DOVER, Del. — For the first time since an 18-year ban on news coverage of returning war dead was lifted, the media witnessed the arrival Sunday night of a soldier killed overseas.
After receiving permission from family members, the military opened Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to the press. An eight-member team wearing white gloves and camouflage battle fatigues carried the body of 30-year-old Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip Myers of Hopewell, Va., off a military jet in a solemn ceremony on a cool, clear night.
Myers was killed Saturday near Helmand province, Afghanistan, when he was hit with an improvised explosive device, the Department of Defense said.
The ceremony under the yellowish haze of airport floodlights took about 20 minutes, with Myers' wife and other family members in attendance.
Myers was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery last year in recognition of his efforts in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Department of Defense said.
The new Pentagon policy gives families a choice of whether to admit the press to ceremonies at Dover, home to the nation's largest military mortuary and the entry point to the United States for service personnel killed overseas.
Critics of the previous policy had said the government was trying to hide the human cost of war.
President Barack Obama had asked for a review of the ban, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that the blanket restriction made him uncomfortable. The administration will let families decide whether to allow photos.
The ban was put in place by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, at the time of the Persian Gulf War. From the start, it was cast as a way to shield grieving families.