THE VigilanceVoicev  

Dec. 26—Wednesday—Ground Zero Plus 106

Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News


            I knew I shouldn’t compare.  But I did.
            It was a newscast about the “dangers of being a war correspondent.”   The news reporter was telling the camera how terrible it was when a sniper fired three rounds at the news crew.
            Something inside me wanted to puke.   It seemed incredulous a grown man in a war zone would shove a face of fear into a camera and tremble at the idea the enemy was trying to kill him.
            As a Marine Corps Combat Correspondent in Vietnam, bullets were like mosquitoes—they were everywhere.  I can still hear them zinging and snapping past my ears and feel the heat of their power brushing against my flesh as I lay in a furrow of dirt, enemy rounds chewing the soil around me.    I can hear their deadly impact as they sank into the flesh of those around me, bursting organs, crushing bones.

            Sometimes I rail on the government for promoting “war” as some religious act that America must serve upon the “evil ones” who have defiled our country by attacking us unexpectedly, killing thousands of innocent civilians in a horrible act of Terrorism.   But I understand the politics of government.   The more it can stand tall as our “protector,” the more of its policies we embrace without question, without debate, without the jaundiced eye.
            I don’t agree with that system, but I understand it.   Someone had to take “charge” in a crisis, even if we don’t agree with their strategy or tactics.
            But a newscaster cowering in fear over a few bullets headed his way in a war zone—why, that just symbolizes to me the strength of Terrorism.
            As a Marine, I was trained to be fearless of bullets.   Bullets were part of my job.   Our Drill Instructors tried to make us think we could eat them and crap them out.   Our goal was to be fearless in the face of death because fear brought death quickly to those who let it creep into their thinking, their feelings.
            Don’t misunderstand.   Many times I crawled into my helmet, or tried to, when the bullets criss-crossed like

spider webs and mortars whoomped all around, spitting fragments of steel that could chew your guts apart in a New York Minute.   But “fear” of dying, “fear of being shot,” “fear of fear,” didn’t last.   It came and went.   Then you got up and charged and screamed and fired your weapon as though you were bullet-proof.
            Terrorism thrives on breeding fear after the fact.   I saw that insanity in the newscaster’s face—eyes bulging, mouth open, amazed someone might try to kill him in a “war zone.”  
            Combat correspondents, war reporters, war photographers, are there to record the history of bravery.  At least, that’s the take I took on my mission.   War’s horror is not a story.  It is a fact.   There is no news in the horror of war.   Horror permeates everything about war because bombs and bullets and land mines have no conscience.  They can kill and maim and murder without compunction the innocent and helpless as well as the well-armed warrior.
            I struggled with my pen to ink onto the pages of history those moments of bravery and heroism of the guys and kids who risked their lives—who were fearless about death.   I knew many of them might never return, and felt this need to immortalize them if only for a few seconds when someone’s eyes touched the black ink of the story and visualized their acts of heroism, or felt the pain of their suffering for those who were back home, safe and secure.
            I suppose the idea a “war correspondent” would be shocked and frightened by three bullets struck me with the same revulsion I might feel if the Commander In Chief was too afraid to walk from his office to the war room for fear he might expose himself to the enemy.
            Winston Churchill, whom I consider both a great warrior and combat correspondent, for he both fought and wrote, used to ride a white horse into battle so that his troops could see he was leading them into the face of potential death and be inspired to follow him.    He knew fear would kill his goal of conquering the enemy, and his brazen attitude helped him become victorious and catapulted his career in politics.   

