Fox News' Jennifer Griffin on Afghanistan, Beating Breast Cancer and 25 Years with the Network

“To have this front-row seat and get a swipe at the first draft of history, it's what gets me up in the morning,” Fox News’ national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin tells PEOPLE

Jennifer Griffin
Photo: Courtesy Jennifer Griffin

Jennifer Griffin loves her job.

Fox News Channel's national security correspondent, 52, has been with the network since its inception, covering counter-terrorism efforts by the U.S. military and political unrest around the world. Griffin has reported from war zones, interviewed elite military leaders and investigated the innermost workings of the intelligence community — tough subjects that have kept her enamored with her job.

"I'm not just a Washington reporter who is covering the Pentagon, I also had years of field experience and many of the sources that I dealt with are still the same people we're dealing with in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, the Middle East," Griffin tells PEOPLE. "To have this front-row seat and get a swipe at the first draft of history, it's what gets me up in the morning."

As the network marks 25 years on Oct. 7, Griffin says it has been intense to comprehend and cover the war in Afghanistan ending under President Joe Biden.

"The arc of this last 25 years, and particularly what's happened in the last month with the very chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and all that that entails, has been really a very sobering moment, both looking back on my career, the assignments that I've had for Fox," she says. "Just sort of sitting back and saying, 'What does it all mean?' "

jennifer griffin
Jennifer Griffin

The journalist got her start at Fox six months after the network launched in 1996 as a Moscow-based reporter, and officially joined as a Jerusalem-based correspondent in 1999. She says she was driven to demystify international politics in today's multipolar world for American audiences.

"I consider what I bring to the table after 25 years of reporting, including much of it overseas, is context. I think what Americans don't understand is often the context in which leaders make decisions, and I try to paint that picture as clearly as possible to my audience because it's complicated," the Harvard grad says.

"Life is complicated. News is complicated. News stories are complicated," she explains. "But we also have to come to our reporting in Washington with skepticism, we can't just believe what people tell us."

jennifer griffin
Jennifer Griffin

Though you can find her today at the Pentagon, contributing to Fox News shows anchored by Bret Baier and Neil Cavuto, Griffin left a bit of her heart in the war zones she once reported from.

"When I was younger, I did spend a lot of time in war zones and I'm very lucky. Many of my colleagues have not been so lucky, and I consider one of my proudest achievements is that I've been able to be a mother of three wonderful, healthy kids and to remain married," she says.

"I've been married to my husband [NPR journalist Greg Myre] since 1994, and we are still motivated to cover the same stories, but we are not on the ground in conflict zones the way we were in our younger years. And that's hard to come to terms with. You always feel guilty for not being there on the ground, but I had to make certain decisions at various points as a mother with kids who are dependent on me," Griffin continues.

jennifer griffin
Jennifer Griffin

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The couple share daughters Annalise, 20 and Amelia, 18, and son Luke, 12, and the correspondent says their kids have loved hearing their parents' stories from the front lines as they've grown up.

"One of my daughters is taking a Middle East history course in college, and she was telling me about some of the things they're reading and I say 'Well, Dad and I were there, or we were present for that.' And they want to hear more," she says.

jennifer griffin
Jennifer Griffin

The Myre kids had a brush with history themselves in 2017, when the Afghanistan Girls Robotics Team visited Washington, D.C., for an international competition — and came over for dinner.

"Our girls were in high school at the time, and one of the local ambassadors knew that I had children the same age, and wanted to do a home visit with some other American teenagers to introduce these Afghan girls to their American peers," Griffin recalls. "So we invited the Girls Robotics Team over to our house and we had pizza. At the end of the evening, they were in my daughter's bedroom, listening to Britney Spears and Taylor Swift, dancing."

jennifer griffin
Jennifer Griffin

Fast-forward to the present, and those same young women recently made headlines when evacuations began from Afghanistan amid the Taliban takeover.

"Most of those girls were rescued early on during the evacuation and most of them did leave Afghanistan when the evacuation began, because their lives were being threatened by the Taliban," Griffin says. "These were difficult decisions, but they had a taste of America back at that time when they came to compete with the robotics team and they came over to our house to see what American teenagers do in their free time."

In a different kind of fight, Griffin beat stage III triple-negative breast cancer in 2010 after 17 rounds of chemo, radiation and a double mastectomy. Shortly after she was declared to be cancer-free, the journalist traveled with Susan G. Komen for the Cure to Jerusalem for its inaugural Race for the Cure, lighting the city walls pink with local women.

"We walked with Israeli and Palestinian women, many of whom were going through treatment, and that was a very powerful moment," she tells PEOPLE. "Ever since then I've been involved in speaking about my cancer story in order to help other women going through the same, very difficult diagnosis. And I'm very involved now with the Prevent Cancer Foundation."

She bookmarks her days with exercise, waking up with Pilates and winding down with walks around her neighborhood with her husband.

"That's my kind of mind-body attempt to cope with the very heavy subject matter, that I think unlike a lot of the beats in Washington, we are not immune to that as reporters or as journalists," she explains. "The last month and a half has been very personal to me. I first started going to Afghanistan in 1993, it's a place where I've known young people, women, great tragedy, friends have lost their lives there, friends have lost their legs there."

"But these are, whether you talk about my cancer journey, or my reporting, or my field work in conflict zones, these are scars that I bear that make me who I am as an adult," Griffin says.

Jennifer Griffin, Gen. David Petraeus

"And I think what drives me every day is my humanity as a reporter. I still tell these stories from a human perspective. But that also takes the toll, because there's nothing robotic about reporting these kinds of stories."

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