I had the privilege of meeting Joseph L. (“Joe”) Galloway yesterday afternoon. Mr. Galloway was a reporter for the UPI during the Vietnam War and co-wrote “We Were Soldiers Once … And Young” with Lieutenant General (Retired) Harold G. (“Hal”) Moore. Galloway was with Moore, then a Lieutenant Colonel and commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, during the Battle of Ia Drang valley in November 1965. During that desperate battle, Mr. Galloway courageously assisted with the rescue and care of wounded Soldiers at Landing Zone X-Ray, an act for which he received the Bronze Star (with “V” device). He is the only civilian to receive that award during the Vietnam war. He has continued to have a distinguished career in journalism and continues to write about military affairs.
Joe Galloway is a member of a rare fraternity of journalists who risk their lives to tell Soldiers’ stories. They live beside Soldiers on the front lines and their only agenda is to get the Soldier’s story right.
Ernie Pyle was one such reporter during World War II. Pyle covered the war in Africa, Europe and, eventually, the Pacific. He was killed by a sniper on the tiny island of Ie Shima in 1945.
This war’s Ernie Pyle is Michael Yon. If you are not reading Michael Yon’s work on-line, you should be.
Not all reporters can live up to this standard. Some come with stories already written in their heads. They come to the war zone looking for quotes or pictures to support their prejudices. Some are not willing to take the risks to get the story right. My unit had a terrific embed, but others did not. Some literally cowered when rounds fell nearby. Others fled the battlefield at the earliest opportunity. (These weaknesses, by the way, appeared across the political spectrum. I saw reporters from “liberal” media outlets suffer from them, as well as reporters from traditionally “conservative” media).
I am not surprised that many reporters cannot endure the dangers of war. War is frightening and most civilians are simply unprepared for its dangers. That makes it all the more amazing that there are those who risk their lives to tell the rich, complex story of Soldiers and their wars.
The long line of officers standing behind me in the book store yesterday tells me that I’m not the only one who values our brave reporters. Mr. Galloway autographed my copy of his book and we talked for a few minutes about chaplains in Vietnam. What an honor to shake his hand.
So, thanks Ernie, Joe, Michael … and all the brave, honest reporters who accompany us into battle. They see both nobility and futility. They call them as they see them, and that’s OK. They take the risk to be with Soldiers in the hard places. Soldiers want nothing less from those who tell their stories.