'Nightline' to Remember War Dead

Cliff Vaughn

'Nightline' to Remember War Dead | Cliff Vaughn

Tonight's "Nightline," with Ted Koppel, features U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan will again be recognized by ABC News.

"The Fallen," a special version of ABC's "Nightline" with Ted Koppel, will feature the names and faces of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 45-minute special will airs Monday, May 30 at 11:35 p.m. ET on the ABC Television Network, according to an ABCNews.com story.


Koppel will read the names of more than 900 service members who have died in the last year while on duty in those countries.


"Nightline" produced similar programs last year. On April 30, 2004, it recognized 721 U.S. soldiers who had been killed since the beginning of the Iraq War. Then on May 26, 2004, it featured the names and faces of 122 U.S. soldiers who had died in Afghanistan since the October 2001 deployment.


The upcoming "Nightline" special will include U.S. servicemen and women killed in both war zones since last year's broadcasts.


"Just as it was a year ago, 'The Fallen' is about the men and women who have died in our names in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Koppel in the ABCNews.com story. "We owe it to these men and women who have died in the cause of freedom that we remember them with honor."


Koppel will read the names aloud as each soldier's photograph, name, military branch, age and rank are shown.


Viewers can already see the list of names "Nightline" has compiled for the special.


Last year's specials drew controversy. Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns a handful of ABC affiliates, decided against airing the "Nightline" tribute in April to the war dead. Sinclair questioned both the show's political motivation and its timing. (It aired at the beginning of May sweeps—one of four annual periods in which a show's ratings help determine advertising dollars).


Koppel responded to Sinclair's charges, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a Vietnam veteran, openly criticized Sinclair's decision, calling it "unpatriotic," according to a CNN article.


No broadcasting group has announced a pre-emption of this year's special. In fact, Sinclair has already issued a company statement announcing its support of this year's program.


"Unlike Nightline's reading of the names last year, which coincided with the start of the May ratings sweeps, we feel that this year's Memorial Day selection is the appropriate setting to remember those who have sacrificed their lives to keep all Americans safe and free," Sinclair said in its statement. "We thank our U.S. service men and women for their infinite courage and perseverance in the constant face of danger."


"Nightline," meanwhile, continues to speak about the importance of the show's format and message.


"Too often we simply report casualties in terms of numbers," said "Nightline" executive producer Tom Bettag in the ABCNews.com story. "'The Fallen' is our way of reminding viewers, regardless of their feelings about the war, that the men and women who have given their lives in our behalf are individuals with names and faces."


Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.