The 2010 Pulitzer Prize board honored Gazette reporter Dave Philipps on Monday, naming him a finalist in the local reporting category for his series “Casualties of War” on combat soldiers at Fort Carson returning from war and committing violence in Colorado Springs.
The Pulitzer is journalism's most prestigious award for excellence.
The board applauded Philipps for his: “painstaking stories on the spike in violence within a battered combat brigade returning to Fort Carson after bloody deployments to Iraq, leading to increased mental health care for soldiers.”
Philipps was among just three finalists singled out as the committee announced the local reporting winner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Raquel Rutledge.
“There are more than 2,400 entries into the Pulitzer competition each year,” said Gazette Editor Jeff Thomas. “To be included in the final discussion about the best of the best is a tremendous honor.
“Nothing I say can add to the committee’s high regard for the work that David put into this compelling reporting.”
Philipps, 32, spent six months tracking 10 members of the Fourth Brigade Combat Team, Fourth Infantry Division, who were arrested for murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning from Iraq, beginning in 2005.
In his two-day series published last July, Philipps recounted how some of the soldiers were deployed twice to the most violent parts of Iraq and came home scarred by what they had endured. Even worse, some said their emotional wounds were compounded upon their return when the Army either ignored, neglected or punished them for complaining.
The 10 soldiers were blamed for a spree of brawls, rapes, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides in Colorado Springs. His stories resulted in increased mental health care for soldiers.
Philipps credited his editor, Joanna Bean, for helping him with the massive project, which included dozens of interviews with other members of the combat team and their family and friends as well as military sources and experts on combat stress. And it was done with little cooperation from the Army and despite threats from soldiers afraid of what it would reveal..
“She was never afraid to ask the hard questions,” he said. “She was the story’s biggest supporter and always made it better.”
“Congratulations are due him, certainly, and also to Joanna and the rest of the team responsible for bringing this important journalism to Gazette readers,” Thomas said.
Philipps is a Colorado Springs native who joined The Gazette in 2003 after earning his master's degree at Columbia University.
The Pulitzer Prize winner, Rutledge, worked seven years at The Gazette, from 1997-2004, covering the military, education and City Hall. She won for a series of stories on fraud and abuse in Wisconsin’s child-care program subsidy system for poor working parents.
Philipps’ honor comes 20 years to the day after then-Gazette reporter Dave Curtin won a Pulitzer for his story “Adam & Megan” about 6-year-old Adam Walter and his 4-year-old sister Megan who were severely burned in a propane-gas explosion.
Other finalists included Ben Montgomery, Waveney Ann Moore and photographer Edmund D. Fountain of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times for their dogged reporting and searing storytelling that illuminated decades of abuse at a reform school for boys and sparked remedial action.