As of approximately an hour ago, I have received word that I am formally approved for return to Iraq as an embed journalist. This has been a long and frustrating process, but now extremely rewarding. I have a little more than three weeks to make any final (all) preparations.
Many will probably wonder why I, having somehow survived three tours already in Iraq, wish to return there at all. As I have stated before, it draws me – powerfully. And this return is different. No longer am I making any valuable contributions to the war effort; instead I am telling stories.
The precise details of my embed are limited at present, but I will be spending at least three months in the northern provinces of Iraq embedded with combat elements operating in those areas. I am uncertain with which branch(es) of the military I will embed. Though I may be partial to the Marines, I am unconcerned about this. They are all human beings, all Americans, and all doing participating in something far greater than themselves. That is the fundamental draw. I want people to know them, to know their stories, their struggles, successes, adventures and horrors. This, above all else, is my passion.
The fact, however, is that I am doing this “pro bono.” I am not earning a paycheck in the slightest. I will pay for my own flight, my own body armor, “press” uniforms, photographic equipment, paper, communications devices, and so forth. I do not begrudge this, but it is going to hurt my wallet to an extent. Body armor alone will gouge me at least $2,000. The flight to Kuwait is the second largest expenditure. I consider this a superb use of my savings, frankly, and I intend to keep doing this until I go broke.
This being said, here is my request: if you like what you read on this blog, if you enjoy the stories, the profiles, the heartfelt emotions from veterans who have struggled for a voice, I ask that you consider donating to help fund my journey. I am not going for myself, for profit, publicity, or for fun. I am going for the stories that need to be told. While I will not rely on donations, they would certainly alleviate an enormous financial burden as I pay my own way to Iraq as a photojournalist. The “donate” link is now plastered all over my website, my three blogs, and you have my utmost assurances as a man on a mission that any donations I receive will be directed specifically and solely to the funding of my overseas embed. This is where my heart lies. It just so happens it’s not where the money lies. I’m following my heart, however, now cash.
The fact that this opportunity has presented itself at all is fairly astounding, considering I have only seriously pursued any sort of writing for seven months, and casually for only a few months more. I will speculate (with confidence) that God’s hand is heavily involved in overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. I am praying He also goes with me. I’ll need Him.
I welcome questions of any sort, and will do my best to answer them as promptly as I am able. Please consider that these next few weeks will be somewhat hectic as I make preparations to depart for a fourth tour. Please also pray for my family, who while wholly supportive of my endeavors, is now preparing to watch their only son depart for another tour in a combat zone – this time unarmed. I wouldn’t mind prayer, either, to be forthright. The destination may be the same, but everything is different. I am no longer part of the brotherhood; I am the enemy: a journalist poised to misquote their personal conversations and use them for profit. This will be my biggest hurdle in-country.
So, this is the news. I have just over three weeks to get my affairs in order (again). I will make every attempt to keep writing throughout this, but I can offer no guarantees. Writing habits in-country will also necessarily change. I will provide updates and further elaboration as I am able.
*The "donate" link is at the top right of this blog
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