By Sgt. Joy ParianteMarch 15, 2007
FORT HOOD, Texas (Army News Service, March 15, 2007) - Martha Raddatz, senior White House correspondent for ABC News, visited the Clear Creek Post Exchange March 10 to sign copies of her latest book "Long Road Home," based on the 1st Cavalry Division's battle in Sadr City in April 2004, which claimed the lives of eight Soldiers and wounded more than 60 others.
Raddatz, a three-time Emmy award winning journalist, was working as a correspondent in Baghdad at the time when she heard about the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment's contact with militia members during a routine sewage detail in the city. Raddatz went down to Sadr City to do a piece for ABC's Nightline and was with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment Soldiers when they went, for the first time, back into the alley where they were trapped following the ambush.
"To see what they had been through and for them to talk about it in such great detail and to give me such a vivid picture ... it was extraordinary what they did that night," she said.
After spending a few visits with the Soldiers, Raddatz discovered a deeper story than she had expected.
"When I visited (the Soldiers) the last time, they suggested I go to Fort Hood to talk to the families and see what it was like for them," Raddatz said. What she found back home was a network of spouses supporting each other while dealing with the loss of husbands, brothers, sons and fathers.
"I just felt that was a powerful story and the families hadn't been heard about before," she explained.
Raddatz was still busy with her job at ABC when she began work on "Long Road Home." Sometimes it would take hours to change gears from news and politics to the documenting the devastating story of an ill-fated mission that would change many lives forever.
"The interviews with the families were hard, emotional ... you could see the pain everyone went through," she said
Interviews with the Soldiers and leadership involved in the Sadr City battle weren't any easier for Raddatz. "To see someone in the military cry is powerful. And that's something I wanted to make people to understand. I wanted civilians to understand the sacrifices of families and the military," she said.
"You could see the pain everyone went through," Raddatz continued. "The hardest part was, as a journalist, you have that shield to not become emotional about things. But, you can't be objective to hardship and suffering."
Raddatz devoted eight months to putting together the story of an encounter that would account for the largest loss of lives for the 1st Cavalry Division since Vietnam. In addition to interviewing families and researching the military, Raddatz sought out small details to bring depth to her story. She would email the Soldiers in Iraq to get clarification on questions like what kind of mats would they sleep on or what position they slept in.
"Those are the little details I think make the story richer," Raddatz explained.
At the PX, Raddatz signed more than 200 books; the most during her promotional tour thus far. Raddatz's tour for "Long Road Home" will also take her to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Boston, New York City and Washington D.C.
Raddatz said her book has had a tremendous response from both military and civilian audiences, and that's exactly what she was hoping for.
"I think it's a very important story and it has meant a lot to me," she said.
After the signing, Raddatz went on her first trail ride with 1st Cavalry Division's Horse Detachment. She also visited 1st Cavalry Division's memorial wall to personally see the names of the Soldiers she had written about.
"Long Road Home" is on bookstore shelves in PXs throughout the Army.
(Sgt. Joy Pariante writes for the 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs.)