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Loss of a True Combat Journalist…Very Nearly One of Our Own?

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The Kit Up! team will be off line for a bit today since we're traveling to LWRC Inc. to see what they've got going on and fire some carbines. Our friends from Breach Bang Clear sent us this post about the death of War Dog Tim Hetherington. In my over ten years as a military journalist and numerous embeds to the war zone, I've met a ton of "shooters" in the field. I never met Tim, but I surely feel the loss his close partner and co-director of Restrepo Sebastion Junger is now enduring. It's just sad...very, very sad.]

As you may have heard already, photographer-producer Tim Hetherington, perhaps best known in the military crowd as half the team who gave us the film Restrepo was killed today in Misurata, Libya covering the fighting there.  There are scant details yet.

Apparently  there was an explosion, probably from mortar fire, that killed him and severely injured three of his colleagues (two of whom are in critical condition).

The last word he sent was apparently a ‘tweet’ that read, In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.

The death of a photojournalist or member of the press in a war zone is, to us anyway, no more and no less tragic than the loss of a grunt. In this case the death of Mr. Hetherington will no doubt receive much more attention than that accorded a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine and while there will be those who decry this, we’d be foolish to rail against it.

Others will worry his last tweet will sound as some sort of condemnation and be used in the various arguments about whether we should be there in the first place, or if ground troops are required, etc. ad nauseum. Let’s leave that aside for a moment and not try to read meaning into the words—which could be nothing more than a bald statement of fact anyway.

Mr. Hetherington had celebrity status in certain circles (the press not the least) and that brings additional coverage all its own. Is it right that his death be spoken of more widely than that of Spc. Charles F. Wren or PFC Joel A. Ramirez, two of our most recent casualties in Afghanistan? We don’t think so, and we’re confident their families would agree, but that doesn’t make Hetherington’s loss any less of a tragedy to his friends and family and keep this in mind too—Mr. Hetherington is someone who help bring glaring light into the dark, shitty corners of life as a grunt in the field.

Many who otherwise would never have had a clue now possess a visceral understanding of day to day misery and privation on the sharp end—and that’s priceless.  We owe people like Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger for that, just as we did Bill Mauldin, Ernie Pyle and Joe Galloway before.

So we do mourn the loss of Tim Hetherington, and though we might wish every KIA received that sort of attention, and thought it’s weak and it’s a platitude, we won’t begrudge it. We’ll just be glad in this case it’s someone whom most of our brothers and sisters would deem to be ‘someone who'd earned it, going outside the wire and sharing the suck' and try to remember his peers are hurting now the same way the squad- and platoon-mates of other tragedies are hurting. Prayers to all of them.

RIP Mr. Hetherington.

Mad Duo Out

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