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Battle Group Crews, Families Reunited

Aired March 27, 2002 - 08:55   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And we take you live now to Norfolk, Virginia, where we are seeing one of the most glorious celebrations playing out. 7,000 men and women from a number of different services are now returning to American soil for the first time, and we just want to share some of this joy with you right now. We're just going to watch and listen here for a moment.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The question here, Paula, is whether these sailors can wait until it's time to disembark, or whether they'll jump off the deck. Obviously, no question about that, but there's a lot of excitement. Look at that right now. The excitement in the crowd. The excitement on deck. This is no stoic military phalanx of members of the crew, as they're waiting to get off. They're about to get off. They've been waving their flags and celebrating, cheering, trying to spot their family members in this crowd of about 15,000.

And of course, the people on the ground here have been trying to spot their loved ones on board the ship. Loved ones that they have not seen for over six months. A longer deployment than the usual deployment, they usually last exactly six months, but there were some problems with the successor ship of the Kennedy, so they had to delay it just a little bit. But now, they're finally home. These are the sailors and the other members of the service, Marines on board, who left on September 19, right after the tragedies of September 11, leaving behind families who -- even those who were used to being lonely for these extend deployments, were now more afraid, so many of them have told us, than they had been for a long time.

The ship was able to go through its entire assignment without one war-time casualty, one war-induced casualty. It flew thousands upon thousands of sorties, the different attack jets that flew from there. We saw the arrival of some of the pilots yesterday in a preview of this, but this is massive. This ship alone has 5,500 crew members. There are three other ships that will be coming in also. We saw, as I said yesterday, the return of planes, not just to the Norfolk area, two bases here, but to air bases in South Carolina, Florida, and in Washington State.

But now, the bulk of the people who are on board this massive aircraft carrier are coming back. An aircraft carrier that has been doing just constant work around the clock. They've been worked to death, 16 hour days have been common, but now they're coming home to their families. There's a euphoria here, as you might imagine. The people who have been in the crowd here have been here since -- some of them, like, 2:30 and 3:00 in the morning.

There have been all kinds of things to welcome them. There have been doughnuts that a manufacturer has been giving out. Many of the people are holding flowers that were given to them free. We see people who are trying to decide between laughter and tears.

Can you tell me, you're who I'm talking about. Tell me what your name is.

EUGENIA HISOSO (ph): Eugenia Hisoso (ph).

FRANKEN: And who are you waiting for?

HISOSO: My son Carlos.

FRANKEN: This is something, isn't it?

HISOSO: It is. I'm quite proud. I'm so proud of him. Proud of all of them.

FRANKEN: And you must have been -- a very frightening time for you, for your son to be gone.

HISOSO: Yes, it was. We had a bad experience in the family, so I'm waiting to get him off. So, I'm just happy he's home.

FRANKEN: And as you imagine, we're all very happy for you. Thank you for sharing a little bit of that. Here we have people of all ages, mothers, brothers, sisters, wives, children. We talked to one family yesterday where the person who was away had not seen his child yet. There are so many stories like that, and so many stories of people who have really missed the people who have been gone, and, of course, they're the men and women of the Navy in this particular case.

This was a ship that left here on September 19, as I said. And it went to Arabian Sea and at first, its activities were supposed to be shrouded in secrecy, but, of course, that was not the case very long. It became just a beehive of activity. Constantly, the planes were flying off, attack jets, and that type of thing, to do their attacks on Afghanistan, and so people here were very busy. It is dangerous work in many cases.

That deck is about 1,000 feet long. It's the kind of thing that can handle, the kind of thing you see so many times that handles the planes as they come in. And they can go from -- the catapults will take will take one of those jets -- this is one of those Cliff Claven facts, Paula -- the catapults will take the jets from this deck and send it out from zero to 150 miles an hour in two seconds and then when they come back, it takes them about 300 feet when they land to go from 150 miles an hour to zero. So it's the kind of thing that's very dramatic, as you see. Right now, the drama on that same deck is the drama of happiness. We see all the people, all the sailors waving, waving the flags and waving to their families just waiting to get off, which is going to be happening fairly soon. The ship is now in board and so there's this very long agonizing period. Well seems like it's a long period, probably about a half hour before the families are reunited. Paula, this is something that's a shame that you can't actually be here to see because it's quite an experience.

