Tag Archives: sebastian junger

KORENGAL: A film by Sebastian Junger

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Battle Company’s Sterling Jones on the M240B during a firefight at OP Restrepo.

Some of you might not know that four years ago, I worked as the outreach coordinator on the film, Restrepo. This film followed the men of the 2/503, Battle Co. of the 173rd ABN. Both a kinetic and emotional experience, the film took audiences into the belly of war, showing people what war is, what it looks like, and how it is to fight.

After the death of Tim Hetherington, for whom this blog was started, Tim decided to embark on the project they both had discussed. To make a film with some of the hundreds of hours left over and unused, that would look at war in a different way.  And so now, I’ve been called back. The film is ready to launch on KorengalMay 30 in NYC, then across the country throughout the summer. The team is back together, Battle Co and ever troop who ever served in the Korengal have been alerted. We’re back. Without Tim. Without so many friends –troops who died then, and more recently. But their loss just signifies the growing need for the stories of war to be told now, and not left to be brushed off only to be varnished with a coat of nostalgia. 

Korengal is a more visceral experience. It asks the questions, how do soldiers fight?  What is courage, and what is fear? What happens to you when you lose one friend, then two, then three?  What do you tell your family back home, when you finally get to talk to them? What’s the impact of daily firefights, and when does it all turn so surreal that the only thing certain about your situation in a remote combat outpost is the uncertainty itself.

Same valley. Same men. Same ferocious fight. Their stories continue.

Watch Jason Mace and Michael Cunningham talk about the film at the Little Rock Film Festival.

 

Next Weekend: Sebastian Junger Will Buy You A Beer

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Returning on the eastern cliff face of Restrepo. Photo: Outpost Films.

Your ticket stub dated May 30, 31, or June 1 is good for a free glass of wine or a beer. Landmark Theaters has issued a challenge to viewers in the NYC. Pack the house for 3 days, and Korengal gets released nationwide.  Read this note from director Sebastian Junger.

A note from Director Sebastian Junger:

Four years ago, my colleague, Tim Hetherington, and I went to the Academy Awards with our film Restrepo, about a remote combat outpost in Afghanistan. Tim was tragically killed in combat several weeks later while covering the Libyan civil war, but I continued to work with the footage that he and I had shot in Afghanistan. The result is my new film, KORENGAL, which tries to understand the effect of war on the young men who fight it. How does courage work? Why do men often miss combat? Why is it to hard to come home?

imagesThe film is completely independent – I paid for the edit myself and am releasing it without any distributor or middleman (along with my longtime production partners, Goldcrest Films.) Korengal premieres May 30 at the SUNSHINE CINEMA at First Avenue and Houston.  BUY TICKETS HERE for Friday May 30, 31, or June 1.

But this is the deal: If we pack the theater for the first three days, Landmark will take Korengal nationwide — a real victory for independent film. We are doing this completely solo, and WE NEED YOUR HELP. Below you will find a link to pre-buy tickets to the film. Obviously the daytime showings are the hardest to fill, but please go whenever it’s convenient. I will be at most of the screenings to do a Q&A afterwards. But perhaps just as important: BRING YOUR TICKET STUB BACK TO THE HALF KING THAT WEEKEND TO REDEEM FOR ONE FREE BEER OR GLASS OF HOUSE WINE.


30daysonbeer_2011_day3_01_144_144_85_c1I hope you enjoy the film. I look forward to seeing you either at the cinema or back at the bar.

Sebastian Junger

Sebastian Junger’s “Reporters Instructed In Saving Colleagues” (RISC)

Reporters Instructed In Saving Colleagues advanced first aid skills
Reporters Instructed In Saving Colleagues advanced first aid skills  (Click photo to find out more or donate)

“I had 20 years of combat journalism – and no medical experience,” he disclosed to my surprise when I recently followed up with him on the phone for the first time since Hetherington’s heartbreaking death. “Some (of my colleagues) are cavalier, most are fatalists.” -Sebastian Junger, interviewed by Lauren Wissot in “Filmmaker Magazine”

One of the projects sparked by Tim Hetherington’s death in Misrata, is an effort to provide advanced life saving skills to journalists who venture into dangerous conflicts.

Slideshow of RISC at the Bronx Documentary Center, NYC

RISC is a multi-day course available for free, which takes journalists through scenarios to save the life of their colleagues –and perhaps even themselves. RISC originated in NYC. Another course will be offered in Istanbul.  Mike Kamber, a NY Times journalist and a good friend of Tim’s, has hosted the course at the Bronx Documentary Workshop. RISC has expanded to London, and soon, Istanbul.

Wissot asks Sebastian about PTSD, and whether or not RISC addresses this.  They did, in London, but with mixed results. Addressing PTSD is not straight forward. First, not everyone develops it.  Second, even those who do have it, might not want to be reminded. But, RISC should keep trying because PTSD is like a pernicious weed.

