'Restrepo' Partner: War Photographer Tim Hetherington Never Thought Himself Brave

War photographer killed in deadly attack in Misrata, Libya.

April 20, 2011, 9:15 PM

April 20, 2011 — -- Veteran war photographer Tim Hetherington, who was killed by a rocket attack in Misrata, Libya, today never considered himself brave, despite operating for years in some of the world's most deadly regions, close friend and war zone colleague Sebastian Junger said.

"He worked in a world where people risked their lives and died regularly, so I don't even think it crossed his mind that he was brave," Junger, co-director with Hetherington on the Academy Award-nominated war documentary "Restrepo," told ABC News just hours after news of Hetherington's death emerged. "But he was an image maker and he was dedicated to that calling... It was just something he felt had to be done by somebody, and he knew he was good at it, he was really good at it."

Hetherington and Junger spent 15 months on and off in 2007 and 2008 with a U.S. Army unit in the most dangerous valley in Afghanistan, hoping to document daily, deadly life on the front lines. The images and stories they returned with earned several awards and the Academy Award nomination. But according to Junger, Hetherington was in it for the job.

"He loved his work. And he loved his subjects. And for him working wasn't just about collecting images. It really was a way of existing in the world – a way of relating to people, a way of understanding the world and maybe improving it," he said.

U.S. Army Major Dan Kearney, who was prominently featured in Hetherington and Junger's Afghanistan coverage, said that in his time with the troops, Hetherington became family.

"Tim wasn't just a friend," an emotional Kearney told ABC News after learning of Hethering's death. "He was a brother to me."

Junger said that although Hetherington sometimes showed the stress of battle, he also showed incredible strength.

Hunted By The Taliban

On one mission, Battle Company got word that the Taliban was tracking them as they pulled back to their base.

In a 2007 interview with ABC News, Hetherington said, "It was a sense that we were now going to be hunted. I think we were hunting and being hunted and that was not a great feeling."

There was chaos that day as the shooting began, and the adrenaline flowed, but Hetherington kept rolling on the soldiers, steady as always.

Hetherington filmed one of the soldiers as he described the feeling: "I'm the wrong one to play with," the soldier said. "I just miss the firefights, it's been awhile for me. I'm like a little kid right now. It's just a good time. This is what we get paid to do right here."

But then came word that the advance scouts had been hit. Under fire, the men, Hetherington right with them, rushed to the scene.

"And we ran up to the ridge expecting there to be fighting," recalled Hetherington, "and instead we came across the scene of the scouts and of part of the second platoon that had suffered casualties."

There was a grim discovery involving a company leader, Sergeant Larry Rougle.

"I saw that Sgt. Rougle had been shot," Hetherington said. "And I saw there was just pandemonium. It really was an awful sight, it was a really hard sight to digest. Where men are just in such a state of shock, I think I was in a state of shock too."

The men were distraught, and as close as he was to them, he did not hesitate to do his job as a journalist while the platoon lieutenant got his men back into the battle.

"I was really amazed by the maturity and that he was to just grab this guy and the guy suddenly just came back to life," said Hetherington. "In that way, he was suddenly alert and ordering people around. Somebody so in the grip and suddenly snapped together."

There was no time to grieve, added Hetheringon, "because suddenly it was like the combat was back on."

Hetherington chose to stay with Battle Company as made their way back to the base that night. When he broke his ankle coming down a steep mountain, forced to walk in on it.

"I walked down on my hands and knees at times. I was more afraid of holding up the soldiers and making them in a position where we were on the side of the slope during day break and we were exposed. You know the last thing I wanted was to be in a firefight with a broken foot," he said.

Hetherington's Family: He Wanted to Capture Humanitarian Issues

After the award ceremonies, it wasn't long before Hetherington was on to his next assignment, Libya, where he was killed Wednesday at the age of 40.

In a statement, Hetherington's family noted that he would be remembered for his "amazing images" and his journalism, and said, "Tim was in Libya to continue his ongoing multimedia project to highlight humanitarian issues during time of war and conflict. He will be forever missed."

President Barack Obama said in a statement he was "saddened" to learn of Hetherington's death and said he is "deeply concerned about the well being of journalists who were wounded alongside him.

"Journalists across the globe risk their lives each day to keep us informed, demand accountability from world leaders, and give a voice to those who would not otherwise be heard," he said.

A second photographer, Chris Hondros of Getty Images, died of wounds sustained in Misrata today as well. Two others were also wounded during the attack in Misrata Wednesday but survived. Guy Martin of Panos News Agency was gravely wounded, while photographer Michael Brown was less severely wounded.

ABC News' Martha Raddatz contributed to this report.

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