MIAMI -- They're some of the most powerful pictures of war, taken not by professional cameramen, but by soldiers themselves. There's no way to track the number of video and still cameras attached to helmets, rifles, inside Humvees or on Stryker turrets. What is clear: storytelling is no longer just a journalist's domain. Soldiers and Marines are telling their stories to a worldwide audience. Some of the videos on YouTube have been viewed by more than 200,000 people. On Doonesbury's "The Sandbox," a popular blog among members of the military, videos from those fighting in Afghanistan are now drawing an audience.
Some of the pictures are raw, ugly, and hard to stomach. Other videos are silly diversions from war: a look at the comic relief from so much intensity. Interestingly, while there are complaints that the media doesn't tell enough of the "good news" from Iraq, I found few soldiers or marines telling that story themselves. These videos appear to be the ongoing evolution of journalism in the Internet age. Military home videos are a subset of the growing so-called "citizen journalism."A captain I spoke with at U.S. Central Command in Tampa called these "the new social fabric."
Some of the posted clips are simple, like "A Sniper's Story." It's still photos taken by a sniper, set to music from the movie "The Gladiator." The sniper asked we not reveal his name, but he wants us to see the war he's seen: positions often miles from insurgents, a lonely existence behind walls or hidden by rubble.
Film producer Chuck Lacy told me, "the genie is out of the bottle." He looked at hundreds of hours of videotape taken by more than a dozen members of the New Hampshire National Guard during their one-year deployment. The tape was turned into an award winning film "The War Tapes."
I've personally been in and out of Iraq for a total of about six months over the last four years. My first trip was as an embedded journalist with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines. I remember meeting a Marine back then, Lance Cpl. Johnny Zonnefeld, who was going to put a camera on his helmet and record the war. It never quite worked out in those early days of war. It was too complicated to roll a camera and fight. But as Marines and soldiers have gotten into the routine of battle, so too have many gotten into the routine of recording their experiences and then uploading them for all to see.
Tonight on the broadcast we'll take a look at this unique perspective of the war, as told by those fighting it.