ZAHN: Boy, would I love to be there with you. I know you talked with a lot of family members over the last 48 hours and I know they talked about how they signed on to this kind of life. But tell us about some of the challenges some of these families have endured while husbands or wives have been off at sea, babies have been born. I know you just had that poignant interview with that mother who talked about loss of life in family that maybe her son doesn't even know about.

FRANKEN: Well, and the difficulty in, in today's cyber world, they are able to communicate but they only communicate by e-mail. As a matter of fact, and again, in the department of useless statistics that I have, they have something like 2,500 phones, but they're not able to use them very often. The members of the crew are able to watch TV, but most of the communications is strictly by e-mail. Thousands upon thousands of e-mails.

But there has been very little voice contact and for many of these families, there have been crises at home. Many, many of the families crises at home and so when they have found out about it on the ship and then of course they've been separated here, there's been just that added trauma, that added difficulty. In very, very severe hardship cases, of course, the person could be removed -- the crew member could be removed and brought back. But that is not the way it normally works. Yes, they signed on for it. Sometimes they're stoic about it. They have lots of support groups.

What you're watching right now, of course, is somebody spotted somebody.

ZAHN: So Bob, once these sailors and Marines get home, when -- how long will they be home and when can they expected to be deployed again?

FRANKEN: Well, probably about six months. Just one second here. Who did you see? Tell me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son. He's a Marine up there, so...

FRANKEN: Pretty emotional right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, gosh, yes. If he saw us and he waved -- I'm trying to find him -- it's hard to find the Marines up there.

FRANKEN: Tell me what's going through your mind right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to find him, again. I want to hold him.

FRANKEN: Quite a happy moment, isn't it?


FRANKEN: Have you been worried?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, gosh, yes. Where is he? Where is he?

ZAHN: Hey, Bob. Bob, can you hear me?

FRANKEN: Congratulations. Yes, Paula go ahead.

ZAHN: I don't know if you can see it, because unfurled, maybe, on the side of the ship that you can't see, is a huge banner, "Ashley McGee, will you marry me?"

FRANKEN: Well ...

ZAHN: We're counting on you to find Ashley in that crowd.

FRANKEN: We're going -- let me see. I don't see anybody who's fainted.

ZAHN: Exactly.

FRANKEN: I see a lot of people jumping up and down in happiness; possibly one of those is Ashley.

ZAHN: I know you've had a chance to spot the crowd out there this morning. How many brand new babies have you seen with moms waiting to see their husbands for the first time in six months?

FRANKEN: Well, you know, it's really interesting, Paula. The children, of course, are so very much a part of this. They are the ones who go through a lot of anxiety too, as you might imagine, as their fathers and mothers have been at sea. What was interesting too is last night we want what is a traditional night-before party before the reunion party and there's this huge support group. And you saw people with their children. They talked to each other. They helped each other. They really offer each other the kind of support that they missed when they spouses or brothers or sisters and sons are gone.

So this is something that while, routine in a way, is something they've done for a long time. This one, of course, was different. This one was followed -- this deployment followed the horror of September 11 by just a few days. So people were particularly frightened. They were frightened for their country at the time and particularly frightened for the people who were leaving.

So this particular reunion takes on an added excitement.

ZAHN: Boy, this is so wonderful to see played out. Now how -- I know you say the ship is board. How many more minutes might it before the -- our soldiers and Marines are able to hit ground for the first time?

FRANKEN: Well, remember this is the military and they will be the first ones to tell you that there's always a hurry up and wait. I think that this is the ultimate hurry up and wait. So probably say, I'm guessing, about another half hour.

But that really means is could take anywhere from half hour to an hour and a half. And they're just going to have to stand there. They're going to have to wave a lot at each other and wait for that moment they've been waiting for, so long.

ZAHN: Tell us, again, once these sailors and Marines and other members of the service get reacquainted with their families, what happens next today? Is there any official indoctrination that will take place today?

FRANKEN: Well I -- no. I think that what's going to happen is they're going to go home. Now the one thing that I think is worth talking about is the fact that everybody here is euphoric, of course, to see their loved ones coming back and all that. But all of the people talk about the fact that they're going to have to readjust. That they have gotten used to the dismal existence, if I can use that term, of being apart. But they have gotten used to it. In effect, the wives here have been single mothers for an extended period of time. The husbands have been off to sea living the on-the-edge life that they've been leading or the wives have been off to sea. That type of thing. There is a period of time where they have to get back into the rhythm of their lives before.

