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7th Heaven

Season 6 Episode 20

The Known Soldier

Aired Sunday 8:00 PM May 06, 2002 on The CW
out of 10
User Rating
62 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

In this very special episode, Ruthie is corresponding by e-mail with a soldier in Afghanistan, and all the Camdens becomes emotionally attached to the project, since Ruthie is sharing humorous and poignant stories about the family with her new pen pal. This school assignment prompts everyone to get out and make a difference, and an unexpected tragedy brings even more perspective to the situation. This episode is based on the real-life plight of Sergeant Dwight J. Morgan from the United States Marine Corps.moreless

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  • Despite a twinge of vanity, it is mostly strong and inspirational to watch, based on one of the major American tragedies of our time...

    I revisited this episode when I picked up the Season 6 DVD yesterday, the day it was released, and it's hard to believe that this much time has passed since the obligatory "September 11" episode from seven years ago. I found that I enjoyed the episode very much and even had a few tears in my eyes at the end, thanks to the powerful message about American pride and making a difference in small ways. The episode wasn't perfect, of course, and in typical 7th Heaven fashion, the writers took a dramatic event from the real world, weaved it into the plot, and searched for a way to show audiences how to contribute to their own communities and make the world a better place.

    Sadly, because the DVD's have released condensed versions of many episodes, they omitted the two scenes where Ruthie yukks it up for the camera with Tom Petty's hit song "I Won't Back Down," but I remember seeing it when it first aired, and I haven't forgotten those scenes. I will agree with another reviewer in that watching an 11-year-old girl dancing that way in a little short skirt was odd and may be perceived as inappropriate to some, but you also have to remember that she IS just a kid here, and the scene wasn't intended to be anything but innocent. If you want to see Ruthie REALLY dance suggestively, you can refer to Season 10 for that--and if you've followed the show as long as I have, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about.

    As for this particular episode, it focuses mainly on young Ruthie's e-mail correspondence with a 23-year-old American soldier in Afghanistan--a school project that her class is involved in. The entire family feels as much drawn into this project as Ruthie herself, especially when the reality of war hits home for all of them. The scene where Ruthie reads her letter to the soldier aloud with the family is a little bit of an overkill, though, and the letter is filled with schmaltzy sentiments about each of the Camdens that made me cringe a little. I am a big fan of fluffy television, but even this was a bit too much for me. Still, the idea of being proud of America and grateful to live here was a good one to portray on screen, so the underlying message was certainly positive.

    Then there's the kitchen scene where Robbie and Simon banter back and forth about September 11 and war in general, which is where I think the writers really made a mistake. I think they wanted to encourage all viewers--especially younger ones--to be more aware of what is happening in the world around them, and that is definitely important, but Robbie and Simon's conversation just wasn't all that believable, and it was obvious that they were just reciting from a script. The intentions were good, but in the end, it felt like it was all getting shoved down the audience's throats, and it seemed like the two actors in the scene weren't passionate enough about the material to make it sound convincing.

    One of the scenes I did love was the one between the Colonel and Ruthie. The actress playing Ruthie seemed to spend the entire scene trying to figure out what kind of reaction she wanted to convey on her face when the Colonel told her the news, so that came up a little flat, but I really liked how the Colonel talked her through it. Without patronizing her or disregarding her feelings, he reminded her that Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan died with honor, and he did it for his entire country. What followed was an emotionally beautiful memorial service in the church, well led by Eric, and when he chokes up in the middle, you feel it right along with him. This is where the episode really succeeded, and this is where the actors truly became one with the true-to-life story that they were telling.

    My absolute favorite scene, however, is the one near the end, after Eric has challenged everyone at the memorial service to go out the next day and do something to make a difference. After trying to figure out how and if she could do something really big, Annie opts instead to keep it simple and take her 2-year-old twin sons to an elderly neighbor's house, where they will make her lunch and visit for a while. It was her way of doing what she could do that day, and teach her young children to help the elderly in the community through example. Each of the other Camdens are seen doing something special of their own, too, in honor of Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan, but Annie's choice hit home the most for me, because it's exactly the kind of thing that anyone can do, no matter where they are.

