In his State of the Union address in January, President Barack Obama told the nation that, in the fight for freedom, “We must always remember that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country.”
The World-Herald has long acted as a beacon for that message. We see it as vital to our mission that we inform our community about U.S. wars and the people who fight them, especially our friends and neighbors from Nebraska and Iowa.
That is why the newspaper is sending two of its own to Afghanistan today. Reporter Joseph Morton and photographer Alyssa Schukar will board planes this afternoon and evening, be in Kabul Tuesday and start filing stories, photos and videos later in the week. They will report exclusively for The World-Herald's print and Omaha.com readers.
Equipped with military body armor, laptop computers, cameras and lenses and a satellite telephone, they will stay six to eight weeks. They will travel across much of the war-torn nation to report on the Nebraska and Iowa troops who have been called from their regular lives to serve half a world away. Morton and Schukar will live with the soldiers, eat what they eat, go where they go and tell their stories.
Morton and Schukar also will spend time with civilian workers at the Afghan Study Center, a leading education program run from Kabul by the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Schukar, 27, is a Lincoln native and a 2006 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She joined The World-Herald in 2008 after working as a commercial photographer and working at newspapers in Virginia, Ohio and Florida. She was named Nebraska News Photographer of the Year in 2008 and 2010.
Morton, 35, grew up in Memphis, Tenn., and graduated from the University of Missouri in 1998. Following a one-year Fulbright fellowship in Frankfurt, Germany, Morton joined The World-Herald in 1999. He has received the Thomas C. Sorensen Award for Distinguished Nebraska Journalism. Since 2006, he has worked in our Washington Bureau.
The newspaper is calling its special coverage “At War, At Home” because it will include extensive reporting from this region. Reporter Matthew Hansen and others will focus on the friends and families of the troops overseas. Hansen kicked off our coverage in today's paper with a profile of longtime Nebraska military officer Col. Tom Brewer, who has spent the past year fighting the drug war in Afghanistan.
Also starting today, look online at Omaha.com/afghanistan for war coverage and explanatory stories about Afghanistan.
Longtime readers might recognize the name “At War, At Home” because The World-Herald used it in 2005 when reporter C. David Kotok and photographer Jeff Bundy reported from Iraq for about two months.
But Schukar and Morton follow a much longer tradition at The World-Herald. In World War II, reporter Lawrence Youngman was in Europe and reporter Bill Billotte worked in the Pacific Theater. Military affairs editor Howard Silber made four trips to Vietnam. In 1991, photographer Phil Johnson and reporter Jeff Gauger covered Nebraskans and Iowans in the Persian Gulf War.
The decision to send journalists to a war zone is never made easily.
Your newspaper could rely on the national news services that provide the bulk of reporting on the war for newspapers and broadcasters across the country. We could just interview the military personnel who return from Afghanistan and talk to their families and friends while they are there.
But that seems inadequate, given that thousands of Nebraska and Iowa National Guard troops are deployed in Afghanistan. These are our people. Our volunteers. Our servicemen. Our servicewomen.
No other news source in Nebraska has the resources, willpower or expertise to spend an extended period in a war zone.
It's part of our tradition. Part of our duty. A good newspaper shines public light on the lives and sacrifices of those who labor in the cause of freedom.
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