On Thursday, Marine Lance Corporal Kenneth Corzine of Bethalto was laid to rest.
For my out-of-the-area readers, Corzine was a young Marine from the area who lost his legs in an IED attack in Afghanistan on Dec. 5. He died as a result of his injuries on Christmas Eve, and was buried Jan. 6. The community support for his family was amazing, but when the Westboro Baptist Church announced its intent to protest at the funeral, the community involvement became a phenomenon.
I conducted an interview with WBC spokesperson Shirley Phelps-Roper (church leader Fred Phelps’ daughter) and included her input in one of my articles. I later received an (offensive and expletive-filled) email from someone claiming to be Jonathan Phelps from WBC, stating his displeasure with the way I reported on the group.
I have wrestled back and forth with whether or not to post the actual email in its entirety on my blog. After discussing it with the publisher and editors at The Telegraph, I have decided not to post it for two reasons. One, I do not want to be a pawn in giving the WBC any more of a voice than it already has. Two, out of respect to Kenny’s family I don’t feel it is appropriate to make public the vile, hateful things the church had to say specifically about Kenny. I see no reason to expose his family to that kind of garbage; it will serve no purpose.
So, Jonathan Phelps, I did not respond to your email but I will do so here. If your family is not happy with the way I presented my articles, then your family should get on the same page and keep your stories straight. I have many, many people who have told me they have appreciated my style of honest and competent reporting, and your dissatisfaction with my stories does not hold any value for me whatsoever.
You stated that I, a “(gay-slur) enabler in the media-pimping Satan’s lie about God loving everyone-are primarily responsible for the condition of this nation!” (just how many groups and organizations is your church going to say are PRIMARILY responsible for the condition of this nation?)
You continue to say, ‘Then when His prophets at Westboro Baptist Church were sent to warn you, you mocked, scoffed, misused and abused us.’
The purpose of news is to present facts to the public. In no way did my articles mock or belittle your organization, and I feel there is no need to respond any further to those comments.
In regards to Marine Lance Corporal Kenneth Corzine, I feel honored to have had the opportunity to get to know his family and be the reporter working on his story. Although I never had the privilege of meeting Kenny, I almost feel as if I knew him through the stories and emotions his friends and family have shared.
As part of the funeral procession traveling from the church to the gravesite, I was more than overwhelmed to see the thousands of people standing in the bitter cold along the procession route. People were crying, praying, smiling, and holding flags and signs of support. I could not help but wonder what the family was thinking as they saw what I was seeing, knowing how the sacrifice of their loved one brought an entire community together.
I also wondered what my late father, a Marine and veteran of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, would have thought had he been around to see what was happening.
As I entered the cemetery to say my own goodbye to a man I had never even met, I was telling myself that my eyes were watering because I had been standing out in the cold wind, but I know that’s not true.
I think it was because for the first time in a while, I was truly proud to be an American.