THOSE WHO PUT BITTER FOR SWEET

james-kuritz.JPG  “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!                                                        Isaiah: 5:20   My son, Spc. James Kuritz, was recognized by the Maine House of Representatives in January. As I proud father, I wanted to share the news. Lewiston’s Twin City Times printed the account: 

 U.S. Army Specialist James F. Kuritz recognized for meritorious service in Iraq   U.S. Army Specialist James F. Kuritz of Lewiston was recently recognized at the opening session of the Maine State Legislature at the State House in Augusta.  Kuritz was home on leave from a year of active duty in Taji, Iraq.  He was invited to appear before the joint session by State Representative James M. Hamper, District 100 of Oxford, Mechanic Falls and Otisfield.

Kuritz was accompanied by his father, Dr. Paul Kuritz of Lewiston, a professor at Bates College.  While in Augusta, Kuritz and his father were also greeted by State Representatives Anne M. Rand of District 120, Portland; Margaret M. Craven, District 74, Lewiston and Richard V. Wagner, District 73, also of Lewiston. 

Prior to the event in Augusta, a celebration of family and friends was hosted by Paul, Kathleen and Stefan Kuritz in their Lewiston home.  Other family members in attendance included Reverend Peter Kuritz, Reverend Janell Wigen and Peter Kuritz, Jr. of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Friends included Representative James Hamper and his wife Lynn of Oxford; Howard and Karen Munday of Oxford; Alicia Rand of Portland and U.S. Army Specialist Justin Buxbaum, also of Portland.            

U.S. Army Specialist James F. Kuritz of Lewiston was recently recognized at the opening session of the Maine State Legislature at the State House in Augusta.  Kuritz was home on leave from a year of active duty in Taji, Iraq.  He was invited to appear before the joint session by State Representative James M. Hamper, District 100 of Oxford, Mechanic Falls and Otisfield.  

Kuritz was accompanied by his father, Dr. Paul Kuritz of Lewiston, a professor at Bates College.  While in Augusta, Kuritz and his father were also greeted by State Representatives Anne M. Rand of District 120, Portland; Margaret M. Craven, District 74, Lewiston and Richard V. Wagner, District 73, also of Lewiston. 

Prior to the event in Augusta, a celebration of family and friends was hosted by Paul, Kathleen and Stefan Kuritz in their Lewiston home.  Other family members in attendance included Reverend Peter Kuritz, Reverend Janell Wigen and Peter Kuritz, Jr. of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Friends included Representative James Hamper and his wife Lynn of Oxford; Howard and Karen Munday of Oxford; Alicia Rand of Portland and U.S. Army Specialist Justin Buxbaum, also of Portland.

In recognition of his service in Iraq, Kuritz was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his service with the Charlie Company 1-66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team.  He received the award for meritorious service while assigned as a tank crewman in support of combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Kuritz operated the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank as well as other military tank vehicles.  The Abrams is regarded by the United States military as the premier tank in the world.  According to Commanding Colonel James F. Pasquarette, “Kuritz’ actions while deployed in a combat theatre were in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Iron Knights Battalion, the Raider Brigade and the United States Army.”

 Kuritz was also awarded the Cavalryman Order of the Spur and the Combat Action Badge for meritorious service while participating in ground combat operations under enemy hostile fire to liberate Iraq. 

He was credited for having performed exceptionally well as tank crewman.  In the recommendation for his award it was noted that Kuritz’ “mental endurance and ability to carry out his duties in adverse conditions were truly commendable.”  It was further noted that “his performance contributed significantly to his battalion’s mission of further establishing the Iraqi Police, grooming Iraqi Security Forces and assisting the Iraqi Forces to secure their nation.”          

Specialist Kuritz completed his basic training at Fort Knox, Louisville, Kentucky, in 2004.  He was awarded the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 19K and earned awards as a sharpshooter for pistol and M-4 rifle.  He also qualified as an expert in grenade and bayonet. Kuritz was awarded the Service Ribbon, National Defense Ribbon and Global War on Terrorism Ribbon.
 

