America Supports You: Media Icon Sheds Light on ‘Signature Wound’
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2007 On Jan. 29, 2006, a roadside-bomb explosion near Taji, Iraq, started one TV news personality on a journey from war correspondent to casualty of war, and finally to co-founder of a fund-raising organization to improve awareness about traumatic brain injury.
ABC news reporter Bob Woodruff, left, and Rene Bardorf, executive director of the Bob Woodruff Family Fund for Traumatic Brain Injury, meet with Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England in July 2007. Woodruff and his family established the fund after he suffered a traumatic brain injury in January 2006 while covering the war in Iraq. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Bob Woodruff, then co-anchor of ABC’s “World News Tonight,” was reporting on U.S. and Iraqi security forces, the tank he was riding in was hit. The blast left the reporter with a traumatic brain injury.
During his recovery, he gained personal insight into what many servicemembers injured in Iraq are enduring, which prompted him and his family to found the Bob Woodruff Family Fund for Traumatic Brain Injury.
“The (fund) assists servicemembers injured while serving in the United States armed forces,” Rene Bardorf, the fund’s executive director, said. “Bob Woodruff and his family have become the face of the injured with whom both military and civilian sectors can relate.”
More importantly, servicemembers and their families have said Woodruff’s role as a journalist gave a voice to servicemembers who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, she added.
“We believe that the Bob Woodruff Family Fund has a unique opportunity to assist servicemembers and their families by increasing public awareness and educating the American public on the hidden injuries of war,” Bardorf said.
Often referred to as “the signature wound of the Iraq war,” traumatic brain injury can cause lingering problems with speech and concentration. It also can trigger mood difficulties, including violence and anger issues, according to the fund’s Web site.
The fund works with private industry and government entities to develop public awareness and advance the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the condition.
“We are committed to partnerships with the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs and private industry to develop excellence in prevention, diagnosis, treatment, support and resources for the injured,” Bardorf said. “We are truly hopeful that we will help to ensure that our young heroes and their families have access to a lifetime of state-of-the-art treatment options, education, employment opportunities, and other long-term support to help them reintegrate back into their communities.”
After five months in a medically induced coma, Woodruff awoke on March 6, 2006. Through intensive speech and cognitive therapy and the relearning of what most would consider simple tasks, the reporter provided ABC with “To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports” in February. The documentary detailed his recovery and looked closely at how traumatic brain injuries affect soldiers wounded in Iraq.
Since then, Woodruff has been making regular contributions to ABC news programming.
The Bob Woodruff Family Fund recently became a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military members and their families serving at home and abroad.
“We’re excited to collaborate with this DoD-sponsored nationwide program that recognizes the American public’s support for our military men and women and communicates that support to servicemembers,” Bardorf said. “It is our hope that this support will serve to improve the quality of life for our injured servicemembers, veterans and their families.”