My Full Length Interview with John Bernard:

This week, my Monmouth Review-Atlas column, published every Tuesday, addresses Lance Corporal Bernard’s Story…

“A Marine, His Family, and One Gruesome Photograph”

By Jim Bennett

On Aug. 14, as his patrol was readying for a rumored Taliban ambush in Dahaneh, Afghanistan, Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard, just 21, was on point. The ambush erupted and a rocket-propelled grenade blew one of Joshua’s legs off, leaving the other leg severely injured. His comrades struggled with tourniquets and battlefield first aid while still under heavy enemy fire, but sadly, for this young, mortally wounded Marine, this attack would mean the end of his life a short time later.

For his comrades, this attack was a moment of sheer desperation as they tried to drag Bernard to safety. And for his parents, John and Sharon Bernard, back home in New Portland, Maine, this attack would come to mean the loss of their only son.

But for embedded photojournalist Julie Jacobson and her bosses at the Associated Press, this attack was a Kodak Moment. Jacobson captured a vivid and dramatic photograph of the scene: Bernard’s gruesome wound is shown in all its bloody detail, and his young face, sickly pale and blank with shock, is haunting. The article that Jacobson and AP reporter Alfred de Montesquiou filed stated that, as that young man was exsanguinating, the photographer “wrestled” with a “question”: Should she try to help save Joshua, or should she keep taking pictures?

Is this really what we have become? Have our hearts really hardened to the point that circumstances like I just described actually cause one to “wrestle” with such a “question”?       

Soon Jacobson’s bosses here in the states were “wrestling” with a “question” that should have been just as axiomatic. This Marine’s parents and sister have already been crushed by his death, just days ago. Do we take their profound grief to new depths by publishing the gory photo around the world, or do we summon that remnant of human decency that lies dormant in our icy souls and at least spare these tormented people that added trial? Just like Julie Jacobson’s “question,” the only thing more shocking than the way they answered the question was the fact that they even needed to ask it at all. And just like Julie Jacobson, they made a disgusting choice.

Joshua’s father, John Bernard, is a career Marine who retired at the rank of 1st Sergeant. He was mid-way through that career when I did my three-year stint in the Corps, and we both served in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, though we never met. I was so moved by his son’s story and so outraged by the actions of Julie Jacobson and the AP that I got in touch with John and his wife Sharon. He spoke glowingly of a son who loved Jesus, loved the Marine Corps and loved his family.

John and Sharon homeschooled Joshua and his sister Katie, and when he started talking to his Dad about enlisting, John wanted one assurance: “I needed to know that, when he did this, he was doing it for the right reasons … not just a ‘following in dad’s footsteps’ kind of thing. He was absolutely adamant that this is what he was called to do. And this was with an understanding that his testimony as a Christian would have a bearing in that environment.”

Joshua’s devotion to Jesus Christ was soon producing spiritual fruit among his brothers in arms. John told me that his son “actually was holding Bible studies…they were ongoing, he was encouraging guys, and they were wanting to learn, and they were listening.”

After his death, his unit held a memorial service for him in Afghanistan. Joshua’s remarkable impact was evident there. “The Battalion Commander called me,” John said, “and told me that during their field service, he was almost speechless. He had never witnessed anything like that, where so many Marines – and some of these guys are battle-hardened and have seen things nobody should see – they were all in tears and, to a man, they were all completely heartbroken over having lost this particular Marine. He said that they recognized in him something that was much closer to God than they had ever seen before. And so the suggestion is that God will use that.”

A few days after the funeral, an AP reporter approached John to discuss the photograph. John asked to see it and was shown what he described as fuzzy, black-and-white prints, which bore little resemblance to the bloody, clear color photo now splashed across newspapers worldwide.

“I handed them back to him and said, ‘Look: Neither my wife nor daughter needs to see this. Nobody needs to see this. So if you’re asking me for my permission, you don’t have it. You need to go back and tell them that absolutely no one needs to see this. It doesn’t honor him, it doesn’t honor the Corps, it doesn’t honor God, it doesn’t honor this country, and it doesn’t do them, as a news agency, any service whatsoever.”