But it's the type of thing that they talk about a lot. All kinds of support groups, all kinds of counselors who deal with this kind of problem. So it's not that they're not equipped to handle as best they can but it's never something that they can handle happily until of course this moment when they're reunited.

ZAHN: Bob, I can watch this forever, Bob. It's extraordinary to see people spotting each other for the first time in six months. Extraordinary.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: There are some other -- there are other ships that inbound to Norfolk, Virginia along with the Roosevelt. Part of the aircraft carrier battle group. The United States is the only country in the world that operates these battle groups, which allows us as a super power to project military power literally to any corner of the world. The soldiers and the sailors and the Marines, no soldiers, but sailors and Marines abroad the carrier and the support ships operating 24-7 in the war against terrorism in the waters off Afghanistan.

The planes go out, drop their bombs come back, refuel, repair, rearm. The pilots of flight crews the same thing. But the battle group consists of several ships and there are three others that are also inbound to Norfolk, Virginia, as we understand it. Two guided missile cruisers, the USS Leyte Gulf and the USS Vella Gulf, a destroyer, the USS Peterson, all set to return to Norfolk and then there's an oiler, which is support ship as well for the battle group, the USS Detroit, which will return to the Earle Naval Weapons Stations in New Jersey.

7,000 additional American military personnel aboard those ships that are all homebound. And the admiral who is the commander of the Roosevelt Battle Group had interesting quote on wire story that I'm reading here.

"Everybody's got to make a stand sometimes. Our young men and women chose to make a stand for their families, for America and for their friends and they all realize this was going to be a life- changing event. And, indeed, it has been for them."

It goes, I guess, with the territory, when you listen to the military that their lives, obviously, and the lives of their families will never be the same.

And another interesting side bar to all of this that that flag that was ceremoniously raised by New York City firefighters at Ground Zero was eventually transferred to the Roosevelt. Before pulling into port this morning, that flag was returned to the firefighters that had given it to them. It flew over the Roosevelt during its time on station in Afghanistan. The flag now has been returned and will presumably find its way back to New York City.

But all of the personnel aboard these various support ships in conjunction with the Roosevelt, they, too, set to reunite with their families as they make into port down in Norfolk and in one case up here in New Jersey.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: This was 189-day mission. They spent 159 consecutive days at sea without port of call, which is a record for an aircraft carrier. Just, you can't imagine being away from loved ones for that amount of time.

ZAHN: So Bob, feel free to spend some more time with some of these family members as they await their very personal reunions here.

FRANKEN: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. We're talking right now with one you just saw him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. He's waving at us. It's so neat when he can see us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From the green uniform up there. He's a Marine.

FRANKEN: So what you're seeing Paula is the excitement. I don't have to explain it, of course, but you know they're seeing each other for the first time. There's such a sense of relief. You know ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six months is a long time. Very long time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His grandmother. I'm his grandmother.

FRANKEN: OK, we see another one who's spotted him. You seeing him for the first time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, that's my grandson.

FRANKEN: Your grandson?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. A Marine, right yonder. FRANKEN: I think we're in the Marine corner here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got two in there. Two grandsons.

FRANKEN: On board?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, not on this one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My daughter is up there.

FRANKEN: Do you see her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, I see her. Yeah. Katie Gonzalez (ph).

FRANKEN: How exciting, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, it is. I came from New Jersey.

FRANKEN: You're from New Jersey?


FRANKEN: You haven't spotted yours yet, have you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I haven't spotted mine. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), baby.

FRANKEN: Needless to say, this the happy crowd right now. I don't think we're going to find. -- have you spotted yours yet?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I haven't spotted him yet.

FRANKEN: Looking hard, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sir. Looking hard for him.

FRANKEN: People taking pictures, looking and looking and looking. This is remarkable. They have -- you know they are rope lines here and that type of thing to try and maintain some order. They're barely doing it at the moment and really nobody cares. You see yours, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, he's up there.

CAFFERTY: I don't know if it ...


FRANKEN: Unreal. How are you feeling?


ZAHN: So, Bob, I don't want to dampen the enthusiasm of the celebration but I think it might be interesting for you to explain to all of us about some of the other sacrifices these family members have made. We know the horrible emotional toll this has taken on them. But describe to us what some of the families had to live through financially. There's you know so much of a debate in Washington right now about raising the salaries of those who serve in the armed services. What are they confronting?

