posted this on his facebook page yesterday – "Dinner is when I get my chance to get news on whats going on in the world. I sit down last night and on one TV, Al Jazeerha is covering events in Libya. On the other Fox News with Arial coverage of Lindsay Lohan driving down the highway on her way to court. Is it too mush to ask to get our priorities straight for even one day?"

    March 11, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dindy

      It is a good question. I am not from USA. yet while I was there this December ..I thought the same thing.

      March 11, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
      • ex dod

        I agree. I get a lot of news on Comcast, no Al Jazeera. Do I really need dozens of sports channels? I get BBC but no Canadian channels and Canada is literally North of my state. Go figure.

        March 11, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vet USAF SSgt Fritz

      DJinNH, Thank-you for rasing a son willing to place his life on the line for our ability to sleep safely in our homes at night, and to anyone else that has family serving or is serving. In my time of service I never went into combat but know several that do and have, I have a cousin currently in Iraq. I honor these men and women every day as heros. They drop their lives, sacrifice all, too and including their last heart beat when our nation calls. They are over their trying to help oppressed individuals rise to a level of safety and security that most in our country enjoy daily without a single thought of the blood, sweat and tears that went into us having that freedom. I want to remind those of you that need it that the red stripes on the American Flag represent the blood that was shed for our freedom. Freedom isn't free, heros step up and raise their hand and put everything else before themselves. Yes innocent people die in war, let me mention 9/11 a devestationg day to our country. Lets look at the innocents that were being killed and terrorized in Iraq before we invaded and Saddam's regime fell. Do a little research on what it's like to be kurdish in Iraq, or to be a female in Afghanistan beaten for learning to read. How is it these countries produce all these oil products the world depends on yet large amounts of people have never seen electricity or indoor plumbing. Our soldiers are trained to do more than just fight war. They are bringing electricity and water, education and most of all hope to these people. All for the lowly price of about $25000 a year. Next time you see a soldier, airman, marine, coastie or sailor, thank them for being willing to defend you without judgement of if you are worthy. They do it because it is what they do. Thank-you to all vets, active duty, retirees, military family members, and especially those who have made the greatest sacrifice for serving our country.

      March 11, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mike Phoenix

    Whenever I hear about what are soldiers do to protect the freedoms we have had in this country I get a lump ion my throat, and pray for their protection. There are way too many that take this freedom for granted, and unfortunately there are many countries or cultures out there that would love to see us destroyed, whether you idiots criticizing our military. The minute we let up, and show the weakness of this country, we open the door to everyone out to destroy us and our culture. For those of you who thinks this country should give into the foreign cultures that threaten Christian Values, I suggest you move to the 3rd world country, where they do it your way. Good Luck!

    March 11, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tilly

    To quote a song called "Soldiers and Jesus"..."There's only 2 people that's ever died for me, laid down their lives just so I can be free. Both went through hell, bared crosses and shells. ANd both got back up again after they fell. They never picked a fight but their there to pick up the pieces. God only knows where we'd be without Soldiers and Jesus. To me they're both heroes for the path that they fights for my life, one fights for my soul" RIP to these brave young men. As a former Marine wife I know the sacrifce our military and their loved ones make. That sacrifice is not lost on me or my family. Thank you to all service members for taking on the fight to protect us all, and allow us the freedoms we should all hold dearly.

    March 11, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dindy


      March 11, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. TheOldMan

    Who's this Sheen fellow? He cannot be of any importance because I've never heard of him. OTOH I've known or read about many soldiers and they are important.

    March 11, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Edward Brog

    I am a veteran, served in USMC during the 1950s and 60s, really disgusted that a criminal is made a celebrity news hero, and the real heros get no notice at all. Just exactly what are the standards for reporting in the news business? Would the behavior of "clebrities" be less notorius if it got the attention it deserves instead of the attention it gets?

    March 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Captain C

    !My prayers and thanks to you and all the families who have lost a son or daughter in these dreadful wars.
    A grateful nation thanks you and may the Lord grant you peace.
    I salute these fallen Heroes

    Enrique Caro
    Captain, US Army (Retired)

    March 11, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. denise

    I don't really don't care what celebs are doing. Leave them alone let them have their privacy. I do care about the soldiers who put their life on the line for me. I am proud as an American and honor my service men and women!

