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Wood Visits Edison State, Shares Experiences

November 09, 2017

David Wood

Reporter and author, David Wood, addresses a crowd of over 150 students, staff, and community members at Edison State Community College as part of Peace Week.

“Who’s a veteran? Are there any veterans here? Thank you for your service, welcome home,” David Wood said to a crowd of over 150 students, community members, and staff at Edison State Community College.  

Wood came to campus following his recent Dayton Literary Peace Prize nonfiction award recognition for his book, “What Have We Done: The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars.” Inspired by the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia, the DLPP is the only international literary peace prize awarded in the United States. The Prize celebrates the power of literature to promote peace, social justice, and global understanding.

“I started my career as a reporter for a weekly newspaper in a suburb outside of Chicago,” said Wood. “There are consequences to facts, and it’s not always comfortable, and it’s not always easy, and it’s not always pleasant.”  

After his initial job a reporter, Wood took a job with Time Magazine as a correspondent, which sparked his interest in war correspondence.  

“I then started a job with Time Magazine as a correspondent, and they sent me to Africa. The thing was, what Time Magazine wanted me to write about was all of the wars sweeping across the continent–the post–colonial wars, all the wars of national liberation–and there were a lot of them. So that’s what I did, I became a war correspondent.”  

“It was fascinating to me, the people who are fighting wars, the people who are suffering from wars, the people who started wars, the people who stopped wars. It was all fascinating, and for a reporter, it was a like I was a kid in a candy store, I just couldn’t get to the stories fast enough.”  

Wood recalled a repressed memory he had while in Africa.  

“One of the things I experienced in Africa was a massacre. I came across the scene a day or two after it happened and it was just horrifying. In fact, it was so horrifying that I repressed a memory of this until just recently.”  

“I’m now trying to remember a lot of things that happened to me in my career, and I found the file that I had sent to Time Magazine about this massacre which went into horrifying detail, but I had also found a letter I had written to my parents the same day.”  

In the letter to his parents, he stated, “I have been on this 1,300 mile trip in Mozambique, and I’m exhausted, I’ve been here six weeks, and I’m ready to go home. The whole trip was a waste of time.”  

Wood never told his parents about the experience.  

“This event gave me a little insight into the common experiences that people who we send to war have and how do they have to deal with those experiences. It was interesting.”  

After spending four years in Africa, Wood returned to the United States to take on the role of a Pentagon Reporter. After about six months, he realized the job was not for him and asked to become an embedded reporter, who would live with military units that he’s covering.  

Though a Pacifist, Wood deployed as a reporter with troops in Desert Storm, the Persian Gulf, peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, and combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, making five trips to Afghanistan since 2002.  

“I spent a year once with a Marine Battalion, and I went to Camp Lejeune and lived there with these guys–ate what they did, slept where they did, I trained up with them for six months and then we went to Somalia for six months, which was pretty mind-boggling.”

Wood went on to tell stories of other combatants who had little to no time to adjust to the experiences they had endured and how it impacted them, not only in that moment but also for the entirety of their lives.  

“We all know veterans who come home from war and never talk about what happened,” added Wood. “My message is if there’s some way we can make ourselves accessible to hear veterans stories. It’s hard. But I think there are ways you can say to a veteran–I didn’t go, and there’s no way I can understand what you went through and what that was like but if you can talk about it a little bit, I’d like to listen. And I think that’s the beginning of it.”  

David Wood has made appearances on CNN, C-Span,CBS News Hour, NPR, BBC, and MSNBC. He won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting in 2012, and he is the 2017 nonfiction Dayton Literary Peace Prize winner for his book “What Have We Done: The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars.” Additionally, he has had work published in the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Sun, and the Huffington Post.