In 2011, WarRetreat sponsored a retreat for combat journalists in Cambridge MA. Led by Dave Emerson, the program offered 2 days of yoga, acupuncture, massage, and talk about how PTSD manifests itself in the body.  It was a very much welcome respite for the group, which unfortunately was cut short by Hurricane Irene. Perhaps WarRetreat needs to get back into the business of having our own WarRetreats. Or, perhaps RISC can change things up.

I wonder if RISC would consider it as a transition piece between the end of the class, and going out beyond the doors. Say, 20 minutes. A quick series of gentle yoga movements that call attention to body and breath awareness, while asking them to notice if they’re relaxing or clearing their mind, might be a gentler way to address the effects of trauma on the body. Plus, everyone will feel terrific when they leave. It might keep people open to the idea that PTSD does manifest itself in the body, and there is relief.   In addition, if they have a teacher, it needs to be a person who has been through war. There’s just no two ways about. A person like Chris Eder, or Randy Hamlin, are leaps and bounds more accepted in any community that has been through war.

Read Lauren Wissot’s interview of  Sebastian Junger in Filmmaker Magazine.

Tim Hetherington: Fundraiser for RISC, Help James Foley, and The Book

Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 8.13.56 AMWe can’t begin to count the ways that Tim changed lives, including our efforts here. We don’t want this to sound like a post-eulogy, so we’ll cut right to the point.

As a way to mark the two year passing of Tim and Chris Hondros, we’re raising money for RISC (Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues).  This is the effort started by Sebastian Junger after Tim died of acute blood loss after and injury to his femoral artery while covering the war in Libya. Donate Here. If everyone who reads this would give the cost of a cup of coffee and a bagel, that would help a lot. Or heck, a boat load of money. Jillian, Chris and I are going to bug people all week long on twitter and FB. Please help us by telling all your friends.

Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 8.28.23 AMRISC is a multi-day course, which instructs journalists in advanced life-saving skills. Photos of the first and second year course can be found at the Bronx Documentary Center page. A course is coming up June 18-21 in NYC, with others in London and Beirut to be announced.

Why is this necessary?  Because journalists are going over with lots of heart and varying degrees of knowledge about conflict and war, but they don’t know how to apply a tourniquet because it isn’t taught in college. Increasing numbers are going over to chaotic and unsupported territories, with or without the support of news agencies, and unlike the embeds that marked both Afghanistan and Iraq –they are on their own. Donate here. 

images-1In addition, we’re asking you to sign the appeal to Free James Foley. Sign Here. From the Foley family:

“Unidentified gunmen kidnapped journalist James Foley in northwest Syria on Thanksgiving Day, November 22 2012.

 Jim is the oldest of five children. He has reported independently and objectively from the Middle East for the past five years. Prior to his work as a journalist, Jim helped empower disadvantaged individuals as a teacher and mentor assisting them in improving their lives.

The family appeals for the release of Jim unharmed.

The Foley Family  -Sign here

imagesAfter encouragement from my friend Greg Victor, who reviewed the book, and also a request from Tim’s beloved Idil, I’m reading, “Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer” by Allan Huffman.

My response? I laugh, marvel, cry, and shake my head. I cannot put this book down, even while going through in detail what happened the fateful day he was killed. Tim was the real deal. He got it. He was so much more than anyone could have imagined, and our sorrow is that we never got to see him move on to the second act of his life. And so, as friends, we carry on his life and spirit with a multitude of projects, inspired by his creativity, passion and willingness to reach out and dialog with others. He was not a war photographer, he very much was the “image maker” he claimed.

In addition, if you haven’t seen Sebastian’s film (a tribute to his late friend), “Which Way Is The Front Line: The Life & Time of Tim Hetherington”  try to catch it on HBO, or whenever it becomes available to purchase or moves to Netflix. It’s excellent, and leaves you with the sense that there is much each of us can do in this world fueled by our desires and a willingness to go into the unknown through collaboration with others.

We’ll wrap it up with a video of the RISC training. Please donate and tell your friends. Give

For Tim Hetherington: Thoughts From A Soldier On His Birthday

December 5 is Tim Hetherington’s Birthday. WarRetreat was started in his honor, following his untimely death this year in Libya. Tim will always be remembered for is his many embeds with the 2/503, Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. The relationships he formed with the men were the basis of the film Restrepo, Tim’s book Infidel, and Sebastian Junger’s book WAR. To mark Tim’s birthday, WarRetreat is pleased to have Eric Ortegren from Battle Company, share his thoughts.