Four days later, John Bernard followed up with a phone call to Associated Press leadership, emphatically reiterating his plea that they spare his family this additional, and wholly unnecessary, trauma. Not long after, the Secretary of Defense himself, Robert Gates, intervened, strongly encouraging the Associated Press not to subject the Bernard family to this torment.

They ran the picture anyway.

“I have very little use for the people who took the picture and even less for those who ran it. They had plenty of time to reflect on it, and they did it anyway,” John said.

And like many who read the story Julie Jacobson filed, John Bernard was stunned that she had to “wrestle” with a choice between helping save Joshua and continuing to ghoulishly snap away with her camera. “The fact that that would even be a dilemma for anybody … I don’t even know how to ascribe a thought to that. But the fact that she failed and went the wrong way says much, you know?

“All I can say is it comes back to Romans 1 where it says God will turn them over to a reprobate mind,” John offered. “This person [Julie Jacobson] reflects that.”

I asked John what he thought motivated the Associated Press in their compassionless assault on his grieving family, and he attributed it to greed. “There was exactly one purpose for this, and that was the bottom line, that was selling rags,” he told me. “It’s voyeurism at its worst.”

I share John Bernard’s assessment of all the principle players in this tragedy. And Jesus warned us of a day when, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will wax cold.”

That day, dear reader, seems quite near right now. And May God help us all.

Josh Bernard

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  • WOTN  On September 5, 2009 at 09:23

    The Primary Players in this shameful episode are pictured here:

    Your interview is linked in that article at your site.

  • Jane  On September 5, 2009 at 10:23

    Mr. Bernard, please accept my deepest condolences for the loss of your son. What a beautiful soul Joshua was. God bless you and your family and I pray He will continue to surround you with His deep abiding love and comfort.

  • Anne McClure  On September 5, 2009 at 15:44

    Please accept my deepest condolences to your family. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Rkaighn  On September 5, 2009 at 17:49

    I hope this reaches the fmaily of this fine American Hero…May the Lord Bless you all in this terrible tragidy. Joshua is with his Father in ?Heaven and resting. After all he and your family has been through I am sorry that you had to go through what the AP and this reporter have done just in order to make a profit. Take care of yourselves.

  • Douglas Whiddon  On September 5, 2009 at 22:15

    I tried to post the following comment on the MSNBC blog but I got the message, name must contain letters only. I did not put anything but letters in my name. I think it’s just their way of keeping my comment off the blog. That’s OK. Put it up if you want to. (I had the same problem. It stopped after I just entered my first name. Go figure. – The B.H.)

    Those of us who have been there know the horror of war. Most of us serve so that our brothers and sisters and friends and children will not have to. Clearly, the only purpose here is to turn the thoughts of some people away from the purpose, the reason, the why. Since the horror of war is documented to an extent greater than any other event in the history of human kind, the only result here is to stab the family of this magnificent serviceman thru the heart with the dagger of disrespect. The AP is alsolutely devoid of honor. Forever faithful, death before dishonor, loyalty, these are the worthy characteristics that those who serve possess. I would rather die 1000 times on the battlefield for my country than die one time in the cave of cowardice where the AP lives. Unfortunately, MSNBC has chosen to keep them company in that cave. God bless this Marine and his family.

  • Amy  On September 6, 2009 at 14:28

    Below is the letter I wrote to the Associated Press. I am just sickened by what has happened, but it was a great encouragement to hear Joshua’s father speak. I have been crying at the drop of a hat since Friday. My son is the same age as Joshua, and a LCpl in the Marine Corps as well. He is deploying to that region in the spring. We cannot let this issue go, and Mr. Bernard is absolutely right about the rules of engagement contributing to this tragedy. How can we, as concerned Moms and Dads help to shed light on this? Would writing to the President help? Our sons are being sent to fight in battles without a clear directive. May the Lord send comfort to the Bernard family…as I know He already has. Semper Fi.

