LOS ANGELES -- Those in the military know April 4, 2004, as "Black Sunday." That was the day when members of the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood were ambushed in Sadr City, Baghdad, during the Iraq War. The families of the soldiers trapped in the city waited 48 hours to hear any news , expecting the worst.
The events of "Black Sunday" were documented in Martha Raddatz's New York Times best-selling book, "The Long Road Home" (Putnam Adult, $21.95). That 2007 book has been turned into an eight-episode series that began airing on the National Geographic cable channel Tuesday.
"The Long Road Home" looks at what was happening to the ambushed soldiers and what was going on with their families back home. The cast includes two-time Emmy-nominated actor Michael Kelly as Lt. Col. Gary Volesky; Emmy-nominated actor Jason Ritter as Capt. Troy Denomy; Kate Bosworth as Capt. Denomy's wife, Gina; Sarah Wayne Callies as LeAnn Volesky, wife of Lt. Col. Volesky; Noel Fisher as Pfc. Tomas Young; and Jeremy Sisto as Staff Sgt. Robert Miltenberger.
The task that faced Raddatz when she wrote the book was to find the right balance of relating the facts while also delving into the emotional core of the story.
"I approached this as a journalist and as a storyteller," Raddatz says. "My ultimate goal with the book was for people to understand what happened. I wanted the military to see it in a respectful military way but it was a much bigger story to me."
Raddatz, the ABC News chief global affairs correspondent and co-anchor of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," began covering wars during the crisis in Bosnia in the late 1990s, and then spent time on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her lengthy coverage of the military gave Raddatz, who embedded with U.S. forces during dozens of trips abroad, the background and connections to tell the story of "Black Sunday."
The journalist in her kept the focus on the facts while the storyteller understood the emotional elements. Now that the book is done, Raddatz admits she's far more emotional about the story that when she was writing. A lot of that emotion came from walking around the set with some of the soldiers who survived and family members of those who didn't. One mother of a fallen soldier asked Raddatz if the set being used for the filming was an exact replica of the last thing her son saw.
The set for Sadr City was built where the soldiers trained at Ft. Hood before going to Iraq. This was done because the intent was to try to recreate Sadr City as close as possible since they couldn't film in the actual location.
Executive producer/screenwriter Mikko Alanne explains all the families and the principal soldiers were called upon to make sure every detail was correct.
"I have a background in oral history, and I take especially the idea of telling a real life story very seriously. And it's our collective aspiration that the people who will be happiest with the story we're telling are the families and soldiers, who are the real heroes of the story," Alanne says.