Kuritz is presently assigned to Fort Hood, Texas and is awaiting word about future deployment with a possible return assignment to Iraq.  He is deliberating plans for future civilian employment and college studies.  Kuritz attended Hebron Elementary School, Guy E. Rowe Elementary School, Oxford Hills Middle School and Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.  As a younger student he enjoyed playing soccer.  During high school years he was a member of the Respect Team. 

Kuritz completed his high school studies while employed and was awarded the Maine High School Equivalency Diploma in 2004.  Prior to his military service he was employed by the Crossroads Youth Outreach and Strategic Bio Solutions, Windham.  Kuritz was also an active volunteer at Portland’s, Root Cellar, a Christian outreach organization.  He also enjoyed service as a youth counselor at the Salvation Army’s Lake Sebago Summer Camp in Standish, Maine. 

But then I got a telephone call from Lewiston’s other newspaper, The Sun Journal and, in a few weeks this headline, and the picture of my son, screamed from the front page of the Lewiston Sun Journal: 

“I DON’T WANT TO GO BACK” 

The picture painted of my son was unrecognizable. James wanted an apology. I managed to get the paper to run both the original account, as printed by the Twin City Times, and an Op-Ed piece by me.

Here’s my letter:

Editor:

The article – “I Don’t Want to Go Back” (March 16, 2007)  -  about my son, Spc. James Kuritz, which headlined the cover of the Lewiston Sun Journal, began with my attempt to  inform the Sun Journal that our local state representatives had recognized James at the Maine State House in January.  The Sun-Journal story could not have been more opposite to that original account.

The transformation began with a call from reporter, Daniel Hartill, who said the State House recognition was too old to be newsworthy. He asked about James and, because of his sympathetic tone, I put him in touch with my son.

Mr. Hartill called for more information:  What did I think of James’ bleeding ears? Shouldn’t he get the Purple Heart? Did I want my son to return to Iraq?  What did I think of the war? (I silently wondered what this had to do with James in Augusta, but the reporter continued to present himself as wanting to recognize James’ accomplishments.)

James and I were stunned to read the story. We were sad that he had been misquoted, had statements taken out of context, and had qualifying and clarifying statements omitted. We also noted plain errors of fact.

For example, I can hear my son saying, in response to a question, “Do you want to go back to Iraq?’, “I don’t want to go back – not until I receive further medical attention!” Or “I don’t want to go back. No one does. But I’m a soldier and I keep my promises.” But I cannot imagine my son (who privately and reluctantly to me compared his battlefield experiences to “the Alamo every night”) ever uttering the unconditional statement attributed to him. Had James said what was attributed to him, he would stand by those words, just as he stood by his fellow soldiers in combat. He is not a coward.

The sensationalized picture of James was neither accurate nor fair.

Let me tell you the facts, following St. Paul. “Therefore having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another”:

James proudly enlisted in the U.S. Army because he wanted to help the War Against Terrorism. He has never expressed any regret for his military service.  In fact, periodically he has considered re-enlisting. James has been awarded for the quality of his service. While, like any soldier, James often wonders at the big picture, he has never intended to do anything but continue to serve his country to the best of his ability. He is proud of his comrades, his officers, and the United States’ efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.

That the Sun-Journal would distort this reality into a tabloid journalistic picture of a whining, frightened malcontent, questioning the wisdom of his leaders to further an anti-war political agenda is disgraceful.

The weekend following the story had been designated as a time of local and national anti-war protest, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the march on the Pentagon. The newspaper had had James’ story for weeks and there was no urgency in running it when they did. The article was strategically placed adjacent to a story about a war widow to enhance the anti-war message. It seemed the reporter had a political point of view and used both of us to find material to make it, regardless of whether his point lined up with the facts.

Even though the State House recognition of my son was the purpose of my original contact with the Sun Journal, Mr. Hartill totally neglected to mention this in his story. “An oversight”, we were told.

The timing of the article with the weekend protests is to be thought of as a “coincidence”; the distortion of James’ views is to be thought of as accurate reporting; and the omission of the recognition bestowed on James by the State House is to be believed to be simply an “oversight.”

James and I want all to know that we do not appreciate his service and sacrifice being used for political purposes antithetical, we believe, to the best interests of the United States.


  
 

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