Michael's Dispatches

Scott Helvenston was lost in Iraq on 31 March 2004



We attended Winter Haven High School together and sometimes worked out together and were on the same football team.

Scott went on to become the youngest Navy SEAL ever, at just 17. The same age that some students today say, "We are just kids, leave us alone." At 17, Scott was no kid. He was a man. And a SEAL.

On 31 March 2004, Scott was on a supply mission in Fallujah blog with Jerry Zovko, Wesley Batalona and Michael Teague. The war was not yet at full steam, but what would happen next set that trajectory.

The four men were ambushed, shot, beaten, burned, and dragged through the streets of Fallujah. Two of their bodies were hanged off a bridge. A photograph of this was awarded a Pulitzer. Anything making Americans look bad was apt for an award.

I flew to Colorado and to Florida for the funerals of my Green Beret teammate Richard Ferguson who had been killed the day before in Samara, and to Scott's funeral at the Florida National Cemetery.

At Fergy's funeral in Colorado there was no press. Just Green Berets, family, and friends.


At Scott's funeral and before and after, vultures in the press were uncountable. I went to Scott's mom's home with my good friend Eddy Twyford, Scott's best friend. We all went to school and worked out together. Eddy was on the same football team.

Eddy was devastated. Press were hounding Eddy and Scott's mom. It was sickening.

While this was going on, we attacked Fallujah with devastating consequences, and the Abu Ghraib torture and abuse scandal broke in full. All in April 2004.


While many Americans said the Abu Ghraib torture was okay, and they even celebrated it, they were wrong. These were war crimes by any definition, and for nothing positive in return. We got death in return.

Many Americans parroted that no prisoners died. They were wrong. Prisoners were raped, murdered, and abused to the point that this, the photos and videos of Scott and his friends being murdered, and the attack on Fallujah, led to mass recruitment of al Qaeda and other enemies.

April 2004 was a massive inflection point in the war. Countless thousands of Iraqi and Coalition deaths would spinoff from Fallujah and Abu Ghraib.

This was also the first time I started paying serious attention to the war. I had refused to go since the beginning, despite being asked many times by many people, especially my Winter Haven High School friend LTC Rodney Morris who was also in Iraq at that time.

With much prodding from Rodney, I finally went to Iraq and spent more time in combat than probably any writer/photographer/journalist in the war. And then did the same in Afghanistan.

This was all because of Fergy being lost in Samara, Scott in Fallujah, and my close friend Rodney Morris, and that it became obvious that media and the USG had no idea what was going on in Iraq.

Rest in peace Fergy, Scott, and so many others.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Brian · 2 years ago
    Heart-breaking and anger when exposed at this personal level.. I had friends and one daughter-in-law in Iraq but they all returned (though one friend substantially changed). Most Americans (including myself) hardly have a clue. My uncles who experienced combat in WW2 (8th Army Air Force and 4th Infantry Div, Patton's rd Army) walked the streets at night for years to deal with their emotions. They would run into others going thru the same. . No PTSD back then.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MAJ Josh Griffing · 2 years ago
    Thanks for the tribute, Michael. There are some in-- and many outside of-- the armed forces whom I wouldn't want even to share a mess-hall with, but heroes like these are ever worth raising a glass to, here or in heaven, and it is an honor even to hear (or read) them named.
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    Nathan · 2 years ago
    That photo wasn't to make "Americans" look bad. It was meant to make the Pentagon look bad. The Yankees in the State Department (blue state) don't like the Pentagon (red state) and will anything to undermine the opposing faction, and vice versa.
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    Gismofly · 2 years ago
    What am I looking at? A victim of Abu Ghraib with one of the perps taking a photo or an American serviceman under torture? Be clear. It's doubly painful if it's an American!
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    Lorenz Gude · 2 years ago
    I followed the Iraq war through Michael's blog. This post shows his unique ability to be totally present to the soldier's point of view with unquestionable patriotism while still look squarely at the bad things that went wrong. Along with Michael Totten and Bill Roggio, Michael Yon provided a real time and very accurate picture of what was happening in Iraq that was clearly a better first draft of history thnt was being provided by almost all professional journalists. While the New York Times seemed to be making an all out effort to become the new Pravda by putting Abu Grahb of the front page day after day their bureau chief in Baghdad, John Burns, did real reporting while the editors back home put propagandistic headlines on his storeys. I only able to work out he was being truthful about the good the bad and the ugly of it all by reading the three bloggers. Since that time it has only become more obvious that propaganda or fake news is everywhere but what is perhaps not so obvious is that the percentage of totally faux news has increased such that it is prudent to doubt it all.
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