By Taylor Forrest
Bosnia. Afghanistan. Kosovo. Liberia. Sierra Leone. Chad. Nigeria.
Sebastian Junger, American journalist and award-winning author, will visit campus in a stop along his well-traveled road. Junger will be speaking on March 5 at 11 a.m. in Richardson Performing Arts Center for this year’s Docking Lecture.
The Docking Lectures series on Leadership and Public Affairs is funded and underwritten by the Docking family and the Union State Bank. Every other year, a distinguished individual is asked to come speak for the lecture.
Junger’s presentation about courage will draw from his experience as a freelance journalist in warzones across the world.
In 2007 and 2008, Junger and Tim Hetherington, photojournalist, were embedded in the Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan to film “Restrepo.” They were there for approximately five months, sometimes together and sometimes alone. They filmed the everyday lives of the soldiers, showing the hardening reality of one of the most dangerous areas during the Afghanistan War.
Joshua Campbell, Winfield native and 1st class recon platoon sergeant, was stationed at the mouth of the Korengal Valley from 2009 to 2010. After seeing “Restrepo,” he said, “It was extremely accurate in showing the everyday lives of soldiers that are isolated from civilization like that. The whole area was a very busy area, and it was sometimes referred to as the Valley of Death. I thought the film showed that and the emotion and comradery that takes place after something like that as well.”
“We funded the film ourselves because we both had core values on protecting journalistic truth. We didn’t want another National Geographic film that was formed to fit their vision,” said Junger.
“Restrepo” was nominated for an Academy Award in 2010 for Best Documentary. It also won the Grand Jury Prize Documentary award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. In 2011, it also won an Emmy for News and Documentary. A second documentary, “Korengal,” focuses on how fighting at Korengal affected the men’s lives after the traumatic experience.
After Junger and Hetherington poured so much of their time and finances pursuing reality and journalistic truth together, Junger was later slammed with yet another reality. While reporting from Libya in 2011, Hetherington was hit in the groin in a mortar attack and killed.
“Losing Tim forced me to reorient my career. I still grieve his loss every day because he wasn’t just a colleague, he was a really great friend,” said Junger. “But what is even harder is that his injury wasn’t necessarily mortal, but nobody knew what to do. That’s why I started the nonprofit RISC.”
Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues trains and equips freelance journalists to treat life-threatening injuries in combat zones. Training is provided free to experienced and published freelance conflict journalists.
Junger was caught in two foreign civil wars, and briefly detained by rebels. He was embedded with several platoons and learned the risks that journalists take in these areas.
Although Junger now holds such an established career, he started out just like the rest of us: at college. A graduate of Wesleyan University with a degree in cultural anthropology, Junger wrote a thesis on what he thought journalism was and what it should be. With this initiative and unadulterated curiosity, he set out to pursue a career in journalism.
He decided to primarily document human rights across the globe and to become a war correspondent. “I saw these reporters overseas and I thought it looked so interesting, and I thought that there was a minimal risk for these journalists. I also thought by doing this that I would advance in a career that would otherwise take much longer to do,” said Junger.
Junger primarily did freelance work and eventually went to Bosnia to report for Vanity Fair in 1993. He worked in bars, while freelancing as a journalist, until he wrote his first book, “The Perfect Storm.”
“The Perfect Storm,” published in 1997, was on the New York Times Bestsellers list for more than three years and later inspired a blockbuster film starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg.
Junger also established The Perfect Storm Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping provide educational opportunities to children with parents who work in maritime careers.
Junger has partnered with Outward Bound for Veterans to help them readjust to everyday life. Kanani Fong, military outreach coordinator, helps Junger reach out to the military and veteran community. “It’s always fun and rewarding working with someone who has a vision of what he wants his career to look like and what kind of story he wants to tell,” said Fong.
Junger now owns a bar in New York City and continues to do freelance work, although he has no desire to return to warzones. He also travels across the U.S. and talks about the effects of war and courage.
“I talk about courage a lot. Most animal species will defend their young or mate, but humans are the only species in which one male will defend another,” Junger said. “I think that’s a great and beautiful thing to witness firsthand, our capacity for courage.”
Most Notable Works by Junger:
The Perfect Storm
A Death in Belmont
Which Way is the Front Line from Here?
The Last Patrol
MOST NOTABLE AWARDS GIVEN TO JUNGER:
National Magazine Award
SAIS Novartis Prize for Journalism
Grand Jury Prize Documentary
News and Documentary Emmy
Academy Award Nomination
Taylor Forrest is a freshman majoring in communication. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.