Scarborough native Chris Jackson has been commended by the U.S. Navy for saving the life of a marine.
Born and raised in Guildwood, Jackson was working as a cameraman for Fox News in Afghanistan in August when the Humvee he was travelling in hit a roadside bomb. Despite being injured by shrapnel himself, Jackson was still able to pull the unconscious driver from the burning vehicle.
“I didn’t think at all. I just acted. It was pure gut instinct,” Jackson said from India where he is currently assigned.
Jackson had met Sgt. Courtney Rauch, the marine driving the vehicle, only moments prior to the explosion but they have kept in touch since. Fox News had filmed Rauch in Iraq and wanted to film him in Afghanistan to show the contrast in the two different zones of conflict.
At a ceremony in Iraq, Jackson was awarded with the Distinguished Public Service award, the second-highest honour given to civilians by the U.S. Navy.
Despite all the praise, he has remained modest throughout the ordeal.
“He doesn’t think of himself as a hero,” said Jackson’s mother, Elaine Zdunich. “He just reacted on instinct and did what he had to do.”
In fact, Jackson seems to be embarrassed by the attention he is receiving, although, he does admit it’s interesting to be on the other side of journalistic coverage for a change.
“If I was driving along Morningside, and was the first person to come across a car accident, and helped get the driver out of the car while it was on fire — nobody would have paid any attention to that act.” Jackson said. “Because I was in Afghanistan, the event got more attention then really it deserves.”
Jackson has been to Afghanistan every year since 2001 and says he will continue to do so.
“I have been fired at, rocketed, mortared,” Jackson said. “This is very normal for anyone covering the story in Afghanistan.”
Currently, Jackson is filming for Global News in India and was shooting for CNN in Iraq a few months ago. He has also worked for numerous other channels and shows, such as NBC, Discovery, National Geographic, Good Morning American, and even Oprah.
He attributes his successful career to growing up in a multicultural area, an advantage that many of his peers do not share.
“When I first went abroad, I didn’t experience any culture shock,” Jackson said. “All the places I have lived over the past 20 years — I have always managed to fit in right away. I credit this to growing up in Scarborough.”
Jackson was first inspired to pursue his career as a cameraman after seeing the images from the Ethiopian famine. He was amazed that one person’s pictures had made a difference in the world by raising awareness of the events taking place.
“That is still my goal: to get such amazing footage that the world sits up and takes notice,” Jackson said.
He doesn’t believe the advent of embedded journalism will hinder his ability to do this. Some worry about objectivity in a world where reporters must write about the people they are risking their lives with and living alongside. As a cameraman Jackson doesn’t have this problem. He simply captures the images and lets them speak for themselves.
“There is a natural reminder I am working every time I hit the record button. There is the ‘physical’ barrier of the camera,” Jackson said.
That physical barrier may help him remain objective but does little to protect him from the physical dangers of his job. Through his heroic actions he was able to save a life, yet he is aware that one of the soldiers’ objectives is to protect him.
“I do know that if the situation had been reversed and I had been injured, that the Marines I was with would have risked their lives to help to get me out of the Humvee,” Jackson said.