Sebastian Junger is done with war reporting.
“I’m not doing it anymore,” he said.
For the past 20 years, Junger has donned the body armor and the Kevlar, covering conflicts in Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Afghanistan. He’s suffered alongside American troops as they endured the hardships of war, including chilling firefights, extreme boredom and witnessing the deaths of their friends and brothers in uniform.
And instead of carrying a weapon into some of the harshest and cruelest regions of the world, Junger chose to carry a pen and notepad, documenting what he’s seen.
Saturday, Junger is at Fort Carson from 1:30-2:30 p.m. at the post exchange to meet with readers and sign copies of his latest bestseller, “War,” which documents his year embedded with troops in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley during some of the region’s most intense fighting.
Junger and filmmaker and photographer Tim Hetherington embedded with members of 2nd Platoon, Company B, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team from Vicenza, Italy in 2007. Junger and Hetherington each traveled to the Korengal Valley five times for one-month embeds during the course of a year in an effort to show readers and audience members the reality of combat.
“No one takes notes during a firefight,” Junger said. “If you do, you can’t read them afterwards anyway. Sitting (in a firefight) with nothing to do is terrifying so being able to shoot video is a godsend. I wouldn’t want to be there without a video camera.”
An electronic version of “War” incorporates pictures and video described in the book.
“You can read about a firefight then see what it actually looks like. It’s an interesting way of experiencing a book,” said Junger, who along with Hetherington shot more than 150 hours of footage.
Both Junger’s book and documentary “Restrepo” have been widely received by members of the military.
“Most of (2nd Platoon) read the book and saw the movie,” Junger said. “One of the guys told me, ‘You’ve explained us to ourselves.’ That was probably the greatest compliment I could have received.”
Despite the accolades, Junger said he will no longer report from the front lines.
“I got to see the wreckage. You really are hurting the people you love most when you die.
I don’t want to do that. I had a good run without any serious consequences until Tim died.”
Two months ago, Junger’s friend and co-director of “Restrepo,” Tim Hetherington died in a mortar attack while covering events in Libya. The attack also killed photojournalist Chris Hondros.
Junger said the outpouring of support from the military was overwhelming.
“John McCain sent two American flags to Tim’s memorial, one for (Tim’s) girlfriend and one for his parents. That’s a respect normally reserved for fallen servicemembers. They were presented by four members from 2nd Platoon,”
Junger said. “It was such a powerful experience, but I didn’t see anything because I was crying so hard.”
After earning his degree in anthropology, Junger said he chose a career in combat reporting and became “completely intoxicated” with the job.
“I had somewhat of a romantic idea that a war zone is an accelerated version of life,” he said. “That war was a way to test one’s self and prove myself.”
Junger said he will continue reporting, but from a broader perspective and not from the front lines.
“I’ll probably go back to the Middle East,” he said. “I just won’t be in the back of a Jeep getting shot at.”