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"When I first put on the kevlar vest and helmet issued by my news department they felt foreign and heavy. By the end of my numerous deployments over the years as a journalist with U.S. soldiers and marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were as comfortable and comforting as a favorite pair of jeans. I almost looked forward to putting them on. The weight was familiar and settled evenly on my shoulders. The helmet became almost unnoticeable. The decision was made at the onset of the Iraq war to wear camouflage similar to what the American military wore so as to blend in, lest the enemy see us as a VIP, or worse, a CIA agent or civilian contractor. Those, we were told, were prized targets.
I'd heard (and seen) plenty of bullets whiz by. I'd witnessed the devastating affects of IED's, mortars, artillery, and aerial bombardments. Fortunately none had ever put my vest and helmet to the test of whether they would really protect me. I was lucky. I know that.
Body armor is not an affectation. It's not a costume. If a journalist puts on a bullet-resistent (nothing is truly bullet-proof) vest and helmet, there's a good reason. Someone might well be wanting to kill you. Either because of your profession, the American servicemen and women you're covering, or simply because you're an American.
People who scoff at war correspondents as adrenaline junkies or attention hounds have no idea what the reality is. War is hard, dangerous, dirty, uncomfortable, hectic, and confusing. When covering the 101st Airborne in the initial invasion of Iraq, I carried 100 pounds of electronics and personal supplies on my back, often running to keep up with 20-somethings on house-to-house missions.
But the one thing you never lose sight of when covering war, is how much harder it is for the young men and women around you, the ones doing the fighting and killing and dying. The ones who are away from their loved ones far longer than I ever was.
The ones who, despite my vest and helmet, were the true protectors. It is they whom these two camouflaged items remind me of.
I am proud of my time among them. Our nation's best." -Don Dahler, Correspondent, CBS News