Ken Garcia: Dozier’s courage offers glimpse into reality of war 

One of the more horrifying aspects of wars is that the longer they last, the more desensitized we become to their grisly reality. Not a day passes without a variation on a headline that reads, "Blast in Iraq kills 40," without any true sense of what it means to the civilians and soldiers and families impacted by the rising casualty toll.

But it only takes one incident to bring the true cost home. And this week the revelation came in a group of names attached to a story about a day of "soaring violence in Baghdad’’ in which 33 people were killed, including two journalists. Another reporter, a CBS correspondent, was critically injured.

Her name is Kimberly Dozier. She is lying in a military hospital in Germany, breathing with the aid of a ventilator. Two of her British colleagues, cameraman Paul Douglas, soundman James Brolan, a U.S. soldier and an Iraqi translator were killed when a car bomb exploded on the street they were traveling. Dozier underwent two surgeries in Iraq before being airlifted to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center earlier this week where she is being treated for shrapnel wounds to her head and extensive injuries to her legs.

The CBS Web site said Dozier was stable and was expected to be transported to a medical facility in the U.S. in the next few days. Beyond that, littleis known except that it will likely be a long road back to recovery. But Dozier is nothing if not tenacious — the woman I knew as a fledgling print journalist has over the years become "as close to fearless as anyone that I know" in pursuit of a story, former anchor Dan Rather told reporters this week.

Dozier, 39, was an up-and-coming foreign correspondent when I first met her in London nine years ago. I was working as the Chronicle’s political writer and was sent by the newspaper to cover the parliamentary elections in Great Britain — an election that saw the rise of Prime Minister Tony Blair. Dozier had been working as a freelancer for the Chronicle and CBS News radio and we spent several weeks together going over stories and sources.

Despite the fact that my presence in England meant that she would not be getting bylines for the Chronicle, Dozier was immensely helpful, especially since I was a novice in terms of the country’s parliamentary system. I found her to be bright, charming, talented and all but burning with ambition.

Dozier studied at Wellesley College and received a master’s degree in foreign affairs, specializing in the Middle East, from the University of Virginia. Before landing in London, she had freelanced in Cairo and was just looking for the right spot, and the right venue, through which to pursue her passion. Despite the hardship of living overseas — not always knowing where her next paycheck would come from — she was determined to be a foreign correspondent, even after tours that took her to some of the most dangerous regions in the world, including her most recent stint in Iraq.

Mark Abel, who until 2004 served as the Chronicle’s longtime foreign editor, worked with Dozier for several years. He said that when he began seeing her on-air reports from Baghdad after CBS hired her in 2003 that he "prayed silently" that nothing would ever happen to her.

"I always liked her a lot," he said. "She was very serious-minded. She wasn’t a parachute journalist, just dropping in for a story. She immersed herself in the work. I always admired that she was someone who went after it in a shoe-leather type of way."

It takes a special kind of person to put oneself in harm’s way time and time again in an effort to produce clear, accurate journalism. Dozier’s colleagues at CBS were stunned this week when they came across an e-mail from her detailing a Memorial Day story she hoped to do about a U.S. soldier working in Iraq who insisted on going back to the battlefield, "fighting on in memory of those who have fallen," according to the Los Angeles Times. She could have been writing about herself.

Dozier has been reporting from Iraq for three years and has also done stints covering the war in Afghanistan. Officials at CBS News said they had talked to Dozier about taking a break from war zones, but she was determined to go back to Baghdad.

She knew the risks. Her mother told the Baltimore Sun that she constantly worried as Dozier went from one dangerous assignment to the next. I can’t say how her tale will turn out, but I do know she would be determined not to be the subject of her last story.

Ken Garcia’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends in The Examiner. E-mail him at kgarcia@examiner.com or call him at (415) 359-2663.

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