It felt "like being bashed across the cheek with a lead pipe."
That's how Carmen Gentile, a freelance journalist who has done a lot of reporting from Afghanistan for USA TODAY, describes what it was like last September when a rocket-propelled grenade fired at U.S. troops in Kunar province caught the side of his head.
Fortunately, the RPG either wasn't armed or malfunctioned, and it "only" caught the left side of the 36-year-old Gentile's face. "It was one of those billion in one shots," Gentile says. As you can see and hear in his video report, it was a frightening moment. The U.S. troops quickly came to Gentile's aid. He now has four plates and six pins in his orbital socket and can see again out of his right eye.
This month, he's back in Afghanistan to do more reporting. "The real story," he says, is what the people there have to say about the decisions being made about their lives by leaders in Washington and Kabul. And the only way to get the story is to go talk with them.
That's similar to the view expressed Thursday by NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro about reporting in the Middle East and North Africa. And to what NPR photojournalist David Gilkey has said about why he and others go to war zones.