“You are doing an exceptional job,” he said. “I really honor what you do.”
During the project, Boettcher and his son also sent back video and photos, which students used to produce stories focusing on the war's effect on those left behind. Under the guidance of journalism professor John Schmeltzer, students spoke with families of deployed troops, including many they interviewed during a trip to Fort Campbell, Ky.
Boettcher said he recognized the effect the project had on the students. One returned home from Fort Campbell having interviewed a woman whose husband had recently been killed in combat.
Interviewing people who had been affected by the war was a good experience for the students, Boettcher said. In an era when fewer than 1 percent of citizens serve in the military, many Americans don't understand the gravity of war.
That lack of understanding makes it easier for the nation to wage war without taking account of the consequences, he said.
“All of the students came back changed and engaged — not just as journalists, but as citizens of this country,” he said. “That, to me, was the greatest gift I could ever receive.”