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Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

With His Photos of Young, Fallen Soldiers' Bedrooms, Ashley Gilbertson Casts A Fresh Eye On War

In photography, the military on April 15, 2010 at 3:06 pm
Africa during World War II:  a Vichy French Do...

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“I’ve been covering conflict and war for more than 10 years, but this is the first time that I’ve really felt like a war photographer,” said Mr. Gilbertson, who is based in New York.

This, from The New York TimesLens blog, one of my favorite on-line destinations, which offers the story behind the story:

Although his coverage of Iraq has won awards, including the Robert Capa Gold Medal from the Overseas Press Club of America in 2004, Mr. Gilbertson, 32, said he has stopped photographing combat zones because the American public isn’t responding anymore.

Now concentrating on showing the aftereffects of war, including post-traumatic stress disorder, Mr. Gilbertson looks at bedrooms as a way of memorializing the lives — rather than the deaths — of young combatants.

“It’s powerful to look at where these kids lived, to see who they were as living, breathing human beings,” Mr. Gilbertson said. “Their bedrooms were the one place in the house where they could express themselves with all the things they loved.”

To find the 19 rooms published by The New York Times Magazine, Mr. Gilbertson regularly visited “Faces of the Fallen,” on The Washington Post’s Web site. He narrowed his search to casualties who were around 19, then reached out to their families. In some cases, he spent months building relationships. He has also started a Web site with information on memorial funds.

From IEDs to CVs — The Challenge of Finding Work After War

In business, the military on March 12, 2010 at 9:54 pm
A US soldier arrests a mock suspect wearing ar...

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If there’s any job tougher than being a soldier, it can be finding a civilian employer who truly understands the skills a soldier brings.

From the New York Post:

The unemployment rate for returning veterans is around two percentage points above the national average.

Given how high that average is to begin with, “That’s pretty catastrophic,” says Tarantino, who’s now a legislative associate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, lobbying on veterans’ behalf in DC.

Veterans and their advocates say a number of barriers can stand in the way for vets seeking jobs, as well as those returning to work after serving in a war zone. They include long gaps in private-sector work histories, the lack of a network, difficulty adjusting to a work environment after the extremes of combat and a corporate world that often fails to appreciate the crossover value of the considerable skills, both hard and soft, that soldiers acquire.

Throw in a disability, either physical or an invisible one like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and things get harder still. And the cruel irony is, finding work is often a crucial step toward successfully readjusting to civilian life after a deployment.

Young veterans face the most difficulty, reports the Los Angeles Times:

Young combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have another challenge waiting for them when they return home: steep unemployment.

More than 1 in 5 can’t find work, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department.

The unemployment rate last year for veterans ages 18 to 24 reached 21.1%, compared to 16.6% for that age group as a whole.

In addition to the recession, veterans groups attribute the high jobless rate to a lack of education, job experience and job training in the years before entering the service. Also, many return home with health and mental health problems that make it difficult to find work.

“When a person is deployed, it takes them out of their natural environment and they’re not out there able to compete with the general public for jobs,” said Joseph Sharpe, director of the economic division of the American Legion. “And when they return, they’re not on an even playing field.”

One video game developer is putting its money where its mouth is, donating $1 million to help veterans find work, reports the Washington Post:

The military’s predominantly male makeup falls squarely into Activision Blizzard’s preferred 18- to 35-year-old male demographic. The military has started using video games to train recruits, and service members often spend their down time with game consoles in hand. Activision Blizzard regularly donates video games and gaming consoles to the military through the USO, and the donations have helped the company identify and hire veterans who are interested in the gaming industry.

The foundation will make its first donation of $125,000 to the Paralyzed Veterans of America to help open a vocational rehabilitation center, the company said.

Yet some veterans are doing just fine, reports Fortune, thanks to a special mentoring program:

News Corp. (NWSA) is one of 17 major companies and universities — from Campbell Soup (CPB, Fortune 500), General Electric (GE, Fortune 500), Home Depot (HD, Fortune 500), IBM (IBM, Fortune 500), Procter & Gamble (PG, Fortune 500), Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500), and the University of Texas to, just recently, Bloomberg, Deloitte, and Harvard — that has signed on to provide mentors to veterans through American Corporate Partners since it launched in 2008. Currently ACP has more than 500 mentors matched up with veterans. There are another 800 veterans on a waiting list hoping to be assigned executive role models.