    March 11, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dindy

      Agree with you 200% well written

      March 11, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Charlotte

    I hate that our society finds more interest in the rantings and and ravings of an extremely sick individual just because he made (past tense) a big salary and now chooses to squander all the advantages life has offered him. My sympathy goes out to the families of these men. I wish them God's grace.

    March 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. S

    I go to a website evey now and then to pay respect to the young men and women who have lost their life. It's called Honor the Fallen

    March 11, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. salerno

    Disgusting video- New Nazism presented as disguised patriottism.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ian

    Weel said Authentic Patriot. The drivel fed to us about the Sheens and Lohans is meant to distract from the real issues – the ones that the Wilfahrts sadly know all too well. RIP Cpl Wilfahrt and my condolences to his parents, family, and friends and to those of all the servicemen and women wounded or killed in service of their nation.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  16. LisaDe

    Like I said when Sheen's media blitz first hit, men in this country need a better hero than Charlie Sheen and I can't think of any better example than these four fallen soldiers and soldiers like them.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Thank you

    Dear Chopper Girl,

    While I can respect your right to say what you can, I don't have to respect the content of your statement.

    I wonder what would cause you to have such vitriol and if I may add such blatant ignorance in your facts? A blanket statement like yours is disappointing more than it angers me.

    I respect the men and women of our armed forces for their decision to serve. They chose to act and not limit themselves to being armchair quarterbacks. They are normal folks from society. They reflect the very best and also the worse of what our country has to offer. So whatever the reasons you had in writing what you did, please know I can respect your right to do so but I cannot and will not respect your ignorance.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Susan

    If the media...including whoever wrote this article reported on the ones being killed non stop as they do about the Hollywood trash then maybe the focus would be different.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Yolonda Von Itter

    Thank you for your sacrafice, peace to your families. It is a tragedy that stories like your are not told. Yours are the stories of heroes. Your dedication and service, your willingness to do what others won' should be on the front page of every newspaper. Thank you for posting this.

    March 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Chery/

    It is very sad that in our country, celebrities get more publicity than the men and women who give their lives to defend it. I could care less about Sheen, Lohan, Bradjelina, and J Lo. The bottom line is that our society needs to start paying more attention to what is really important and needs to get back to basics. We get so wrapped up in gossip and petty issues that we forget what and who are really important: the men and women who are in the trenches; whether, working, fighting, caring, cleaning, studying, fixing, educating, or any other action that pertains to the heart of the hard working American. The media is to blame along with the individuals who have lost sight as to what real news is.

    March 11, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Jack Daws

    There ought to be significantly more attention paid to the young men and women who have sacrificed their lives for their country in our wars–the wars we are fighting and the wars we have fought. We should be thinking of their sacrifice every day and not just half-heartedly on Memorial Day. We should be working to help veterans recover from war and help their families survive afterwards.

    There is absolutely no reason to connect the personal struggle of Charlie Sheen with our national neglect of the fallen and our veterans.

    March 11, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Marie

    I have gotten to the point that I don't give media any value anymore. Sheen is obviously sick, but it's a joke that he gets so much attention. Our troops and heros of our country don't get the time of day, let alone a line in the papers or a mention on the news. Pathetic state of affairs – our country is lacking intergrity amongst a host of other moral fibers.

    March 11, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  23. TTSAHM

    Really this is what is wrong with this country. Keep the peopole busy and distracted so they don't realize what is really happening. We fall for it each and every time. Who cares what happens to a spoiled drug addict movie star who can afford to send himself to rehab? Yes it makes amusing tv but really who is going to support these poor families who lost their loved ones. There needs to be a change in this country! We need to wake up!

    March 11, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |

    Its sick too think our men are over fighting protecting idiot celebrities like Charlie, and they get all the glory and news.

    March 11, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  25. plisrael

    God Bless them all. And the families and loved ones. True heros and newsworthy. Each day when I hear the story of another fallen soldier it brings tears to my eyes. Thank you CNN and Nancy Grace for personalizing each of their lives for us, showing us who they were on this earth.

