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Back from the brink: ABC's Bob Woodruff at last can tell his story

Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas were supposed to lead ABC into a new era of newscasting. His near-fatal war injuries and her unplanned pregnancy led the network on a back-to-the-future path to ABC World News with Charles Gibson. It's been an undeniably good retro-fit.

Vargas now is back with 20/20 and Woodruff thankfully is very much back among the living. His triumphant return to ABC comes after more than a year of recuperation from a Jan. 29, 2006 roadside bombing attack in Iraq that obliterated part of his skull and put him in a coma for 36 days. To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports (Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 9 p.m. central) tells both his story and those of U.S. soldiers with similar injuries.

Completed over the weekend, the one-hour special had a press screening in New York Monday but otherwise was unavailable for preview. Woodruff also took questions publicly for the first time and appeared on Tuesday's edition of ABC's Good Morning America.

"I want to get back to journalism," he told Diane Sawyer.

"Any form?" she asked.

"Any form."

Woodruff had to start almost from scratch, re-learning how to talk and how to relate to his four children. GMA played a touching clip Tuesday of his twin six-year-old daughters, Claire and Nora, teaching him how to say "belt buckle" while dad wore Mickey Mouse ears in bed.

A 3-D scan of Woodruff's bomb-battered skull and the recuperating newsman with his two oldest children, Cathryn, 13, and Mack, 15.
All photos from ABC News

In another clip shown on GMA, Woodruff's son, Mack, recalled the day his dad in a sense returned to the living.

"My baby sitter walked into my room while I was sleeping and she woke me up and said my dad was on the other phone and wanted to talk to me," Mack said. "I picked up the phone and like a lot of it was gibberish. But it was him on the other line and that's all that really mattered to me, was that he was alive and talking."

The Tuesday night program documents Woodruff's long recovery but also marks his return to ABC as an inquisitive journalist. He interviews Secretary of Veteran's Affairs Jim Nicholson, asking him whether the VA can adequately care for the many injured servicemen returning from Iraq.

Woodruff also travels to Comfort, Texas, hometown of brain-injured Army Sgt. Michael Boothby. As ABC describes it in a news release, he "watches Boothby's condition quickly deteriorate as he awaits the arrival of the paperwork that would allow him to continue his treatment."

Woodruff's future duties at ABC News are under discussion. But at Monday's Q&A in New York, ABC News president David Westin said they will not include any return trips to Iraq.

"I will not send him," Westin said. "It just would not make sense . . . It would be the height of recklessness, from my point of view, to allow Bob Woodruff to go back to Iraq."

Woodruff, 45, and his wife, Lee, have co-authored a book on their experiences titled In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing. It's being published Tuesday in tandem with ABC's prime-time account.