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Feinstein Censure Update,Barbara's emails:Marge Cohn on cspan, NEW TEE SHiRT. GREENWALD on FOX'sNews, Marlbaro Man,Mariine Photo Lit Imaginations Keep his Cool,

From: Carol C.
Sent on: Sunday, November 18, 2007 8:46 AM
Hey everyone -
Great news below.

Still, of course, we know that this resolution isn't going to pass.

But we also know that we've all made a significant symbolic statement that
could help -- in effect -- "Harmanize" Dianne Feinstein (i.e. Jane Harman
has been a lot better since she was primaried by Marcy Winograd). Perhaps
the telecom immunity development was a hopeful sign of things to come.

Whether Feinstein changes or not is dependent on our collective ongoing
action and vigilance, across the activism spectrum. In that effort, I am
proud to be a part of the DFA community -- the people who are catalyzing the
bottom-up transformative potential of Howard Dean's vision one action at a


p.s. check out the attached poster boards for Anaheim (by the intrepid Miles
Kurland, who created them on the same night his wife was taking him out for
his birthday. Now that's dedication to the cause).

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Eden James <[address removed]>
Date: Nov 17,[masked]:37 AM
Subject: Feinstein Censure: This just in from CDP E-Board meeting in

This just in from the Executive Board meeting of the California Democratic
Women's Caucus of the California Democratic Party passes "Censure the
Senator" resolution
Irish-American Caucus of the California Democratic Party passes "Censure the
Senator" resolution *

In addition, as of Friday night, *29,802* Americans (over 90% Californians)
have signed on to support the resolution calling for the California
Democratic Party to censure Senator Dianne Feinstein for her Judiciary
Committee votes confirming Michael Mukasey and Leslie Southwick. We're
hoping to push that over 30K on Saturday morning...

All 40 endorsing organizations are listed below, as of Friday night:

*Endorsed by the Courage Campaign, Political Action, Executive
Board of the California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus, Women's Caucus
of the California Democratic Party, Irish-American Caucus of the California
Democratic Party, Steering Committee of the East Bay for Democracy
Democratic Club, Progressive Democrats of America, Sonoma County Democratic
Central Committee, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, the Coordinating
Committee of SoCal Grassroots, San Diego Democracy for America, the Steering
Committee of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, Sacramento for Democracy,
DFA-Orange County, Santa Cruz County for Democracy, Trinity County
Democratic Central Committee, Diablo Valley Democratic Club, Ventura County
Committee to Stop the War, Progressive Democrats Sonoma County, the Inyo
County Democratic Central Committee, the Torrance Democratic Club, San Mateo
County Democracy for America, Castro Valley Progressives, the Whittier Area
Peace & Justice Coalition, Santa Barbara Impeach Cheney & Bush Meetup Group,
Democracy for America - Marin (DFA-Marin), Valley Democrats United, the
Executive Board of the West LA Democratic Club, Progressive Democrats - San
Francisco, Greenwood Earth Alliance, Hammering the Issues, Westchester
Democratic Club, Los Angeles, Young Democrats of UCI, and the North (San
Fernando) Valley Democratic Club, Lassen Progressives, Castro Valley
Democratic Club Executive Board, Progressive Democrats of Marin, Progressive
Democrats of America - Metro San Diego Chapter, Sonoma County Democracy for
America, PDA Orange County, and Valley Grassroots For Democracy.*

From Courage Campaign RE: FEINSTEIN CENSURE

Hi Carol,

You have changed the conversation inside the California Democratic Party. 30,033 of you, to be exact.

Last night, the Women's Caucus of the California Democratic Party approved your resolutions to censure Senator Dianne Feistein. Then, in a speech before hundreds this morning, Party Chair Art Torres immediately and directly addressed your movement to censure Senator Feinstein.

This three-day event has been transformed by your activism. I am sitting at the meeting, with my computer on my lap, constantly refreshing the signature totals on the Senator Dianne Feinstein censure resolution.

We made up a poster in the middle of last night. It is now out-of-date. You can see the picture of it above. What was 29,708 signers is now 30,333. So we slapped a new number on it.

I have a stack of papers here, a marker and some tape. I am going to sit here and keep slapping up new numbers as the Executive Board members walk by. The number is turning heads and influencing conversations.

Can you keep the momentum rolling? If you haven't signed it, sign it. If you have signed it, can you send this to your friends and family? Mark it "urgent." We have a very short time before the Resolution Committee meets.

On the plane ride down here, I was reading Rolling Stone magazine and was moved by this quote from Eli Pariser, Executive Director of
"Technology makes it more possible than ever for someone with a wild idea to all of a sudden put it in front of millions of people and engage them in doing something together. It also offers the potential for politics to become more of a conversation rather than a soapbox."
30,333 people just like you have turned the soapbox on its side.

30,333 principled, patriotic citizens, calling for the California Democratic Party to censure Senator Dianne Feinstein.

You can read and sign on to the resolution here:

Today, the members of the Resolutions Committee and Executive Board of the California Democratic Party face a difficult decision under a glaring spotlight. What will they do about Senator Feinstein's tipping-point Judiciary Committee votes to confirm Judges Michael Mukasey and Leslie Southwick?

Support the people or support the powerful?

Stand strong on principle? Or play politics as usual?

If they refuse to hear the call of this people-powered movement -- the 30,333 who have signed on to the Courage Campaign website in support of the censure resolution, supported by 40 California Democratic Clubs and progressive organizations, the Courage Campaign,, and Progressive Democrats of America.

As the Resolutions Committee meets shortly and the Executive Board meets on Sunday morning, you can keep building the momentum. And I'll keep updating the numbers:

Julia Rosen
Online Political Director

P.S. I am live-blogging the meeting on the official Courage Campaign blog. I'll be posting pictures as well as content. You can keep up to date on events as they unfold minute-by-minute:

Gotta run. I just looked at the numbers and we're up to 30,433. Way to go!

Hey everyone -
Great news below.

Still, of course, we know that this resolution isn't going to pass.

But we also know that we've all made a significant symbolic statement that
could help -- in effect -- "Harmanize" Dianne Feinstein (i.e. Jane Harman
has been a lot better since she was primaried by Marcy Winograd). Perhaps
the telecom immunity development was a hopeful sign of things to come.

Whether Feinstein changes or not is dependent on our collective ongoing
action and vigilance, across the activism spectrum. In that effort, I am
proud to be a part of the DFA community -- the people who are catalyzing the
bottom-up transformative potential of Howard Dean's vision one action at a


p.s. check out the attached poster boards for Anaheim (by the intrepid Miles
Kurland, who created them on the same night his wife was taking him out for
his birthday. Now that's dedication to the cause).

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Eden James <[address removed]>
Date: Nov 17,[masked]:37 AM
Subject: Feinstein Censure: This just in from CDP E-Board meeting in

This just in from the Executive Board meeting of the California Democratic
Women's Caucus of the California Democratic Party passes "Censure the
Senator" resolution
Irish-American Caucus of the California Democratic Party passes "Censure the
Senator" resolution *

In addition, as of Friday night, *29,802* Americans (over 90% Californians)
have signed on to support the resolution calling for the California
Democratic Party to censure Senator Dianne Feinstein for her Judiciary
Committee votes confirming Michael Mukasey and Leslie Southwick. We're
hoping to push that over 30K on Saturday morning...

All 40 endorsing organizations are listed below, as of Friday night:

*Endorsed by the Courage Campaign, Political Action, Executive
Board of the California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus, Women's Caucus
of the California Democratic Party, Irish-American Caucus of the California
Democratic Party, Steering Committee of the East Bay for Democracy
Democratic Club, Progressive Democrats of America, Sonoma County Democratic
Central Committee, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, the Coordinating
Committee of SoCal Grassroots, San Diego Democracy for America, the Steering
Committee of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, Sacramento for Democracy,
DFA-Orange County, Santa Cruz County for Democracy, Trinity County
Democratic Central Committee, Diablo Valley Democratic Club, Ventura County
Committee to Stop the War, Progressive Democrats Sonoma County, the Inyo
County Democratic Central Committee, the Torrance Democratic Club, San Mateo
County Democracy for America, Castro Valley Progressives, the Whittier Area
Peace & Justice Coalition, Santa Barbara Impeach Cheney & Bush Meetup Group,
Democracy for America - Marin (DFA-Marin), Valley Democrats United, the
Executive Board of the West LA Democratic Club, Progressive Democrats - San
Francisco, Greenwood Earth Alliance, Hammering the Issues, Westchester
Democratic Club, Los Angeles, Young Democrats of UCI, and the North (San
Fernando) Valley Democratic Club, Lassen Progressives, Castro Valley
Democratic Club Executive Board, Progressive Democrats of Marin, Progressive
Democrats of America - Metro San Diego Chapter, Sonoma County Democracy for
America, PDA Orange County, and Valley Grassroots For Democracy.*


***From: [address removed]
Subject: the shirt - Bush & Chaney behind Prison Bsrs Caption Reads: I Have A Dream...
Date: November 17,[masked]:26:03 AM PST

Those of you who havemarchedwith us in the last year know how fantastic this poster is! People want to be photographed iwth it/us. We started amaking them by the dozens to give away.

