A series deserving a Pulitzer (with update)

Michelle Malkin posted photos and rounded up links to “War photos that desereve awards.” Those photos are by contrast with the AP’s prize-winning photos for felony murder. In the same spirit, I offer my choice for feature writing that deserves an award: the series by Minneapolis Star Tribune medical reporter Maura Lerner on Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Clements. In the series Lerner writes in detail, with great humanity, about the devastating brain injury suffered by Sgt. Clements in Iraq, and her remarkable recovery-in-progress.
We posted the series and a few representative photos here as the series appeared in the Star Tribune beginning this past August 8. Lerner’s articles were published in this order: “A purple heart for Jessica” (covering Jessica’s injury by a roadside bomb and her initial life-saving treatment); “Putting Jessica back together” (reporting on Sgt. Clements’s August 18 surgery, her family and fiance, and on the physicians who performed seemingly miraculous feats); and “In which Jessica keeps her promise” (don’t miss this one).
What was good about Lerner’s series? I thought it told in a memorable manner the story of a patriotic young lady who had sacrificed greatly for her country, and whose recovery shows an utterly indomitable spirit. I admired Lerner for letting the story tell itself with an art that kept the writer’s own views out of the picture.
Jim Gehrz has achieved substantial recognition for the photos that accompanied Lerner’s series. He was one of three finalists in the 2005 Pulitzer feature photography category for the photos. His portfolio has also won the 2004 Scripps Howard Foundation Award for Photojournalism and the 2005 National Press Photographer Association’s designation as the Newspaper Photographer of the Year. (Gehrz has a son who is a medic in Iraq.)
Good as Gerhrz’s photos are, they would be nothing without Lerner’s reporting. The McClatchy Newspapers — the Star Tribune’s corporate parent — recognized Lerner’s series with one of the company’s President’s Awards. The series is deserving of recognition beyond the company for its excellence.
I sought Lerner out yesterday to ask if the Star Tribune had submitted her articles for consideration in the Pulitzer competition. (It had — for beat reporting.) She told me she had just spoken with Jessica, who has now been discharged from the Army, and that she sounded great. Lerner anticipates that she will bring her series up to date with a final installment no later than Jessica’s wedding (scheduled for next year).
UPDATE: Sergeant First Class Robert Thomas wrote and called this morning to let us know that Jessica was awarded the Bronze Star on February 26 (Jessica had somehow omitted to mention it in her recent conversation with Lerner!):

Good morning! I am the Retention NCO at the unit where SSG Jessica Clements was assigned. I just wanted to give you an update on how she is doing. I last saw her at the unit banquet we held on 26 February 2005, where she was awarded the Bronze Star. I was the one who read aloud the award citation as it was presented to her, and my voice choked up a bit. It was truly difficult to express into words what she had gone through on that fateful day. After the presentation, she received a standing ovation. Jessica looked absolutely gorgeous and was in really good spirits at the banquet. We are all so grateful and amazed at how well she has recovered, and she will be sorely missed here by everyone. She was an excellent Soldier and an example of strength to us all.
I’d like to thank you for all the kind articles you post about Jessica on Power Line, as well as your positive coverage on events in Iraq. It’s really refreshing to hear about the positive things that have happened in the Iraqi war, because the MSM won’t cover it. Thanks for all that you and your partners do at Power Line! I don’t think you guys know how much you are truly appreciated out here in the “blogosphere.” Thanks again.

We are most grateful to Sergeant Thomas for the update and the kind words. Reader Pat Martin also writes from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) with an important point:

I was most interested to read the Big Trunk

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