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Aug 31, 2012 12:10 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Bob Woodruff And Chris Cuomo Visit Southampton And Share War Stories

Sep 4, 2012 2:49 PM

Bob Woodruff and Chris Cuomo of ABC News shared their own personal war stories with a small group outside the Parrish Art Museum building on Jobs Lane last Thursday evening, August 30.

The tented event was the first of many to be put on by the Southampton Center, which will take over the property in November once the Parrish moves out. The museum closed its doors to prepare for the move on Tuesday.

A crowd of about 100 people listened as Mr. Woodruff and Mr. Cuomo, who are longtime friends, discussed their assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan, their firsthand knowledge of combat, and the injuries each suffered while in the field.

“It’s miraculous that I can speak here tonight,” Mr. Woodruff said. In 2006, while reporting on U.S. and Iraqi security forces as the anchor of ABC’s “World News Tonight,” Mr. Woodruff was injured by a roadside bomb that struck his vehicle near Taji, Iraq.

The 155-millimeter bomb, which was just 20 yards away from his tank, sent rocks and metal through the air. Mr. Woodruff said the debris shattered his jaw and shoulder blade. Two rocks the size of marbles are still lodged in his neck, too close to veins to remove safely.

He said everyone expected him not to survive the blast, but just 37 minutes after the explosion, he landed at a military hospital in Balad, Iraq, where he underwent surgery. Mr. Woodruff credited the expediency and bravery of the Army pilots, who picked him up despite warnings of danger, with saving his life.

After his initial surgery, he was “rushed up” to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, and later to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to complete his treatment.

Joking that he had a hard act to follow, Mr. Cuomo said his friend’s injury was much more serious than his, and said he was lucky enough to narrowly escape a roadside bomb. Mr. Cuomo was embedded with a U.S. Military Police unit in Baghdad, Iraq, when they came across bodies that had been booby-trapped with an improvised bomb. The explosion was powerful enough to lodge a hubcap-size piece of shrapnel in the only heavily armored Humvee in his unit.

Becoming familiar with carnage while in the field, both men relied on the U.S. military to keep them alive.

“There is a jaundiced view that the military then controls the media,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Yes, we did start to form bonds with them, because they kept us alive. But only with the military were we able to survey what was going on.”

The journalists said that although combat is still ongoing in the Middle East, there is not as much TV news coverage of the war compared to five years ago. “People are tired of the war—it’s bad for ratings,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Right now there’s somebody somewhere in Afghanistan up against it. It’s reality, and you hear nothing about it. The stories are there, it’s just harder to find them.”

Both having had front-row seats to combat on the front lines, the men said that there were “operative truths” about what is going on in the Middle East and the use of drones to destroy targets. Mr. Cuomo said that if drones are used to respond, it is a better situation than having men and women risk their lives. “You have to remember the context,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It matters.”

Finally, Mr. Woodruff and Mr. Cuomo touched on the importance of taking care of veterans. After facing a “lonely existence” overseas, many veterans face homelessness and unemployment due to a lack of transferable skills and training once they get back home, Mr. Cuomo said. One in three homeless men is a veteran, he said.

Mr. Woodruff said this homelessness occurs usually within the first nine months of their return home, unlike the long-term homelessness Vietnam veterans faced. He added that a lot of mental illness that Vietnam veterans faced was the culmination of years of being spat upon by opponents of the war.

Mr. Woodruff closed the program discussing the Bob Woodruff Foundation he formed in 2008, which invests in community-based programs like job training and counseling, educates the public about veterans’ needs when returning home, and helps identify and solve issues that might prevent a successful return to civilian life.

“Bob gets them money,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Bob gets them attention.”

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This is news?
By ride the truth wave (125), southampton on Aug 31, 12 1:17 PM
"ride the truth wave" ?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 31, 12 3:37 PM
By 27dan (2854), Southampton on Sep 1, 12 2:43 PM
Cuomo did not visit anywhere. He owns a home here.
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Sep 1, 12 6:00 PM
These reporters go to war zones and think they are heros. They should stay home because they actually put sholdiers in danger,
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Sep 1, 12 10:54 PM
The reporters did not say they were heros. Where did you get that idea? I think we citizens of this country have the right to know what is going on in any given war zone. Did you know that even in our Revolutionary War there were people (reporters) getting the story out to the folks in the country side? So thank you to any one who goes to get the straight story and sends it back to us.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Sep 3, 12 3:57 PM