NBC's Williams: A Lesson in Courage and Character

Kudos to NBC Nightly News for devoting an astonishing four minutes and 15 seconds to what anchor Brian Williams called, “a lesson in courage and character,” a powerful documentary on wounded veterans that will air on HBO Sunday, September 9.

Williams' September 5 feature on the HBO documentary, Alive Day Memories, brought together the force behind the documentary, Sopranos star James Gandolfini, and four of the wounded veterans featured in the documentary. “Alive day” refers to the day a soldier escapes death in an attack that should have killed him or her.

When Williams asked why he took on this project, Gandolfini became very emotional.  He said when he came back to the United States after visiting Iraq, he was “struck by the silence here in this country about what is going on over there.”  He continued, “And then when I talked to the soldiers, I was struck by … you can be cynical on both coasts… but honor, duty, loyalty to your country …it hit me. I guess some people forget about that. Or don't think about it. And I think …,” Gandolfini could not finish his statement.

The NBC anchor also made a point of the lack of a political agenda in the documentary, asking Gandolfini why the story didn't take a position on the war in Iraq.  “I wanted to hear what they had to say,” said Gandolfini. “And I think sometimes when something is political, half the people will shut down immediately and not listen. Whatever side it is on.”

Williams also interviewed the four wounded vets, who sat on a bare stage with Gandolfini.  Of the two men and two women, three are missing limbs, and one is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The story closed with poignant footage of a Marine in full dress uniform, sitting in a chair, his prosthetic legs uncovered.  The Marine comments that his wife is his “rock,” and that everything he is doing is for her and their children.  As Williams closed the segment he quoted Gandolfini, who said these veterans and the 27,000 like them are “the very best this nation has to offer.” He then cautioned viewers that the documentary is not for the “faint of heart” but it was “a lesson in courage and character.”

NBC deserves thanks for promoting this documentary. Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq premieres Sunday, September 9 at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.