It was spring 2018 and I had returned to Afghanistan to embed with a Special Forces team stationed at a small combat outpost in eastern Nangarhar called COP Blackfish. They said there was fighting out there and I wanted to see it myself. But for the time being, I was stuck inside an MWR building on Bagram Airfield, caught in a familiar game of hurry up and wait. My laptop was open with a tray of stale popcorn nearby as I sat there drafting plans for a new website I was launching for Black Rifle Coffee Company.
That website became Coffee or Die Magazine, and that reporting trip to Afghanistan was my first as its founding editor. Since then, we’ve expanded our team and covered conflict around the world, from refugee camps in Iraq and ISIS torture chambers in Syria, to the front lines of Ukraine and the tear gas-filled streets of Minneapolis and Portland.
It’s been a wild ride, with plenty of great coffee along the way, but today is my last as Coffee or Die’s editor.
Tens of millions of people have read our stories, and tens of millions more have watched our videos. Our work has been award-winning and our efforts tireless. I’m eternally grateful to BRCC for taking a chance on me back in 2018 and to every staff member who has joined our small team since then — especially our incredible managing editor, Katie McCarthy.
I can’t thank you, our readers, enough. While trust in the media is in short supply these days, you chose to get your news and stories about the military, veterans, and first responders from us. Thousands of you even bucked the trend of content digitization and subscribed to our print magazine. That’s pretty cool. I’m proud to know that people like you read this publication.
Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention my wife, Lauren, who is due so much credit there’s not enough room on the internet to fully articulate all the praise she deserves. I’ve spent a significant portion of the last five years on the road, and just like she supported me while I was deployed overseas in my Army days, she supported me while I was building this publication. She continues to find a way every day to balance her career and family — often without her husband there to help.
So what’s next? I’m moving on, but the talented team of reporters and storytellers at Coffee or Die remains. Undoubtedly, they will continue to be an excellent source of accurate reporting and inspirational stories by and for service members, veterans, and first responders. Keep reading, and keep watching — this publication is in good hands.
In fact, Matt White, Jenna Biter, and Ryan Fitting recently embedded with Special Forces candidates at Robin Sage, the final gate before they earn their green berets. Noelle Wiehe just returned from riding along with the US Coast Guard as they conducted search and rescue operations in Alaska. Nolan Peterson is still in Ukraine, reporting from bunkers as Russian missiles explode nearby. I hope you’re following Jariko Denman, too; he has some amazing assignments planned — I can’t wait to see where he goes next.
All that said, I’m now going to grind 30 grams of Dictator Gesha and pour about 450 grams of 204-degree water over it and into my favorite mug. As I enjoy that fantastic cup of Guatemalan good-good, I’m going to take some time to reflect on the past five years — the great times, the bad times, and everything in between. It’s been a real honor.
Come for the stories, stay for the coffee.
Marty Skovlund Jr.
Executive Editor, Coffee or Die Magazine