48 Words on War – Jennifer Skeen
Author: Jennifer Skeen, Pima Community College
Would you have the courage to travel to another country for a story? To live in conditions only experienced by those in the military, or who were experiencing the liberating acts of opposing forces? There are few people who will go as far as Evan Wright and Marie Colvin for a story, that is why Hollywood has made their stories into a miniseries and also a movie. Even though they had different outcomes, both of these writers risked their lives multiple times to tell the stories that we see on CNN and now on HBO. I would like to mention that all stories are to be credited to the books in which the authors story lies. I feel that summarizing the instances that they experienced would be the best way to tell you what they experienced.
Evan Wright travelled for two months with the First Reconnaissance Battalion of the Marine Corps, writing a story for Rolling Stone magazine. He joined up with First Recon while they were stationed at Fort Mathilda, right before their deployment into the beginning stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He was not readily accepted, until he had a mishap with a chemical protection suit and had to be “rescued” by a member of First Recon during one of the first days on mission. They all had a good laugh at the reporter who almost castrated himself with a string on a Mops suit and also swallowed his chewing tobacco. This broke the ice and made the men more comfortable with Wright (Wright, “Devil Dogs,” “Rolling Stone”).
The dangers over in Iraq were there from the start. The Marines, and therefore Wright, had to constantly stay in their chemical suits since the war was based on the rumors and search for chemicals of mass destruction. There were constant calls to done gas masks and secure the edges of their suits. One thing about Evan Wright that the Marines respected was the fact that he travelled in the frontmost Humvee, and it was not heavily armored or protected (Wright, “Devil Dogs”).
Wright writes that while on the road into Ash Shatrah, one of the Marines hands Wright an M-4, his response was to hand the gun back. He wrote “I hand it to him barrel first, with a round in the chamber and the safety off, causing him to rethink his policy of arming the reporter,” (Wright, p 150). Wright did not want to encourage the marines into thinking that he knew what he was doing, because he didn’t. One fight that shows how dangerous his position was with the marines was the firefight that he experienced as they tried to cross the bridge into the town of Al Muwaffaqiyah. The Humvee with Wright was in the lead and were the first one to be stopped on the bridge in the kill zone. They spotted enemy combatants in the trees and marines were injured that night (Wright, “Devil Dogs”).
Evan Wright continues to go after stories that involve an element of danger, he has another book about his interview with a CIA agent that allegedly worked for the Mafia as a hitman. Evan Wright also participated in the creation of the HBO miniseries titled Generation Kill. They include Wright portrayed by Lee Tergesen, riding along with the marines. Included in the miniseries is many of the events described in Wright’s book, Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Captain America, and the New Face of the American War.
While Evan Wright’s story is still being written, Marie Colvin has a different ending. Marie travelled everywhere that they would send her, writing for multiple magazines in different countries. She lived in the United States and London off and on, and worked for different magazines. She was drawn to the stories that were hard to get and a little dangerous. Colvin also reported on the war in Iraq in 2003, though not in the same manner as Evan Wright.
In 2001, Maire Colvin almost lost her life In Sri Lanka. She was trying to get a story that no one else could get, and while crossing into government-controlled territory she was shot by a rocket-propelled grenade. She ended up losing sight in her left -eye, a piece of shrapnel continuously on her optic nerve, and she had another piece of shrapnel in her chest. She tried to prove that she was an American by yelling”” Journalist! Journalist! American! USA!” (Hilsum pg 222). Colvin was only released after the American embassy got involved and proved that she was not a terrorist, and undercover for the rebels. She survived and continued to report even while relearning how to live with the use of one eye(Hilsum).
Marie Colvin lost her life getting a story in 2012. She and a French photographer Remi Ochlik lost their lives when the Syrian government targeted and bombed the building they were in along with Colvin’s associate, another French photographer and a Spanish reporter. The rest made it out, only harmed. They were unable to get the bodies of Colvin and Ochlik out at the time, and had to pull strings trying to get the bodies released for the families. Eventually Marie Colvin’s body was returned to her family. They later sued the Syrian government and won, deeming them responsible for her death. In 2018, they took the book In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin, written by Lindsey Hilsum and made the motion picture A Private War (Hilsum).
The dangers that writers put themselves in to bring us the truth is real, and it’s something that not everyone can do. They risk their lives to make sure that we know what is happening in other parts of the world. Evan Wright experienced many dangers, but Marie Colvin paid the ultimate price for a story. Both of these writers made an impact on not just their professions, but also the world. Their stories are known on and off the screen.
Not every war journalist gets their story told in books and movies, but without them we wouldn’t know the real facts about what happens in times of war. The novels, articles, and podcasts help us learn what our soldiers go through during times of war, and what is happening around the world. We can not just bury our heads in the sand and leave the rest of the world to itself, every person and place matters. Evan Wright brought us closer to understanding what the men in the Marines dealt with, what they survived and what they had to do to come home. Without this knowledge, we may never have known why some came back with PTSD, and what happened over in Iraq. Without Marie Colvin’s writings, we may never have known what was happening in battles all over the world. She travelled and wrote about things that affected the economy and the people all over the world. We may, individually, be just one on this planet, but with the help of war journalists we know we are not alone.
- Hilsum, Lindsey. In Extremis : The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin. First American edition., Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat00579a&AN=pima.b1973984&authtype=shib&site=eds-live&scope=site.
- Wright, Evan. Generation Kill : Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War. Berkeley Caliber trade new afterword edition., Berkeley Caliber, 2008. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat00579a&AN=pima.b1558024&authtype=shib&site=eds-live&scope=site.
- Wright, Evan. “Generation Kill: Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Evan Wright Spent Two Months with an Elite Marine Unit That Barreled into Iraq in March 2003, Leading the Way for U.S. Forces Rolling into Baghdad.” People Weekly, vol. 62, no. 3, July 2004, p. 46. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgac&AN=edsgac.A119117962&authtype=shib&site=eds-live&scope=site.