So, by popular demand, we made the shirt. Limited quanity to start so before I put them on the web, you guys get first shot at them. I can make a poster for you as well if you want one

Barbara Cummongs Emails

*** Subject: Marge Cohn on cspan
Date: November 17,[masked]:09:23 PM PST

Marge will be talking about her book, Cowboy Justice. Hope you can make a point of watching the show. Sorry if you already got the notice.

From: [address removed]
Subject: Marge Cohn on cspan
Date: November 17,[masked]:09:23 PM PST
To: [address removed], [address removed] Friends,

I will appear on Book TV on C-SPAN 2 tomorrow Sunday Nov. 18 at 7:00 p.m. EST (that probably means 4:00 p.m. PST unless it's tape-delayed).


* * * * * *

BTW, a few of us are meeting at Miramar Lake by the bathrooms at 9 am tomorow for a walk and breakfast. Then we plan to head to Encinitas: Coast Hwy and encinitas Blvd for ENOUGH. It is the street fair so there should be a lot of traffic. I have signs for any who come. The new shirts too.

***Subject: Fwd: Enough FOX smut for a porn site Date: November 15,[masked]:49:38 PM PST
To: Robert Greenwald, my hero. Don't usually do petitions but for Robert, anything?

Robert Greenwald <[address removed]> wrote:
Date: Thu, 15 Nov[masked]:25:09 -0500 (EST)
From: Robert Greenwald <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Subject: Enough FOX smut for a porn site

"Can you quote us so not giving a shit?"

***Building the local FOX News advertiser databas

ello FOX Attackers,

As you probably noticed, we unleashed FOX News [blank] this week, and it created a bit of a stir online to say the least. Digg banned us, then unbanned us when the uproar and speculation about acquisition by Rupert Murdoch reached a fever pitch. Then YouTube decided the content was only appropriate for adults...all of which aired on FOX News Channel! All the sordid details are here:

So people *are* making calls to local FOX advertisers, and they will make even more calls next week. Which is why we need your help to keep building the database.

Right now, go clear out all those Will & Grace episodes from your TiVo to make room for all those local FOX News advertisers. The only way you get a reprieve is if you've got a Nielsen box... or kids in the room.

Then go to the FOX Attacker website here:

Click on "add advertiser." You'll be asked to login or create an account. If you forgot your password, there's a link there to get a new one.

You can also search the database. If the advertiser is already in there, please be sure to click on the "I saw this advertiser on FOX more recently." This helps us know whether they are still advertising, which is very important.

We can really have an impact with your help.

Jim Gilliam
Brave New Films

P.S. Big thanks to Zheming, Roofannie, dangergirlnga, parisla, Zoot Horn Rollo, and the many others who have been helping out!


1. Watch the video online
2. Sign the pledge
3. Call FOX's advertisers
That was FOX's classy response to the half a million viewers who saw our FOX Attacks: Decency video.
Looks like we got to FOX this time, and it wasn't a debate about policy in Iran that did it, or a video displaying their racism, or even our coverage of their abject hypocrisy on environmental issues.
No, what got the attack dogs at FOX hungry and looking for flesh was none other than an expos? of their smut peddling! It makes sense in a way, because advertisers tend not to like their products being promoted between segments of soft porn. And a large part of their conservative base hates this as well, which might be why one Christian organization compared the way women were dressed on FOX to the manner in which "hookers" are attired.
So what did we do?
With the News Hounds help, we found enough FOX lasciviousness for a whole porn site!!
Really, we did. And it wasn't that hard to do. In fact, if you thought FOX Attacks: Decency was a glimpse into the lustful thoughts of your favorite FOX anchor, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Watch the video:
Satire and parody aside, we think this is extremely objectionable, misogynistic content. We still don't understand how FOX is allowed to call this "news." So let's make this campaign count, and hit FOX where it hurts -- their Fair and Balance Sheet.
Many of you have been helping to create a massive database of local FOX advertisers. Now it's time to start calling them. Pick one or two to call and ask them to please not advertise on a channel that shows Girls Gone Wild during prime time, and exploits women 24/7. Let them know in very personal terms why this matters to you.
Click for a list of FOX advertisers near you:
And please let us know how it goes! When you click on the 'call' or 'email' advertiser link, you'll get an example script, and a form where you can describe what happened. Fill it out so we can all share information on how advertisers are reacting to the campaign. Plus, others will be inspired to act and we can keep the pressure on these merchants of immorality. Be creative make it personal and express how you feel.
Robert Greenwald, Cliff Schecter, and the Brave New Films team.
P.S. It's getting close to gift-giving time, so we've put together a special edition DVD of Outfoxed with all the FOX Attacks videos and other bonus features. The perfect stocking stuffer for that special conservative in your life. Get one for $12.95 or a 5 pack for $50.
Brave New Films creates videos and campaigns for social change. We are located at 10510 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232 and [address removed]. You can get us on iTunes and Facebook, and you can stop receiving email from us by clicking here:

ARREST BUSH shirts at

***Inspector Gen at State Dept has a brother on the board at Blackwater as State investigates blackwater. Lies, denies, gets caught, recuses

These bastards

Call congress, please, call every day after you brush your teeth, call about this, call about funding, call about IMPEACHMENT

ARREST BUSH shirts at

1 (800) 828 - 0498
1 (800) 459 - 1887
1 (800) 614 - 2803
1 (866) 340 - 9281
1 (866) 338 - 1015
1 (877) 851 - 6437

***Here is the rest of the story on the Marlboro man
Date: November 13,[masked]:21:23 AM PST
One of over how many tens of thousands? We are no further along than we were back in 2004 when this happened. The democratic leaders are all abysmal , astonsihing failures , getting ready to shove another unwanted candidate down our throats. In fact, if anything we are more mired in Iraq than ever before.

Al Gore needs to give the Sherman speech and give it now!

THE IMPORTANCE OF VETERAN'S DAY: Often, to some Americans, Veteran's Day is simply a day off from work or school. But to MOST Americans, it's an important day for honoring all the men and women who have served our country throughout the history of the United States. ... Also, many of us have never experienced the horrors of war. Therefore, for us, it is impossible to fully empathize with those who have fought for our country in wartime. ... Some of you have served in the military, and you are all heroes. ... But for those of us who have never fought in a war, practically every one of us has one or more relatives or friends who have served valiantly, and we are all very grateful to you -- and them. ... The story of Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller, the "Marlboro Marine," can get us closer to being able to empathize with those of you, and all our family members and friends, who have served bravely. ... On this Veteran's Day, we not only honor those of you who receive this e-mail who have served in our military, but also our relatives and other friends who have defended America throughout our history. Certainly, this year, the 25th Anniversary of The Vietnam Memorial wall in Washington, we especially thank those of you who fought in that conflict. ... Most of you who are in my age bracket, perhaps lost loved ones in the Vietnam War, and our hearts go out to you. ... So, as we close out this Veteran's Day Weekend, I know I can speak for all of us in thanking those of you who have served, and your family members who have been members of our military as well. ... I hope the story of Blake Miller will help those who have never been at war, better understand the sacrifices of those that have served America throughout our history. We are all grateful, I know, to every man and woman who is a veteran of the United States military.

Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times
This is the photo that made Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller -- the "Marlboro Marine" -- famous
(Before Reading Below, Guess The Age Of Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller, Above.)
Two lives blurred together by a photo

Times photographer Luis Sinco made James Blake Miller an emblem of the war. The image would change both of their lives and connect them in ways neither imagined.

By Luis Sinco, Times Staff Photographer, First of two parts
November 11, 2007

The young marine lighted a cigarette and let it dangle. White smoke wafted around his helmet. His face was smeared with war paint. Blood trickled from his right ear and the bridge of his nose.

Momentarily deafened by cannon blasts, he didn't know the shooting had stopped. He stared at the sunrise.

His expression caught my eye. To me, it said: terrified, exhausted and glad just to be alive. I recognized that look because that's how I felt too.

I raised my camera and snapped a few shots.

With the click of a shutter, Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller, a country boy from Kentucky, became an emblem of the war in Iraq. The resulting image would change two lives -- his and mine.

I was embedded with Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, as it entered Fallouja, an insurgent stronghold in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, on Nov. 8, 2004. We encountered heavy fire almost immediately. We were pinned down all night at a traffic circle, where a 6-inch curb offered the only protection.

