Journalists who cover wars bring us onto the battlefield through their first-hand accounts.
Although he's never fought in war, correspondent Chris Hedges has seen more war than most soldiers. Often side-by-side with soldiers, journalists like Hedges help us experience war through their own eyes and ears.
Hedges has written about wars around the world, and won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of global terrorism. On Tuesday, Hedges shared how he finally broke away from the lifestyle he described as an addiction.
Hedges is in San Diego this week for the Writer's Symposium by the Sea at Point Loma Nazarene University. You can see him speak Tuesday at 7pm. Click here to buy tickets.
Hedges' twenty years as a war correspondent, sprung from intellectual curiosity, he said.
"I was in Sarajevo when it was being hit with 2000 shells a day, constant sniper fire, four to five a day, two dozen wounded a day, by the time I got there in 1995, fourty-five foreign journalists had been killed.”
Yet he still went. Going to war was a quest to experience the violence he studied.
"I not only wanted to go, but I wasn't waiting for anyone to send me - I went off as a freelance reporter to cover the war in El Salvador in 1983 when the death squads were killing between 800 and 1000 people a month", Hedges said.
But Chris found himself in what he calls a "fraternity of war correspondents”, that "leap from conflict to conflict."
That group was made up of journalists such as NBC's David Bloom, who was killed in Iraq in 2003. And Marie Colvin, killed last week in Syria. Chris says they risk, and lose their lives for, a high that's like none other.
"It's kind of a Zen-like experience," he said. "You're present in way you never were before - even colors are brighter."
He says it's tough to break away; that it's like a powerful narcotic: you're paid to defy authority, and there's a glamour that you don't want to lose.
"You break away and then your temptation is to go back one more time - one more hit - and then you get killed.”
But in 2000, Chris saw a child killed just ten feet from him in Gaza. That was his final straw. He says he's always hated war, and feels that popular culture desensitizes people to its reality.
"You know when you shoot somebody it’s not like it is in the movies. It can take people a long time to die. I've seen two cases where people have had their legs blown off and in both instances it took them six hours to bleed to death. I mean that's what combat's like," Hedges said.
Click here to buy tickets for Hedge's lecture in Point Loma Tuesday night.
Lea Sutton covers stories involving San Diego's military community. Send her your thoughts via Twitter @nbcsandiego or add your comment to our Facebook page.
Find more of her stories in our special military section.