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Five Words That Change Lives


This past week, we’ve been bombarded by the media with Anna Nicole Smith’s death, the courtroom antics surrounding her burial and custody of her daughter, and Britney-always Britney-who has shaved her head and entered rehab. Plus, there’s the allure of Oscar night and the glamour of Hollywood. The tease for this-the five words that change one’s life: “And the Oscar goes to”

Imagine if this were a “Jeopardy” answer. “And the Oscar goes to”

Would the contestant who rings the buzzer first ask: “What are the five words that change someone’s life?”

If my brother had won an Oscar and I asked him the five words that changed his life, he would say, “We regret to inform you.” So would the other 3,139 Coalition families who have either heard these words or are about to hear them (three deaths are pending Department of Defense Confirmation right now). During the month of February, 70 U.S. troops have been killed. That means 67 families have gone to their doors to hear, “We regret to inform you” and three families are wondering if their soldier is one of those whose death has not yet been confirmed.

How have the more than half a million Iraqi families been informed of the death of a loved one? Whatever form the news takes, whether the death is witnessed or arrives through an anguished relative, friend, policeman, or the failure of a loved one to come home from the market, those left to process the unthinkable will never forget this day, this minute, the second the knowledge of death hits their consciousness and shatters their heart.

Maybe one of the recipients of an Oscar will make a statement Sunday night. Maybe, one of them will talk about this war that continues to destroy military families and Iraqis. Maybe, someone will have the sensitivity to say that these awards are meaningless in the face of what is being done by the Bush Administration in our names. “And the Oscar goes to”

Because the people who hear the words, “We regret to inform you,” don’t clutch a shiny gold statue. They fall to the floor in pain. And, later, they receive a gold and purple symbol of sacrifice, a Purple Heart.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at:


Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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