I hunkered down in the gutter that endless night, praying for daylight, trying hard to make myself small. A cold rain came down. I cursed the Marines' illumination flares that wafted slowly earthward, making us wait an eternity for darkness to return.

At dawn, the gunfire and explosions subsided. A white phosphorus artillery round burst overhead, showering blazing-hot tendrils. We came across three insurgents lying in the street, two of them dead, their blood mixing with rainwater.

The third, a wiry Arab youth, tried to mouth a few words. All I could think was: "Buddy, you're already dead."

We rounded a corner and again came under heavy fire, forcing us to scramble for cover. I ran behind a Marine as we crossed the street, the bullets ricocheting at our feet.

Gunfire poured down, and it seemed incredible that no one was hit. A pair of tanks rumbled down the road to shield us. The Marines kicked open the door of a house, and we all piled in.

Miller and other Marines took positions on the rooftop; I set up my satellite phone to transmit photos. But as I worked downstairs in the kitchen, a deep rumble almost blew the room apart.

Two cannon rounds had slammed into a nearby house. Miller, the platoon's radioman, had called in the tanks, pinpointed the targets and shouted "Fire!"

I ran to the roof and saw smoldering ruins across a large vacant lot. Beneath a heap of bricks, men lay dead or dying. I sat down and collected my wits. Miller propped himself against a wall and lighted his cigarette. I transmitted the picture that night. Power in Fallouja had been cut in advance of the assault, forcing me to be judicious with my batteries. I considered not even sending Miller's picture, thinking my editors would prefer images of fierce combat.

The photo of Miller was the last of 11 that I sent that day.

On the second day of the battle, I called my wife by satellite phone to tell her I was OK. She told me my photo had ended up on the front page of more than 150 newspapers. Dan Rather had gushed over it on the evening news. Friends and family had called her to say they had seen the photo -- my photo.

Soon, my editors called and asked me to find the "Marlboro Marine" for a follow-up story. Who was this brave young hero? Women wanted to marry him. Mothers wanted to know whether he was their son.

I didn't even know his name. Shell-shocked and exhausted, I had simply identified Miller as "A Marine" and clicked "send."

I found Miller four days later in an auditorium after a dangerous dash across an open parade ground in the city's civic center. Miller's unit was taking a break, eating military rations.

Clean-shaven and without war paint, Miller, 20, looked much younger than the battle-stressed warrior in the picture -- young enough to be my son.

He was cooperative, but he was embarrassed about the photo's impact back home.

Once our story identified him, the national fascination grew stronger. People shipped care packages, making sure Miller had more than enough smokes. President Bush sent cigars, candy and memorabilia from the White House.

Then Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, head of the 1st Marine Division, made a special trip to see the Marlboro Marine.

I was in the forward command center, which by then featured a large blowup of the photo. "You might want to see this," an officer said, nudging me to follow.

To talk to Miller, Natonski had to weave between earthen berms, run through bombed-out buildings and make a mad sprint across a wide street to avoid sniper fire before diving into a shattered storefront.

"Miller, get your ass up here," a first sergeant barked on the radio.

Miller had no idea what was going on as he ran through the rubble. He snapped to attention when he saw the general.

Natonski shook Miller's hand. Americans had "connected" with his photo, the general said, and nobody wanted to see him wounded or dead.

"We can have you home tomorrow," he said.

Miller hesitated, then shook his head. He did not want to leave his buddies behind. "It just wasn't right," he told me later.

The tall, lanky general towered over the grunt. "Your father raised one hell of a young man," he said, looking Miller in the eye. They said goodbye, and Natonski scrambled back to the command post.

For his loyalty, Miller was rewarded with horror. The assault on Fallouja raged on, leaving nearly 100 Americans dead and 450 wounded. The bodies of some 1,200 insurgents littered the streets.

As the fighting dragged on for a month, the story fell off the front page. I joined the exodus of journalists heading home or moving to the next story.

More than a year and a half would pass before I saw Miller again.

Back home, I immersed myself in other assignments, trying to put Fallouja behind me. Yet not a day went by that I didn't think about Miller and what we experienced in Iraq.

National Public Radio interviewed me. Much to my embarrassment, the Los Angeles City Council adopted a resolution in my honor. I became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Bloggers riffed on the photo's meaning. Requests for prints kept coming.

In January 2006, I was on assignment along the U.S.-Mexico border when my wife called. "Your boy is on TV. He has PTSD," she said. "They kicked him out of the Marines."

I'd spoken with Miller by phone twice, but the conversations were short and superficial. I knew post-traumatic stress disorder was a complicated diagnosis. So once again, I dug up his number. Again, I offered simple words: Life is sweet. We survived. Everything else is gravy.

As the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion approached, my editors wanted another follow-up story.

So in spring 2006, I traveled to Miller's hometown of Jonancy, Ky., in the hollows of Appalachia. I drove east from Lexington along Interstate 64, part of the nationwide Purple Heart Trail honoring dead and wounded veterans, before turning south.

Mobile homes and battered cars dot the rugged ranges. Marijuana is a major cash crop. Addiction to methamphetamine and prescription drugs is rampant.

Kids marry young, and boys go to work mining the black seams of coal. Heavy trucks rumble day and night.

Miller showed me around. At an abandoned mine, he walked carefully around a large, shallow pool of standing water that mirrored the green wilderness and springtime sky. He picked up a chunk of coal.

"Around here, this is what it's all about," he said. "Nothing else.

"It was this or the Marines."

Often brooding and sullen, Miller joked about being "21 going on 70," the result, he said, of humping heavy armor and gear on a 6-foot, 160-pound frame.

Before he was allowed to leave Iraq, he attended a mandatory "warrior transitioning" session about PTSD and adjusting to home life.

Each Marine received a questionnaire. Were they having trouble sleeping? Did they have thoughts of suicide? Did they feel guilt about their actions?

Everybody knew the drill. Answer yes and be evaluated further. Say no and go home.

Miller said he didn't want to miss his flight. He answered no to every question.

He returned to Camp Lejeune, N.C. His high school sweetheart, Jessica Holbrooks, joined him there, and they were married in a civil ceremony.

Then came the nightmares and hallucinations. He imagined shadowy figures outside the windows. Faces of the dead haunted his sleep.

Once, while cleaning a shotgun, he blacked out. He regained consciousness when Jessica screamed out his name. Snapping back to reality, he realized he was pointing the gun at her.

He reported the problems to superiors, who promised to get him help.

Then came a single violent episode, which put an end to his days as a Marine.

It happened in the storm-tossed Gulf of Mexico in September 2005. His unit had been sent to New Orleans to assist with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Now a second giant storm, Hurricane Rita, was moving in, and the Marines were ordered to seek safety out at sea.

In the claustrophobic innards of a rolling Navy ship, someone whistled. The sound reminded Miller of a rocket- propelled grenade. He attacked the sailor who had whistled. He came to in the boat's brig. He was medically discharged with a "personality disorder" on Nov. 10, 2005 -- exactly one year after his picture made worldwide news.

Back home in Kentucky, the Millers settled into a sparsely furnished second-story apartment. Four small windows afforded little light. The TV was always on.

Miller bought a motorcycle and went for long rides. He and Jessica drank all night and slept all day. He started collecting a monthly disability benefit of about $2,500. The couple spent hours watching movies on DVD, Coronas and bourbon cocktails in hand. Friends and family gave them space.

Miller had hoped to pursue a career in law enforcement. But the PTSD and abrupt discharge killed that dream. No one would trust him with a weapon.

But at least he didn't have to go back to Iraq. He started to realize he wasn't the only one traumatized by war.

"There's a word for it around here," Jessica said. "It's called 'vets.' " She talked of Miller's grandfather, forever changed by the Korean War and dead by age 35. Her Uncle Hargis, a Vietnam veteran, had it too. He experienced mood swings for years.

Sometimes, Miller's stories about Iraq unnerved his young bride. He sensed it and talked less. Nobody really understands, he said, unless they've been there.

On June 3, 2006, the Millers renewed their vows at a hilltop clubhouse overlooking the forests and strip mines. It was a lavish ceremony paid for by donors from across the country who had read about Miller's travails or seen him on television. Local businesses pitched in as well.

His father and two younger brothers were supposed to be groomsmen but didn't show up. His estranged mother wasn't invited.

Miller looked sharp in his Marine Corps dress uniform of dark-blue cloth and red piping. Jessica was lovely in white, her long hair gathered high.

Instead of a honeymoon, the young couple traveled to Washington, D.C., at the invitation of the National Mental Health Assn. The group wanted to honor Miller for his courage in going public about his PTSD. Its leaders also wanted him to visit key lawmakers to share his experience.

As a boy, Miller confided, he had embraced religion, even going so far as to become an ordained minister by mail order. He knew the Bible verses, felt the passion for preaching.

