I don’t know if he was turning over a new leaf — or seeking that old “fix” — that comfortable and reliable standby for so many of us — running away back to war, where everything seems clearer. I just knew I couldn’t take him with me. His emails became more fervent.
“You’re not listening. I’ll find gear. You gotta work with me… God, you are so stubborn!”
But my gut told me he was “non-deployable.” He’d be a potential liability to the teams when they were already stuck with me. Greg kept emailing, despite my declines.
“You need to start trusting people in your life… yeah, I’m still an asshole. If I can’t find gear, I’ll still go… if for no other reason than to get objective feedback from that area for your print or social media. At this point, I do not have an expiration date for this trip,” he pleaded.
“Stand down,” I told him. “Ok,” he replied.
Within a month, Greg Danilenko was dead.
Another casualty of “that Chinook shootdown op.” Another casualty of war. Another statistic.
I didn’t share his writings, out of privacy and respect, until his mother Paula Garb reached out to me later. Greg’s son Thomas had already served in Afghanistan, daughter Becky was married. She gave me permission to share Greg’s writings — that it might help others.
“After the divorce, which coincided with the worsening PTSD symptoms, Greg started to go off the rails with his drinking. He was ashamed to admit to anyone how he was dealing with the pain. The trauma became so deep he couldn’t manage it,” Greg’s mother wrote.
“I think, too, that journalists just don’t have the kind of support systems that the military provides these days. It’s hard enough for soldiers to get treatment, but the journalists are completely on their own,” she added.
Greg Danilenko is now at peace.
He was a great father, son, cameraman, teammate, and friend.
I will always honor him, his work, and his family – as I do the troops I cover in tough situations.
For those of us who run towards danger, it seems obscene to talk about our pain, when we’ve seen what we’ve seen of other people’s pain. We use our job as our best defense.