For those of you who are new to this situation I will lay out the timeline. On April 1st (yeah, I realize the significance) I interviewed Mr. Reed and was genuinely impressed with the man. He spoke to me in a very professional manner and spoke openly about his experiences in the service. I wrote an article the next day and I literally heard nothing positive or negative about my article for the next two weeks.
The following week I was out due to the death of my mother and I am EMPHASIZING that I’m not using that to try to gain any sympathy or to make any excuses for my mistake. All the letters of support I received after my mistaken retraction last week expressed their condolences - much appreciated, but that’s not why I wrote the column. I wrote the column because of the influx of e-mails I was receiving from bloggers on a website (more on that later) that were awaiting me upon my return to work. I also had been told the week I was off of work that the paper had received information that Mr. Reed may have been untruthful with us. I wish I used the word “untruthful” in my column last week, but I didn’t - unfortunately, I used “lied”. I also may have written it in the wrong frame of mind. It was an emotional week for me and I may have been looking for a source to vent some anger.
It is now a fact that not only did I pick the wrong person to vent any anger towards. I chose a hero. An American hero. Not only that - I actually chose the wrong Shane Reed. That’s right, there is another person who served in the armed forces named Shane Reed who is from this area.
Now I’m not about to bash another Shane Reed - Lord knows what happened the first time - but I will say that his service record is nowhere close to as exemplary than that of the man who spoke at the Kiwanis Club - the “real” Shane Reed, the man who presented me this morning with his DD-214. The man who kindly pointed out how I may have misunderstood what he told me during his phone interview.
To all you bloggers out there who took so much time and effort in telling me what an amateur writer I was and that I should do more research before I write a story. Maybe you should have taken time out from expressing your opinions on what may be your only social outlet to do your research. Maybe you would have found out what this “disgrace to journalism” couldn’t . And just maybe you could have done so in a more timely fashion - like say when I was back at work and may have been able to do more research.
Now in my initial article I mentioned that Mr. Reed called in an airstrike that was responsible for the deaths of 3,000 Taliban soldiers. What Mr. Reed actually said was that “the target was eliminated” which I took to mean that the enemies were killed - that was my fault. However, I must admit that some of the things the bloggers on the website said did make sense at the time. I was told by Mr. Reed that he was in Afghanistan on September 19 - eight days after September 11 - when it is well known that the United States didn’t invade the country until October 2, 2001. I was told that it was unheard of to fire upon a person a mile away lighting a cigarette (which was mentioned in my last column) - “how did they know they weren’t firing on a woman or a farmer” was what one of the blogs said.
The man who I now refer to as “the real Shane Reed” WAS in Afghanistan before the rest of our troops entered doing reconnaissance work. The “real Shane Reed” DID, along with his squad, unload on an enemy combatant who had fired on his troops, and yes, this after seeing him light a cigarette. He was actually on the second floor of a building the soldiers knew to be hostile when he was nailed - yes, with night goggles, and from hundreds of yards away.
I owe Mr. Shane Reed an apology. Possibly the biggest apology I’ve ever offered to anyone because when I returned to work the Monday after being off for a week to find all these e-mails awaiting me I literally had steam coming out of my ears. I assumed that all these people who claimed to have served with a Shane Reed (one guy said they just drank Mountain Dew and played video games) were far too numerous and far too specific about certain situations to be wrong. I got on the website and called “the real Shane Reed” several names that I wish I could take back - however, I can’t. And for that it will be a long time before I am able to forgive myself.
Now this week, as I mentioned before, I was approached by a couple of Mr. Reed’s friends who adamantly suggested I was wrong, called me names on the same website that these bloggers crawled out from under, and I took this as them trying to intimidate me. At one point I even thought I was going to have to fight with a guy who was much bigger than I was - glad that didn’t happen! However, none of these things did anything to intimidate me. They just made me angrier.
Then I got the first sign that I may have made a mistake. It came when “the real Shane Reed” called me upon returning home from working offshore. Here it comes I thought - another tongue lashing (I was getting used to them at this point). However, the first words out of Shane’s mouth were an apology for the actions of his friends. That really caught me off guard.
Then I spoke to Shane Reed in person.
He strikes me as being one of the friendliest, down to earth, humble, and, yes, honest people you could ever meet - and I only spoke to him for about thirty minutes. He even said that he was ready to just blow off my article without saying a word, however, it was beginning to affect his job and, more importantly, his family - and the Lord knows that I should understand that at this point in my life.
Shane Reed, the man who spoke at Kiwanis, IS a hero and as his friends have all told me - he is a humble man and would never admit it. He HAS served our country honorably for over ten years and the fact that I ripped on him is killing me inside. And after talking with him directly I now understand why all his friends took up for him in the manner that they did. If I had a friend with the same qualities as Shane, I would take up for him too, and yes, probably in the same manner that they did.
Now to all you bloggers who filled up my e-mail box and assumed that the other Shane Reed (Shane L. Reed by the way) was the man I spoke highly of in my initial article. You guys owe “the real Shane” an apology. You guys were the ones who added fuel to the fire all last week, wanting me to retract my article and basically inciting me to go after this man - the wrong man. A man who served his country with dignity and honor. If you had done YOUR research you would have known that. One thing I am curious about, and I say this with all due respect, is will the officers who contacted our paper offer an apology. I sincerely hope so.
Now next week if you want to refill my e-mail with all your hate mail again. Go ahead. I assure you it will be deleted without ever being read. In fact, you can rip on me all you want, just stop ripping “the real Shane Reed.”
I mentioned last week that the Internet was a strong source of information. It is now painfully obviously to me that it can be a strong source of BS as well.
Shane, I once again apologize to you, your family, and your friends.
Thank you for being so understanding and thank you most of all for your service to our country.
I wrote a column which tarnished your image last week. I have already apologized but I feel I should do more. If there is anything you need from me to reestablish and rebuild any part the image you deserve let me know.
I’ll do it in a heartbeat.