    To: Mr. John Daniszewski and Mr. Paul Colford,

    I am writing to express my absolute outrage at your executive decision to publish the photo of LCpl. Joshua Bernard . You and your organization have crossed one too many lines in my opinion. This line, however, is one that even I never imagined would be crossed. Who are you, to decide that the wishes of the mourning parents of this Marine are less important than your pathetic excuses to go ahead and print??? You both ought to be fired, and your organization banned from the battlefield. This is an outrage. I will be emailing and calling on The Commander in Chief, my Senators and the Department of Defense to let them know how upset I am. But the damage is done. You apparently won. Congratulations, you must be so proud of yourselves.

    My first born son is a United States Marine. He will be deploying in the spring. You cannot even imagine the range of emotions I have experienced this evening. I cannot stop crying when I think about Lance Corporal Bernard’s parents, and the image of their son that is forever engraved on their minds…thanks to you. You have ruined my holiday weekend. My eyes are red and puffy…my heart is heavy…and my optimism has turned to anger. I am simply LIVID at your organization and those papers who chose to print such a private picture. No one needs to see the remains of a man still LIVING and struggling to breathe. How horrible of you to think that it would be a good lesson for us to learn, AT THE EXPENSE of this man’s parents. You are sick men. You shouldn’t even be called men. A real man would have respected the wishes of the parents of this young man. How dare you. This is not journalism, it is gratuitous publicity and money in your pocket. You make me ill.

    You have picked the WRONG branch of the service to dishonor. The Marine Corps community is tightly knit…and we are fiercely protective of our sons and daughters. We will stand up for what is good and right and honorable. You will be hearing from many more Marine Corps parents, Veterans, and concerned Americans. This “battle” is far from over. The safety and morale of our Marines is on the line.

    Semper Fidelis (which means always faithful, in case you forgot),

    Amy Weber
    ( A Proud Marine Corps Mom who is not afraid to stand up for what is right…)

    • Bob Pitt  On September 7, 2009 at 12:00

      Amy Weber I feel your hurt I have lost cousins in the war and I know our families wouldn’t want pictures of their bodies printed. AP is a heartless selfish left ran media that just cares about the almighty dollar and no ones feelings or loss. I totally agree with you and I hope your letter stirs up discipline measures!!!!!

    • gary  On September 7, 2009 at 12:05

      Thank you for you and your son’s sacrifice. This is a horrible injustice to our brave heroes. What are you talking about the ROE being changed or not clear making it harder for our troops?

      • John Bernard  On September 8, 2009 at 14:14

        Drop me a line and I will send you the letter I wrote 9 weeks ago to address this issue. ROE is an accronym for rules of engagement. They govern how, when, where and whom you can engage in combat.

  • casey campbell  On September 6, 2009 at 21:51

    i was watching my 3 and 4 year old daughters play this evening. i thought about your son and the sacrifice he made to guarantee their freedom. i pray that you would feel the comfort of the Holy Spirit more than ever in this time of grief and suffering. there is nothing i, nor anyone else can say to lessen your pain. but, none the less, i too have sent the AP a scathing letter. they will reap what they have sown.

    may the Lord Jesus comfort you in this time.

  • Sgt Jason Leiby, USMC Ret  On September 7, 2009 at 12:06

    My regards and condolences to the family LCpl Bernard. He was another patriot and hero. My heart goes out for the loss of a brother in the Corps. OohRah and Semper Fi. Do not let the pigs at the AP get you and the family down, the true Americans are disgusted with them and feel for your family. Your son will be in my prayers and the prayers of my wife as she is Navy retired.

    • John Bernard  On September 8, 2009 at 14:18

      I’m not sure which DI this is but I have been in contact with his Senior and he is as crushed as all of the other Marines my son served with – as all of us who have worn the uniform are.

      • Jerry Castillo  On September 10, 2009 at 14:30

        Mr. Bernard,

        Let me express my sincerest condolence to you and your family for the loss of your brave son. His valor, for our country, will forever be etched in our minds and hearts.

        I am the producer of US Military Fallen, as seen on YouTube. When I began to research your son’s story I instantly became attached to him. He reminded me of a very dear friend of mine.

        My fans and followers have joined me in protesting AP. Also, we have expressed our views to the 6 postings found on YouTube and have managed to convince 3 to remove their videos. I have begun to write to YT management in removing the last three holdouts.

