Online Memorials to the War Dead It's a modern phenomenon. But online memorials to those lost in battle can be every bit as powerful as the traditional monuments and monoliths.
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Online Memorials to the War Dead

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Online Memorials to the War Dead

Online Memorials to the War Dead

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This Memorial Day, one of the soldiers being remembered is Army Private Joseph Anzack Jr. He and two other soldiers had been captured in Iraq earlier this month. Last week his body was discovered in a river south of Baghdad. Joseph Anzack had a profile on the social networking site MySpace, where he listed himself as a male, 20 years old, living, he wrote, in the triangle of death. After Anzack died, his friend, Erica Esquivel(ph), posted these comments to his MySpace page.

Ms. ERICA ESQUIVEL (Joseph Anzack's Friend): Well, Joe, I just want to let you know I love you for who you are and what you did for me and the rest of us. You put your life out there, something a lot of people just can't do. And I'm glad I got to be a friend from elementary to today. I love you, Joseph Anzack. Until the day we meet again, in my heart is where I keep you, friend. Good night, Mighty Joe.

COHEN: MySpace has become a popular form for people to express their grief. And as the death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to climb, several other Web sites have sprung up, designed specifically to honor troops killed in the line of duty.

Kelly Jefferson runs one of those sites. It's a blog called American Heroes Memorial. She joins us from Wooster, Massachusetts. Welcome to DAY TO DAY, Kelly.

Ms. KELLY JEFFERSON (Founder, American Heroes Memorial): Hi, Alex. Thank you.

COHEN: We're also joined by Joseph Schwedler of Crystal Falls, Michigan. He lost his 27-year-old son Clark, a Navy Seal, on April 6th of this year. There are memorials for Clark on several different Web sites. Welcome to the program, Mr. Schwedler.

Mr. JOSEPH SCHWEDLER: It's a pleasure to be here.

COHEN: Mr. Schwedler, there is a picture of your son online, and he is holding a small white dog in his arms and he's wearing his Army fatigues and he's smiling. The photo gives you the sense that Clark, even though he was a soldier, was a very gentle man.

Mr. SCHWEDLER: He was. He was a wonderful boy.

COHEN: When was the last time you spoke to him before he passed away?

Mr. SCHWEDLER: Well, I believe it was about three days before we actually received an email from him. And he left a message the day before he was killed. He was supposed to come home the following Friday.

COHEN: There's a Web site called, and people from all over the country posted condolences offered to you online after your son's death. What was it like for you to read those posts?

Mr. SCHWEDLER: It was touching. It was nice to see that people were sharing our grief and it was comforting.

COHEN: Kelly, you operate a blog in a Web site called American Heroes Memorial. Can you describe what's on your Web site?

Ms. JEFFERSON: It is basically the information about each deceased service member who has died in action or by accident in both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. So people can go in and search by name. They can go in by date. They can look by location, as well as looking by, you know, branch of the service.

COHEN: And Kelly, when did you start this blog and why did you do it?

Ms. JEFFERSON: I actually started the blog probably, oh, a couple years ago. Previous to that, I had a Web site that was just listing the names. And I did that because some friends of my son who had just graduated high school after September 11th were starting to go into the service and I began to realize that there were people that might lose their children and it was a good reason to use the mass technology of the Internet to just, you know, make those casualties real by putting a name to them.

COHEN: That's a lot of death to deal with. Does it ever become emotionally taxing for you to keep this up?

Ms. JEFFERSON: It doesn't really. I look at it as something that is very easy for me compared to the parents and the spouses and the friends and the children of the people that are actually dying.

COHEN: Many of the wars that Americans have fought in are ones that we're waged long before the era of the Internet. What role do you think this newer technology has played in terms of how we deal with the loss of loved ones in combat?

Mr. SCHWEDLER: I think it brings more people to know the people that are being killed in the war and it's made it closer to everyone's life, I think.

COHEN: Kelly, how long do you plan to keep up your blog?

Ms. JEFFERSON: I'll keep it up as long as people are dying and as long as I'm able to physically keep up with it each day and have time to post. The thing that sort of keeps me motivated to keep doing it as long as I can is that, you know, I have hundreds of visitors every and they almost all come in when they're searching for a particular name. And sometimes they just, I guess, drop in and read and sometimes they post comments. And some of the comments are really very touching. When people started coming in and commenting, that sort of made me more motivated to keep it up as long as I could.

COHEN: Mr. Schwedler, your son has not yet appeared on Kelly's site. If there is a way that you'd like him to be remembered online, how would that be?

Mr. SCHWEDLER: I'd like him to be remembered the way I remember him. You know, a young man with a great smile and a zest for life and lots of friends and a huge supportive family that all misses him greatly.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: Joseph Schwedler is the father of Navy SEAL Clark Schwedler. Petty Officer Schwedler died in combat earlier this year in Iraq. We also spoke with Kelly Jefferson. She runs a blog called American Heroes Memorial.

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