Jim Butler is a man that follows up on his promises. Even the ones that hurt.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to do some work with reporter Peter Sleeth here in Kansas for a investigative piece he was working on for ProPublica. ProPublica is a non-profit news organization specializing in investigative journalism to benefit the public interest.
I met Peter south of Kansas City where we traveled to Wellsville, Kansas to visit with a family, the Butler’s, who lost their son Sgt. Jacob Butler in the early days of the war in Iraq. Jake was the first Kansan killed in the conflict.
Peter was working on a story about lost personnel records from the Iraq and Afghan conflicts and the Butler’s sadly were an example of not being able to get real answers about how their son died in Iraq because his records were missing.
We spent the day with the Butler’s and traveled to the gravesite of their son who is buried a few miles away. It was the ninth anniversary of his death.
We wrapped up our day but I knew I needed to visit Jim again because there was much more to this story. Jim had not only made a promise to his son that he would go to the place of his death, he did it. He was the first parent to visit the site of his son’s death in Iraq less than a year into the conflict.
I decided to call Jim a few weeks later to see if he would sit down with me and let me record a conversation surrounding that promise he made to his son before Jake had left for Iraq.
He graciously said yes.
Jim is a determined father. He never let no be the final answer. By doing that, he was able to stand where he son was killed and say his final goodbye’s.
I shot this video in an afternoon and showed an edit to Krista Kjellman Schmidt, Deputy Editor of News Applications at ProPublica, and she thought the story of Jim’s promise would be a great addition to Peter’s story. Peter’s story, my photographs and this video were published Monday, the day after Veterans Day, on ProPublica’s website, The Seattle Times and in Stars and Stripes.
Here is Jim’s story.