        Since, AP is the exclusive agency allowed on Dover to take photos of the dignified transfers I am asking Sec. Gates to revoke their previlages as well.

        My letters to AP began with the heading, “What part of NO do you not understand?” I have asked for the removal of the decision makers and a public apology to your family and the American public they have offended, before I will remove my video showing their faces and contact information.

        I believe we must fight for our soldiers, as valiantly as they fought on our behalf, to ensure our fallen are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

        If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me, at


        Jerry Castillo
        US Military Fallen,
        as seen on YouTube

  • MsMarti  On September 7, 2009 at 13:04

    I have been in touch with a Drill Instructor of LCpl Bernard. He asked that I publish his thoughts on this photo.

    Marine Drill Instructor Sounds Off

    • John Bernard  On September 8, 2009 at 14:19

      I’m not sure which DI this is but I have been in contact with his Senior and he is as crushed as all of the other Marines my son served with – as all of us who have worn the uniform are.

  • Sgt Jason Leiby, USMC Ret  On September 7, 2009 at 17:21

    Sir, Mam

    Again my deepest regrets. I have just picked up my local paper today, and seen that they chose to print the whole AP article and photo. I was disgusted at this fact. My self and the few retired Marines and other vets that I know, we are now boycotting this paper and I’m going to contact the local Marine Corps League to help in this issue. There are enough of us here that it can affect this paper, and we are demanding that they print a formal apology to you and you family. If and when they do i will post copy of it here. They have chosen the wrong branch of service to dishonor. My prayers, my heart and a somber salute to you and your son. The loss of a another good Marine, is a shame, but he is gaurding our Lord’s streets in heaven. OohRah and Semper Fi.

    • John Bernard  On September 8, 2009 at 14:20

      Thanks again for your support. We need to not let these idiots detract us from the real issue which is the ROE. There are other Marines out there who will die because of these rules before this is done.

  • T D  On September 7, 2009 at 17:49

    Thanks for publishing this and posting the interview. I have linked to it.

    What a wonderful family with a true hero–Joshua Bernard!

  • Jeremy  On September 7, 2009 at 20:19

    My heartfelt sympathy to the Bernard family. You raised a hero. From what I can see, the apple did not fall far from the tree. It is so sad it had to fall so soon. May the GOD of heaven be with you in your sorrow.

  • librarianchat  On September 7, 2009 at 20:28

    The media exploiting something? Get outta town.

  • mainenowandthen  On September 8, 2009 at 09:18

    The term “vultures” is certainly applicable in this instance. What a truly reprehensible act by an “impartial new professional” and her employers.

    God bless and accept this fine young man and provide strength to his grieving family.

    Heartfelt sympathies from a Vietnam vet.

  • Christopher  On September 8, 2009 at 09:25

    To see the media refuse the wishes of the family of a victim and publish death photos, just reeks ethically. However we have a free press and they should be allowed the right to do as they choose and we have the right to refuse to pay for the product they provide.

    • John Bernard  On September 8, 2009 at 14:22

      Nobody denies their right; we are questioning their judgement and a faulty conscience.

  • Lynda Armstrong  On September 8, 2009 at 10:14

    How does one say I am sorry…I think governor Palin said “there are no words ” …. my God Bless you and your family…

  • William Peck  On September 8, 2009 at 11:20

    thank you Jim Bennet, for pursuing this awful decision of the AP.

    may God grant peace to the Bernard family in their grief.

    Joshua Bernard made the ultimate sacrifice, and it was not in vain, though it was full of pain for him, his comrades, his family, and a nation.

    I think the conclusion that this was motivated by greed is only partially correct. The core motivation is to destroy the image of the United States, fueled by the hatred of God.

    While forgiveness is paramount, Julie Jacobson and the AP must pay dearly for their actions.

    This entire saga should be a call to arms.

  • Rusty bell  On September 8, 2009 at 22:01

    To the Benard family.God is in charge and Josh’s testimony
    is going further and wider with the bad photo
    than almost any other soilder I can remember.