That's how he found his new mission: to tell people what it was like to come home from war with a broken mind.

Three days after their wedding, I tagged along as the young couple flew to the nation's capital. Easily distracted by the offer of free drinks for an all-American hero, Miller stayed out until 3 a.m. He was hung over when he met with House members a few hours later.

Miller chatted up GOP Rep. Harold Rogers, the congressman from his district. He smoked and frequently cursed while recounting his combat experiences. I cringed but stayed on the sidelines, snapping photos.

Miller shuffled from one congressional office to the next, passing displays filled with photos of Marines killed in Iraq. As he told his story over and again, the politicians listened politely and thanked Miller for his service. One congressman sent an aide to tell Miller he was too busy to meet. No one promised to take up his cause.

After Miller picked up his award, he took a whirlwind tour past the White House and Lincoln Memorial, but his mind was elsewhere. At a bar the night before, free booze had flowed in honor of the Marlboro Marine. Miller wanted more.

"Let's get drunk," he said.

I returned to Los Angeles the next morning, thinking I would catch up with Miller in a couple of months.

A week later, Jessica called. After they got home, Miller's mood had become volatile. He was OK one minute and in a deep funk the next, she told me. Then he'd disappeared. She hadn't seen him for days.

Could I come to Kentucky and help?

Why me? I thought. I am not Miller's brother. Or his father. I could feel the line between journalist and subject blurring. Was I covering the story or becoming part of it?

I traveled all night to get to Pikeville, Ky., and soon found myself with Jessica, making the rounds of all the places Miller might have gone. I wanted to be somewhere else -- anywhere else.

Finally, the next morning, Jessica saw her husband driving in the opposite direction. She did a U-turn, hit the gas and caught up with him down the road.

He got out of his truck. A woman sat in the passenger seat.

"Who is that, Blake?" Jessica demanded. "Who is she?"

He said her name was Sherry. They had just met, and he was helping her move. Jessica didn't believe him.

I thought: Didn't I attend this young couple's fairy tale wedding just 10 days ago? Now, here they were, in a gas station parking lot, creating a spectacle.

Jessica grilled Miller. He bobbed and weaved. He appeared sober and sullen. Then he dropped a bomb. He didn't want her anymore and had filed for divorce.

"You guys might want to go home and talk," I suggested.

There, the tortured dialogue escalated.

Jessica pleaded with Blake to stop and think. They could quit drinking, she said. They'd get help for him and as a couple. Maybe they could move away -- anything to work it out.

Miller slumped on the couch. I sensed his unease and feared he would become violent, so I stayed for a while even though I felt intrusive. But he remained strangely calm, albeit brooding and distant.

I returned the next morning. He called his attorney and put the phone on speaker. If uncontested, the lawyer said, the divorce would become final in 60 days. Jessica went to the fire escape to gather herself.

Miller remained unmoved, chain-smoking. The local newspaper had been calling him about rumors that he was getting divorced. It was a major local story. Finally, he wrote a statement. He asked for compassion and respect for their privacy.

The next day, I found Miller in a back bedroom at his uncle's house. He told me that he had come close to committing suicide the night before. He had thought about driving his motorcycle off the edge of a mountain road.

He showed me the morning newspaper. His divorce was the lead story.

I felt torn. I didn't want to get involved. I desperately wanted to close the book on Iraq. But if I hadn't taken Miller's picture, this very personal drama wouldn't be front-page news. I felt responsible.

Sometimes, when things get hard to witness, I use my camera as a shield. It creates a space for me to work -- and distance to keep my eyes open and my feelings in check. But Miller had no use for a photojournalist. He needed a helping hand.

I flashed back to the chaos of combat in Fallouja. In the rattle and thunder, brick walls separated me from the world coming to an end. In the tight spaces, we were scared mindless. Everybody dragged deeply on cigarettes.

Above the din, I heard what everybody was thinking: This is the end.

I've never felt so completely alone.

I snapped back to the present, and before I knew it, the words spilled out.

"I have to ask you something, Blake," I said. "If I'd gone down in Fallouja, would you have carried me out?"

"Damn straight," he said, without hesitation.

"OK then," I said. "I think you're wounded pretty badly. I want to help you."

He looked at me for a moment. "All right," he said.

[address removed]

Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times
James Blake Miller went to work at a motorcycle repair shop whose owner presides over the local chapter of a motorcycle club. VIDEO: PART ONE | PART TWO | EPILOGUE
Despite concerns of overstepping, Times photographer Luis Sinco feels compelled to help the Iraq vet he made famous.

By Luis Sinco : Times Staff Photographer, Second of two parts
November 12, 2007

James Blake Miller was in a world of pain, and I figured I should be by his side.

A veterans' treatment program in West Haven, Conn. -- arguably the best in the nation -- offered hope. Moe Armstrong, a pioneer in vet-to-vet counseling, had heard of the Marlboro Marine's troubles and sent him feelers about coming for a visit. Despite my reservations about getting too involved, I had flown from Los Angeles to Kentucky to help Miller grab this lifeline. I coaxed him into my rental car and we headed north.

I questioned myself. Was this the right thing to do? For Miller, yes. But for me? What awaited us at the end of this journey? I caught Miller's eyes reflected in the rearview mirror, droopy and lifeless. He hadn't slept well, and a long road led from his home in the Appalachian coal country to New England.

I had taken a photo of Miller for the Los Angeles Times during the battle of Fallouja in November 2004. He was leaning against a wall, a cigarette dangling from his lips. To my surprise, the image became iconic, capturing a sense of the front line in a young Marine's face. It appeared in dozens of newspapers and on TV broadcasts, giving Miller a moment of fame.

Back home, he had struggled to put Iraq behind him. He was medically discharged from the Marines, suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder. He suffered flashbacks, drank heavily and retreated into a shell.

We had stayed in touch, casually at first. Then something deeper had developed between us. I was one of the few people who could reach him, who understood what he had been through.

I'd flown east in June 2006 after Miller's wife called me, asking for help. During the long drive to Connecticut, it began to sink in that despite our 25-year age difference, Miller and I had a lot in common. We both had religious upbringings. We both went to public schools and ran with reckless crowds. We'd both found acceptance through sports.

Like Miller, I'd faced obstacles growing up. Despite my good grades, my high school counselor saw only a Filipino immigrant in homogeneous Olympia, Wash., and lumped me in with the underachievers. Instead of college catalogs, she offered me Army recruitment brochures.

The military would be better than "setting chokers," she said, referring to the equipment used to harvest clear-cut timber off steep mountainsides. It's dangerous work -- like mining coal in Kentucky.

As dusk descended, Miller and I drove on, talking about movies, music, motorcycles and cars. We talked about Iraq, where our lives had intersected.

On assignment for The Times, I was embedded with Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. Miller was a radioman with the unit.

He recalled intense training as the Marines prepared to enter Fallouja. There was bluster, bravado. Some of the men talked about notching "kills."

On the eve of battle, they became reflective and subdued as they wrote last goodbyes. Their letters home basically said: If you get this, I am dead.

Miller was haunted by the brutality of the fight.

I remembered that, of course, but my mind had also stored a consoling image, one of transcendent serenity.

I told Miller about it as we drove north. The morning sun was streaming gloriously through the broken windows of the shattered Khulafah Rashid mosque in Fallouja, where Marines had taken refuge during the battle. The light splashed over deep red prayer rugs where Marines sprawled in fitful sleep, their packs serving as pillows, their dusty boots laced tight.

Rubble littered the floor, and dust floated up through shafts of light. Copies of the Koran lay open amid shards of glass. I recalled leaning against a towering pillar in the vast space, breathing the tranquillity.

Miller talked about killing the enemy.

"To try to live with that . . . how do you justify it, regardless of what your causes are or what their causes are?" he said.

"To see somebody in your sights and to pull that trigger, it's almost like you're with them, seeing their life flash before their eyes as well as taking it. It's an insane connection that you make with that person at that point."

We talked about the dissonance we felt. We existed in our own postwar world, forever changed by the experience. Meanwhile, everyone around us seemed distracted by trivialities -- the price of gas, a sex scandal in Washington, a paparazzi photo of Britney Spears without panties.

Fueled by coffee and Marlboros, we crossed six state lines and covered 870 miles. At dawn we arrived in West Haven. It was pouring rain.

We checked into a motel pushed up against the freeway, and Miller quickly nodded off. A CNN special report about the war glowed on TV.

I couldn't sleep. A journalist wasn't supposed to get personally involved with his subjects. But I felt somehow responsible for Miller. Over and over, I thought: It will be my fault if something bad happens to him.

"You know you're going to be OK, right?" Laurie Harkness, who runs Errera Community Care Center for veterans, said when she met Miller the next day.