    March 11, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  26. Ann

    Please read the book by Eric Blehm, The Only Thing Worth Dying For. This gives us an up close and personal look into the lives of our Green Beret, Special Forces stationed in Afghanistan. He was with the ODA-574 troop. I salute all of our Military for what they endure for us.

    March 11, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  27. Military Family

    I would like to start by expressing my sincerest condolences to the families of these fallen Heros and all of our Fallen Heros. I would like to take a moment to remind all the ignorant men and women on here that without the selfless sacrifice of our Military Service Members you would not have the Freedom to spew such crap and verbally degrade what our Military members do for us. I would challenge those of you who believe you are better then our Military to put your money where your mouth is and serve your country as selflessly as the men and women who now protect you, your families and your ignorance.

    March 11, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  28. Rebecca

    All Soldiers are brave. They leave their families, they don't get 2 weeks to decide their fate. They don't get to sue because they get moved. We have Soldier's that need real help after coming home. PTSD hits them all. We need to reteach them to function in the home life again. How to drive, act. how to socialize. Yet these celebrities are getting all the help and attention they don't need. I say throw them to the wolves! Charlie is crazy,and Lohan needs to go to JAIL!

    March 11, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  29. mejazzbo

    America is a freak show. We have gotten so far away from what is important and focus on the insane. The media's motto seems to be, "Let's get sensational. That's where the money lives".

    March 11, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  30. Sgt. Decker

    To the families of the fallen servicemembers; I am so sorry for your loss. Your family members were better people than Charlie Sheen or Lindsey Lohan ever thought of being.

    March 11, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  31. Sgt. Decker

    To the families of the fallen soldiers, I am so sorry for your loss.

    March 11, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  32. Freedom has never been Free

    Ignore the ignorance of many, keep focus on what's important, and pray for all our military personnel, their families, and their supporters. Having been over their myself, hearing a single thank-you from a stranger made it all worth while. God bless this country we proudly call America. Thank-you in return to all the support given to the American and coalition troops. If you have nothing but rude comments to make, be my guest and go live somewhere else.

    March 11, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  33. terri

    my heart gos out to the family

    March 11, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  34. Nicole

    I didn't realize that one of these boys are in my son's unit. My son has not mentioned anything about this to me, but I guess he is doing that so as to not worry me. I have not been able to stop crying since reading this article. These young men are so brave and selfless to fight to protect US and what recognition do they get? They are overshadowed by the Sheen's and Lohan's of the world. Our poor soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice do not even get the respect of a quiet burial because that stupid group that protest at military funerals has been validated by the US courts as having a first amendment right to continue these protest. REALLY??? It makes me ashamed to be an American

    March 11, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  35. Gary Overman

    Let's not forget the others as well. Chris Stark was killed at the same time as my nephew Chauncy Mays.

    March 11, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  36. Dave in SoTex

    Our society in decay. When those who contribute little get attention and are paid to much. Those who do the real work get little attention are not paid enough.

    March 11, 2011 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
  37. Jennifer

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! To all of the soldiers and their families for the sacrifices they have made in honor of our freedom and safety. They are brave heroes who deserve our respect and recognition for the honorable lives they are leading and the sacrifices they have made. You are in my thoughts every day! I wish there was better coverage of your bravery and heroism because that's the kind of coverage we can be proud of!

    March 11, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  38. Army Infantrywife

    As a wife of a disabled vet who deployed 3 makes me sad and disgusted that these "people" get the attention that our soldiers and families need...Yes the war is not as interesting as the train wrecks these people cause and make us watch but our soldiers and families are living a life that 95% of the population would never want to live or could honestly live...I am one of the lucky ones, my soldier came home to me...he's disabled and considered "damaged" by people but he's home and he's alive...the soldiers and their families that give the ultimate sacrifice deserve more love and attention and RESPECT then Charlie Sheen, or any other train wreck celebrity that is out there...

    March 11, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer

      Please give your hubby a hug and a THANK YOU from me and my family! Thank you both for your service and sacrifice to our country. I wish you all the best – you deserve it!