    Remember how our lord used Jim Elliot to win the

    Alka Indians .

    I pray for you daily


  • Kurt  On September 8, 2009 at 22:38

    This is really weird. I happen to agree with you, for the sake of the parents, compassion dictates the photo should never have been shown. I’ve been blasted by folks from the left AND the right over my position on this.

  • Erica Colt  On September 9, 2009 at 14:49

    Dear Mr. Bernard,

    I have been sitting here with tears in my eyes just horrified at the decision that the AP made to print that photo. I can’t even imagine the additional pain it has caused. As you have said–this is not a matter of the right to publish the photo but rather the decency and compassion of those who chose to do it–just to get a story. Please accept my sincerest condolensces on your loss. As I think about my 3 year old son and 6 month old daughter I am profoundly grateful for the sacrifice that your son made for our freedom and protection. From what I have read about your son and his character I only hope that my children will grow up like him. Children are precious gifts from God–and we don’t know how long we have them. You have done an amazing job with your gift for the time that he blessed your life and you should be proud.

    God bless you and your family.
    Erica Colt

  • plumboz  On September 9, 2009 at 18:29

    I felt, and expressed to my family and circle of friends, exactly the same outrage you so eloquently express here. Well said.

  • Nancy Warren  On September 9, 2009 at 22:13

    My deepest and heartfelt sympathy to you and your family Sgt. BERNARD. We have you in our prayers .

    Our family lost a young Marine in 1969 in Viet Nam. He too was devout Christian and when he died he had saved his squad from an ambush and certain death. His charge at the enemy was his final act of valor.

    It has been over 40 years and I still weep when I remember his sacrifices. I know that he held a conviction that being a Marine was a supreme honor and that was the reason he volunteered for that second tour of duty.

    When I think of the disrepect given to your Marine son, I wept and then got angry when I realized that he not only was disrespected by the media and the AP, but by the Obama administration’s new ROE.

    My prayers are with you.

  • WOTN  On September 11, 2009 at 10:36

    MR. Bernard:

    Please accept my condolences in your sacrifice. In times like these, it is easy to get sidetracked with the “other issue,” the AP/MSM issue. There are no words that can overcome or make right what has occurred. I am Honored to call both you and your son Brother and to thank each of you for having served.

    I can only hope that together, we have convinced the MSM not to make such an error of “judgement” in the future.

    I can only hope that errors in RoE will be corrected.

    I can hope that Our Citizens will recognize the Honor of Our Warriors.


  • Marilyn Kloeppel  On September 16, 2009 at 12:17

    Dear Mr. Bennett, I have been ruminating about your column from last week, and about the reply by Mr. Angotti…mostly because I found his response most disturbing. In my view, there is a moral equivalence between those who callously act in a manner which they know will cause others pain (physical or emotional or both). then brag about their actions. One can compare those who boasted of their connection to the atrocities of 9-11, and danced in the streets and the AP actions. Yes, murder is more vile than causing more suffering to those who are already in pain, but although the degree of pain and suffering in the AP decisions are less wide-spread, it is no less immoral. One should never be proud of causing pain to others. If people want to see the pain and suffering of war, they should review the films of 9-11, or pick up a volume of Mathew Brady’s civil war photographs. The main-stream-media have lost the respect of many citizens because of their attempts to bend public opinion to their own liking. Take, for instance, the most recent lack of interest shown in the revelations regarding the corruption d in ACORN, or the positions taken by one Van Jones, or the dismissing of the importance of a wide-spread concern about government growth and spending.

    In addition, many people miss the point that self-censorship is important in a civil society. Perhaps they have never really learned any manners or learned to be concerned with how their actions effect others. I guess that is the real problem with a me-centered populace. Whether one is Christian or not, one should recognize that the Golden Rule is an excellent guide for human behavior.

    I must add that yours is one of the few columns I await and read each week. Thank you for you wit and ability to communicate real values in a society which becomes increasingly fractured and worrying.