"Maybe you did some horrible things in Iraq. But war is terrible," she said. "You do what you have to in order to survive. And you survived. That's good news, right?"

Miller nodded. He agreed to check in to the program. Veterans benefits would cover the cost of treatment. Miller would pay $300 a month for room and board.

Between the intense counseling offered by Harkness and peer support from Moe Armstrong's group, Vet to Vet, it seemed Miller would finally get the help he needed. But shortly after signing in, he insisted on returning to Kentucky to get his motorcycle. Harkness reluctantly issued a weekend pass. I crossed my fingers.

Worried that I was in over my head, I asked Armstrong to accompany us as we covered the same highways we had traversed just days before. I figured that if Armstrong was there to offer professional counseling, I could retreat into my role as journalist. Besides, my patience was wearing thin. Another 1,700 miles -- for a motorcycle!

All the way back to Connecticut, I kept my eyes on the rearview mirror, constantly checking to make sure Miller hadn't pulled a U-turn. On the program. On himself. On me.

Over the next month, I stayed by Miller's side as he began to reveal the things that weighed so heavily on his mind. At his request, I sat in on most of his therapy sessions. He said my presence put him at ease, but I never put down my camera, never stopped documenting the story.

Miller told Harkness how empty and confused he had felt when combat ended. How he had placed the barrel of an M-16 assault rifle in his mouth on the outskirts of Fallouja one day, taken a deep breath and reached for the trigger.

"What made me so special that I deserved to stay here and my buddies didn't?" Miller asked, speaking of friends who had died. "At one point, I was almost mad at them. How could my buddies leave me like that? We came together. We were supposed to leave together. I don't know how you can disconnect that feeling."

He told us about an event that haunted him. From an observation post in Fallouja, he had seen a head pop up amid the wreckage of several cars. It was a free-fire zone. He squinted into his rifle scope, saw a patch of dark curly hair and squeezed the trigger.

Later, Marines advanced on the scene and found a dead boy, 6 or 7 years old, his curly hair mottled by bits of brain and blood.

There was more, he said -- terrible things he couldn't divulge. Not now. Maybe never.

"To kill the snake, we had to cut off its head," was all he would say.

On July 10, 2006, Miller turned 22. He seemed to be getting the help he needed.

I had been away from my wife and three children for a month. It was time to go home to Los Angeles.

The night before my departure, I joined Miller and some other vets for a birthday dinner. We broke it up about 10 p.m. I told Miller to call me day or night if he needed help. I encouraged him to hang tough.

"You stuck your neck out for me to keep mine here," he said. "And I feel with everything in me that you have saved my life. I thank you for that."

Relief washed over me. It was like shedding a rucksack of rocks. I got into my car as he started up his motorcycle. A deep, loud rumble ripped the night.

We traveled together for a time. He slowed and waved as I turned in to my hotel. I watched him roar into the darkness.

Over the next several weeks, Harkness took a special interest in Miller's recovery. She told him that, in time, he might even enroll at Yale University through a special admissions process.

Miller began to realize that guilt and fear were ruining him. It's what prompted the rush to marry his high school sweetheart, Jessica Holbrooks, after he got home from Iraq, even though he knew deep down he wasn't ready. Now he understood that even Jessica couldn't make him feel safe or accepted. She couldn't make him stop scanning the darkness for the enemy beyond. It's what made him drink all night, finding sleep in the arms of exhaustion.

Still, he didn't say much in group therapy, preferring to stay in a shell. He commonly skipped the daily meetings and instead spent hours on the phone with Jessica. He put off sessions of "cognitive behavioral therapy," which would require him to discuss his troubling memories.

"It's all good," he told me over the phone. He said he was gaining clarity. He borrowed a guitar and strummed all day. He expressed optimism.

But soon Miller began talking about going home.

Once again, I made the cross-country trip. I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and tell him not to blow an excellent opportunity to put his life back together. A chance to go to Yale? I would jump at that myself.

But Miller wasn't receptive. He had scuffled with some local motorcycle toughs and felt threatened. He missed the mountains. He wanted to go home. Period.

Disappointing all who had tried to help him, he dropped out just two months into a program that was supposed to last six months to a year.

We left Connecticut in the middle of the night. I followed in my rental car as he rode his motorcycle for 18 hours through a sweltering summer day to be reunited with Jessica.

It was August 2006. The couple hoped to get a fresh start in Princeton, W.Va., which offered a veterans center, the mountains Miller loved, and the privacy so lacking in his hometown.

In the gloaming, they held each other tight. They thought maybe they could work things out.

They shopped for used furniture and found an apartment that was light and airy, with a porch for barbecues.

"I'm just in a tizzy," said Jessica. "I missed him so."

But Armstrong, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, was worried. He had had high hopes that he could help Miller and that Miller could help him reach a younger generation of combat veterans.

"Blake Miller is a flipped-out, 21-year-old former Marine who was involved in a major battle," Armstrong said. "He's been through a lot, seen a lot. I can't endorse the quick fix. It's a common pattern that vets are in and out of therapy for years."

Miller began seeing psychologist and retired Marine Ernie Barringer at the veterans center in Princeton. Miller knew I was disappointed in him for leaving the Connecticut program. He and Jessica went out of their way to reassure me everything would be OK.

They drove me to the secluded mountaintop outside Pikeville, Ky., to show me the spot where Miller had asked Jessica to be his girl, just days before he shipped out to Iraq. She promised to be there when he returned.

They laughed, embarrassed by the story. Miller sipped root beer and Jessica Nehi orange soda. Insects hummed in the dark.

Under a splash of stars, the moon rose. A gentle breeze rippled the woods. One could almost imagine Fallouja never happened.

By mid-October 2006, Miller had again slipped into depression. Memories flooded back as the second anniversary of the Fallouja battle approached. As the death toll mounted in Iraq, he worried about his buddies who had again deployed to the Middle East.

Marriage counseling proved difficult; sessions often ended in stony silence. Vaguely familiar facial features reappeared in Miller's dreams: a mole, thick beards and curly black hair. Then, body parts exploding.

Jessica became frustrated. They didn't talk. They stopped having sex. One night later that month, Miller called me, sounding depressed. I offered to come see him. By the time I arrived, Jessica had moved out.

They next met at a law office in Pikeville. The smoke from Miller's cigarette hung thick in the air. The couple sat across a wide table and agreed to proceed with a divorce.

So much for happy endings, I thought, recalling their wedding.

As Miller and I drove back to West Virginia, news crackled over the radio. The Democrats had routed the GOP in the midterm congressional election. Public sentiment about Iraq had soured, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the architect of the war, was resigning.

Miller had mixed feelings. "That's good news, I guess," he said. "But it should've happened a long time ago. Everybody that's dead now. I mean, what's the point?"

It was Nov. 9, 2006 -- two years after I took the famous picture of Miller and a year after he left the Marines.

In his empty apartment, Miller took his wedding picture from the wall and replaced it with a Meritorious Mast, a certificate detailing his valor in combat. He drank beer for comrades living and lost.

He spoke the names of the dead: Brown, Gavriel, Holmes, Ziolkowski.

"I didn't cry then, and I won't now," Miller said. "I just can't."

Over the next 10 days, we awoke late and drove aimlessly in the countryside. He attended meetings at the vet center. I took more pictures.

Winter was upon the mountains. Miller blamed his melancholy on the season.

Within weeks, Miller moved back to Kentucky and got an apprenticeship at a custom motorcycle shop, working up to 14 hours a day.

"This makes me feel like I still have some purpose in life," he said. "Fixing things. Making them right."

The shop's owner presided over the local chapter of the Highwaymen, a Detroit-based motorcycle club under constant scrutiny by law enforcement.

Miller acknowledged that the Highwaymen were into "serious business" but said he joined the club for the camaraderie. The uniforms and codes of conduct reminded him of the Marines.

I worried about this new affiliation. After joining, Miller never went out without his 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol, and he kept a shotgun in his truck. To me, his new friends seemed overly interested in his combat "kills." One biker, a Vietnam veteran also plagued by PTSD, promised me he'd get Miller to join the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"We'll connect veteran to veteran," the biker told me, his breath tinged with moonshine.

Miller now sees Jessica a couple of times a month. They have not completed their divorce but remain separated.

"I see him on his good days," Jessica said, "and everything is wonderful. We actually have conversations." But then weeks pass without sight of him.

"He has to get stable," she said. "If he was better, we'd be together all the time."

Miller lives in a refurbished trailer behind his father's house. Two televisions provide constant background chatter. The refrigerator is bare. A hound named Mudbone spends most days tied in the yard.

Miller is estranged from his mother. He talks with his father, Jimmy Miller, 43, about everything except Iraq.

