Fort Campbell Army journalist honored in U.S. Capital
May 20, 2011
- A 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division Soldier was among those honored at Newseum.
- A rededication of the Journalists Memorial at the Newseum.
- 77 names were added to the towering frosted-glass memorial.
- Staff Sgt. James Hunter is the only military journalist since Vietnam to be honored on the Journalists Memorial.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 16,2011) - A 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division Soldier was among those honored during a rededication of the Journalists Memorial at the Newseum Monday. Staff Sgt. James P. Hunter, an Army writer and photographer, was killed in Afghanistan last year while telling the Soldier's story.
Hunter has the distinction of being the only military journalist since Vietnam to be honored on the Journalists Memorial.
A total of 59 reporters, photographers, videographers, editors, crew members and news executives who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2010 were honored at the annual event. Another 18 journalists killed in previous years were also memorialized. All 77 names were added to the towering frosted-glass memorial.
"The 77 individuals we honor here today were brought together in a fellowship that none of them would have chosen - a fellowship chosen by their commitment, their courage, and ultimately, their sacrifice," said Chris Wells, former senior vice president of the Freedom Forum, during the rededication. "The common thread that united them all was their commitment to journalism, and the fact that they left us all too soon."
Guest speaker Krishna Bharat, founder of Google News, said the journalists all gave their lives while trying to address a fundamental human problem.
"It can be hard for us to care about people we cannot see, living in conditions we have not experienced, with predicaments we cannot understand," Bharat said.
For Hunter, 25, those people were his fellow Soldiers of 2nd BCT. He was killed by a roadside-bomb attack in Afghanistan June 18, 2010, while covering an infantry squad on patrol in Kandahar for the Fort Campbell Courier.
Sergeant Joe Padula, a friend and one of Hunter's Soldiers, who attended the rededication ceremony, said Hunter was passionate about being on the front lines with the troops and sharing their stories with the American public.
"He would always mentor to me, 'Listen Joe, I need you to understand: to tell the Soldier's story, you must fight by their side,'" Padula said.
Susan Bennett, senior vice president of exhibits, programs and media relations for the Newseum, said each candidate goes through a rigorous vetting process.
"One of the stipulations is that they work for an independent news agency," Bennett explained, saying the journalists they consider must have "freedom to write what they see, and report the news without censorship or editorial control by a government."
Since military journalists work for the United States government, many of their news organizations don't qualify, she said.
"But, we look at each case individually, and we thought, in this case, both the publication and [Hunter's] work met the criteria."
Lieutenant Col. Larry Porter, 2nd BCT and Hunter's former supervisor, attended the ceremony and said he understands the perceptions that exist about military journalists.
"Most people think that military journalists and combat correspondents, they just write the story that we want them to write," Porter said.
Padula, also a writer and photographer with the 2nd BCT, said he hopes Hunter's inclusion on the Journalists Memorial opens doors for more military journalists to be taken seriously.
"Army journalists, for whatever reason, they tend to get a little sideswiped," Padula said. "Maybe the media will start publishing us more now. No doubt this is a step in the right direction."
Both Padula and Porter think Hunter would be proud to know that, even in death, he is leading the way for Army journalists.
"Wherever he is right now, I know he's saying, 'See, I'm still showing you guys what you're supposed to be doing,'" Porter said.
"The Sergeant Hunter story," Padula thought, "will be the standard operating procedure for the Army journalists of tomorrow."