Former War Photographer Remembers Soldier

Photographer Warren Zinn CBS

CBS News Investigative producer Pia Malbran wrote this story for CBSNews.com.

Five days into the current Iraq war in 2003, photographer Warren Zinn snapped a picture of an American army medic carrying a young injured Iraqi boy. The photo appeared in newspapers and on television news networks across the country. At the time, the media dubbed the highly publicized image as "defining", "hopeful" and "inspirational."

(Warren Zinn/Army Times)














Photo taken March 25, 2003.

Zinn, who was embedded in Iraq with U.S. troops for the Army Times newspaper, says the appeal of the photo was that it seemed to convey "excitement" and "positive change in Iraq."

Now, five years later, the image has taken on a whole new meaning for 30-year-old Zinn. A few weeks ago, the soldier in the photo, Joseph Dwyer, died unexpectedly. He was 31. The official cause of death is still pending.

According to a police report, officers were called to Dwyer's North Carolina home at about 7 p.m. on June 28, by a taxi driver. Dwyer had apparently called for a cab to take him to the hospital. However, when the driver arrived to his home, Dwyer he was unable to open the door. In their report, police say they kicked down the door and found Dwyer lying on the floor "surrounded by empty aerosol cans." He told police he couldn't breath. He was then rushed to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

CBS News was unable to reach Dwyer's family but several news articles say he was struggling badly with post traumatic stress disorder since at least 2005. For example, El Paso, Texas police confirmed to CBS that in 2005 Dwyer was arrested for discharging his weapon and having a stand off with police. After the incident, Dwyer told Newsday he thought Iraqis were ambushing him.

In his first television interview since Dwyer's death, Zinn who is now a third-year law student at the University of Miami reminisces about the day he took the photo that will always link him to Dwyer. Zinn explains the circumstances surrounding the image and shares with CBS News the whole sequence of pictures. Interestingly, the two men, who were close in age, barely knew one another. They had not met before the picture was taken and only spoke a few times after the photo made national headlines. In a striking contrast to the emotional torment Dwyer seemed to be experiencing before his death, Zinn says Dwyer emailed him in 2004 and described his time in Iraq as the "greatest thing I've ever done."

By Pia Malbran
  • Pia Malbran

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