    Marilyn Kloeppel

    • Jim Bennett  On September 16, 2009 at 12:43

      Ms Kloeppel,
      I deeply appreciate your supportive comments. You are right: Those who are privileged to regulate the flow of information on the largest of scales must recognize that the privilege comes with a heightened need for discretion and personal responsibility.

      However, you have me at loss regarding “the reply by Mr. Angotti.” Did he write something in the Review-Atlas or did he post something on my blog? If so, it got past me.

      Jim Bennett

  • Linda Michaud-Wehunt  On September 19, 2009 at 14:45

    No words can ever be enough for the sadness and broken hearted family of Lance Cpl Joshua Bernard. My sincerest condolences on the loss of your precious son, Joshua.

    My son served as a Corpsman (Doc) with the Marines, in Iraq for 15 months. Know that your son was very much loved by his Comrades.

    God keep you in the palm of His hand and may you walk ever near Him in your pained hearts.

    My thoughts and prayers are ever with you…Joshua will always be in my heart, thoughts and prayers. Never forgotten…

    Linda Michaud-Wehunt,
    Bangor, Maine

  • Linda Michaud-Wehunt  On September 19, 2009 at 15:03

    Mr. Bernard,
    With the death of your son, Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard, on August 14, 2009, I AGREE WITH YOU that we NEED to be extremely concerned about the NEW *RULES OF ENGAGEMENT –>>no firing when civilians are present. Our guys are hesitating–out of fear of being charged with murder. By now…everyone in the Middle East knows the rules…get out of the way or BE SHOT, when our troops are being fired upon. We all know the cowardly Afghanis know of our new ‘ROE’ and they will USE that information –thus putting our Troops at greater risk. I say ROE–>>FIRE WHEN FIRED UPON!!! THOSE ARE THE RULES. SHOOT BACK!!!

    Afghanis use their women and FEMALE children to hide behind–that’s ONE CLUE that there is about to be an attack on our Troops. You start seeing women and female children around you…TAKE COVER–wait until fired upon and SHOOT BACK WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Middle Easterners have very little regard for women and female children–>>TALIBAN?? YOU BET THE VERY SAME and then some. It is a KNOWN fact, now, that they are using females to be suicide bombers. Our Troops NEED to shoot back immediately when being fired upon!! THOSE ARE THE ORIGINAL ROE!

    Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard is a true Hero…a true warrior! I sincerely hope the images you viewed will be replaced by stories from Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard’s comrades–of who he really was, there, with them.

    I know, all too well what happens in War and it’s not pretty.
    ‘To those who have never seen or heard…no explanation is possible…
    To those who have been there and have seen…no explanation is necessary.’

  • Philip Topps  On September 21, 2009 at 15:43

    Mr Bennett.
    There is nothing so bankrupt as a “journalist” who has go decide between attempting to save a human being, and taking photographs of that person’s life ebbing away before them.
    This Julie Jacobsen will, at some point, have to answer for her decision, and the choice she made. There is an old expression I learned in the Army, many years ago. ” To those who have had to fight for it, freedom has a taste the protected will never know.”
    Thank you for your column, and to John Bernard and his family, I can only add my condolences. I have never suffered the loss of family to armed conflict, but have lost many, many friends, including my best childhood friend in Viet Nam. Many I served with both in-country and afterward. I appreciate the pain that the Bernards are suffering, if only in a small way. God bless them, and you.

  • BloggerDude  On October 8, 2009 at 20:47

    I don’t know If I said it already but …Cool site, love the info. I do a lot of research online on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read….

  • Janet Garrison  On October 13, 2009 at 18:38

    My heart aches for the Bernard family for the loss of their son, Joshua. Although I have felt that it is important for the public to see the photos of the caskets returned to Dover, Delaware, so that we all know the terrible cost of these wars (my husband served in Vietnam), I have also absolutely believed any such photos of soldiers, living and killed, should only be published with the express permission of their families. It is despicable that the AP would disregard Joshua Bernard’s family’s decision not to have photos of their son published. It is a disgraceful decision on AP’s part and certainly one without any dignity or respect for Lance Corporal Bernard or his family. The Bernards are in my prayers. janet

  • Jackson Rambo  On May 17, 2012 at 20:05

    Thx for information.


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