    I do wish that they would have given Ruthie something a bit more meaningful to do than send a videotape of herself to the soldiers, especially since she is supposed to be the main moral compass of this particular episode. It was a cute idea, I guess, and it was probably somewhat of a mood-lifter for the men and women overseas who watched it, but I don't think it really made a significant difference in the face of tragedy, which was the whole point of Eric's sermon. Still, scenes like the one with Annie are gems, and that is why I rank this as one of my favorites in the series, despite a few rough spots. I would give it an 8/10 rating.moreless
  • This episode is in the honor of Staff sergeant James Morgan who died in a plane crash while delivering supplies and when the news was broken to Ruthie she was heartbroken and decided to throw a memorial service for all the men fighting for our country.moreless

    The Known Soldier Was a very painful and hard episode to watch knowing that Staff Sergeant James Morgan was going to die do to a plane crash in Anguanistan while delivering supplies. Everytime I watch this episode I cry. I am so greatful for all this men and all of their hard work. They fight for so many great things including Freedom , religion , race , color and so much more. I will always remember Staff Sergeant James Morgan and he will forever stay in my heart now and always. Great job Ruthie , I am so proud of you.moreless
  • Dedicated to Staff Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan.

    Ruthie's pen pal marine, Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan died in a helicopter accident in Afghanhistan. The whole family deals with this and they have a memorial service for him. His family is also there. The next day, everyone does something in honor of him and others in Afghanistan. I really loved this episode! It was a sad, but honoring episode. I think this country really doesn't notice all the sacrifices that soldiers make for people like us, people they don't even know. They deserve a lot of respect and gratitude. My grandpa served in WWII fighting for America. He died before my father met my mother, so I never got to meet him. If he were still alive, I would thank him for serving. Everyone makes big deals about Superman, Spiderman, and all those super heroes, but we have our own real heroes. Those fighting for freedom and justice. I think this episode really honored them and it was greatly appreciated. I give "The Known Soldier" a 10!moreless
  • There were a few things that I didn't like about this storyline, but it was a nice dedication to a Marine who died in combat while in Afganistan.

    When the Camden family finds out that Ruthie has been a pen pal with a Marine in Afganistan, they ultimately start supporting her actions to send a little bit of family life to the soldier. As the episode started to progress, I wasn't surprised when Staff Sgt. Morgan, the soldier that Ruthie has been conversing with online, was one of the soldiers that died in combat.

    While I think that it was touching that Ruthie wanted to have a memorial service to honor the fallen soldier upon learning of his death, I kind of find it somewhat of a stretch that the family and community was able to pull one that nice together in a day. However, after the service was done, I thought that it was really nice how the Camden's and the rest of the community went out to do something nice in honor the Marine.

    Other than that, I found this to be a nice dedication to Staff Sgt. Morgan and essentially to the rest of the service men and women who died in combat, even if there were a few times I found preachy, like when the Camden's were saying why they enjoy the freedom of this country.moreless
  • I hated this episode. I know it was meant to be a patriotic tribute to a real fallen soldier, and I have nothing but respect for him and the grief his family has endured. But none whatsoever for the trite and self-important treatement by the producers.moreless

    We start with Ruthie eroticized, sexing it up for the cameras as she dances and sings (badly) to Tom Petty's "I won't back down". This is considered wholesome family viewing? Apparently she is sending this video to Marines in Afghanistan as a tribute for a pen-pal soldier who died there. When Annie and Eric find out she is corresponding with a Marine, they are not concerned about the inappropriateness of her possibly sending videos of herself gyrating on the screen but more that she will embarass them. Then you get the whole family sitting around as Ruthie reads her e-mails to them, about what they love the best about America. Boring, trite, although clothed in all the patriotic niceties, but still unoriginal. And the fact that everyone is sitting around spouting patriotic opinions at each other doesn't make it real - the acting is wooden, the dialogue is contrived, and the content, whether you agree with it or not, is completely lost. I think it's almost an insult to the viewers, who have experienced these issues and events and thoughts in real time, to serve it up to them like warmed-up pap.

