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CIA Officer Michael Spann Buried at Arlington National Cemetery

Aired December 10, 2001 - 13:15   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to interrupt Ari Fleischer's briefing to go to Arlington National Cemetery, where Mike Spann, the CIA officer who was killed in that Mazar-e Sharif prison uprising late last month is now being buried with full military honors. Mike Spann had only been in the CIA for 2 1/2 years, was shot at that prison uprising, the first U.S. combat casualty on the ground in Afghanistan at the beginning of this war. The CIA director George Tenet is among those attending this briefing -- this funeral.

Let's listen in briefly.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... weapons of war and perished.

Now when Job;s friend heard of all the adversity that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, and when they lifted up their eyes in the distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept, and they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights, with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw his pain was very great.

We're at a loss from Job's friends because of his loss. So also we are at a loss as we gather around you today, not three of us, but 300 million.

Dear father, dear son, your brother, many of us who've lost friends, and we have all lost patriots and a hero. Mike Spann was the kind of man that we dream of growing up to be when we are boys, tough, kind, strong, fair. He was a warrior in the highest and best sense of that word, so like King David that he was fully committed to God, to his family and to his nation.

A man like Mike is rare, irreplaceable. So we are at a loss today, a loss for deed, a loss for words, a loss perhaps even for feelings. What we seek at times like this is some sort of handle, some explanation to make sense of this situation. What we want to know is, Why? If God is, and if God reigns and if right will prevail, how did this happen? How were evil men allowed to take the life of our friend and our hero? That's what Job wanted to know as well. He wanted to know why. And he was surrounded by friend whose did speak and who did offer various explanations, none of them satisfying, because he knew he needed to word of God. He needed God to speak to him and to make sense of what had happened. And so do we.

And thankfully, God does speak to us. Thankfully God does answer Job. God doesn't tell Job why. What God tells Job is who. God tells Job who laid the foundation of the world. God tells Job who makes the snow fall, who causes babies to be born in the womb, who pushes the stars around their course, and for Job, that's everything.

It's not always possible for our finite minds to understand why, and knowing why doesn't offer empower us to undo the evil that has happened or preventing evil men from doing evil again. And knowing who means everything, always, always.

We are all just children in this big universe, see what love the father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God, and that is who we are, the Bible tells us, first John, chapter three, verse one.

There is so much you can not explain so much to a child. You can't explain something like evaporation or the prismatic effect that causes a rainbow. You certainly can't explain to a 10-month old that they need inoculation for diphtheria, and yet that 10-month-old, as they sit in the examining room of their pediatrician, that 10-month- old knows that their mother, their father, their parents had held them high while someone that they didn't know jabs them with something sharp. All they know is that the person who is supposed to love them and take care of them has been unaware of or complicit in the pain they have been caused. And yet that 10-month-old, in the moment of their pain, reaches out for that father, and mother for that parent, who holds on tight, because they know their is no place else to go. They know who loves them. We are that child.

And now hurt and confused, you have the urge to hold on, to hold on to each other, to hold on to God. It is honest urge, it is a natural impulse, yield to it. Hold on. Hold on. Because despite all we do not know, we don't doubt that God is, that God cares, and that God can, and that God will. And so thanks be to God for his wonderful and abundant gifts, and may his blessing and our prayers be with you.

GEORGE TENET, CIA DIRECTOR: Here today in American soil, we lay to lasting rest an American hero. United in loss in sorrow, we are united as well in our reverence for the timeless virtues upon which Mike Spann shaped his life, virtues for which he ultimately gave his life -- dignity, decency, bravery, liberty.

From his earliest days, Mike not only knew what was right, he worked to do what was right, at home and school in Alabama, as the United States Marine, as an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, and as the head of own, young family. And it was in the quest for right that Mike at his country's call went to Afghanistan to that place of danger and terror he sought to bring justice and freedom.

And to our nation, which he held so close to his heart, he sought to bring a still greater measure of strength and security, for Mike understood and it is not enough simply to dream of a better, safer world. He understood that it has to be built with passion and dedication in the face of obstacles, in the face of evil. Those who took him from us will be neither deeply mourned nor long remembered, but Mike Spann will be forever part of the treasure of legacy of free peoples everywhere, as we each owe him an immense, unpayable debt of honor and gratitude. His example is our inspiration. His sacrifice is our strength.

For the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency, he remains the rigorous and resolute colleague, the professional who took great pride in his difficult and demanding work, the patriot who knew that information saves lives, and that its collection is a risk worth taking.

May God bless Mike Spann, an American of courage, and may God bless those who love and miss him and all who carry on the noble warrior that he began.

SHANNON SPANN, MIKE SPANN'S WIDOW: At a moment like this, I just had to sense that Mike would not have wanted me to give to you a prepared speech, especially since September 11th, he said to children and to me that he wished that people would simply speak from their heart, but the trouble is as I stand here today and as I just was getting up from my seat I was remembering that my heart is broken. It broke when it fell to the ground two Sundays ago in a place really far from here, But I'm asking it to work well enough for a couple of minutes so I can tell you something important about Mike with the kind of sincerity that I think, darling, you would have hoped.

Mike really loved his history, he really loved American history, and enjoyed to read, and so over these past few days I've been wracking my brain, trying to think of some quote from a world leader or from somebody that Mike respected and who read, something that would capture a little bit of who he was, and I hope that this doesn't sound presumptuous, but at the end of the day, I thought he would be satisfied with hearing something from me.