      March 11, 2011 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  39. Taunya Rose

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I am so glad to see that these men got their story told to. I was very happy to post them on my face book page and I wish I could post the names of every single one of the brave men/women that gives their life for our country . I think we owe it to each one of them and their families after all they are over there fighting for us!!! Even though people don't like to hear about it, there is a war going on and we need to honor the people fighting for us!! THEY DESERVE the headlines not idiots who like who like to screw up there lives. Just because they can read some lines off a script and into a camera does not mean they are any better than the guy down the street who drinks and does drugs. I have never seen him on tv. WHO CARES!!! But we should ALL care about the brave men and women fighting for US!! I personally love them all and pray for their save returns home to their families. GOD BLESS EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM!!!!!

    March 11, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  40. roland

    In order to prove that we are tolerant, we have to listen/read/see the messages of those who would demonstrate such stupidity as to prove themselves unworthy of it. The media has become the next generation's parent and educator. I stood in my classroom watching the towers fall kicking students from other classes out because they were excited about what was happening like it was part of a movie. Certain posts have been speaking out in ignorance against the soldiers who fight in this war for their motives. Our soldiers did not create our country's policies, they are the tool that enforces it. They are fighting for themselves, their brothers, sisters, families, and not for the greed and corruption that upsets those who speak before thinking about what they are saying. They deserve our thanks and our respect. And at their end, their families deserve our sympathies, for they have made sacrifices those who condemn them will never have the courage to recognize. It bothers me on a visceral level that as a country we have forgotten to honor both those who came before us and those who sacrificed for us.

    March 11, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  41. Proud Army Mom

    My son, Spc Trevor Groetken had the honor of serving with Spc Brian Tabada (one of the four fallen heroes mentioned in the fb post) Today he and Sgt Steven Thunderhawk will have the honor of standing next to their fallen brother as family and friends gather to grieve the loss of a son, grandson, brother, and cherished friend. My love, thoughts, and prayers are with the family. Life for them will NEVER be the same. To his brothers in arms the loss they feel is deeper than any pain they have ever felt. Their lives are forever changed as well. Spc Tabada will forever live on in the hearts and minds of those who understand the price he paid on behalf of their freedom. NEVER FORGOTTEN

    March 11, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  42. PFC James Crawn

    Finally! I am currently deployed on my second tour in my three years of service. 08-09 to Iraq and now I am in Kandahar Afghanistan for another year. It makes me so angry to hear from my wife and family that people are protesting military funerals and basically spitting on the grave of a fallen soldier. Now the media has always been the devil and will continue to be the downfall of humanity but to cover some washed up degenerate like Charlie Sheen and not even blink at the lives lost so this man can stuff as many drugs up his nose and drink all the alcohol in the world simply disgusts me. We are here fighting and supporting the war fighters of many different countries and there are casualties unfortunately. The media needs to forget about everything else and focus on real people facing danger every day. Forget the gossip of who is sleeping or cheating on who or who is buying a brand new hummer 5 or whatever the new craze is and look at the lives of people driving the real battle forged machines. Everyone who buys a new hmmwv should be clubbed in the head and flown over here to wake up with a uniform on and an m-16.
    I am not a huge fan of facebook but for this one thing I am grateful and hopefully this will open the eyes of AMERICANS and focus more on the real issues and not celebrity garbage.
    An American Soldier

    March 11, 2011 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
  43. Oliver

    Thank you for this story and reminder CNN. It still gives me hope that one day you will again be a reputable newsource. The media is so screwed up. We are stuck in a this generations Vietnam and the media is helping us be there in this fight on terror. God help us all!!!

    March 11, 2011 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
  44. WhiskeyMedic13

    Mr. Wilfahrt,
    I would just like to express my deepest sympathy for the loss of your son. As a veteran myself, I am appalled that someone as undeserving as Chalrie Sheen takes precedence in the media over your son's sacrifice. It is because of people like him that we enjoy the freedoms we have and I think way too many people have forgotten that. However, you can rest assured that your son's memory will live on in the hearts of countless people accross this country and that his sacrifce was not made in vain. God Bless you and your familiy.

    March 11, 2011 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
  45. Christopher Drake

    While this article made a great point in how society prioritizes events, or rather the media, it falls a little flat when the article link on the main page is below yet another story link about Sheen.

