Sep 072009
Authors: Lauren Leete

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jim Sheeler will speak to students today, offering his perspective on the sacrifice and struggle many military families experience after losing their loved ones at war.

The topic of Sheeler’s speech is his book “Final Salute,” based off his award-winning series that ran in The Rocky Mountain News that chronicles the story of a Marine Corps major whose task it was to tell people that their family member died at war and consoling the bereaved.

“It’s something that none of us who have never served can fully understand, but I hope it’s something that we can begin to appreciate a little bit more,” Sheeler said in a phone interview.

At 11 a.m. in the Lory Student Center’s Grey Rock Room, Sheeler will shed light on his experience meeting soldiers’ families and shadowing a casualty notification officer, hoping people will understand the sacrifices they make each day.

“For me (this experience) just really opened my eyes to what so many people are doing for all of us everyday. (It’s) not about politics, but just about sacrifice,” Sheeler said.

The doors open at 10:30 a.m., and coffee and scones will be provided at no charge.

The Association for Student Activities and Planning, which is hosting this free event, sent out an e-mail to the CSU staff last year, searching for recommendations of local authors to bring to campus. After ranking and compiling the submissions, Sheeler was at the top of the list, event coordinator Emily Burnett said.

“I’m really excited for him to come. I think (“Final Salute”) is really moving. Every time I pick it up, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions. The respect for the branches of the military, the reality of the families and their struggle . it’s a good read. I recommend it,” Burnett said.

Burnett said she hopes students will lay aside their “formulated opinions” and be open to this inside view.

“(Sheeler) does it in a way that there is no judgment or hate for what’s going on over there. I think that should be honored, hopefully people get to see some of that,” Burnett said.

Jessica VanDelinder, freshman journalism major, works with the military at the Fort Collins recruiting office and volunteers with the USO. She said she really enjoyed the behind the scenes look of “Final Salute” on how the families and friends cope with loss.

“I have a lot of friends and family in the military,” VanDelinder said. “I know them and how the military works, probably more than any civilian should know. I have a safe feeling knowing that they’re over there. I respect them a lot.”

Staff Writer Lauren Leete can be reached at

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