FRANKEN: Well, since the pay isn't that great to a great extent, they usually -- it requires both members of the family to handle the types of things that they need to do and quite frankly, many of the people who are deployed often times will have a second job. So that becomes a problem.

But quite frankly, I think that the larger problem is just the emotional strain. The emotional strain, frankly, of the loneliness, somebody you know with whom your were close, somebody you love is suddenly gone away and gone away to an area that is hazardous. So it has to be in back of your mind always, I would think and I know this to be a fact from so many I've talked to what if something wrong happens?

We had a report on earlier this morning -- you might remember Paula -- with the father of young man who fell down off that flight deck, fell overboard. Came very close to being killed, being sucked into the ship's propellers. That kind of thing, he gets a cryptic message, I'm OK but I fell overboard. Can you imagine being the parent and having to worry that type of thing happening to your child or being the husband or wife and having to worrying about that? Being in war zone in a world that was so volatile.

So can you imagine, also, the sense of relief, the euphoric sense of relief that these people are experiencing that somebody that they were so concerned about, so worried about is home safe and just a few feet from them? Just about to disembark and be able to hug the person who they've been far away from for so long. So empty and lonely far away.

ZAHN: What was interesting about that particular father was that he himself had served our country. And it, obviously, is a benefit now knowing his son is OK but it was so powerful to hear him talk about how relieved he was that his son was coming home and that could have been catastrophic. As you said, he was so perilously close to being sucked into one of those engines off the carrier.

FRANKEN: But you know, it's interesting too Paula. You will remember that in his case it was almost understated concern. It was almost mechanical. And I think that that's something that you've seen here. There's stoicism because people have been told from day one that they're going to -- that they are going to have to -- they -- I'm sorry. I was just talked to by one of military people here -- that they're going to have to be stoic about this. This something they signed on for. We talked about that a moment ago.

So they, as best they can, keep their emotions in check. But, the emotions are nevertheless there. And there are emotions that range all the way from anxiety, worse than anxiety to just missing your loved one. So that's what they have to go through. And we were talking a moment ago to Nicole Conray (ph) here and she was talking about the fact that their first anniversary they were spent apart. And what did she do on that anniversary for the most part, mostly cried.

ZAHN: And I know that, obviously, all these family members want to think about is the reunion today. But how much speculation is there that any of these Marines and other members of the services will be deployed again if military there is a military action against Iraq?

I think we've lost Bob here for a moment.

FRANKEN: OK. We're going to be -- we're just -- Paula we're getting -- I'm going to try to talk to somebody here. Can you see? We have a woman here holding a sign saying, "Billy our hero." Now I have to ask you who's Billy?


FRANKEN: He's your son.


FRANKEN: Tell me about him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm very proud of him. And he's -- I'm just very proud of him and I'm so glad he came home safe. And I love him. I love him very much.

FRANKEN: How did you feel while he was gone?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was -- I prayed a lot. And I just -- I got on my Internet every day for e-mail and that was the only contact we could have except for a few phone calls. I miss him desperately.

FRANKEN: Tell me about your son. He is a Marine or sailor?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a sailor. His name is Billy. He's 29 years old. He's an old sailor. He just went in a year ago, and then they took him out. And he's very proud of himself. And this is his wife.


FRANKEN: How are you feeling right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm very excited. Very, very excited.

FRANKEN: Where are you from?


FRANKEN: Yeah, you can tell that you're very, very cool and blase about this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've waited for this moment for a long time. We've been -- we just pray that everything would go well and ...



FRANKEN: Been scary for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very scary. Very. But he's home safely.

FRANKEN: So do you plan a vacation, a little time apart?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We're going to go to Mexico in June.

FRANKEN: Wonderful. This -- is this your first time?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes, it is. And my other son is in the Navy too and he's in South Carolina so this is really been a big year for us. Both of my boys went in the Navy this past -- in the past year. It's been a big year for us.

FRANKEN: And one of them is back?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And one of them is back.


FRANKEN: Congratulations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you very much.

FRANKEN: You know the longer you go, the more you get the recreations of that story. People who are so happy. I mean you know this is such a cliche. You have to forgive. You know so happy they can't stop crying. And that's something that we're seeing wherever we turn right now, Paula.