    March 11, 2011 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  46. Kristen

    The focus is being lost. The point is that the news media typically pays more attention to actors and their drinking/drug use/clothing than they do actual news. Like people dying, or the wars we've been involved in for a decade. No one cares what your politics are, whether you love or hate soldiers, or how you feel about 9/11. This issue is about the news turning into entertainment reports. Thankfully, the slip into non-essential stories has annoyed the people to such a degree that they finally got their message to someone at CNN – now all we need is for the other outlets to pick this up and use it as a springboard to change their reporting. PLEASE. – LIFT

    March 11, 2011 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  47. bob

    Rudolf, Andrew, Chauncy and Brian. All heroes in my book.

    March 11, 2011 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
  48. Get a Grip America


    Americans are capitalist. It is sad that our brave men and women die to protect our freedoms and way of life. I am a disabled veteran and I know the sacrifice. I know how it feels to loss your job, your home, have to make chooses on either buying food or medications, having the stresses of my disabilities destroy my family ending in divorce. I'm not complaining. These are consequences of making a choice to defend a country that I love and am willing to protect with my life. I have limited functionality due to brain injuries and my day to day life is difficult, but if I could change my chooses to serve in the military, I wouldn't. And 999 out of 1000 other veterans would say the same thing. We didn't join to get the honor to be on TV someday. We did it to protect our way of life so our news companies can make money on Charlie Sheen. If America wants to do something useful, put tons of money into the VA so they can help us when we return. I don't care about being on TV, I need help with medications, medical care, rehabilitation, educational benefits, etc. Honor our troops by guaranteeing that they will be taken care of if they make it home. Also, quit trying to cut Social Security. Our young troops that can't work when they get home doesn't have IRAs, money market accounts, stocks, etc. Trust me, they can't afford to invest when they serve. Trust me, we don't protect our freedoms because of the pay.

    March 11, 2011 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
  49. bob

    Rudolph, Andrew, Chauncy and Brian...All four of you are quiet heroes in my mind.

    March 11, 2011 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
  50. Quincey9

    To quote Reuben Blades, "I went to my home and sat and waited for tears to come. But suddenly I changed my mind, got up and played my favorite song. I wanted to show myself that death could not take my heart and I'd rather celebrate all the good times that we had. How lucky two fools can be to be friends like you and me".

    March 11, 2011 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
  51. Adam V.

    Id rather not even waste my time saying one word about Charlie Sheen. Instead Id like to honor these four brave soldiers that we lost. I am myself in the process of enlisting in the Army to serve my country for our people and I feel the deepest sympathy for the families of these fallen soldiers. It takes an amazing and strong willed personality to put your life at risk each and every day you wake up like you four have and Id like to just take a moment to honor all the amazingly talented blessed and honorable young men and women of the armed forces who are still fighting for our country each and every day. So thank you, because its the men and women like you who are going to be giving me the strength to do the same thing in no time, when its my turn

    March 11, 2011 at 7:32 am | Report abuse |
  52. JGates

    I believe that lest we forget the sacrifices being made moment by moment by the members of our military, by our very own sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, that each death be posted on the front page of every news paper and during every TV news broadcast of our Nation, everyday. That each death, and each name be spoken out loud and recognized at the beginning of every day Congress and the Senate opens their doors for business.
    That at the end of each week the President of the United States goes into his Press room and reads to his people the names and ages of the fallen.
    Unless in impacts your life directly, on a daily basis, it is far too human to put such "news" into a dark corner. Unless it is your sibling or your child, you just don't get it, you don't get the loss, or the cost of volunteering to serve. The price that has been paid, and is being paid, by countless families across our country everyday, every week, every year.
    J. Gates~Mother of A1C Austin Gates Benson

    March 11, 2011 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Wilfahrt

      JC Gates, I'm with you.
      Jeff Wilfahrt, CPL Andrew C. Wilfahrt's father

      March 11, 2011 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
      • JGates

        I extend my deep heart felt condolences for the loss of your beloved son..
        May he rest in Peace~
        I understand your loss..

        March 11, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  53. guest

    The personal stories of these young men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice leave me in awe. I am a parent of a son who is currently deployed in that hellhole of a country but I know they are there doing all the good they can. I will keep them and their families in my prayers, as well as the Sheen family, who I fear its just a matter of time that they will also be losing their son and brother to a different war.

