Sandstorm Slows Woodruff's Return to Iraq

Correspondent "really sad," says country has changed since near-fatal injury.

July 14, 2009 — -- For ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff, his return to Iraq Monday was supposed to be an emotional reunion with a country and a war that nearly took, and then saved, his life three years ago. But as a massive sandstorm blew in just after Woodruff landed in-country with the U.S. military, it became clear his reunion would be postponed, even if the sentiment could not be.

"Part of me is really sad by it," Woodruff told "Good Morning America's" Chris Cuomo from aboard a military plane to Afghanistan. "I really wish this had not happened, that the sandstorm had not stopped us."

Woodruff and a cameraman Doug Vogt were seriously injured when their convoy was hit by an improvised explosive devise near Taji, Iraq, about 12 miles north of Baghdad. Woodruff said he wanted to see just how the country had changed since then.

"We're not able to see much of anything, but we know that the violence is way down," he said. "There's a lot more hope that this country will return ... but the country has hugely changed since that day, January 29, 2006, when the insurgents nailed us."

Click here to read Woodruff's latest full blog post.

What was blocking that vision, literally, was a wall of sand.

"We were stopped in Kirkuk, a northern part of Iraq. Just as we landed, the huge sandstorm just broke out. The whole area was filled with sand; we could barely see," he said.

Woodruff is on a reporting trip with Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But the group was forced to wait in Kirkuk not for the few hours it had planned but overnight while the sandstorm raged.

The layover meant the cancellation of the rest of the Iraq itinerary, which would have included a visit to Baghdad and to the U.S. military hospital in Balad, where a medical team saved Woodruff's life.

"Certainly, it's a very emotional time, but you know, I think that the hope is, the dream is, that I will go back there," Woodruff said.

Woodruff's next stop is Afghanistan, where he intends to go after "a whole other set of stories."

Tough Decision to Return

In a World Newser blog post written before he left, Woodruff wrote about the decision to head back.

"I will return this time with different parameters. Covering this war has changed very much since I first embedded during the 2003 invasion. But I have wanted to 'get back on the horse again since my recovery. This will be a different horse, probably not as big, not as fast and without running outside the wire," he wrote.

For this trip, Woodruff plans to stay on U.S. military bases and away from the more dangerous streets and war zones.

"It has not been an easy decision to make this trip," he said in the blog.

Woodruff suffered a severe brain injury in the 2006 blast that also injured much of his upper body. Before his recovery, he could not remember his twin daughters, according to a book his wife, Lee, wrote in the year after his injury. After a 13-month recovery, he returned to ABC News.

Since then, Woodruff has done extensive reporting on veteran's care and those injured in the course of battle.

In part of his trip back to Iraq, he hoped to visit the doctors, nurses and medics in Iraq that "are putting their lives at risk to save others," the blog stated.

Though his trip to Iraq was cut short, he does not intend to give up.

"Maybe soon. Maybe a month later. Maybe a year from now. But I do want to go back," he said.