    Of course, the marine was killed in an accident. The Colonel, Eric's father, who somehow is part of the story, comes and breaks the news to Ruthie. She registers some emotion, I think it was disappointment, thought I couldn't really tell.

    Then they have a memorial for the Marine. His real family is in the audience. I hope they don't feel exploited for ratings. Because I do.

CeCe Winans

CeCe Winans


Guest Star

Ernest Borgnine

Ernest Borgnine


Guest Star

Teresa Morgan

Teresa Morgan

Herself, Morgan's Wife (Uncredited)

Guest Star

Sarah Danielle Madison

Sarah Danielle Madison

Sarah Camden/Glass

Recurring Role

Peter Graves

Peter Graves

"The Colonel" John Camden

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • During the end of the memorial service, you could hear a plane taking off, as the church set it very close to an airport. As it was a very long scene, it is probable they could not time it sufficently.

  • QUOTES (8)

    • Simon: Where are you off to so early?
      Annie: Oh, we're spending the day with Mrs. Bink.
      Simon: (looks at the twins) What did they do?
      Annie: They're not being punished. They're just learning to take care of older people in the community. Mrs. Bink would love to see them, and she's getting older. It's hard for her to cook, so we're gonna go over and make her lunch and hang out for a while.
      Simon: Staff Sergeant Dwight J. Morgan would be very proud.
      Annie: I hope so. I wanted to do something bigger, something universal and world-changing, but this is what I can do today, and this is what I'm going to do today, in his honor.

    • Colonel: I didn't want you to hear it on the news, hon. I wanted to come and tell you myself, face-to-face.
      Ruthie: Well, who's gonna tell Sergeant Morgan's wife? Who's gonna tell Theresa? And who's gonna explain it to their son Alex? Alex is only five years old! That little boy's probably never even heard of Afghanistan!
      Colonel: No, probably not. But I'm pretty sure he has heard of the United States of America. That's the country his father died for. The United States of America, and he died in an effort to keep freedom alive for his son and his wife, and all his family, and for all the sons and daughters and mothers and fathers in this country. He died for me, and he died for you.
      Ruthie: But I didn't want him to die.
      Colonel: He was a Marine. He died with honor.

    • Lucy: (about Ruthie's pen pal) So, how did he wind up in Afghanistan?
      Ruthie: He had just gotten back last September and he wasn't supposed to go anywhere for a while, but on September 11, the world changed. That's what Dwight said. He got his orders to go to Afghanistan in November, and he didn't want to leave his family so soon, but that's just part of being a Marine. They go where they're needed. He left the day before Theresa's birthday and the day after the Marine Corps birthday ball. Dwight and Theresa had a great time, but then they had to say good-bye. It was sad, but sad good-byes are just part of being a Marine, too. (Mary and Lucy look upset) Hey, the Marines are tough. They can take it. And their families are really brave. They have to be.

    • Man: I'm a veteran myself.
      Robbie: Good for you. Thanks for serving.
      Man: (pauses) I don't think anyone's ever said that to me before. Thank you.

    • Annie: Since when do you have a pen pal who's a Marine?
      Ruthie: Since I changed schools. It's a class project. A volunteer project. It's to let all the men and women who serve in the armed forces know how much they're appreciated. We can't send real mail, so we have to send e-mail. That's the safe way to do it.
      Annie: What do you write about?
      Ruthie: Oh, different things. Sometimes just funny stuff that happens around here. You know, to give him a laugh
      Annie: Funny....family stories?
      Ruthie: Yeah, I've got plenty of 'em. You can't just write about serious stuff. He gets enough of that being in the Marines!

    • Lucy: There's a high price for freedom and very little gratitude for the sacrifice.

