Michael Ware


Brisbane Times article

Normalcy a blessing that awaits war weary correspondent
September 12, 2010

Gail and Len Ware, parents of CNN foreign correspondent Michael Ware (inset), at their home in Ferny Grove, Brisbane. Photo: Michelle Smith

Gail and Len Ware often spoke to their war correspondent son, Michael, as battles raged around him.

Their son, now 41, made a name for himself in major war zones around the world after leaving suburban Brisbane for big-time news reporting with Time magazine and the television network CNN.

But for his parents, of the outer-Brisbane suburb of Ferny Grove, his rise to stardom gave them many sleepless nights.

‘‘Our nightmare was Michael’s dream,’’ Mrs Ware said.

‘‘Thankfully we didn’t hear about a lot of what he’d been through until after he was safe. We didn’t hear about his kidnapping or that he was to be sold to the Taliban until after his release.

‘‘But often when he’d call, you could hear the gunfire and he’d say ‘just hang on I have to jump into a trench’ and that was unsettling.’’

His family and friends are helping him readjust once again to Brisbane life, since his return in December.

Like so many soldiers and reporters after a long stint in a war zone, Mr Ware is suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Any psychological trauma can lead to the anxiety disorder but in Mr Ware’s case the cause was reporting for 10 years from the front line of wars including Iraq and Afghanistan.

His symptoms have included nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia and mood swings.

Helping in his rehabilitation is his son, Jack, aged 7 who didn’t see a lot of his dad until this year.

Mr Ware was present at his son’s birth but split with Jack’s mother, also from Brisbane, when he returned to Afghanistan. He was able to visit his son every six to 12 months.

After leaving Brisbane Grammar School, Mr Ware completed a law degree at the University of Queensland and spent a year as an associate to then-president of the Queensland Court of Appeals, Tony Fitzgerald who presided over the Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption in the Queensland government in the 1980s.

A stint as a journalist in Brisbane primed him for the need to protect his sources that later became a matter of life-and-death in war zones.

Mr Ware’s graphic and unbiased reports made him a house-hold name overseas but he’s still a fairly well-kept secret at home.

He covered the Afghanistan war from 2001 and the Iraq war from 2003 for Time magazine before joining CNN in 2006.

In 2004, he was dragged from a car that was forced to stop after militant Islamist al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq pulled the pin on a grenade and held it to his head. He was placed under a banner and readied for his execution.

“They were going to film my death with my own camera,” he said.

Luckily a commander he knew told them he was his guest and under his protection so his life was spared. He was kidnapped on two other occasions in Iraq and is the only westerner to survive capture.

He has experienced the horrors of war from both sides as an embedded journalist with US and British troops as well as dressing and behaving like a local to try to understand the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“For better or for ill, everyone spoke to me and it took a lot of earning but everyone trusted me and I tried to live up to those trusts,” he said.

Mr Ware witnessed his first suicide bomb attack in Iraq when Australian ABC cameraman, Paul Moran was killed and reporter, Eric Campbell was wounded in 2003.

He carried a badly-wounded survivor of a landmine explosion to a hospital that had no medication. The boy’s wailing before he died still haunt his would-be saviour.

His exciting but disturbing lifestyle will feature on the ABC program, Australian Story tomorrow.

Australian Story is on ABC1 at 8pm tomorrow.