California resident Bill Mitchell says he believes one of those coffins held his only son, SSG Michael W. Mitchell, killed in action in Iraq April 4.

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After seeing the photograph The Seattle Times published on the flag-draped coffins of American servicemen killed in Iraq and placed on a plane bound for the U.S., California resident Bill Mitchell says he believes one of those coffins held his only son, SSG Michael W. Mitchell, killed in action in Iraq April 4.

The photograph, which has generated news around the world, also spurred Mitchell to write to Seattle Times staff reporter Hal Bernton, whose story ran with the photograph on Sunday, April 18.

Bernton spoke with Mitchell today to discuss his letter.

Mitchell said he always has supported his son and the troops. But he said he has been against the war, and joined in a March 20 protest in San Luis Obispo. “Ironically, I carried a sign that said, ‘Bring my son home now’,” Mitchell said today.

Mike Mitchell was killed in Sadr city with just seven days left to go in his one year tour of duty. At the time of his death, he had volunteered to go on a patrol, according to Bill Mitchell.

The elder Mitchell is now in Germany to help his son’s fiance.

Here is an excerpt of the letter, which Bill Mitchell has given The Times permission to publish.

Dear Hal-

I read with great interest your article regarding the woman who was fired for taking the pictures of the flagged draped coffins on 4-7-04. My son, SSG Michael W. Mitchell, was killed on 4-4-04 in the first day of the Shiite uprising in Sadr City. He was one of eight soldiers killed that day in that attack. I am quite positive that he was inside one of those coffins in the picture.

I am happy that you ran the story and showed the picture. I would like everyone to know the devastation that this event has brought upon Mike’s family and friends. In fact, Mike’s grandpa at 86 says that this is the worst thing that has happened in his entire life… that says a lot right there!!!

Hiding the death and destruction of this war does not make it easier on anyone except those who want to keep the truth away from the people. I know that the current government policy has the bodies being flown in under the cloak of darkness. I also know that photographers are barred from the area so that pictures such as the one you ran in your newspaper can not be shown to the people.

Pictures such as these alter people’s perception and awareness and they have to admit the reality of the situation that young men and women are being killed. I do believe our government learned this lesson from the war in Vietnam and that was one of the influential factors in bringing about its end. Well over 10,000 people have died since the beginning of our invasion… sorry… I just can not watch the news since the day of Mike’s celebration of life so I am not current with the actual body count. I am sure that most are experiencing the wide range of emotions being felt by the family and friends of my son.

Things are getting worse in Iraq and if there is anything that I can do so that other parents can be spared the pain that is happening in my life, I will do it.

I am currently in Germany taking care of my son’s fiancée because officially, she is not recognized by the U.S. Army even though she was the reason that he re-enlisted twice; the last time being just 3 weeks prior to his death.

Hal… I am just full of stories and if you and your newspaper are interested, just let me know.


Bill Mitchell

Atascadero, CA