    • Eric: Why? Do you think there will be gossip in Afghanistan about us?

    • Lyrics to the song that Ruthie sings in the beginning of the episode, and the song which is played in the backround of the names at the end of the show.

      "I Won't Back Down"
      By Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne

      "Well I won't back down, no I won't back down
      you could stand me up at the gates of hell
      but I won't back down."

      "Gonna stand my ground, won't be turned around
      and I'll keep this world from draggin' me down
      gonna stand my ground and I won't back down."

      "Hey baby, there ain't no easy way out
      hey I will stand my ground
      and I won't back down."

      "Well I know what's right, I got just one life
      in a world that keeps on pushin' me around
      but I'll stand my ground and I won't back down."

      "Hey baby there ain't no easy way out
      hey I will stand my ground
      and I won't back down
      No, I won't back down."

  • NOTES (15)

    • The song Ruthie sings at the beginning of the episode and again at the end as the fallen heroes names are listed, "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty is not featured on the DVD for this episode.


    • TV Guide says, "The U.S.-led war on terrorism hits home for the Camdens when Ruthie corresponds with a marine in Afghanistan who loses his life in a helicopter crash."

    • In this episode it was mentioned that Teresa Morgan was going to have a baby. The baby was a boy and he was born on July 1, 2002.

    • In Germany this episode is known as, For Honor and Home Country translated.

    • The trailer included the following tagline for the episode: Based on A Hero's True Story.

    • On May 1, 2002, their was a special screening of this episode at Miramar Air Base in San Diego, California where Staff Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan was stationed. The cast addressed the troops and their families, signed autographs, met individually with the soldiers and attended a special dinner at the base.

    • This is the 2nd episode this season that was created in the honor and respect of the September 11th tragedies. This is the third episode to mention the effects directly related to post 9/11 life. This is fourth episode to mention 9/11 directly.

    • Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe winner, Ernest Borgnine makes a special appearance as a war veteran in this episode. 85-year old Borgnine, who in real life served in the Navy for 10 years, was honored as Veteran of the Year in 1999 and has received numerous Lifetime Achievement Awards, three honorary doctorates, the title Honorary Flight Leader for the Blue Angels as well as a Lone Sailor award from the Navy Memorial Foundation.

    • Uncredited guest-stars in this episode is the family of the Staff Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan. Wife Teresa, 5-year-old son Alex, mother Mary Trimmer, father Joe Morgan and brother Chip Willett appear without being identified in a scene of a memorial service.

    • Interview with Brenda Hampton: "I am grateful to be in a position to publicly thank those men and women who served in our Armed Forces...I am challenging each of the million of viewers watching this episode to do as Rev. Camden suggests in the script, commit one act of kindness in honor of Staff Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan. Dedicating just one hour of television to a man's life doesn't seem like enough."

    • At the end of the episode it listed the names of all the Americans who lost their lives in the fight against terrorism.

    • Music featured in this episode was from Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" and the song that is heard at the beginning and the end of this episode. This song was not credited by the WB.

    • 21-year old Morgan was a member of the famous Flying Tigers, a squadron based at the Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar in San Diego, California. He was one of two Marines killed in a resupply mission to the U.S. Forces when their helicopter crashed outside of Kabul, Afghanistan in January 2002. The other man killed in the crash was Staff Sgt. Walter F. Cohee III. Five men were injured in the crash as well.

    • CeCe Winans, Grammy Award winner for Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album, performs The Star-Spangled Banner in a moving memorial service.


    • The title "The Known Soldier" is most likely a spoof off of the song title "The Unknown Soldier" by the Doors.

    • The WB: "After the terrorist attacks of September 11, Americans readied themselves for a costly war. But as the military campaign evolved, U.S. armed forces seemingly achieved their initial goals with few casualties..."
      The guide linked with the episode entitled "The Known Soldier" is intended to help parents and educators use the 7th Heaven episode as a springboard to address the war on terrorism, the human costs of war, and to help children deal with trauma and the loss of a loved one.