From chilling accounts of the roadside attack in Iraq that nearly took his life to a shocking investigation into the plight of military families dealing with injuries to their loved ones, Bob Woodruff returns to ABC News Tuesday night with a hard-hitting look at the human cost of war.
Thirteen months after suffering a traumatic brain injury when a roadside bomb struck his Iraqi army transport vehicle in Taji, Iraq, the ABC News anchor is back reporting, with the hourlong documentary "To Iraq and Back."
Amid highly personal stories of tragedy and triumph, Woodruff delves into the crisis of care faced by so many injured soldiers and their families, uncovering important new information about veterans suffering from brain injuries and the care the U.S. government provides. Woodruff meets soldiers who, after fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, must fight bureaucratic red tape before receiving the treatment they need, and others who may not even know they're injured, as traumatic brain injury can go unrecognized.
The start of the documentary shows Woodruff reporting from Iraq before President Bush's January 2006 State of the Union address. He had just started in his new role as anchor of "World News Tonight" earlier that month, and was embedded with the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, reporting on American efforts to hand over military responsibilities to the Iraqis.
Today, Woodruff told reporters at a press screening for the documentary that he has just a few memories of that day, beginning with his talk with soldiers before they set out in the convoy on the morning of Jan. 29.
"And then I remember driving along in the tank, up that road, and standing up outside through the open hatch at the top," he said. "When the IED actually exploded, I don't remember that," Woodruff continued. "But I do remember at that moment I saw my body floating below me and … a whiteness … I just saw something."
Moments later, he woke up in the tank and saw his cameraman Doug Vogt. "When I fell into the tank, I looked up and I saw Doug Vogt sitting right here across from me, and I know that I was spitting a lot of blood out of my mouth," he said. "And I looked up at Doug, and I saw his eyes big and afraid, and I saw the blood dripping down his face, just asking if we were still alive. And then that's really the last that I remember."
In the documentary, Woodruff's producer, Vinnie Malhotra, describes those terrifying moments after the attack: "Bob turned around and he looked right at me. And he said to me, 'Am I alive?' And I said, 'You're alive!' I said, 'You're alive. You're going to be OK.'"
The documentary then tracks Woodruff's long, trying medical journey. After fast-acting doctors in Iraq stabilized him, Woodruff was moved to Germany, where his wife, Lee, and brother David visited him for the first time.
Lee Woodruff recounts seeing her husband for the first time, saying, "When I walked around to [Bob's] other side, the left side, that's when I saw what just did not look like Bob."
Fourteen centimeters of his damaged skull had been removed. Four months later his skull was replaced with a plastic rendition.