"What am I going to say? 'Son, I know what you've been through'? 'I know what you're going through now'?" the father said. "Well, the truth is I don't. Maybe it's just better that we leave it alone."

Miller's brother Todd, a 21-year-old diesel mechanic, doesn't pretend to understand.

"I'm glad I didn't join the Marines," Todd said one day. "I got a nice house, a wife and twin baby daughters, and I drive a Durango that's used but damn near new. You're divorced, drive a beat-up pickup and live in a trailer."

On top of that, Todd told his brother, your head is screwed up.

The months go by. One disability check comes, and then the next -- about $2,500 a month. Miller sees Barringer, the psychologist, but only occasionally.

"Sometimes you just have to look at the culture of small-town eastern Kentucky," Barringer said. "Blake graduated from high school and had no future. So he joined the Marines, and now he's home and has a steady income. Things are good.

"But sometimes that's more of a negative than a positive," he added. "Look, every time you go out to that mailbox and get your disability check, it tells you you're sick."

It took a while to get to know Miller. But I've come to appreciate his intelligence, generosity and dignity. He is a talented musician and skilled mechanic. I try to relate to him as a brother, even though I'm older than his father.

He has helped me sort through the craziness of Fallouja. I can't stop the war, but Miller has given me a chance to make a difference -- by helping him. And maybe myself.

Often, I wonder if I've done enough. Can I let go now? Can I ever let go?

The experts tell me I may be in it for the long haul.

Armstrong says Miller is "playing out his symptoms on cue."

"He's just keeping his head above water," he said. "He can't afford any downtime because it allows him to think."

Harkness holds out hope that Miller will eventually seek intensive therapy of the kind she offered.

"He won't come in for help because a part of him is very macho," she said. "He really comes across as the Marlboro Man. My fear is that at some point, it's all going to come crashing down.

To me, she said: "You are a constant object for Blake. You are the only person to follow him from the war zone to back home in America. You have a bond. He would be much lonelier and lost without you."

Some experts estimate that 30% of the troops who have seen combat in Iraq will suffer from PTSD.

As that thought lingers in my head, I remind myself that the sweetest victory is survival. The rest of life is a glittering gift, tempered in the forge of Fallouja.

Sometimes in the night, I hear a grenade launcher belching rounds. Or maybe it's just Miller gunning his Harley. He's roaring over Foggy Mountain, the wind blowing by, cleansing his thoughts.

Blake, son, I know it sounds crazy, but my mind always takes me back to that distant rooftop in Fallouja, where I snapped your picture. I think of that sunrise, bright and warm, and how lucky we were to see it.

[address removed]

Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

(Related Stories Re: Miller)
A searing snapshot into the soul
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

May 29, 2006

I know that look.

The weariness, the emotional pain, the jagged memories of a recent event too large and outrageous to contemplate, flashes of horror knifing into the conscious mind.

I know that look, that terrible look; it sends chills through me.

The expression we saw on the face of Marine Lance Cpl. Blake Miller was the look of a warrior still alive who wasn't quite sure he ought to be.

It was the thousand-mile stare of a man peering inward to that place in the soul where memory screams.

It was the perfect melding of a hurt too deep to understand and a wonder of existence too powerful to comprehend.

The image by Times staff photographer Luis Sinco of Miller's face, republished on the front page of The Times on May 19, a cigarette dangling from his mouth, has become the tortured icon of a man at war and what war does to us.

In terms of impact, it's the Joe Rosenthal photo of Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima in World War II and David Douglas Duncan's picture of an infantryman's detached stare in the Korean War.

It's the face of combat emerging from the blood and uncertainty of Iraq.

Miller's life was on the verge of unraveling when Sinco captured the moment of despair in November 2004, narrated in the story by Times staff writer David Zucchino. A year after the photo, Miller was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and discharged from the Marines.

But the inward focus of his expression will continue throughout his life and perhaps throughout ours.

The photo could have been any number of us in any of the wars that have characterized this era of human conflict. I was photographed by a friend after a battle in Korea, and although the photo has been lost, the expression remains fixed in memory. It was the Blake Miller expression, a lost boy inside of a war-damaged man.

It's still inside of me.

Many photographs exist that attempt to identify the horrendous clashes of men at arms, but few have affected me as much as those contained in Duncan's "This Is War! A Photo-Narrative of the Korean War." They mean more than most, I suppose, because I was there, I was a Marine, and because damned few others were concerned with what Harry Truman called the "police action" on the embattled Asian peninsula.

I was still in Korea when the book was published in 1951, and it was passed around to us on the front lines, from foxhole to foxhole. Duncan, an ex-Marine himself, knew what to look for, and the accuracy of his depictions both startled and saddened us.

We saw ourselves as the kid photographed during the bitter winter march from the Chosin Reservoir, and as I study the photograph today, I see Miller's face too, smudged with dirt and sweat, young but old, staring off at the devil's dance on the mind's horizons.

One could easily superimpose the face of Miller over the face of the anonymous young warrior in Duncan's book, and they would be almost the same. While there are twitches of difference in the expressions, the eyes tell us what their minds have not yet accepted, images that will grow as the years pass, more torturous because they lie just beyond reach of full visualization, like distorted pieces of a half-forgotten dream.

As Zucchino pointed out in the story that accompanied Miller's photo, you can read what you want into the face of the young Marine who greeted the dawn of a Fallouja morning after fighting for his life throughout the night.

But I will tell you that there is an emotional collapse when the fight is over, a moment before one marches on in which only emptiness prevails, when subconscious flashes of the battle are imprinted on a soldier's face, a reflexive condition of the vacancy that exists before the bad dreams begin.

Is what we do in war worth the horror? A Gallup survey taken in South Korea less than a year ago provides something of an answer. Almost 900 fighting-age men and women were asked whose side they'd take in a war between the U.S. and North Korea. Sixty-six percent said they would stand with the North.

This, after a war of "liberation" that killed a million people, soldiers and civilians, on both sides.

This, after a war that took the lives of countless friends, whose faces I carry with me to this very day, all these years later.

This after a war that ended where it began, at a line drawn in blood from the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan.

This after a war that still smolders.

Blake Miller was looking into his own soul when that photograph was taken. And in more ways than we can ever imagine, he was looking into ours too.

Al Martinez's column appears Mondays and Fridays. He can be reached at [address removed].

Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times


Marine Whose Photo Lit Up Imaginations Keeps His Cool

By Patrick J. McDonnell
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

November 13, 2004

FALLOUJA, Iraq ? The Marlboro man is angry: He has a war to fight and he's running out of smokes.

"If you want to write something," he tells an intruding reporter, "tell Marlboro I'm down to four packs and I'm here in Fallouja till who knows when. Maybe they can send some. And they can bring down the price a bit."

Such are the unvarnished sentiments of Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller, 20, a country boy from Kentucky who has been thrust unwittingly and somewhat unwillingly into the role of poster boy for a war on the other side of the world from his home on the farm.

"I just don't understand what all the fuss is about," Miller drawls Friday as he crouches inside an abandoned building with his platoon mates, preparing to fight insurgents holed up in yet another mosque. "I was just smokin' a cigarette and someone takes my picture and it all blows up."

Miller is the young man whose gritty, war-hardened portrait appeared Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times, taken by Luis Sinco, a Times photographer traveling with Miller's unit: Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.

In the full-frame photo, taken after more than 12 hours of nearly nonstop deadly combat, Miller's camouflage war paint is smudged. He sports a bloody nick on his nose. His helmet and chin strap frame a weary expression that seems to convey the timeless fatigue of battle.

And there is the cigarette, of course, drooping from the right side of his mouth in a manner that Bogart or John Wayne would have approved of. Wispy smoke drifts off to his left.

The image, printed in more than 100 newspapers, has quickly moved into the realm of the iconic.

That Miller's name was not included in the caption material only seemed to enhance the photograph's punch.

The Los Angeles Times and other publications have received scores of e-mails wanting to know about this mysterious figure. Many women, in particular, have inquired about how to contact him.

"The photo captures his weariness yet his eyes hold the spirit of the hunter and the hunted," wrote one admirer in an e-mail. "His gaze is warm but deadly. I want to send a letter."

The photo seems to have struck a chord, as an image of America striking back at a perceived enemy, or just one young man putting his life on the line halfway across the globe.

Whatever the case, top Marine brass are thrilled.

Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, dropped in Friday on Charlie Company to laud the featured unit.

"That's a great picture," echoed Col. Craig Tucker, who heads the regimental combat team that includes Miller's battalion. "We're having one blown up and sent over to the unit."

Miller, though, has been oddly left out of the hoopla.

Sattler did not single him out during his visit. In fact, Miller only heard about it from the two Los Angeles Times staffers traveling with his unit.

He seemed incredulous.

"A picture?" he asks. "What's the fuss?"

What does he think about the Marines, anyway?