The non-profit is the brainchild of a former investment banker named Sid Goodfriend, who spent 25 years working first for Merrill Lynch and then Credit Suisse (CS). Goodfriend, 50, has no military background himself. Prior to forming ACP, he didn’t even have any close friends who had served in the armed forces. But in the years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he says he had developed a really deep sense of appreciation for how fortunate he’s been in life and an admiration for the soldiers that serve to keep him and his family safe. “I owe so much of what I have to these young people who decide to put country first and their welfare second in a lot of cases,” he says.

By 2007, the financially well-off Goodfriend decided that he wanted to leave Wall Street and spend his time giving back to veterans who have served since 9/11. The question was how? As a board member of a New York City non-profit called Student Sponsor Partners, which matches at-risk students in New York’s public school system with sponsors who pay for them to attend a private school and take a role in their education, he had seen firsthand the power of mentoring. And he knew how important mentors had been to him in his own career at Merrill. He figured veterans trying to break into business could use some expert guidance.

Fortune’s March 22 cover story features several veterans now being recruited by major corporations.

Women Soldiers Fight Another Enemy — Sexual Harrassment By Fellow GI's

In the military, women on December 28, 2009 at 10:23 am
050616-A-5930C-013 Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, vehi...

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It’s not a new story, although not an easy one to report with names and photos of women wiling to speak out publicly on the record. Female soldiers say they face significant sexual harrassment, let alone rape, according to today’s New York Times front-page story.

Here’s a two-year-old story from website DissidentVoice. And here’s an AP piece:

Of the women veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who have walked into a VA facility, 15 percent have screened positive for military sexual trauma, The Associated Press has learned. That means they indicated that while on active duty they were sexually assaulted, raped, or were sexually harassed, receiving repeated unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature.

In January, the VA opened its 16th inpatient ward specializing in treating victims of military sexual trauma, this one in New Jersey. In response to complaints that it is too male-focused in its care, the VA is making changes such as adding keyless entry locks on hospital room doors so women patients feel safer.

Depression, anxiety, problem drinking, sexually transmitted diseases and domestic abuse are all problems that have been linked to sexual abuse, according to the Miles Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides support to victims of violence associated with the military. Since 2002, the foundation says it has received more than 1,000 reports of assault and rape in the U.S. Central Command areas of operation, which include Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Miles Foundation, based in Newtown, CT, focuses on helping women facing these issues.

How ugly and abusive that women brave and patriotic enough to fight in war face enemies within their own ranks.

Seven Years Of Life in Baghdad — Amal Salman's Diary

In culture, women on September 10, 2009 at 6:44 am
The location of Baghdad within Iraq.

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When the U.S. invaded Iraq, she was 13, and she began keeping a diary, then living with her family in Karrada, a working-class district. Amal Salman has since moved with them twice, one of eight children of a widowed mother. Her oldest brother, Ali, was arrested last year after a raid on a local cafe and has been in prison for eight months so far.

Here’s some of her diary, and a story about her life since she began keeping it, written by Washington Post Middle East correspondent Anthony Shadid, which ran recently. Like teens elsewhere, Amal sleeps in a bedroom filled with posters of her idols, including the soccer team Real Madrid, soccer star David Beckham and actor Brad Pitt.

Salman tells Shadid she writes at night when “the noise subsides and I hear only the frequent roar of the helicopters roaming back and forth, to which I have grown accustomed.” That’s my kind of reporting.

Her sister Fatima says she loves Dr. Phil and Oprah; says Amal, “We already have enough disasters in Iraq. Why do we need to hear about other people’s?”

It’s rare and valuable to hear from a young woman abroad, her words unmediated. I’m glad Shadid asked her, she trusted him and she agreed. That’s also my kind of reporting.

It's J-Day: Former LA Times' Bill Lobdell and Newsweek's Michael Hastings On The Story That Broke Their Hearts

In Media on August 27, 2009 at 8:21 am
This late 1960s photograph shows a seated, lis...

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Any journalist working on emotionally harrowing stories — war, corruption, violence, death, poverty — faces a specific and deeply personal challenge. In order to witness this material, which can be terrifying, confusing and anxiety-provoking to us as well as those we cover, we have to be present, both physically and emotionally. As a result, many of us later suffer PTSD or secondary trauma, the price of admission to these searing stories, as James Rainey wrote recently in The Los Angeles Times. That can bring anxiety, depression, nightmares or insomnia.

