Tag Archives: Tim Hetherington

KORENGAL: A film by Sebastian Junger

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.


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.

Comparisons of a Photo: Tim Hetherington Bit by Bit


Tim was on my mind the other day, after I received an email from Father Patrick Deen of the Milton Margai School For The Blind in Freetown. This was the school that Tim loved and helped. He wanted to let me know that they have a Facebook page devoted to their new Scouting program.  Later, I flipped through one of Tim’s books, and couldn’t help but make a comparison in composition. Here’s a photograph that Tim took in  “Long Story Bit By Bit, Liberia Retold.” (Yes, that’s my hand. I was holding it up against the microwave).

Jump forward to this one, taken during his last days in Libya.

Tim Hetherington, Benghazi, Libya. April 2011. Photo courtesy of Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

Tim Hetherington, Benghazi, Libya. April 2011. Photo courtesy of Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

Two people involved with the events, and people around them. There’s more depth, but for now, just the observation, and a reminder to keep going. (Follow us on Facebook).

“You are far from the end of your journey, The way is not in the sky, The way is in the heart, See how you love.” –The Buddha

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

Gregory Victor Reviews Tim Hetherington Book, “Here I Am”


Over on Parc Bench, Gregory Victor reviews the new book on Tim Hetherington by Alan Huffman. He was also a great admirer of the film Restrepo, was also deeply appreciative of Tim and how he lived his life. Do read the review, over at Parc Bench. 

Here I Am is a fitting tribute to the life’s work of a man who constantly risked his life to give voice to people devastated by war.  -Gregory Victor, Parc Bench

The Life and More Life of Tim Hetherington

Our friend Warrior Life Coach once wrote: “…we can define the date, rather than letting it define us.”  This brings to mind how friends have responded to the passing of Tim Hetherington back in 2011, and what they’re doing now. 

There’s a flurry of news about Tim now, with not one, but two documentaries about his life . One was recently on television, the other is at Sundance now.   He was dynamic and one couldn’t help but be inspired. HIs death hit everyone hard, and everyone had their own way of dealing with his passing. The men of COP Restrepo had as many ways as there were individuals. But one thing that was noticeable was the support they gave each other over on Facebook, which continues still. They’re a tight knit bunch, and born from the COP Restrepo is a brotherhood that runs deep.

TimLivesWarRetreat was started shortly after Tim’s death. We gathered a handful of combat photographers in Boston for a day of yoga, acupuncture and massage. Hurricane Irene blew in, and cut it short, but we managed to push through an important message about taking care of yourself –especially when continually going in and out of areas where there is violence. Today, WarRetreat exists primarily as a place for people to find out about stress reduction through yoga, related issues, and champion the hard work of organizations that are working with veterans. We’ve partnered with different organizations, and have a fine team at the helm. We’re discussing doing a WarRetreat near Ft. Campbell –the last post Tim visited that would reach out to veterans and families with an emphasis on stress reduction through movement & breath. It’s early still, but we’re hopeful we can get it going later this summer. 

My work on High Ground builds upon the experience gained from working on Restrepo. In fact, surpassing what we did on that film, and doing the outreach to organizations that I know he would have delighted in. His friend Mike Kamber got the Bronx Documentary Center off the ground, and held two shows honoring Tim. He does really important work, bringing together the local community through art, photography, and film. It’s such a dynamic place, you should follow them on Facebook. FYI, In April, High Ground plays at the BDU for veterans in the Bronx & beyond. Idil lives in Africa now, continuing to forge her own path as a filmmaker and storyteller. She’s started a new venture in memory of Tim called TWINE. We’ll talk about this storytelling through film adventure when we have more of the details.

Sebastian Junger started RISC –an  advanced first aid training for journalists who go into conflict and combat zones.  He’s raising awareness of the risks journalists take to get the story in war, and conflicts. This week, he’s also showing his new film at Sundance called:  “Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? The Life & Times of Tim Hetherington.” Making the documentary was his way of working through Tim’s death, of coming to an understanding of what happened, and understanding Tim’s life.  

 I sometimes hear the film mentioned as “the life and death of Tim Hetherington.” While the tendency is to dwell on how his life was cut short,  it’s important for people to know Tim  lives in the hearts and work of many –in ways that run deep, artistic, joyous, and sometimes memories that evoke a smile. Waffle House will never be the same for me.

Sebastian talks about RISC

Newseum memorializes Fallen Journalists

I’m very sorry that I couldn’t be in DC today, but I was working on a new film. My boss Laura and I think of TIm often, and I think he would have wanted us to continue working on a new film that upholds the integrity of veterans, and also will change the way people think of them. 

But today, Tim Hetherington, Chris Hondros and 68 other journalists were remembered by adding their names to a new memorial panel at the Newseum in Washington DC.  68 of the journalists were killed in 2011. Another two were killed in previous years. Families and friends flew thousands of miles to honor the journalists and honor their work and memory. Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros’ families donated personal items from the two, who were both killed in Libya on April 20, 2011.

Alejandro Junco, president and chief executive officer of Grupo Reforma was the speaker. He said:

“For 40 years, I have worked alongside journalists working to burn away the fog of anonymity,” Junco said, “working to help eliminate those bad influences on people’s lives — the bad incentives, the bad systems, the bad practices.”

Junco also reminded guests of the constant dangers journalists face each day.

“This year is less than five months old and already, across the world, 18 journalists have been killed; 179 have been imprisoned,” he said.

The work of WarRetreat, started in honor of Tim, continues not only in his memory, but for every person who gave their life not only getting the story, but doing so to broaden our perspective, and deepen our understanding of the world.  To them, we are grateful for their work, and also for the platform we have used to help so many.

One year later… All this because of Tim

Readers of this blog, and followers of us on WarRetreat on Facebook might not realize that it was started as a way to honor my friend, Tim Hetherington.

It’s been a year since he was killed while covering the war in Libya. I was lucky because so many people reached out to one another to give comfort to those of us who knew him. 
I’ve written a piece over at The Kitchen Dispatch, detailing what we’ve done in the year since Tim has been gone. We’ve pushed our own boundaries, met new people, made discoveries and have helped people we don’t even know.  Just so you know: WarRetreat is now a partner with all those organizations you see on the sidebar. Our reach goes pretty far these days.

Tim, I miss you. I always will. You’ll always be a part of what so many of us do. Here’s a photo of the current RISC training put together by Mike Kamber and Sebastian Junger, as well as Tim’s parents Judith and Alistair. Next year, I hope the war photographers’ retreat will be part of it too. 

Sunday Life Advice: Tim Hetherington’s Volley

Click to be taken to Amazon.

Last year, Tim volleyed with a parent from Battle Company, which was the subject of the book, as well as the film Restrepo for over a week. The parent was upset over the inclusion of the naked pin ups of women in Tim’s upcoming book Infidel. He answered each email patiently, while maintaining his position that while she was upset, his book dealt with the realities of the conditions the men lived in and the war they fought.

She escalated, despite his best efforts. Then she took her case to the popular Restrepo Facebook page, asking for a boycott of the book. Perhaps she was upset because as a mother, she didn’t like to think of the men up in that hooch on the side of a mountain surrounded by naked pin ups during combat. Or at least have such public evidence of it. That’s when I picked up the gauntlet. Later, Tim thanked me for “the sanity, really.”

What I never told him was that it was easy. I’d had months of working with him. Throughout our work on the release of the film, I watched as Tim handled questions. He  stayed firm in his convictions, listened to others with a dissenting point of view, and tried to learn from them even though he might not agree with them. Tim parsed the language, choosing his words carefully. He resisted the urge to use comparisons that would shortchange a deeper conversation.  His ability to volley intellectually was natural, and athletic.I’d like to think there’s room for that here on WarRetreat. For Tim, to whom WarRetreat is dedicated.

Watch the video here:  Tim Hetherington on Infidel

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