So I want to tell you something as humbly as I can, just in my own words. I want to tell you that my husband is a hero. But Mike is a hero not because of the way that he died, but rather because of the way that he lived. Mike was prepared to give his life in Afghanistan, because he already gave his life every day to us at home.

And I wanted to take just a minute or two to explain to you a little bit about what I mean about that. In our home, I was the person in charge of sort of bookkeeping and finance kind of things, and so I had our computer organized just exactly how I wanted it to be. And Mike had this quirky thing that he did. Every once in a while, I would come back to do something on the computer, and I would say it's all changed around, and it always said the United States Marine Corps Sempra Fadella (ph). And I used to think that it was strange that he did that, until this past week, and I started thinking how highly identified Mike was with being a Marine and how much it made sense that he was, because how that little phrase, Sempra Fadella, "always faithful." Mike was faithful in giving his life to God, and to himself, to his colleagues, and his friends and to his country and to his family.

He was a Christian man who believed that forgiveness for sin through Jesus Christ. He was that type, or that faith who claimed that the Bible was the inspired word of God and that it should be something in a way that one lives ones life. He was faithful to give his life to himself as well.

I think a lot of us who have said this week that Mike knew himself just better than anybody I have ever met. He was so aware of his strengths and had so much confidence, and at the same time he was very candidly willing to admit his weakness, which sometimes kind of frustrated me, because then it seemed to turn his weakness into his strength, again, because it was very disarming that he was able to respect if he was wrong or if he was weak, which he rarely was. But he was willing to confess both of those things. And because of that, I think he was able to give his faithfully as a friend, because he was such a genuine person, and he was able to be a professional, a colleague and a very good friend.

But I want to say something about how Mike served his country. Everybody I think here knows that he served this country as a Marine and he served his country for recently, people have discovered, as an officer in the Central Intelligence Agency, but he served his country quite apart from those things. He served his country by being good. Not everybody is skilled or has the desire to go to far away places to fight in wars, but all of us have the skills and should have the desire to serve our country by being good, and Mike was certainly one of those.

He didn't separate serving his country from serving his family. It seems like when Mike took an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic, that he took the oath to our family as well. He just really thought that it was his duty as a father to protect his children from terrorism just as he fully equally thought that is was his duty to provide a roof over their head. And so we know that he was in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing in a way that he understood it was his life to do.

So I just wanted to take a moment here to describe to you one thing about what Mike meant to me. When he was in the field, he phoned one day and he said he was writing some things down for me, reflections of his he wanted to share with me when he got home. So I thought to myself, well, that's something I can do, I can jot down the things that the children and I do, things that we think and things that we would like to share with him when he got home. So I began sitting down in the evenings writing to him some thoughts, and I thought that this would be the sort of most un-self conscious way that I could say to you, because these words are originally meant only for him. But since I don't get the opportunity to share them with him, I thought I would share them with you, if you would just indulge me for a moment.

This was on 18, October, Thursday evening. "The house is quiet, and so I'm here speaking to my favorite person. I miss you so much, especially in the evenings. However, even though we're a bit sick, we're all doing quite well, I should say. Emily had to do a little homework for school, a picture of a tree, and we were supposed to decorate it as a family tree, and so we made leaves and printed out pictures of all of our faces, and it made me so happy to see all of our family on one page. I can't wait until we're all together.

"I've been reading now in Corinthians (ph), in chapter four and verse eight. 'Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.' That verse made me feel special because it made me think of you, my husband: true, honorable, bright, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise. All words that describe you, my dear."

Then of course because I was speaking to Mike, I had to put in parenthesis "lovely" being the word that describes your love for me and the children.

"And then I said, "Now I shall go to bed a lucky girl, and dwell on these things and the happiness of belonging to you, and in the hope of your safe return to me."

And today God is the only one that knows why Mike was not allowed to safely return to me. And I'm sure glad he does know, because we don't understand it, but I know that if Mike were here today, he would offer you his strength. If he were here today, he would ask for all of us to be strong.

And, darling, if you were here today, I would tell you that I love you with every part of who I am, but today I want to say thank you, thank you just for being you. And thank you for giving me the greatest honor of my whole life, and that was to be called your wife.

Sempra Fadella.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's pray together. Father in heaven, we thank you for your many gifts and promises. We thank you for the gift of this, our brother Mike Spann, for all that he has meant no our nation, and all he meant to his family, all that he has meant to us, his brothers and sisters through Christ.

We are thankful father that we know, as your children, and we are apart from you, we are not home. And our brother Mike is home with you, home from the battlefield, home from this world of confusion and awful sorrow.

We pray your blessing upon those he has left behind, on his wife and his children, his family and his nation.

In your son's name that we pray, amen.

And now, as it has pleased God to bring home to himself the soul of this, our departed hero and brother, we commit his body to this hallowed ground, prepared for it, trusting that his imperishable spirit, now refined by fire, is eternally with the Lord.




BLITZER: The widow of Mike Spann, Shannon, receiving condolences from guests at the funeral of her husband at Arlington National Cemetery. Mike Spann, only 32 years old, having served in the CIA for two and a half years. Before that, a captain, an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, killed in action on November 25 at the Mazar-e Sharif prison in Northern Afghanistan.




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