ZAHN: Bob, we're going to give you a moment or two to catch a breath and track down some new family members as they await their reunions. And Jack and Anderson, as we continue to bask in the glory of the pictures. This is really one of the first collective celebrations I think the whole nation has been able to enjoy. You think about where these Marines and sailors are based. They work all over the country. You know families flying in days ago so they could prepare for this moment and, of course, later today all of them returning to their home scattered all across the country.

CAFFERTY: Yeah, I was sitting here watching this and mind took me back to the day that President Bush came to Ground Zero for the first time in New York. And he walked around down there with the bullhorn speaker in his hand. Do you remember? And he was talking to the rescue workers within days of this thing having happened and somebody hollered at him from the crowd and he turned and he said, I can hear you. And he said and the people who knocked these buildings down are going to hear from all of you very soon.

Well, this is the mail service right here coming back to Norfolk, Virginia. They took the message and went over there and they delivered it. And there was some question about the resolve that existed in this country in the wake of what happened at the Twin Towers, how would America respond? Would we make a lot of noise and do nothing, you know, paper tiger? Or would there be some crystallization of thing anger and the moral outrage that would lead to some sort of definitive action.

Well, President Bush emerged from some sort of rather muddy identity as the newly-elected president to take command of this country and its armed forces and to guide the emotions of the American people in the direction of what the folks were watching here where willing to step up and pay in the way of price for what happened. And I just remember him saying the people who knocked these buildings down are going to hear from all of us very soon. Well it's just great to see the Pony Express getting home here. They went over there and delivered the message loud and clear.

ZAHN: Oh, boy, did they ever. Bob is standing by and I think you have the opportunity to talk to some more family members here.

FRANKEN: OK. Let's do that right now. You've been yelling and screaming and you've seen your loved one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. I love him. Oh, boy, gosh.

FRANKEN: Tell me about him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's in V2 (ph). This is his fourth cruise. It's his last cruise, thank God. I'm so happy. Oh, boy. I get e-mail everyday, four or five at a time.

FRANKEN: OK. Are you happy?


FRANKEN: Your suddenly gotten shy on me here, what happened?


FRANKEN: This is called death in television, guys.

ZAHN: You're doing -- you're doing beautifully there, Bob.

FRANKEN: OK. Let me -- let me just ask you this. Tell me about your husband. What was he doing on the ship? What's his name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kevin Bernard Tate (ph). He's in V2.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A division -- a division supplier (ph).

FRANKEN: And it has been scary -- you see him, right?


FRANKEN: You've been waving at him?


FRANKEN: He's gone in?


FRANKEN: Well that's good news, isn't it?


FRANKEN: How are you feeling?


FRANKEN: Things just picked up here, folks. As I understand it, you're from Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'm from Russia.

FRANKEN: And you're waiting for whom?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For my husband and I think you -- I think he is trying to call me right now -- no, actually, no, it's my sister. Well, we immigrated from Russia in 1990, and he became a citizen, and then we decided he's going to join the military, so he could help go through his college and help him -- us, you know, to move from Cleveland, Ohio somewhere that's warmer. So fortunately, Virginia Beach is very nice.

FRANKEN: Most places warmer than Cleveland, Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes. So we live in Cleveland, we're happy to be in America. It's the greatest scene in the world. It's the most beautiful thing you can imagine to see the ship coming, pulling over, and see all the beautiful people who fighted for freedom because we came to America for freedom. So I love it! I love it!

FRANKEN: So let me guess; you're happy.


FRANKEN: And you? Are you ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Christina (ph).

FRANKEN: This is Christina. Are you happy?


FRANKEN: What are you going to say to your daddy when you see him?

CHRISTINA: I love you.

FRANKEN: I love you. There's nothing better you can say. Thank you very much. Congratulations. Shall we move on? Wherever we turn, there's a story to tell here, folks.

ZAHN: Hey, Bob, you can move on all morning long. Listen, there is nothing more exciting and more beautiful happening in the country at this time.

FRANKEN: You know, it was interesting, Paula. It was interesting. The secretary of the Navy was here and was repeatedly -- people were asked do you want to interview them? And the answer for the most part was, well, thank you Mr. Secretary, but the story really is -- well the story that we've been telling in just the last couple of minutes. So he's been sort of walking around, and he finally just went over and started to talking to the families too. Have you seen her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, we already saw her.

FRANKEN: Is it your dad?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. It's my cousin, Kim.

FRANKEN: Your what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My cousin, Kim Peters.

FRANKEN: You really. You saw him?


