By Kimberly Dozier
Editor’s Note: Kimberly Dozier has been a CBS News correspondent since 2003. A Wellesley graduate, she started her career at CBS radio in Cairo in 1992. She moved to Israel, where she has had a home outside Jerusalem since 2003. Her new book, Breathing the Fire, is about her surviving — and what it took to recover from — a car-bomb attack while she was on assignment in Iraq.
This weekend, I’m running the 10K part of the Marine Corps Marathon, for a second time. Last year, I did it to prove I could. This time, there’s no "I" about it. This is for Fisher House – one of those great wounded warrior charities that provides a place to stay for loved ones of the injured, and also runs "Hero Miles," where you can donate your air miles, which are then used to fly loved ones of the injured to Walter Reed or Landstuhl or wherever they need to go.
And right now, Fisher House is taking care of the McCormick clan – the sister and niece of CBS News anchor Cami McCormick, who is currently at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.(at the U.S. Army’s invitation because of their expertise with these injuries; and paid for by CBS’s insurance).
Cami got hit in Afghanistan with an army patrol on August 28 this year. That’s her "alive day" – the day she survived, when by rights, she shouldn’t have. The gunner in position just above her was killed. At one point, though she loathes "being the story" as I did, she will tell hers, and his – she has kept in touch with the patrol and their commander from her hospital bed, as she goes through the multiple surgeries and painful rehab that are part and parcel of this process.
Here’s the tough part – just after she was hit, a fellow journalist blogged about it on a site linked to military.com. Some bloggers reacted to the news angrily – that a reporter was hit, and was getting headlines, while a soldier had died (and of course, as per congressional mandate, his name could not be released for 24 hours).
Actually, CBS News had been taking embedding to the "enth" degree – they planned to release nothing until the Pentagon had informed the military families of the soldier lost … and the two who were injured. A blogger in Afghanistan, together with the one who posted the news on military.com, actually put paid to that plan. I wasn’t too happy with them that day – but I salute the dozens of journalists across the world who knew Cami got hit, and said nothing. They knew the drill, and knew the process the military was going through to reach their people back in the States.
The other hard part – some of the horrible reactions on that site. Bloggers denounced Cami, and all journalists covering wars, as "scum," and one actually wished Cami dead, saying it was a shame she survived and a soldier instead had died.
I reacted like any overprotective friend (who was basically feeling totally helpless watching her and her family at the hospital, coping with the same things mine had almost four years ago). I asked the site to consider taking that poison down. Military.com decided that it was better left standing, since so many other bloggers jumped all over venom-blogger, and questioned whether he/she had actually ever been to a combat zone.
That silenced the poison keyboard tapper.
But Cami still heard – ironically, via an anonymous e-mail from an officer who said he was "ashamed about what was being written about her," so naturally, she had to get a computer and track it down. And sitting there in the hospital bed, recovering from an IED attack, well … it didn’t exactly add to the healthy healing vibe, you know?
Bloggers said plenty of evil stuff about me just after the bombing and during my convalescence – for instance, one soldier who claimed to have a friend who evacuated me at the bomb scene said that I showed my "true character" by fighting my rescuers at the bomb scene. What was actually happening was that after an hour of hemorrhaging from my femoral artery, with two shattered femurs to boot, I’d lost more than half my blood and I’d gone hypoxic – meaning my brain was starved of oxygen, and I had a very typical reaction for a trauma patient – I fought my rescuers like a drowning swimmer, blind, unknowing and literally dying. That didn’t stop the soldier who blogged about me.
Then there were the jihadi websites who called me an army-lover who had gotten my just desserts, etc. Some of the same was posted about Cami.
A friend in PR said she’d done some research when another journalist client started a blog, and she found something remarkable – many of the evil missives on a particular site often come from the same two or three people, who create many different aliases for themselves, then log on to create the illusion of a wave of discontent. She said you have to get your technical staff to police the blogs, and that generally, when you call the multiple-alias blogger out, they stop.
But why do they do it?
When I sent round a note to a few friends at CBS, telling them I was doing this run, and asking them to on-pass it to anyone they knew who might want to contribute … that got on-passed to Mediabistro.com/TVnewser, which decided to post it. I thought to myself, "Great for Fisher House!"
But one of the few comments to the posting was from a blogger who said not "way to go, etc." but instead, they said, "Running? Don’t you mean gimping?"
OK, I don’t run fast, sure. Never have. But there’s nothing wrong with how I run. And I’ll be running alongside wounded warriors who are quite happy to "gimp" along, or move along any way at all – the triumph is moving, and finishing.
I just don’t know why someone would spend their time writing these things, tearing people down. I figure it’s got to come from a place of pain, powerlessness and resentment – and cowardice. They don’t sign their names to these things.
But I do know how to fight them – when you see someone writing something vicious, or cruel, take the time to call them out. I try to do it diplomatically, and if possible, politely. Trying to teach by example … and to remind them that there are people at the receiving end of that keyboard, so they have a choice – they can destroy, and feed all that negativity out there, or they can shoot for something just a bit higher – whether on the website, or in their own life.
The 10K – and the entire Marine Corps Marathon – are Sunday, in Washington, D.C. I’ll be the one in the CBS News baseball cap.
And Fisher House takes race donations until the end of the year … or the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, or anyone at woundedwear.org … etc.
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski