Sunday, June 22, 2008

Peabody-winning reporter writes about injuries in Iraq

Peabody-winning reporter writes about injuries in Iraq

NEW YORK -- When Kimberly Dozier accepted a Peabody Award on Monday for her "CBS News Sunday Morning" story about two female veterans who lost limbs in Iraq, it was a big step in her transition from blown-up journalist to journalist.

Even sweeter, from Dozier's perspective, is that the award has nothing to do with May 29, 2006, when a Baghdad car bomb seriously injured her and killed two CBS News colleagues and a U.S. Army captain out on a story about the Iraq War.

Dozier hopes now that telling her story, in the just-published book "Breathing the Fire," can help families and veterans of the Iraq War who return home with physical and psychic damage.

The war has been going on for so long that Dozier is concerned people have become numb to it.

"I'm not lecturing people which way to go on the Iraq War, one way or another, but this sort of willingness to ignore what is going on, or turn away from it kind of scares me," she said. "I want people to pay attention."

Her book tells about that fateful day and her long physical recovery in gripping detail. Perhaps more interesting are the emotional after-effects that usually aren't as well documented, from survivor's guilt to the resentment of others, to the frustration of well-meaning people who think they understand what she's feeling.

Dozier had harrowing hallucinations involving her dead colleagues, cameraman Paul Douglas and soundman James Brolan. She was hypervigilant, so worried about another attack when she was transferred from one military hospital to another that she tensely grabbed the sides of her gurney when any car approached her ambulance.

Navy people told her that for many trauma survivors, probably the majority, dredging up harrowing memories is harmful. Others are helped by it. Dozier fell into the latter camp.

Her family was supportive and protective. But as with many families of trauma victims, they eventually became too protective. A fellow journalist, CBS News' Bob Schieffer, was the first to truly fill Dozier in on what had happened.

During the brutal period of more than two dozen operations and subsequent strength-gathering, Dozier spent many hours in her hospital bed crying. She replayed the events in her mind over and over, wondering if there was anything she could have done that would have saved Douglas and Brolan, or even if she should have gone out on patrol at all. She knew some people in CBS News' London bureau, where the two men were based, thought she should have done a less risky story standing on a building rooftop.

Dozier received reassurance from a fellow member of a terrible club. ABC News' Bob Woodruff, who had been badly wounded in a car bomb attack four months before Dozier's injury, told her to remember that Douglas and Brolan were professionals who made their own decisions to go on the trip. It would dishonor them to believe she had somehow ordered them to go on an assignment that killed them.

She also knew that Sgt. Justin Farrar, aide to the late Capt. James Alex Funkhouser, was furious with her. Funkhouser was killed guiding Dozier on the mission.

Besides his guilt that the man he was charged with watching had been killed, Farrar said the explosion wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for the CBS crew coming along (Farrar and Dozier have since patched things up).

"At first, I was angry and hurt to know that there was some of this out there," Dozier said. "But then I realized that they have to do what they have to do to get through it. I'm standing on two feet, so if they need to hate me for the rest of all time in order to get through it, I'm OK with that."

She stays away from stories about wounded soldiers now. She does national security issues from within the United States, a low-profile assignment because of the current focus on domestic issues. She owns a home in Jerusalem, but CBS doesn't want her overseas.

"My inner rebellious teenager was very angry with that ... until I came to the realization that this experience was not just about me," she said. "My whole company went through hell. My bosses ... are very sensitive that even sending me back to what I consider my home in Jerusalem is for them like sending me straight into the fire." She has agreed to stay in the United States until next year. After that, it's anyone's guess.

This lady is quite the journalist in my opinion. I realize it is just my two cents, but she went to war, and was harmed by it, and lived thru it, to report a story, I understand why soldiers go, becuase they were ordered to, why do journalists keep going back? I look forward to reading her book.

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