FRANKEN: Exciting?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. We're really proud to have her back. We're really happy.

FRANKEN: I think everybody is.


FRANKEN: Congratulations. OK. Let's see. We talk to proud father here. Look at this. Look at this. You've taken pictures of him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You like that, huh? God Bless America! The boys, they had a good trip. They're finally home.

FRANKEN: So send them home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're finally home.

FRANKEN: Tell me about your son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless them. He's a terrific fellow. He was in the reserves and got then got called up to serve his country, and he went. That's it. What can I tell you. We're proud of him.

FRANKEN: Very proud of him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, thank you.

FRANKEN: But probably kind of frightened that he was gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, very much so. But I guess it has to be. Had his calling, he lived up to it.

FRANKEN: And I noticed you've been taking video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yeah, well something for him to look at when he gets home.

FRANKEN: Thank you very much. Congratulations. You know what's so interesting about that in this 21st century is that all the people here shooting video and as you're look up at deck as people were arriving, they too had their video cameras and they were shooting the arrival. So everybody, of course, wants to preserve this moment. Such a happy moment in the lives of so many people.

About 15,000 who are in the crowd here. And they all have similar stories. They're all, on the one hand, near tears and on the other one, euphoric enough that it doesn't take much to get them screaming with joy.

ZAHN: Bob, you talked to such a cross section of people. And I guess I was particularly moved by that women from Russia whose husband is about to stand on American soil for the first time who talked rather poignantly about what it means to be here in America, and what a source of pride she has in her husband and in this new country of hers.

CAFFERTY: I wonder if we can get back to that shot we just had of that other ship steaming toward port. We mentioned a few minutes ago that there's a carrier battle group consisting of not just the aircraft carrier Roosevelt but some other ships as well. And looks to be one of the -- one of the guided missile cruisers, either the USS Leyte Gulf or the USS Vella Gulf along with the destroyer, the USS Peterson and an oiler, the USS Detroit, all homeward bound, all but the Detroit will dock in Norfolk. The Detroit will sail to Earle Naval Weapon Station in New Jersey. But there are a total of 7,000 sailors on these other ships who's families are all anxiously awaiting their return.

And then in addition, the aircraft carrier battle group carries a lot of aircraft and those flew off the deck of the Roosevelt yesterday apparently. 60 fighter aircraft left the deck of the Roosevelt yesterday morning to return to bases in Virginia, South Carolina, Florida and all the way across in Washington State. And then there were six helicopters aboard as well. SH-60 helicopters set to fly off early this morning about three hours before the carrier due to pull in to Norfolk Naval Air Station.

So in addition to the people that we've been seeing and visiting with, there are other families, even all the way out in Washington, who are excited on this day as the personnel return home after a long, long stent. ANDERSON: Also a lot of people's thoughts are this morning are with the soldiers and the sailors and the airmen and women who are still overseas and are probably watching some of these pictures and looking forward to the day that they too can return home. We have a lot of homecoming still to come. It's a lot of happy moments to come.

ZAHN: Yeah. I'm sure they're feeling some bittersweet emotions knowing that the challenge that their loved ones face as they continue to serve the nation.

Bob, have you found another mother or sister or father or son to talk to?

FRANKEN: All of the above. But right now we're talking to the mother of a -- not a son but a ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... a daughter, Kimberly Peters (ph). She's in EW-3, and she's spotted us, and she was crying just as hard as we were.

FRANKEN: I was going to say, you weren't exactly sitting here with no expression on your face.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no. We're very happy. We're very happy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very emotional moment. Very nice.

FRANKEN: You are ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My granddaughter.

FRANKEN: Your granddaughter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My granddaughter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My granddaughter.

FRANKEN: And ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dad is over here.

FRANKEN: Gee, the whole family's here. The whole family's here. And you even had binoculars there and you spotted her. So were you reserved when you saw her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, for a few moments I was. I did pretty well.

FRANKEN: Well those moments have obviously gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. They're gone. Now it's a free-for- all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now we're just anxious to get our hands on her.

FRANKEN: What's that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anxious to get our hands on her.

FRANKEN: Well that's going to happen pretty soon. Anyway, congratulations. And you?


FRANKEN: A wife.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A wife, yeah. I'm waiting for him to come off.

FRANKEN: Have you seen him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I haven't spotted him yet.

FRANKEN: That's a little frustrating.


FRANKEN: Well it soon is going to be over. Is this -- this is son of?


