By Army Staff Sgt. Joy Pariante
Special to American Forces Press Service
Jan. 28, 2009 - A civilian journalist received a top Navy honor in Iraq on Jan. 24 for his heroism in saving a Marine's life while in Afghanistan. Then-Fox News cameraman Chris Jackson, embedded with a Marine Corps platoon, was traveling by Humvee down a dangerous road in Afghanistan on Aug. 3 when it hit 50 pounds of homemade explosives. All of the vehicle's passengers escaped the flaming vehicle, with the exception of vehicle commander Marine Corps Sgt. Courtney Rauch.
The blast severely injured Rauch and knocked him unconscious. Jackson, despite having received shrapnel wounds himself, rushed back to the vehicle, pulled Rauch out and carried him to safety.
"Without Chris' quick thinking and heroic act, I would have lost my life that day," Rauch said. "Chris forgot about being a reporter that day and became one of our brothers and acted as one of us. Chris went above and beyond his duty."
Jackson, who now works for CNN/Turner Broadcasting, was presented with the Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, the second-highest award given to civilians by the Navy, for his actions. Jackson received the award at Al Faw Palace at Camp Victory, outside of Baghdad, during a stop in Iraq en route to India. An audience of appreciative Marines was on hand during the ceremony.
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Paul Lefebvre, deputy commanding general for Multinational Corps Iraq, has a son in the same company with which Jackson was traveling. Lefebvre, who presented the award on behalf of the Navy, asked his son if all the wonderful things being said about Jackson were true.
"I asked him, 'Is this the real thing?' and he said, 'Yeah Dad, this guy's a hero,'" Lefebvre said. "This was not an everyday action. It came from somewhere deep inside and shows such a level of courage and commitment."
When told in front of the crowd why he was invited to Al Faw Palace, Jackson blushed. "It goes to show that Marines have a good sense of humor," he said. "I was told I was coming here for a briefing."
Jackson said he didn't think twice about risking his own life to save someone else's.
"I wasn't thinking. I saw there was trouble, and I didn't even think about grabbing a camera and filming it," Jackson said. "I just did what anyone else would do if someone was in trouble."
(Army Staff Sgt. Joy Pariante serves in the 13th Public Affairs Detachment.)