A new feature film, The Bang-Bang Club, recently finished shooting in South Africa. The name was given to a group of  young news photographers that included one who still shoots for The New York Times, Joao Silva, and South African photographer Kevin Carter. Carter is best-known, to some of us, as the photographer who captured an image of a tiny, emaciated Sudanese child lying on the ground, a vulture waiting mere feet away. The image won the 1994 Pultizer Prize. Two months later, at 33, Carter committed suicide.

I experienced secondary trauma while writing my own book, during which I spent two years interviewing, and writing about, women and girls. some of whom had experienced gun-related violence, including a woman shot point-blank in her California driveway while her husband was shot and killed beside her during a robbery, women who’d shot and killed, women who’d been shot themselves, women whose husbands and sons had committed suicide. Sometimes this was just exhausting and overwhelming.

The Dart Center is a terrific resource for helping journalists deal with this issue; last week’s J-Day featured medical author Maryn McKenna, whose new book about MRSA required much wearying, important reporting. She’ll be one of their fellows this fall at Columbia University, a sort of post-traumatic de-briefing.

I asked two brave, respected journalists whose work I admire to talk about this difficult issue. I met Bill Lobdell when we both participated in a religion writing fellowship at The Poynter Institute. I was stunned by the story he told us then, which later became his book, and never forgot it. I did not know Michael Hastings before coming to T/S but his raw, passionate candor here is also generous and extraordinary.

William Lobdell, former religion writer for The Los Angeles Times, author of “Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America—and Found Unexpected Peace.”

Michael Hastings, fellow T/S contributor, former Newsweek Baghdad correspondent, whose 2008 book, “I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story,” is about his fiancee’s murder.

Tell us a little about how and why you chose journalism.

Michael: I’ll start with a cliché—from about the age of 12 I knew I wanted to write. (Or join the Marines, win a congressional medal of honor, and run for president.) As a teenager, I discovered guys like Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe, and had a serious Beat literature phase. I brilliantly deduced that to be a great writer, you had to ingest great amounts of illegal substances. That didn’t work out so well. I wrote a column at my school paper, called “Fear and Loathing at LCC.” (Lower Canada College, the name of the high school I attended in Montreal.) Then I moved to Burlington, Vermont, where I went to a Catholic school. I was promptly banned from writing for the school newspaper there. The principal was a rather large man named Brother Roger. He didn’t take kindly to an essay where I compared him, perhaps unfavorably, to Jabba the Hutt.

Anyway, after bouncing around at a few colleges, I ended up at New York University. During my last semester, I got an unpaid internship at Newsweek International. I probably was the only one who applied, as the work at first was primarily on Friday and Saturday nights. But I’d been chastened enough by life at that point to realize that I’d managed to get my foot in the door, so to speak, and I wasn’t going take it out. So I more or less lived at the Newsweek offices, and the internship turned to a full time position. I guess I was 22 at the time. I loved it, and I learned how to write an edit there…. I never refused an assignment or anything an editor asked me to do, which helped my cause.. But after about three years, I started asking to be sent to Iraq. By that time, America was already suffering from its first bout of Iraq fatigue—circa 2005. It wasn’t a hot story. Not many people were banging down the door to go. So my bosses finally sent me in August 2005. Six months or so later, the civil war broke out, and all of sudden, Iraq was a really big story again.. I was named the magazine’s Baghdad correspondent a few months after that. That meant I was now going to move to Baghdad permanently

William: I went to Stanford and the University of California, Irvine and majored in political science. As my senior year approached, I still didn’t have a clue what I’d do for a living upon graduation. A mentor gave me some obvious advice that had eluded me: find what you love and get a job in that field. Well, I loved reading newspapers and magazines. I was a news junkie. I thought, maybe I could be a reporter. I went to the college newspaper and the minute I walked into that newsroom, I was hooked.

My career path began traditionally—an internship at the Los Angeles Times and then a job at a small daily in Fullerton. But then it took a turn. I became editor and later president of a local magazine chain. After that seven-year detour, I returned to daily journalism as editor of the Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot. I eventually oversaw the LA Times’ community news division before becoming a Times reporter. I spent eight years on the religion beat and two more years as a city editor. I left the paper last year and am running two Internet-based businesses: http://www.newportmesadailyvoice.com and http://www.greersoc.com. I also wrote a critically acclaimed memoir of my experiences on the religion beat called “Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America—and Found Unexpected Peace.”

A little background on this story and how you came to cover it: Read the rest of this entry »

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