    March 11, 2011 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
  54. Just Say No to WASPs

    I don't support war so I don't feel bad for soldiers dying. They volunteered; and if they want to protect America's illusion of freedom, go and take care of the gang members down at the local convenient store bothering innocent families with children. Then you can call yourself a hero.

    March 11, 2011 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Rocco

      Are you living in the US? If you are, get the f*** out. What do you do for this country? You sound like a scared little b****.

      March 11, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • CaliAF

      You know what? You're right; we're not heroes. We chose this job and career path of our own free will. But, in the mean time–we'd appreciate if you'd stop being a complete jerk. Thank you.

      March 11, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  55. BiggFinn

    Hello everyone. Let me start by saying my most heartfelt condolences to you and your families on the loss of your loved ones! I fully empathize with you. I am a retired U.S. (Navy) Sailor. I served during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. My oldest in now serving in the iraq region. Our military service and sacrifices should ALWAYS be more important than the trash that the media puts out about a lot of the selfish spoiled-assed celebrities!!!!!

    March 11, 2011 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
  56. nailwytch

    My heart goes out to all of these families and these young men's battle buddies. I have a son being deployed soon and I pray every day that I never have to feel your pain Jeff. God Bless all of our troops and Praying for all our lost soldiers! I pray for all that are protecting us daily! I am truly Sorry for your loss of Another one of America's Hero's.

    March 11, 2011 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
  57. valkyries

    Great article about our young soldiers who have paid the ultimate price while serving their country. Thank you for making the war, the lost lives and the soldiers stories part of the news cycle. They are heroes and their stories need a loud voice that should be heard by America.

    March 11, 2011 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
    • jlugz

      Reality Check. What's more important to the American people, pointless media coverage of famous people, or supporting those that fight and die for our country?

      March 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  58. been_there&done_that

    Wayne Drash is such a hypocrit! He doesn't want us to focus on the troops in Afghanistan...he wants to push his "let's have gays in the military" agenda! Look Wayne, if you want to push that ideology, then fine, write a story about it and don't hide your message in a human interest story! Clown!

    March 11, 2011 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
  59. ALbeham

    Holly-weird is that, all of that. Media is off there f***en rocker if I give a S*** about the Charlie Sheens of the world. I have walked the walk and I can the talk the talk, that many are walking today in these wars. I served 20 yrs with heroes like these. CNN pull your head from your fourth point of contact and let the Holly-weirds die off. Get back to the real matters of this great country. Many folks really do believe the crap these charlie sheens do really matter. Sad, if we the readers don't hit on these un-real stories, then CNN will stop covering them. But then again that's my though. Too all that have loss, I walk with you in your time of sorrow.

    March 11, 2011 at 6:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      It's not the media's fault. It's the American peoples' fault. Look at coverage of Iraq/Afghanistan versus Vietnam. The majority of American's don't want to see lifeless bodies, civilians blown apart, Humvees wrecked from IEDs, soldiers screaming in pain. Then you have the Bush administration ordering coverage of the returning of the dead to be blocked. While some may not care for the Charlie Sheen's, how many actually contact a media outlet directly and say, "I want coverage of the war and the pain it causes"?

      March 11, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  60. Thank you

    Mr. Wilfahrt, I am truly sorry for your loss of this Soldier. I am Senior NCO in the Army and everytime I have to attend a ramp side ceremony it rips me apart thinking about the Fallen's family. We love each and everyone of these men and women that work for us. I've lost a lot of friends and Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and we will never forget our Fallen. Know sir that your son did not die in vain and that there are Afghan Soldiers who share the same patriotism for their country as did your son for his. Soldiers is what keeps me going Mr. Wilfahrt thank you for yours.

    March 11, 2011 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Wilfahrt

      Thank You,
      The dignified transfer of our son was one of the most stirring moments of my life. In all confidence I tell you the U.S. Army did one hell of job helping Andrew into manhood, and an even more impressive job dealing with this family in it's grief. Our respect for men like you who take on this most grievous of ceremonial duty has no bounds.
      Andrew's father, Jeff Wilfahrt.