FRANKEN: Are you excited?


FRANKEN: What is the first thing you're going to say to him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That I love and that I missed him.

FRANKEN: Missed him a lot, huh? How's it been with him gone like this? Was this his first deployment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since we've been married, yes. It was. It was hard. Some getting used to.

FRANKEN: Something to get used to but ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something to get use to, yes.

FRANKEN: But I think it'll be much nicer to get used to him being back home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes it will.

FRANKEN: Is this a little scary for you?


FRANKEN: I mean, you know, this was -- they left right after the September 11, so this must have been -- it must have been kind of tough on both of you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was really hard on us and scared.

FRANKEN: Well you made it!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, with a lot of prayers.

FRANKEN: Congratulations.


FRANKEN: Well look at this. Look at this. This might get one of the creativity awards here. OK, now, what does this say?


FRANKEN: What is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: IT3 Contreras. She's right there. Right by the flag. She's right there. That's her right there. My wife.

FRANKEN: Excited, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very excited. Very, extremely excited.

FRANKEN: Tell me what it's been like with her gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's been horrible. Horrible. You know, I miss my wife so much for six months. We're both in the Navy, so there's always one of us gone, so I'm always glad to have her back.

FRANKEN: That's really quite a story. I can tell that you are -- you can see that's she's welcomed back in style. Did you do this all by yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All by my myself.

FRANKEN: All by your yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One o'clock in the morning.

FRANKEN: One o'clock in the morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One o'clock, one-thirty, headed out. Been here since 7 o'clock.

FRANKEN: You know that looks like something that might have been made at one o'clock in the morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, really. Half asleep.

FRANKEN: At any rate, congratulations. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you.

FRANKEN: You know -- as a matter of fact, this is an interesting point. There are any number of couples who are both in the Navy and it's not uncommon that one of them is gone so, you know, they spent a huge amount of time alone. We interviewed a spouse yesterday, a man, who was -- had been deployed a lot of times, in fact, he's had his maximum number of times at sea and his wife was gone. So this is not an uncommon story. Many people, of course, are in the same society, do get married and in this particular society, life can be very hard and very lonely -- Paula.

ZAHN: Bob, as you've been talking with some of the families, we've learned from the Navy among the first servicemen and -- to be able to get off the ship will be the new fathers who in some cases haven't even seen pictures of their newborns who arrived while they were away at sea. I don't know if you have any sense of who will be able to disembark after that?

FRANKEN: I'm sorry, say, again, Paula.

ZAHN: Do you how the Navy will determine who gets off after them?

FRANKEN: I think it's done by rank. The normal way is that rank has it's privileges. So that will -- they will probably be all kinds of embellishment, but for the most part, it will be done that way.

And you bring about the father seeing children for the first time, sometimes children who are now developed into toddlers, and there is a concern among many of the people who I talked to what that first meeting is going to be like. To the child, the father is going to be stranger. It's a very delicate moment.

We witnessed one yesterday that went so very well. The father was seeing a 5-month-old child for the first time, a 5-month-old child for the first time, and the child immediately took to him. It was really a very pleasant things and relief to both parents.

Did you spot him again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's right there. She's got the hands. Her arms are up like that. She's right there.

FRANKEN: This is live television, folks.

COOPER: Also what's great.

FRANKEN: Skip, if you can turn around.

COOPER: What's also great as Bob talks to the crowd is you realize the diversity that is in our military today. I mean, they're brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends. They're from Russia, and the Philippines, Mexico, and this morning, they are all Americans, and all heroes and all home this morning. ZAHN: And we have just learned some of them, Bob, we have been told by our producer, are standing on American soil for the first time. As soon as we can train cameras on them.

Here we go. We will take that shot.

And, Bob, you can feel free to continue with family members, but we are going to keep this one camera trained on these very first reunions we are going to see.

FRANKEN: Are you aware they're walking off now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Standing on the deck talking to me right there.


FRANKEN: The situation here, Paula, is the gentleman right now is talking to his son on his cell phone as he's walking off the ship. They are waving now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's standing, right directly in line with him.

I see You, bill.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see the guy with the camera out here.

FRANKEN: You notice how reserved everybody is here.

ZAHN: Bob, I can't think of any more joyful place to be.

FRANKEN: Paula, both you and I are parents, and you know, there's nothing that would probably be harder on a parent -- I know you'll agree, than having to have your child off in harm's way like that, and the euphoria that would occur when son or daughter comes back home is something that just can't really be described.