           Ernie Pyle, the famous “dogface war correspondent,” of World War II didn’t whine about a couple of bullets zinging and zapping their way toward him.   He wanted to promote the troops who grunted their way through the muck and mire of Europe to crush the “evil ones” of his day—the Nazis, and all they stood for.
            I considered the newscaster a wimp.   I considered him promulgating the principles of Terrorism rather than squelching them.   By extolling his fear, he only perpetuated what the news has historically done since Vietnam—politicized and individualized the news of war.
            A true “war correspondent” crawls on his belly into the thick of the war zone, shooting pictures or jotting notes, with the same aplomb and fearlessness as the men and women who are paid to die for their country.    It is only when the feeling of vulnerability races through one’s body and soul can one earnestly report the war, any war.   At that point when a reporter faces death to get “a story,” he or she becomes a true “war correspondent.”  And only if he or she doesn’t brag about or promote the fear of doing so, do they rise above the salt.
            In my own case, I have chose to see the bullets of Terrorism in the foulest of all battlefields—in my own soul.   I see its face in the complacency of the news media to truly examine the roots of Terrorism instead of its leaves.   I see Terrorism turning news reporters into political pundits, trying to second guess a government instead of correcting it as is the sworn duty of the Fourth Estate—to be the watchdog of Democracy.
            If the news media comprised true “war correspondents” it would promote the need to fight Terrorism in a child.  It would examine the roots of fear, intimidation and complacency in our society that causes us to feel exempt from parental responsibility to teach our children courage, conviction and action.
            If the news were responsible to be a “watchdog” it would slap the logos of “Semper Vigilantes” on all its networks, and drive home the need for each American to become a Parent of Citizen of Vigilance, and subscribe to the principles of fighting Terrorism within, not without.
            But “hard news” assumes some grand state.   It forgets that the real news is made on the front lines when a child asks a parent why we are trying to kill “bin Laden,” or whether it is safe to go to school, or whether the children of the victims of Nine Eleven will be sad and lonely.
            I keep hearing the press promoting the heroism of the police and firemen and emergency rescuers who died in the tragedy of Nine Eleven, and elevating them as symbols of Americanism at its best.   And while I am proud of those who died in the service of their jobs, I am more interested in why we do not make heroes of the thousands who died as “victims” of the tragedy?
            Wasn’t it the mothers and fathers and grandfathers, and sons and daughters, and cousins and nieces and nephews and grandmothers who gave their lives on September 11 that are the true heroes of that day?
            Isn’t the memory of those who innocently walked into the Tower Of Death on September 11th, or the Pentagon, and never came out—aren’t they the real heroes?   Didn’t they give their lives unexpectedly for all Americans?   Don’t they symbolize the ultimate sacrifice of any nation—when the citizens of the nation are willing to die for what they believe?
            Heroes are those unwilling people who die for something greater than themselves.   Each “victim” of Nine Eleven did just that.    They died to unite a nation.   They died to preserve the unity of our country, and to rally disenfranchised elements into one body.
            Yet we persist in calling them victims.  We persist in promoting firemen and police and emergency workers as heroes, when, the truth is, they volunteered to die.   Men and women who assume dangerous tasks vow to the “right of dying.”   They commit themselves to facing death, and accept that death is part of their job.
            As a Marine, I accepted death.  As a war correspondent, I accepted death.
            But, those “heroes” who died on September 11, the more than 3,000 of them, have been neglected.   The bullets and bombs have cast their shadow from the sunlight.
            I believe those who died for America on September 11 should be treated with the same respect we treat the 343 firemen who died at the World Trade Center, or the four dozen police who gave their lives.
            They are the real heroes the newscaster who was worried about three bullets should have been reporting about.   If he had thought about them as heroes, he wouldn’t have complained about being “shot at.”  Instead, he would have promoted the “heroes” who died so he could report the news.  He would have called them “Sentinels of Vigilance,” “Parents of Vigilance,”—who are still alive and watching out for all the children of the nation.
            If he had been a true “war correspondent,” he would have ridden his white horse into the center of the World Trade Center and shoved his camera into the debris and shouted:  “They Live!   Our heroes live!   Forever, in our memories!  Reminding us to be Vigilant!”

            Three stray bullets?   
            Hardly worthy of even being on the news!

           Go To Dec. 25 Diary--"The Gift To Fight Terrorism"

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