      March 11, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  61. Trudy Miller

    My heart goes out to all of the families who lost loved ones in the war. It truly saddens me. There is NEVER any war coverage in our newspaper heree in St. Augustine, FL. My Mom wrote a letter to the editor of the The St. Augustine Record about the lack of coverage of our courageous soldiers a while back. Nothing has changed. Charlie Sheen is a disgrace and should be arrested. I want to hear about our soldiers and how we can help.


    Trudy Miller
    St. Augustine, FL

    March 11, 2011 at 6:27 am | Report abuse |
  62. whatthehey

    The Afghan war is a political human tragedy of which the true core causes and reasons for its existence will probably never be known to the average person. The heroism of either side's combatants is contingent upon which nation the observer is from. Charlie Sheen's meltdown is much more fascinating to people because it is a non-politically biased insight into a person's descent into madness which few are ever privy to. It is utterly fascinating and somewhat incomprehensible that someone who apparently has or had the world as his oyster could so completely come unravelled thus demonstrating that fame and more significantly fortune do not ensure happiness, security or well-being! An old lesson yet one we never seem to truly realize without reminders such as Sheen. Americans are also quite accustomed to the fact that there have been and will be continuing U.S. and other casualties as long as U.S. troops are engaged in Afghanistan, Iraq, wherever so the fact that soldiers are dying is not particularly news. Also with Bush no longer there to be kicked around and blamed the impetus to show casualty rates for U.S. soldiers is largely absent since it can no longer fuel the "Bush is the cause for all the American and world woes" campaign.

    March 11, 2011 at 6:19 am | Report abuse |

    I am currently serving in the armed forces in Afganastan, and while I do not support the overly aggresive foul language and insulting comments, I do value the ability to express your opinion. I have to agree that yes having armed forces fighting in other countries does not impact a great many of us on a day to day basis ( families of fighting men/women being excluded of course) and yes it doesnt do a lot to your freedoms in the small picture or the short term view. You have to understand a lot of the men and women are not in this for the short term or for the small picture. We are in the armed forces for the long term and for the fact we wnt to make the world a better place and to make a difference. We are sacrificing alot to do that and we are willing to give our lives so we can make someones world a better place and maybe ensure that the freedins we enjy now and also enjoyed by our children and the children of tommorrow. Like it or not I think that deserves a little repect.

    A personal side note to Jeff Wilfhart, there are days that my dedication is lacking and my ability to perserver in a world of honor and respect is hard to maintain due to the things I see. Your son is an example of the type of person we should allstive to be and his story is inspiring and and has done a lot to restore my belief that there are still good people who "get it" out there.

    My condolences for your loss. . . . Take him for all in all for there shall not be another like him. . .Salute.


    March 11, 2011 at 6:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Wilfahrt

      He died a soldier with his boots on. He carried candy and pens in his pockets to hand out to the children. He was the platoon sniper, he was a gunner, his PT score was perfect, he aced his firing range trials... and yet he carried that candy.
      He was ninth in an eleven man foot line. He took the IED. It is a myth that soldiers die for some cause, soldiers die for the soldier next them, on their right or left. Let me acknowledge the balance of the 3rd platoon who have to sort this out in their heads and hearts. Then let me acknowledge you for knowing the significance of a combat theater. Thet me salute you.
      Jeff Wilfahrt, Andrew's father

      March 11, 2011 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
    • salerno


      March 11, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  64. NottheKing

    So let me get this straight, If we don't fight in Iraq and Afganistan, then I'll lose my freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble and so on down the line? I had no idea that the Afgan Talaban and the Iragi Insurgents were so powerful. I must be living under a rock or something. Here I was just being affraid of our own politicians. Every HONEST american should ask themselves, Who threatens me most?

    March 11, 2011 at 6:17 am | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      Well get out from under that rock and read a book; because in 1996 that is what was being arranged. Maybe nobody told you. well here's a short history lesson: Taliban leader Omar takes over most of Afghanistan, starts torturing and killing those who don't believe the whole world should follow a strict muslim faith, Omar then invites Osama into the country to set up training camps for al queda so they can attack countries who are not prodominently muslims, pakistan starts sending citizens over to afghan to train and send money to help support Omar. Osama declares a holy war on United States, US Embassies start getting blown up, USS Cole gets attacked, then September 11th happens. Just curious what part of that did you miss, or what did you think was going to be next?

