In addition to sharing Florida as their home state, photojournalist Michael Yon and singer songwriter Cliff Knizley also share a deep respect for the U S troops at work in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a new dispatch, titled First Person Singular: Cliff Knizley , Michael Yon, the blogger whose coverage of the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan garnered praise from mainstream media in addition to a large internet audience, interviews Cliff Knizley, a Florida songwriter, guitarist and vocalist. Knizley recently released a four song album titled, Letters to Baghdad in tribute to soldiers and their families. Yon’s interview reveals the inspiration and method behind Knizley’s work and, as it turns out, another Floridian enters the story.
As Knizley told Yon, “From the outset, I’ve had a keen interest in the war effort and the citizens who volunteered to serve and fight. I’d been at a loss as to how I could pay tribute to these amazing individuals, to bring attention to their work and to support charities that supported our soldiers. The answers to my questions arrived in July 2005, when I made a visit to the Milblog, “Boots in Baghdad.”
Knizley decided to write the song, When I Get Home, after reading National Guard soldier—and fellow Floridian– Mark Miner’s blog, Boots in Baghdad. Miner’s praise encouraged Knizley to continue, and through Miner’s blog and the new phenomenon of active duty soldiers using the internet to stay in touch with friends and family, the song files were circulated worldwide among soldiers and their families. After communicating with soldiers, Knizley decided produce a CD of the songs and to donate proceeds to charities benefiting soldiers. Now all he needed was a way to get the word out to a wider audience. That’s when fortune put Knizley in the audience when Yon addressed a Rotary group, with a slide show of the photographs he’d taken while embedded for almost a year in Iraq.
Michael Yon, a Winter Haven native, published his dispatches on a web log that gained worldwide acclaim, the respect of many mainstream media professionals, such as famed Knight-Ridder war correspondent Joe Galloway, and a huge audience eager for first hand news from the front. Yon’s “Gates of Fire” dispatch was the most frequently downloaded news story on the internet for days following its release last summer. Yon’s Rotary Club talk, his first since returning to Florida to write a book about his experience, focused on the gap between news reports and the reality on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers caught in this gap often feel isolated and unappreciated, and when Yon stressed the importance of ordinary Americans demonstrating their support for troops, Knizley knew he’d found a kindred spirit.
In addition to the interview with Knizley, a reprint of Mark Miner’s final blog post from Iraq on the eve of his return home, Yon’s website also features a multi-media presentation of his award-winning photographs accompanied by Knizley’s music.