By Eric Ortegren

We became hardened men in the Korengal. Most interaction with media was disliked and carried the weight of bad luck. This was really brought home to me when Al Jazeera English came to my remote Fire Base Vegas for a tour. While our Platoon Sergeant SFC Blaskowski was showing the reporter around, a single round rang out. We ran to our posts and lit up the whole forest, but no more shots came at us. After a brief lull we heard the shout for medic. I grabbed a radio and ran down, only to see SFC Ski sucking for air. It was one of the worst days of my life to work so hard to keep him alive, and watch as life left his eyes before the medevac bird even landed. Needless to say reporters had a stigma.

Sebastian and Tim, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan

    I met Sebastian and Tim while refitting at the KOP and was surprised to learn that I instantly liked them. It helped that I planned at that time to be a commercial fisherman when I got out and Sebastian had written the best fishing story (The Perfect Storm) since The Old Man And The Sea, which I had read multiple times.

These men were a genuine shock because they actually wanted to know us. They cared about us. Over a short time they proved to not get anyone killed, or cower and put us at risk. A paradigm shift occurred that I had never heard of in American military circles. We accepted them as our own. 

We protected them just like the man to our left and right, which is a very sacred brotherhood that few are given the privilege to enter. I dare say: We grew to love them, and they grew to love us. It was because they took a new approach and wanted to report on us not the war. 

Tim and Sebastian made us human in a war where the American public had become detached. They forced America to see that the men on the front lines who lived in fear and anticipation (every waking moment) and are now plagued by it in our nightmares –were the same kids that used to play football at the big homecoming games. The same guys who worked at the Subway down the street. (Sal Giunta)  We weren’t superhuman assassins intent on killing, and we earned a Medal of Honor for one of the most laid back non overbearing men I have ever met. We were normal men doing extraordinary things all with the hope to bring your man to the left and right home alive. 

Sebastian and Tim showed it in such an eloquent way in their film Restrepo that a country that was numb to our plight gained their long-lost empathy. For that we are forever indebted to them. For that Tim will be among the pantheon of heroes. His legend will go on inspiring a whole new generation of photojournalists to take it as far as they can.

Eric with the Troops First Foundation

I was medically retired after leaving the Korengal about nine months in. The transition back to civilian life was the most difficult time in my life. The lack of camaraderie is what made it so hard. My marriage suffered, my family suffered, my identity suffered. I came back a shattered remnant of the man I was before. Making peace with who I have become was amazingly difficult. But we are Sky Soldiers, and we drive on and continue the mission.

I am finishing up with my first semester towards a Masters in Clinical Social Work hoping to work on veteran reintegration as there is a great need. My desire is to continue the professional development of soldiers. I participate with many wounded warrior functions and was recently given the amazing opportunity to fly in the wounded warrior project balloon at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  I even recently reignited a passion with fly fishing going on a Troops First Foundation fly fishing retreat. I went with my best friend, who lost his legs in the Korengal in our one IED attack.  
Life is still a constant struggle and more work than ever, but now I am proud of who I am and what I did. I won’t ever let my disabilities take that away from me. You know, we thought about God a lot over there, and what his judgement would be to us back here, but it is what you make it. I read a great quote the other day:
“There is but one god and he is death…
all we say to him is not today”
Eric Ortegren fly fishing with Troops First Foundation, New Mexico

Learning From The War Machine

Friend Sebastian Junger wrote a compelling piece in the NY Times yesterday, “Why Would Anyone Miss War?”  After reading threads from journalists, who go in and out of conflicts, wars and disasters for decades, (often with a scant safety net) I often wonder about any similarities to other contractors as well as veterans. Is it a sense of purpose, of doing something where every thought and action matters?  Is it the camaraderie one experiences with a relatively small, but driven group of individuals who do the same thing? Is it being on the cutting edge of history being made, of covering events that 99.9% of the population at home will never see?  I can’t answer it –but I am sure that the answer is personal and complicated.

One thing for sure, the photos and stories we read are important –regardless of whether or not we understand the full impact of history behind it, or even agree. The work of journalists can help us gain an awareness of the world beyond us, and start thinking (if not talking) about how we feel about an issue that often is boiled down to inaccurate clichés.

Obviously, there are many other reasons why we need to loosen the societal restrictions that make it difficult to talk about war. Most people find it so overwhelming that a disconnect occurs about over any mention about its impact. War becomes something that happens to “other” people in some far away land. But the truth is, everyone –be it the person covering it, contracted to work in some aspect of it, is fighting, or the persons staying at home are greatly impacted. Once I told a do-gooder, earth hugger type that I was part of the war machine. I did it partly to piss her off, but when it comes down to it –I am. War, suffering, horror, tragedy, peace, hope, spirit and triumph are in my thoughts everyday, and for me –it can’t be the white elephant in the room. One advantage in learning about war from a variety of resources, is being able to identify ways to help. Dave Emerson and I put a lot of thought into the War Photographers’ Retreat shortly after Tim died. We hope to make an impact on those who attend, and also influence others who want to do the same.

h/t to Charlie Sherpa and Jillian Hunsager for sharing this with me.