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A Firsthand View Of A Suicide Bomb In Afghanistan

A marine in Afghanistan just after he was wounded by a roadside bomb. (Michael M. Phillips/Wall Street Journal)

By: Alex Ashlock

One of the great things about my job is the search for compelling stories and putting them on the air. Last weekend I happened to see this essay and slide show on the Wall Street Journal web site. It was produced by reporter Michael M. Phillips, and the lead photo caught my eye immediately. A stunned and bruised Marine, looking directly into the camera, hand outstretched, grasped by a buddy. I watched the slide show, read Michael’s essay and thought, we have to talk to him about this.

Michael was riding in a convoy of Marines in Zaranj, a town near the Afghan border with Iran. They were piled in unarmored Ford Ranger pickups, just like the one I drive to work every day. Zaranj is thought to be a peaceful town, where there hadn’t been any attacks in years. Stores were open, kids were in the streets, and the Marines took that as an indication of a peaceful trip, because when the kids disappear, that can mean something bad is about to happen. But on April 28, 2012, all was calm. Until a man pushed a handcart loaded with explosives and ball-bearings into the road near one of the trucks and detonated it.

There were three men in the bed of the Ranger that was hit. They were all injured but they survived. Another Marine, Master Sgt. Scott Pruitt, a military accountant from Mississippi, wasn’t so lucky. There was nothing Navy corpsman Benny Flores could do for him. He bled to death in the front seat. Sgt. Pruitt was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on May 8.

Michael was riding in one of the trucks in front, sitting in the bed looking back, so he saw the explosion and started shooting pictures.

“It was such a jolting experience,” he told Here and Now‘s Sacha Pfeiffer. “The world explodes and suddenly everything is thrown into chaos. My reaction was to take pictures and report. Some of the things that I saw in my pictures, I don’t remember having seen. To a certain extent when you are a reporter, your notebook or your camera is a filter between you and reality. It allows you to continue doing your job even as you should probably be running for cover.”

Guest:

  • Michael Phillips, Wall Street Journal reporter
  • We also have a report from the BBC’s Andrew North

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  • marym

    This was a very moving report. There was only one problem with it.  The rank of the dead marine is Master Sergeant.   It is very, very different than Sergeant. Not only do they look different on the uniform, but one rank typically goes to a guy about 5-7 years into his enlistment.  The other.. goes to a marine who had been in around 15-19 years.. That is a huge difference.. Please get it right.  

    • Alex Ashlock, Here and Now

      Sorry if we made that mistake but I believe we identified him as a Master Sergeant.

      • Alex Ashlock, Here and Now

        You know what marym, you’re right, there was a spot where we did ID Scott Pruitt as a sergeant, not a master sgt. My bad.  

  • Phil

    I am so angry listening to this story. I really really wish the US would just leave that country and let them take care of their own problems. How many more US and NATO soldiers have to die before we realize this is a no win situation?! How much more money do we have to pump into this failed war before we realize the financial resources are so much more needed right here in the United States????

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/A257KPCV4LRJUDXO6KJJLXJ66U Guido

    this is the actual ugly face of war. what is seen here is only one dimension of 5 senses that we posess. we see the pics but don’t hear the sound of the buzzing in your ears or the acrid smell of the explosive. the intense burning of the hot shrapnel or the screams of the wounded and the dying. this pic doesn’t show the rest of the platoon defending itself from a Taliban ambush. the pop-pop of the small arms fire and the evryone trying to protect each other….
    this is real life. there are no commercials and no one just gets up and walks away after the director shout, “cut!”
    on a closing note, i would like to add , “BRAVO!” to the author/photographer who happened to be at the wrong place at the right time.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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