"I already signed the papers, so I got no choice but to do what we're doing."

The photo was taken the afternoon after Charlie Company's harrowing entry into Fallouja under intense hostile fire, in the cold and rain. Miller was on the roof of a home where he and his fellow 1st Platoon members had spent the day engaged in practically nonstop firefights, fending off snipers and attackers who rushed the building. No one had slept in more than 24 hours. All were physically and emotionally drained.

"It was kind of crazy out here at first," Miller says. "No one really knew what to expect. They told us about it all the time, but no one knows for sure until you get here."

In person, he is unassuming: of medium height, his face slightly pimpled, his teeth a little crooked.

Miller takes his share of ribbing as a small-towner in a unit that includes Marines from big cities.

And it has only increased as word of the platoon radio man's instant fame has spread among his mates.

"Miller, when you get home you'll be a hero," Cpl. Mark Waller, 21, from Oklahoma, says.

Miller is now obliged to provide smokes to just about anyone who asks. It's just about wiped out his stash.

"When we came to Fallouja I had two cartons and three packs," Miller said glumly, adding that his supply had dwindled to a mere four packs -- not much for a Marine with a three-pack-a day habit. "I don't know what I'm going to do."

Even in the Marines, where smoking is widespread, the extent of Miller's habit has raised eyebrows.

"I tried to get him to stop -- the cigarettes will kill him before the war," says Navy Corpsman Anthony Lopez, a company medic.

Miller, who was sent to Iraq in June, is the eldest of three brothers from the hamlet of Jonancy, Ky., in the heart of Appalachian coal country.

Never heard of Jonancy?

"It's named after my greatgreat-great grandparents: Joe and Nancy Miller," the Marine explained. "They were the first people in those parts."

His father, James Miller, is a mechanic and farmer, and the young Miller grew up working crops: potatoes, corn, green beans.

His mother, Maxie Webber, 39, is a nurse. She last talked to her son Sunday via a satellite phone. He could only speak for a few minutes, long enough to say hello and reassure his family.

After the U.S. attack on Fallouja began Monday, family members waited for some message that he was alive. Days later, they sat in shock as newscaster Dan Rather talked about The Times' photograph. Who is this man, Rather asked, with the tired eyes and a look of determination?

"I screamed at the TV, 'That's my son!' " Webber said.

Others in Jonancy, including his own father, didn't recognize the camouflaged and bloodied man as the boy they knew.

"He had that stuff on his face. And the expression, that look," said Rodney Rowe, Miller's high school basketball coach. "Those are not the eyes I'm used to seeing in his face."

Back in high school, Miller was an athlete, joining every team that played a sport involving a ball. The school, Shelby Valley High, is located in Pikeville, the nearest town of any consequence and the home of an annual three-day spring festival called "Hillbilly Days."

Miller was somewhat unsure what to do with himself after high school. His father never wanted him to work in the mines.

"He would have been disappointed if I did that," Miller says. "He told me it was awful work."

So Miller enlisted in the Marines in July 2003 after a conversation with a recruiter he met at a football game.

"What I really wanted to do was auto body repair," he says. "But before I knew it, I was in boot camp."

Now, he says, he is just trying to get through each day. His predecessor as platoon radio man was sent home after being injured in a car bomb attack.

Miller has three years remaining in active duty, but he appears disinclined to reenlist.

And he shrugs off suggestions he may cash in on his fame. "When I get out, I just want to chill out a little bit," he says. "Go back to my house, farm a little bit, do some mechanical stuff around the house and call it a day."

Oh, and one more thing: "I'll just sit on my roof and smoke a cigarette."

McDonnell is traveling with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, in Fallouja. Times staff writer P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago contributed to this report.

Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Iconic Marine Is at Home but Not at Ease
Blake Miller's weary gaze hinted at the psychological pain to come.
By David Zucchino
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

May 19, 2006

JONANCY, Ky. ? Growing up in Jonancy Bottom, where coal trucks grind their gears as they rumble down from the ragged green hills, Blake Miller always believed there were only two paths for him: the coal mines or the Marine Corps. He chose the Marines, enlisting right out of high school.

The Marines sent him to Iraq, and then to Fallouja, where his life was forever altered. He survived a harrowing all-night firefight in November 2004, pinned down on a rooftop by insurgents firing from a nearby house. Filthy and exhausted, he had just lighted a Marlboro at dawn when an embedded photographer captured an image that transformed Blake into an icon of the Iraq war.

His detached expression in the photo seemed to signify different things to different people -- valor, despair, hope, futility, fear, courage, disillusionment. For Blake, the photograph represents a pivotal moment in his life: an instant when he feared he would never see another sunrise, and when his psychological foundation began to fracture.

Blake, whose only brush with celebrity was as a star quarterback in high school, became known as the Marlboro Man, a label he detests. That same notoriety has carried over into his post-Iraq life, where he is an icon of sorts for another consequence of the war -- post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

On Nov. 10, precisely one year after the photograph was flashed around the world, Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller was medically discharged from the Marine Corps, diagnosed with full-blown PTSD. Three years after leaving the Kentucky hills for a career in the Corps, he was back home. He feels adrift and tormented, dependent on his new bride, his family and his military psychiatrist to help him make sense of all that has befallen him.

He barely sleeps. On most mornings, Blake says, he has no good reason to get out of bed. Often, his stomach is so upset that he can't eat. He has nightmares and flashbacks. He admits that he's often grouchy and temperamental. He knows he drinks and smokes too much.

"He's not the same as before," said Blake's wife, Jessica, who has known him since grade school. "I'd never seen the anger, the irritability, the anxiety."

Blake says he feels guilty about taking money -- $2,528 in monthly military disability checks -- for doing nothing. Yet he's also frustrated that two careers made possible by his military training, police officer or U.S. marshal, are out of reach because law enforcement is reluctant to hire candidates with PTSD.

So he broods, feeling restless and out of options: "I'm only 21. I'm able-bodied as hell, yet I'm considered a liability. It's like I had all these doorways open to me, and suddenly they all closed on me. It's like my life is over."

At a local restaurant one night last month, Blake became enraged when he thought a man was staring at Jessica's rear end.

"I just wanted to grab his hair and smash his head against the table," he said later. "I was ready to kill him." But he restrained himself, he said.

Jessica's grandmother, Willa Fouts, whom Blake calls Mamaw, patted his arm outside the restaurant and told him: "You've had a few episodes like that, Blake, where you're just so quick to anger. You need to try to calm yourself."

Jessica, who graduates this spring from Pikeville College with a psychology degree, has persuaded her husband to undergo visualization techniques in which she helps him confront his demons.

"It's understandable that Blake has PTSD, after all he's been through," she said. "Ordinary people can't comprehend what it's like to be constantly shot at and have to kill other human beings. They need to know what it means to send people like Blake out to fight wars. You're going to have a lot of people breaking."

Five other members of his platoon of about three dozen have been diagnosed with PTSD, Blake said. A dozen men from his unit were killed in action. A Journal of the American Medical Assn. study published in March found that more than a third of troops who served in Iraq sought help for mental health problems within a year of returning home.

Sitting in the couple's spacious apartment above a furniture store outside Pikeville, Jessica squeezed Blake's hand and told him: "You've gone through so much, baby, that you just broke."


Blake was staring at the sunrise. He was on a rooftop in Fallouja, sucking on a Marlboro and wondering whether he would live to see Jessica and his father and brothers again.

Luis Sinco, a Times photographer, was crouched next to the corporal, taking cover behind a rooftop wall. There was a break in the all-night firefight after an Abrams tank, radioed in by Blake, destroyed a house filled with insurgents.

Sinco pressed the shutter.

He did not consider the image particularly special. It was the last shot he filed that day.

The photo appeared Nov. 10, 2004, and was distributed worldwide by the Associated Press. More than 100 newspapers published it. TV and cable networks aired feature stories about the Marine's lost, distant look. Some noted the trickle of blood on his nose -- caused not by enemy fire, but by Blake's rifle sight when it bumped his face.

Blake was unaware that Sinco had photographed him. Two days later, he recalled, his gunnery sergeant told him: "Miller, your ugly mug is on the front page of all the newspapers back home, Marlboro Man."

The impact of the photo didn't fully register until a three-star general showed up in Fallouja. Blake said the general suggested moving him out of combat for fear that morale would plummet if anything happened to the Marines' new media star, but he refused to leave. Later, President Bush sent him a letter and a cigar.

When Jessica saw the photo on the front page of the local paper, she had not heard from Blake in a week.

"I was glad to know he was alive, but I couldn't stop crying," she said. "The scared look on his face, his eyes -- it tore me up."

