February 2007 Column Winner

Death of a celebrity, and a hero
By Jeff Mullin, Enid News & Eagle

Joshua Frazier died Tuesday. His death went relatively unnoticed, particularly when compared to the media frenzy that followed the untimely demise of Anna Nicole Smith.
That is understandable, of course, since Smith was, if nothing else, famous.
She might have been famous simply for being famous, but her name had become a household word.
Smith's fame seems a testament to the cult of celebrity that grips this country. We love celebrities, or, at least, we love to scrutinize every aspect of their lives.
We hang on every juicy detail of their love lives, from the first blush of romance to the wreckage left strewn in the wake of their breakup.
We want to know where they live, how they live, with whom they live and what substances in which they indulge to help them get through their lives.
We love them when they succeed, we envy them when they are at their sleek, beautiful, sexy, talented best. But we take guilty satisfaction in their downfall, as well. We can't look away when they gain weight, get arrested for drunk driving, shame themselves by spouting racial epithets or slide into the morass of addiction.
In return celebrities crave our attention. Without the public, they would have no career. But after a time, all try, largely without success, to hold the public at arm's length, to submit to the relentless scrutiny of adoring fandom only on their own terms.
It never works. In the world of celebrity, there is no having your cake and eating it too.
Joshua Frazier was no celebrity. He was a 24-year-old kid from Spotsylvania, Va., located just off I-95 south of Washington.
He was, by all accounts, a good kid. When a friend had a death in the family, Josh would sit up with them all night, if need be. If someone he knew, even casually, was in the hospital, Frazier would spend hours visiting them. When he was home, Josh Frazier even slept with a teddy bear, one given to his mother when she was pregnant with him.
No one ever saw fit to base a reality series on his life. If they had, they would have focused on a young man who would party on Saturday night, but was always up for church on Sunday morning.
Josh Frazier collected guns and was a huge fan of Spider Man.
Television news programs did not devote long minutes to coverage of Josh Frazier's death, as they did with Anna Nicole Smith. Magazines will not feature the demise of Josh Frazier on their covers, as they will Anna Nicole. Smith, after all, helps sell magazines.
Why do such people fascinate us? Is it because we wish we could be them, or because we are so glad we're not?
Anna Nicole Smith was an exotic dancer, turned Playboy playmate, turned blushing bride to an 89-year-old billionaire, turned widow embroiled in a legal fight over her late husband's estate, turned model, turned grieving mother and now martyr on the altar of society's obsession with celebrity.
She shared much with her idol, Marilyn Monroe - her blonde hair, her figure, her pouty beauty. But Marilyn had something Anna Nicole lacked, talent. In the end they share an untimely death surrounded by mystery and innuendo.
There is no mystery surrounding the death of Josh Frazier. After graduating from Spotsylvania High School, he enlisted in the Marines, because he wanted to make a difference.
He was on his second deployment to Iraq, and served with Company A, First Battalion, Sixth Marine Regiment in the Ar Ramadi region of Iraq.
Frazier described the area to friends as the most dangerous intersection in the world. Aaron Mallin, Josh's older brother, told the Fredricksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star Josh was proud of the difference he and his fellow Marines were making in Iraq. Frazier said once his unit moved into the area, local people could again cross the street without being killed.
"And he was very proud of that," Mallin told the paper.
Michelle Luehrs, a friend of Frazier's since grade school, had tried to talk him out of extending his most recent tour in Iraq, a decision he made only recently.
"He said, 'Michelle, there's a lot of really bad people over here and I can't go home while they're still here,'" Luehrs told the Free Lance-Star.
Frazier talked to his mother, Sheila Cutshall, a week ago. He told her of his recent promotion, and his plans to re-up for a third tour in Iraq.
Tuesday a sniper's bullet ended the life of Sgt. Joshua J. Frazier. His death made news in his hometown, but elsewhere he was merely a statistic.
We have a skewed sense of what is important, when the death of a celebrity dominates the airwaves and is considered front page news, and the death of a fighting man or woman is treated almost as an afterthought.
Anna Nicole Smith was a troubled celebrity whose life ended too soon. Marine Sgt. Joshua J. Frazier was a hero.