Life After Combat: A Conversation between Phil Zabriskie & Sebastian Junger

July 13, 7:00pm

Life After Combat
A Conversation between Phil Zabriskie & Sebastian Junger
In The Kill Switch, Phil Zabriskie, who covered Iraq and Afghanistan for Time and others, reconnects with Marines and soldiers he met in Iraq and finds them ready and willing to examine soberly and honestly what they’ve done and were asked to do. From boot camp through the initial invasion to the crucibles of Ramadi and Fallujah and beyond, they recount firefights, ambushes, car bombers, hand-to-hand combat, and the life and death decisions they made about Saddam’s soldiers, insurgents, and people, even children, who were caught in the crossfire. And this was all before they came home and confronted a lengthy slate of new and often grueling challenges linked to what they did and didn’t do on the battlefield.

Though only 10 percent of American forces see combat, the U.S. military now has the highest rate of post-traumatic stress disorder in its history. In a recent essay in Vanity Fair, “How PTSD Became a Problem Far Beyond the Battlefield,” veteran war correspondent Sebastian Junger discovered that PTSD develops as much at home as it does on the battlefield. We might think we have a basic understanding of PTSD: Soldiers in battle see things they'd like to forget, but years later combat memories come back to haunt them. That's the received wisdom. But perhaps we have it all wrong. Maybe it's not the reminders of the fighting that cause post-traumatic stress so much as the void ex-combatants face when they leave the community of soldiers behind.
Phil Zabriskie is the author of the The Kill Switch. Previously, he spent nearly a decade living and working as a journalist overseas, primarily as a staff writer for Time magazine in Asia and the Middle East, covering both Afghanistan and Iraq, along with news and events in Pakistan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and elsewhere. 

He has also written for National Geographic, New York, Fortune, and the Washington Post Magazine—with a particular focus on people from numerous different societies living with trauma and its aftermath—and served as Editorial Director for Doctors Without Borders USA. He has been both a Fellow and a Senior Fellow with the Dart Foundation for Journalism and Trauma; spoken at the State Department, the New America Foundation’s “Future of War” conference, New York University Law School, and, twice, as a visiting author at the Sun Valley Writers Conference. 

He was recently honored with the Bates Farnham Outstanding Achievement Award by his graduating class (1994) at Princeton University, an award “presented to a member of our class who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in his or her life” and “who makes a deep and meaningful contribution to the world around them.”
New York-based writer and journalist Sebastian Junger first ventured into film with the documentary RESTREPO, which he shot and directed with colleague Tim Hetherington. RESTREPO chronicles one year at an American combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan; the film won the 2010 Sundance Grand Jury Prize for best documentary and was also nominated for an Oscar® and an Independent Spirit Award. Junger’s accompanying book, War, spent over a month on the New York Times bestseller list.

Junger’s next film, Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington, was a moving portrait of the acclaimed war photographer and his RESTREPO co-director that premiered on HBO and was nominated for a PGA award and was short-listed for an Oscar® in the Best Documentary Feature category.

Junger’s books include The Perfect Storm, Fire and A Death in Belmont.

Junger first reported from Afghanistan in 1996 and, four years later, was one of the last Westerners to accompany legendary guerrilla fighter Ahmed Shah Massoud during his war against the Taliban. Junger has reported for Vanity Fair, where he is a contributing editor, from many war zones across the world: he was trapped in Monrovia during the Liberian civil war in 2003, caught in Sierra Leone during the civil war of 2000 and very briefly held by “oil rebels” in the Niger Delta in 2006. His October 1999 article in Vanity Fair, “The Forensics of War,” won a National Magazine Award for Reporting.

His documentary KORENGAL picked up where RESTREPO left off; the same men, the same valley, the same commanders, but a very different look at the experience of war. KORENGAL explains how war works, what it feels like and what it does to the young men who fight it.

Junger's latest documentary was The Last Patrol, which premiered in 2014 on HBO. Two combat veterans, along with Junger, and another war journalist, walked the railroad lines from DC to Pennsylvania. The four men discuss war, what it meant to them, and how it changed the perceptions of life. In June 2015, he wrote "How PTSD Became a Problem Far Beyond The Battlefield" in Vanity Fair. Junger is also the founder of Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC), an intensive course in advanced life saving skills for journalists who are traveling to wars, conflicts, and natural disasters.
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