In early January 2005, as Blake's unit prepared to leave Iraq, what Marines call a "wizard" -- a psychiatrist -- gave a required "warrior transitioning" talk about PTSD and adjusting to home life. Blake didn't think much about it until he returned to Jonancy in late January and his nightmares began.

He dreamed about the 40 enemy corpses that he counted after the tank demolished the house, he said, and that he had been shot.

"He'd jump out of bed and fall to the floor," Jessica said. "I'd have to hold him to get him to wake up, and then he'd hug me for the longest time."

Sometimes, Blake mutters Arabic phrases he learned in Iraq or grimaces in his sleep, and Jessica will keep whispering his name until he wakes up. Some nights, he doesn't sleep at all.

"I tend to drink a lot just to be able to sleep," Blake said. "Nothing else puts me to sleep."

He decided last summer to see a military psychiatrist at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he was based. In August, he was diagnosed with PTSD. But before he could be put on "non-deployable status," his unit was sent to New Orleans to assist with Hurricane Katrina recovery.

While aboard a ship off the Louisiana coast, Blake was taking a cigarette break when a petty officer made a whistling sound like an incoming rocket-propelled grenade. Blake says he remembers nothing about the incident, but was later told that he slammed the officer against a bulkhead and attacked him.

By November, Blake was forced to take a medical disability discharge. "They said they couldn't take the risk of me being a danger to myself and others," he said.

He fears that he may have another blackout. "It's terrifying that at any moment I could lose control and not know what I'm doing," he said. "What if next time it's Jessica?"

This February, while smoking a cigarette and staring out Jessica's dorm room window, Blake said, he thought he saw a dead Iraqi man on the grass. Later, he had visions of an Iraqi father and son fishing -- a scene he'd witnessed in Iraq just before a grenade exploded nearby.

"I can't tell anymore what really happened and what I dreamed," he said. "Sometimes I feel like I'm dying."

Blake visits a Veterans Administration psychiatrist in nearby West Virginia and speaks with him by phone several times a week. He said his psychiatrist told him that his PTSD has to be managed; his disability will be reevaluated in March 2007.

Meanwhile, he has slowly turned against the war. "We've done some humanitarian aid," Blake said, "but what good have we actually done, and what has America gained except a lot of deaths? It burns me up."

Jessica, who sports an "I Love My Marine" sticker on her car, says she and Blake are behind the troops though they no longer support the war.

The war seems far away in Pike County, a rural region where the median annual household income is $24,000, far below the $42,000 national average, and where people still brew moonshine and grow marijuana.

The Hatfields and McCoys fought their notorious feuds here.

Jonancy, just outside Pikeville and about 115 miles east of Lexington, was named after Blake's great-great-grandparents, Joe and Nancy Miller. Blake grew up in a hollow called Jonancy Bottom, in a one-story house next to a creek, where the carcasses of old cars and motorcycles litter the rear yard. His father, James, a mechanic who sells the parts, keeps a faded yellow ribbon on the front door, not to be removed until the last U.S. troops leave Iraq.

Blake is restless and talkative, a boyish young man who speaks with a Kentucky twang. He will discuss Iraq only with Jessica, said Jessica's grandfather, Hursel Fouts, known as Papaw.

"I don't think he should keep it bottled up, but I don't try to force him to talk about what happened over there," Fouts said. His brother-in-law, Hargis Fleming, a Vietnam veteran, opened up to Blake about his wartime experiences after refusing to discuss them with anyone for more than 30 years, Fouts said. Blake seemed buoyed by the encounter.

Blake's military service is literally written on his body; his unit's motto, "Angels of Death," is tattooed on his right forearm. He had a life-sized cigarette tattooed on his left forearm last year.

For Hillbilly Days, an annual street festival late last month in Pikeville (pop. 6,304), Blake shaved his scruffy beard and got a military "high and tight" haircut. He agreed to help at a Marine Corps recruiting booth at the festival. Just putting on his Marine fatigue pants and boots for the first time since his discharge brought back more memories, and he tried to tamp them down.

He was so worried that the Marlboro Man photo would dominate the recruiting booth that he begged the recruiters not to display it. He also persuaded them to remove a large version of the photo that had hung in the recruiting station in downtown Pikeville.

"I can't stand to look at it anymore," he said. Even so, he says the photo has provided him a platform to try to educate others about PTSD.

At the festival, Blake's mood brightened as he chatted with the recruiters. Wearing a Marine T-shirt with the message "Pain Is Weakness Leaving the Body," he was cheerful and animated. He playfully harangued young men, challenging them to a pull-up contest.

Though he has turned against the war, he said, he often wishes that he was back in the Corps and with his buddies. He still recommends the Corps to potential recruits, but advises them that it's a job, not a way of life. He recommends noncombat positions.

"In order to do your job in combat, you have to lock up your emotions," he said. "Basically, you're turning people into killers."

The three-day festival passed pleasantly. Blake worked the booth a few hours a day, then took long strolls with Jessica. He smoked heavily -- he says he smoked up to six packs a day in Iraq and is down to a pack a day -- and in the evenings they shared cold Coronas with limes, an unimaginable luxury in Iraq.

They discussed their visualization sessions, particularly one in which Blake panicked after he visualized a hooded cloak hiding the teufelhund -- the devil dog -- a Marine Corps emblem.

"I want you to do it again, but I don't think you trust me enough," Jessica told him.

"I'd trust you with my life, baby," he said, "but I'm just not quite ready."

They talked of their upcoming June wedding. They were married by a magistrate in June 2005, but want a formal ceremony. Blake plans to wear his Marine dress blues.

They passed a sound stage, where Blake's former high school rock band was performing.

The lead singer, Kevin Prater, spotted Blake and introduced him to the crowd.

"He's one of the greatest people in the country," Prater said, inviting Blake to perform. "He sacrificed for freedom for all of us."

Blake climbed on the stage and grabbed a guitar. He and the band launched into a Merle Haggard song.

With a Marine Corps cap perched on his freshly shaved head and a Marlboro between his lips, he seemed pleased and nearly at peace, at least for one night.

Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Where to turn for help
Organizations that offer help to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

? American Legion, (310)[masked]

? California Dept. of Veterans Affairs, (310)[masked]

? Military Order of the Purple Heart, (310)[masked]

? Paralyzed Veterans of America, (310)[masked]

? Veterans of Foreign Wars, (310)[masked]

Thank You, Blake, On This Veteran?s Day. ? Get Well Soon.

ARREST BUSH shirts at

***note from Cindy
Date: November 15,[masked]:54:36 PM PST

This may have been posted already, but if not...................

Dear Friends

The claims that Pelosi would put impeachment on the table if she received 10,000 letters may not be true, but we should still encourage people to send them to my office.

It is our part in democracy, whether our elected officials think so or not.

So please encourage people to send them to:

Cindy for Congress
attn: Impeachment
1260 Mission St
San Francisco, Ca 94103

"People before Politics"
Support Cindy for Congress!

ARREST BUSH shirts at

Subject: Re: [F_O_B] [campcaseyalumni] The Marlboro Man Revisited...Happy Veterans Day
Date: November 11,[masked]:27:36 PM PST

***Begin forwarded message:

From: Barbara Cummings
Date: November 15, 2007
Subject: Talented artist, 16, our friend

Hey you guys, have you seen this video of Ava Lowrey? Many of you may remember her from camp casey, others form DC, she was right down the hall from us. She is my hero, barely 15 when she amde her first video If you want to send her an atta girl! [address removed]

Here is her site, if you have not seen her work, please save this and watch some of them later, share with friends. We need to encourage young people like Ava. Because of multiple death threats she was forced ot take the vidoe down that is featured inthe news clip.

ARREST BUSH shirts at

Tfis is a follow up to a very sad yet not unusual story. Who could ever forget this guy? Once his hadsome face became a poster for these bastards, they offered him a free ride home to keep him safe. The rest of the story is not so good and we only get part one today.

When you're done, go to and watch the BRUCE FEIN video about impeachment. He was the one on with Bill Moyers and John Nichols. I was surprised to hear he is working with Ron Paul. Feels the Kucinich impeach resolution did not go far enough.

Check it out.
[address removed] wrote:
The Marlboro Marine revisited

(Link to narrated photos and video interview:

***Subject: I'm so impressed! Imagine if all the camp casey muscians (Jesse) got together for a big concert.
Date: November 16, 20
*And don't forget Tom from Ann Wright and I are in his music vid BRICK. It's a great song and I thing we should support all the campcasey muscians who make us think and smile and cry.

Another big Xmas hit from our pal, Robert Rouse. I love it! Please do comment and tell Robert.

And as if this were not enough, look at the new video from Mo Murphy in LA, another camp casey alumn. Doesn't she look beautiful? And the song is wonderful.

ARREST BUSH shirts at

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1 (866) 340 - 9281
1 (866) 338 - 1015
1 (877) 851 - 6437

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