      March 11, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  65. Miss NJ

    These men and their families have give the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Thank them everyday and hope they rest in peace.

    On a second note though, CNN, after looking through your site, in the Justice section the first story with a huge picture is of Lindsay Lohan. On the first page of the US section first story under Don't Miss is Charlie Sheen and not this story.

    March 11, 2011 at 6:10 am | Report abuse |
  66. jobaltimore

    My heartfelt condolences for the family of these gentlemen that gave their lives so that our quality of life is better. I appreciate each of their sacrifices and pray that God would have mercy on their souls. I am so happy to see this coverage. People spend way too much time on Linsey Lohan and Charlie Sheen when these are the real heroes we should be focused on. Thank You for your selfless sacrifice and may heaven forever shine down upon each of you and your loved ones.

    March 11, 2011 at 6:07 am | Report abuse |
  67. Natch

    How sad is it, that today's society will honor the spoiled sons and daughters of Hollywood.....the "celebutantes", if you will......and ignores the honorable sons and daughters of regular folks, who are the real heroes?? And then we wonder why the kids grow up so badly??
    In my day, we looked up to people like John Wayne, or Jimmy it seems they look up to idiots like Charlie Sheen and Britney Spears. What's next? People wanting to be more like Charles Manson? God help us all!!

    March 11, 2011 at 6:06 am | Report abuse |
  68. Kristen

    This story is absolutely phenomenal. The fact that it was written, that is. Now what's needed is for the same story to be followed up on TV by not just CNN, but MSNBC, FOX NEWS, and all other news outlets. After that, the major news outlets need to revamp what they consider "news" and leave the Sheen and Lohan and Bipsy Doodle (or whatever the Jersey Shore names are) to E!, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, and all the other many, many, many programs that tell non-essential stories. PLEASE. If a change isn't made, this BS will go on and this story will be little more than a feel-good blip that passes by next week. Kristen, LIFT (

    March 11, 2011 at 5:50 am | Report abuse |
  69. Ed Austin

    What a shame that this has degenerated into a slanging match. I am so so sorry for the loss of these fine soldiers. A British soldier was blown up in Afghan yesterday, and yet the news here was full of model Kate Moss on a catwalk in Paris with a cigarette in her mouth.

    For those who risk their lives so we here in the United Kingdom can be free, I have the greatest admiration and respect.

    March 11, 2011 at 5:35 am | Report abuse |
  70. teddy

    No matter on which side of political ideology we are, we should be thankful and respectful for our soldiers. may God rest your soul in peace

    March 11, 2011 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |
  71. levi

    Actually Wilfahrt is pronounced 'Vil-fart'

    March 11, 2011 at 5:04 am | Report abuse |
  72. Vohaul

    Thank you!!! I hop you aren't the only one at your network who gets this. CNN is as much to blame as anyone!

    March 11, 2011 at 4:43 am | Report abuse |
  73. Mother of a marine

    We instill the love of country to our children. They defend our country with their life. People like Sheen, Lohan get away with things the rest of us would not and all because they entertain us. Our priorities are really messed up and people like CNN and other media feed on that. I am proud of my son and others like him.

    March 11, 2011 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
  74. Zephyr2011

    Time to weigh in...First of all – I can't think of anyone who hates War more than those that we ask to go fight (and sometimes die) in them...Our Soldiers are Warriors – but Warriors that Hate War, nonetheless. I have yet to meet a TRUE Soldier, past or present, that doesn't despise War – and wants nothing more than Peace and to be able to come back Home to their friends and families. Our Military is primarily geared for One Thing – to End Wars Quickly, and (hopefully) Victoriously. Secondly...while I STRONGLY-disagree with salerno, and a few others – please consider these words..."I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Indeed, that's what Our Soldiers and Our Military does, in a literal-sense. We may hold salerno's words and opinions to be utterly-offensive – but such is the Strength and Greatness of This Nation that he has the RIGHT to state this opinions, in this forum – as long as it isn't clearly Illegal – without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or death. So, God Bless Our Troops, God Bless Our Military, and God Bless the U.S.A...

    March 11, 2011 at 4:34 am | Report abuse |
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