Peabody Award Winners: ABC News, ‘Bob Woodruff Reporting: Wounds of War’
For ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, the Peabody Award he is taking home is exceptionally personal, because unlike most of the work that is being honored, his involves his own traumatic personal story.
In January 2006, just over a month after he was named co-anchor of “World News Tonight,” Mr. Woodruff was in a vehicle in Iraq that was struck by a roadside bomb. Suffering severe brain injuries, he was raced first to an Iraqi hospital, then to a U.S. military hospital in Germany before being returned home for his long road to recovery from the terrifying ordeal.
The Peabody is for “Bob Woodruff Reporting: Wounds of War—The Long Road Home of Our Nation’s Veterans,” which includes his hourlong documentary “To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports” and a series of reports on “World News With Charles Gibson” and “Nightline.”
“Before this happened, I had never heard of traumatic brain injury, and most of the country needed to learn about it,” said Mr. Woodruff. “When we made the documentary, it was about what happened to us, but most importantly it would really concentrate on the soldiers and tell how they are doing—which is really more important—and teach the country.”
“To Iraq and Back” marked Mr. Woodruff’s return to the air, nearly a year after his devastating injuries and his painful and challenging road to recovery. The hourlong special also looked at the experiences of other soldiers who have returned from war with traumatic brain injuries.
Determined to keep the nation focused on this issue, Mr. Woodruff followed up the special with a series of reports on wounded veterans. Those reports highlighted the struggles their loved ones face as they adapt to daily life with a severely injured family member.
“One of the most moving things was going back to Bethesda Naval Hospital to see some others injured on the long road to recovery,” Mr. Woodruff said. “Some have recovered significantly, others so slowly, but the important thing is to show that aside from their health, dignity and respect are so important to them and their families.
“There are about 1.6 million fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared to 12 million who served in Vietnam. If they are injured, they need to get as much help as they can. Whether you’re for this war or against [it], they deserve more.”
There have been medical and technological breakthroughs and improvements in the five years since the war began, Mr. Woodruff said, but no one expected it to go on this long or leave so many injured.
Although he is frustrated by not being able to go back to Iraq or Afghanistan to report firsthand, he will continue to do stories about wounded veterans returning home —and the larger issue of quality care for all of the U.S.’ injured soldiers.
He is heartened by the outpouring of support from nonmilitary personnel. “You see private groups, doctors and nurses donating money, time and free surgery,” he said. “It is quite remarkable to see them wanting to do a lot.”