My Heroes Have Always Been Journalists
Last night on MSNBC, reporter Richard Engel profiled his four years in Iraq with clips from a video diary he has been keeping since before the war began.
Richard is a personal hero. NBC News' Middle East correspondent and Beirut Bureau chief, Richard achieved international acclaim and respect after he bribed his way into Iraq before the “shock and awe” campaign so that he could cover the war as a freelancer. When the attacks began and the various news organizations withdrew, Richard stayed, one of the only games in town. As a result, NBC hired him and almost overnight, the man with next to no experience but with plenty of outrageous chutzpah became our window into this war.
His program last night, “War Zone Diary” is the horrific, inspiring and shockingly brutal glimpse into the maelstrom that is Iraq. We see first hand how close he’s come to losing his life on numerous occasions; and the dozens of his fellow reporters who were not so lucky. We see sickeningly graphic images of hundreds of slain Iraqis. And we linger up close and personal with the American soldiers desperate to make a difference, survive to come home, and make sense of their country’s growing discontentment over their mission.
It was a very personal and candid piece. Richard knows that he could be killed any day and yet he stays year after year of his own volition, battling massive personal danger, psychological trauma, compassion fatigue and the disintegration of his marriage. It is a story that must be told and he cannot help but tell it.
(If you missed “War Zone Diary,” you can watch it on iTunes. To read more about Richard Engel’s story click here ).
Of no less inspiration and astonishment was “To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports,” which aired on ABC a few weeks ago. Woodruff, who only weeks into being given the coveted job as ABC’s co-anchor of the Nightly News, was reporting from Iraq when the convey with which he was embedded hit a roadside bomb, critically injuring him.
Woodruff sustained grievous shrapnel wounds and was rushed into surgery where a large portion of his skull had to be removed to reduce the damage from brain swelling. He was in a coma for weeks, and when he awoke, had to relearn how to speak, walk, etc. That he lived is nothing short of a miracle. That he is back at work again is unbelievable.
Both of these specials hit me like a punch in the gut. It’s not that I don’t respect and admire the military men and women engaged in conflict in Iraq. God knows I do. But there is something about these reporters who risk everything, voluntarily, to tell a story we need to hear. Men and women who can and should get the hell out of there but stay so that you and I can understand our world that much more.
Our soldiers aren’t the only heroes in Iraq.