'Long Road Home'

In “The Long Road Home,” Lt. Col. Gary Volesky (Michael Kelly) prays with his family before his deployment. He will oversee a peacekeeping mission that turns deadly shortly after his arrival.

Photo by NATGEO TV

Baghdad’s Sadr City had been called “the safest place in Iraq.”

In early 2004, members of the 1st Calvary Division Platoon of Fort Hood, Texas, were based in Sadr City’s Camp War Eagle as part of a peacekeeping effort.

On April 4 of that year, a small group of soldiers were ambushed while providing security for civilian workers.

The U.S. Army had ramped its peacekeeping efforts. As such, preparations and supplies supported security, not combat. This delayed the rescue response for the soldiers, who waited several hours for assistance.

In the end, eight U.S. soldiers died and 65 were seriously wounded in what is now called “Black Sunday.”

On Tuesday, NatGeo TV will premiere “The Long Road Home,” an eight-part miniseries based on the events of that day. The series alternates between the wartime experiences of soldiers and what families at home endure.

“The Long Road Home” is based on the book of the same name by journalist Martha Raddatz.

Raddatz is ABC News chief global affairs correspondent and co-anchor of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” She has been a war correspondent and has covered armed conflicts since the early 1990s. She met with Black Sunday survivors immediately following the ambush and several times since. She also interviewed their families.

These interviews became the basis for “The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family,” a New York Times and Washington Post bestseller.

Raddatz believes the miniseries is a faithful interpretation of her book.

“I visited the set several times, including on the 13th anniversary of Black Sunday, and was overwhelmed by the attention to detail and care the production team, crew and cast have taken to tell this story not only in a way that is true to the events, but in a way that would make the real-life soldiers and their families proud,” she explains.

Tuesday’s episode begins at 8 p.m. with a two-hour premiere. It opens with the juxtaposition of wounded soldiers and those same men a few days earlier, bidding their families goodbye.

Sadr City had been without incident for a year, so they assured loved ones they’d be safe. However, the series pulls back to show how troops under Lt. Shane Aguero are ambushed during a routine sanitation support mission on their fourth day in country.

What follows are scenes depicting the group’s attempts to strategize their escape, their commander’s struggle to organize their rescue and loved ones in Texas seeking answers.

“This is not just a story of war,” Raddatz says. “It is a story of family, bonds and brotherhood. It is a story of how we all face challenges and how we cope with those challenges.”

Golden writes the Courier’s weekly faith and values column. Email her at onfaith@karrisgolden.com.

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