(A decade is a long time, and, yet, one that can easily be remembered. Here, in 2013, we are marking the decade anniversaries of the Iraq War. One of the things that I always remember were the reporters embedded with our fighting forces, David Bloom in particular. Today, on the anniversary of his untimely passing on the battlefield, I am reposting the essay I wrote for and was published in the Houston Chronicle. Bloom died of a blood clot brought on by deep-vein thrombosis. It can be prevented, and you can learn more at PreventDVT.org. Mr. Bloom, we all still miss you.)
April 7, 2003, 8:18PM (Tuesday)
The war came home for me Sunday.
hesitate to write that sentence because the war in Iraq is almost
4-weeks-old now and there have been at least 108 coalition soldiers
killed. Each one of those families already has the war at home with
them. The war sits down to dinner in the empty seat of the missing
father. The war is in bed with the newly widowed wife, the empty space next to her now a hollow hole in her heart.
have no relatives fighting in Iraq. In this country of more than 280
million people and about 1.4 million people who serve in the
all-volunteer military, I am one of many in America whose freedom is
defended by someone nameless.
But those who cover the war aren't
nameless, and one of the best things to emerge from the war is the
reporting by embedded journalists in the field. With new technology and
24-hour news channels, the war --with its images of reporters in
military gear – is simply always on. Yet, while I admire the courage of
these reporters, some of them look out of place.
One reporter who
seemed exactly in his place was David Bloom, a journalist for NBC. Ever
since his unit -- the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division -- moved out,
David was dirty. He was the first reporter to beam live images of the
moving convoy of tanks. I remember seeing these images and being
astounded that I was witnessing live war footage. He had a "boyish
enthusiasm" when he described military details, and he knew his role
exactly: Bring home the war to the American people.
But the war
details were not the entire story. He also knew that his greater
responsibility was to show America the lives these soldiers were
leading. He let us know that MREs were not all that bad. He let us know
how big a Bradley vehicle was and yet how cramped it could be when fully
occupied. He let us know how dusty it was by never cleaning up for the
camera. He let us -- the ones the soldiers were protecting --know what
it was like to be a U.S. soldier in Iraq.
David Bloom seemed to
always be on the air. Iraq is nine hours ahead of Houston, but no matter
the time of day here, there always seemed to be the word "Live" on the
screen. He was live during the middle of the night talking with Lester
Holt, live during the Today show and even live during the evening news,
giving Tom Brokaw the absolute latest. When I flicked channels between
the three major network news channels, if David Bloom was on, I stopped
and listened. He was, for me and for my wife, Vanessa, our favorite
reporter, a friendly voice from the front line.
He died Sunday of a pulmonary embolism.
Based on what I learned that day, he took power naps and would stay
awake for hours. Perhaps that is why he seemed to always be on, live, no
matter the program or time. The retrospectives told us that he was a
driven man, one who always had to be where the action was. He
volunteered for this assignment and, I think, broke the mold as a
front-line combat reporter.
I was feeding my son when the news
broke. I am used to nameless numbers when the media talk about
casualties, men and women who have laid down their lives for me. But
when the news anchor said David's name, my heart was pierced. Tears
seeped into my eyes for a man I never knew but, somehow, knew. My wife
The embolism was a noncombat death, but it really is a
combat death. David went to Iraq partly out of a duty to his
profession, but also partly out of a loyalty to this country. He is a
casualty of war, just as are the other fallen soldiers. They all are
I have never been a soldier, but I am a writer and I know
what that is like. David Bloom and the more than 600 embedded reporters
are heroes to me. With them, the war is very close.
With the intimacy of television,
perfect strangers can seem like friends to us. We viewers think of Dave
or Jay, not Mr. Letterman or Mr. Leno. David Bloom's constant presence
on the television, his mannerisms, his wit, his focus on the ordinary
humanness of our soldiers made him seem like "David" to me, a person I
knew on a first-name basis. And he was, in a way. That is the nature of
But on Sunday, upon learning that I'd never again
hear his voice, upon learning that he left his family to go and do
something bigger than himself, upon learning of his ultimate sacrifice
for his country and his profession, he was Mr. Bloom. That is the nature
The war came home for me that day.