Monday, November 12, 2007

Los Angeles Times photographer tries repeatedly to help 'Marlboro Marine' he made famous

When Luis Sinco of the Los Angeles Times took this 2004 photograph of a U.S. Marine in Fallujah, Iraq, at left, he did not even know the soldier's name. After the image became famous as that of "the Marlboro Marine," Sinco met and interviewed Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller of Jonancy, Ky., but that was not the last time their paths would cross. Since then Sinco has become a part of Miller's life, especially since Miller's discharge and diagnosis with post-traumatic stress disorder. In a two-part series in the Los Angeles Times this week, Sinco recounts his efforts to help Miller.

"He was embarrassed about the photo's impact back home," Sinco writes of Miller. "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." In the first part of the series, Sinco explains how he met Miller and then how he befriended the Marine after his discharge. Sinco attended when Miller and Jessica Holbrooks renewed their vows at a ceremony funded by a California woman and other donors in June 2006, and was called back to Eastern Kentucky less than two weeks later when Miller went missing.

At the same time, Miller's impending divorce made front-page news in his local newspaper, the Appalachian News-Express, and Sinco felt compelled to help Miller through the difficult time. "I felt torn," Sinco writes. "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."

In part two of his package, Sinco recounts how he traveled from Los Angeles to Kentucky to drive Miller to Connecticut for an intense treatment program, stayed with Miller for more than a month of the therapy, and he made another trip back to Kentucky so Miller could retrieve his motorcycle, at right. Miller eventually dropped out of the treatment program, also turning down a chance to enroll at Yale University. He reunited with his wife for a while in West Virginia near a veterans center in Princeton, where they thought they would have more privacy, but now he's back in Kentucky. He works for a custom motorcycle shop that is connected to the Highwaymen, a Detroit-based motorcycle club that is under surveillance by police. In addition to the two-part series, Sinco produced a video report that covers his relationship with Miller from Fallujah in 2004 to today. (Read more)

No comments: