Two American reporters, Bradley Hope and Kristen Chick, had just arrived. ‘We were way, way out there,’ Hope says. ‘And then we saw this college kid with a shotgun and a Lakers jersey. It was mind-boggling.’
Jeon explained that he was on summer vacation and ‘thought it would be cool to join the rebels.’ He added that his parents didn’t know he was in Libya and pleaded with the reporters not to mention him, but both wrote articles about the encounter (‘At first glance, Mr. Jeon looked like someone who took a wrong turn on their way to the beach or the Santa Monica Pier,’ wrote Hope in a Dubai paper, The National).
An Al Jazeera news crew spotted Jeon at the refinery where he was staying with his katiba. A network correspondent took out her satellite phone and handed it to Jeon. Within a minute, his parents were on the line.
‘You have to come home, Chris,’ his dad shouted. ‘You don’t know what you’re doing.’
‘I know exactly what I’m doing,’ Jeon snapped.
His mother got on the phone. She was crying. She sounded terrible. She begged him to come home. Jeon told her he’d think about it. He hung up and rejoined his brigade.
A couple of days later, the katiba drove into the desert and fired cannons at loyalist positions. Jeon helped load the ammunition. ‘My lips were cracked and bleeding, I hadn’t brushed my teeth in days, and my face was peeling, but it didn’t matter,’ Jeon says. ‘I was totally happy – happier than I’d ever been.’