In a riveting special that's available now on Fox Nation, Fox News senior correspondent Rick Leventhal and photographer Christian Galdabini sat down for an intimate conversation about their time in Baghdad, and the trials and tribulations of reporting from an active warzone.
In "Embedded in Harm's Way," Leventhal and Galdabini recount their nine-week journey with United States Marine Corps’ 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
Together, they traveled through deserts, ate, slept, and dodged bullets; all the while allowing the public to witness the American invasion of Iraq firsthand.
Following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld allowed journalists to embed with U.S. forces, in order to provide reporters and photographers with greater access to the battlefield. In 2003, more than 600 journalists - including Leventhal and Galdabini - descended on Baghdad, and embedded with different military units.
The men began their story by explaining their motivation to immerse themselves in the dangerous territory, despite knowing the risks. Galdabini, a photographer that frequented unsafe places, says he was driven by the adventure and the ability to witness history up close.
Leventhal explained that his inspiration came after the September 11th terrorist attacks and his reporting from Ground Zero.
“I was there when the towers fell and after 9/11 I said I want to do whatever I can do. I’m probably too old to serve, but I can go cover it somehow,” said Leventhal.
Though neither were strangers to the battlefield, they agreed that the access they had in the field during the mission was both unique and surprising.
“We kept waiting at any moment, they are going to pull us out of here, move us back, and it never happened,” says Galdabini.
The men were treated no differently than the Marines they were with. They were bound to their schedules, often going days without a break.
“The only difference between us and the Marines was that we had a camera and a microphone and they had guns,” Leventhal said.
While traveling to the Iraq-Kuwait border, Leventhal and Galdabini were forbidden from contacting anyone at home, including family and the Fox News bureau, for up to 60 hours.
As they were approaching the border, they found themselves caught in enemy crossfire.
“It may be the closest call of the whole trip… a round came in and it landed really close- so close that I remember the dirt from the explosion tingling on our helmet,” Galdabini recalled.
Though the experience was rewarding, both Leventhal and Galdabini agreed that the extreme sleep deprivation and lack of hygiene made it difficult to maintain high spirits at all times. They explained that they relied on each other to lift their spirits when times got especially difficult.
"This whole adventure was a roller coaster. Emotionally, physically, and journalistically,” Galdabini explained.
Over the nine weeks that the men were embedded, they both noted that the biggest takeaway was the heightened respect they now hold for the Marines.
"They were such a great group of dedicated, patriotic, hardworking people,” Leventhal gushes.
“I was so impressed with the Marines that I kept asking to go back ... because I wanted to tell their stories, because they were such an impressive group.”
It was difficult, mentally and physically, but it was an experience that both men said they wouldn’t trade for the world.
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