ZAHN: I can't even imagine the transition these young Marines and sailors will have to make when they get home. You know, coming off this challenge of trying to make sure that their lives (ph) were in peril, and then coming home to August the regular day to day stuff they have to deal with as they try to rebuild their family life.

CAFFERTY: You know, it's precious time, too, Paula, because in the background of all of this is the drumbeat of the war against terrorism, and it goes on, and there's talk about what may happen to a place like Iraq, and whether American military personnel might be called upon in some capacity there, and the Philippines, and Yemen and Indonesia, and on and on and on as President Bush has made clear this is not a short-term situation, that the war on terrorism, in order to be prosecuted effectively, is going to take a long time.

So how long these people are going to be home and what they may be called upon to do next is an unknown. You can bet they will make precious good use of the time available for these reunions.

ZAHN: Jack, I think you raise an interesting point that Bob could probably amplify, which is all the speculation about how long this commitment will be. You've talked with a number of folks in the Pentagon. Bob, what is this speculation? Is there anticipation Iraq is next? And if so, when?

FRANKEN: Well, there is considerable speculation about that of course, and as we've been told, considerable discussion within the administration about the merits of that and the timing of that, the war on terrorism, which, of course, is what this is called in the larger sense, is described as open ended. We have no sense whatsoever that the military is going to stand down a little bit.

So the impression one gets is that this scale of operation, the intensity of operation, is going to continue. And what that means for the people here today is that they should expect maybe in six months' time another deployment.

So it's a very harrowing time, and these are the people for which most harrowing.

ZAHN: Bob, I know you can't see this from your perspective, but we are seeing some of the new dads now make their way to their wives and their newborns. We have a little bit of a walk here.

FRANKEN: Such a remarkable experience, Paula.

Again, we got to witness it yesterday from close up. I can't think of anything that would be more emotional than that.

ZAHN: We are just going to pause and watch some of this to absorb as much of this as we can as possible. It's really, really powerful.

COOPER: It's just extraordinary when you consider they've been away for some six months, and as we see the new dads come down off the ship now, seeing their children for the first time, leaving when their wives are several months pregnant, and come back and find a new life and a new family. I can't imagine.

ZAHN: Bob, you were talking about how these families communicated, primarily on the Internet. I guess there were phone calls here and there. Is there any talk about changing procedures to allow families more time to communicate when they serve at sea?

FRANKEN: Actually, the Internet has been a blessing to people in this particular situation, a blessing because beforehand they really didn't have ways, but one of the quick facts that I have about the ship is that it was something like -- I'm looking at notes now -- they tell you has something like 2,500 -- more than 2,500 phones. They are able now to communicate much better than they were, and so you can get through, although the use of the phone is somewhat limited, because of security concerns and just because this is ship with 2,500 phones but 5,500 members of the crew.

One of the members of the crew is this -- is your assistant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, her name is Julliane Cumberford (ph). She's a postal clerk. It's really cool, like she gets, you know, all the care packages and stuff, she gets that in the mail office. And she really knows if she doesn't get any mail, so that's helped us in keeping sending her care packages and stuff, so it's really cool.

FRANKEN: You said really cool, right?


FRANKEN: But nowhere near as cool as this, is it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no, this is awesome. It is such an exciting feeling here. Everybody is waiting for somebody, and you know, such a patriotic feeling. It's just great.

FRANKEN: So that was cool; this is awesome.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that's pretty much it.

FRANKEN: Got to keep track of these things.

How do you feel, besides awesome?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so excited. I can't wait to see her. And it's really cool -- because when she e-mailed us, she couldn't tell us much about where she was and what she did because of security, so it's going to be neat to just hear where she went, and you know, where the ship was and stuff like that, how she liked living on ship for 6 1/2 months. I don't think I could do that.

FRANKEN: How old she, and how old are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's 21, and I am 15 in a few weeks.

FRANKEN: She's a big sister.


FRANKEN: Are you a tiny bit proud of your big sister?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm way proud of it. I tell everybody, my sister is on the Theodore Roosevelt.

FRANKEN: Is this yours?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Not her, but the daughter is, yes.

That's Gillian (ph), very proud of her.

FRANKEN: You must be really relieved that she's back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a big relief. We're just happy to have her back home where we can visit with a little more leisure than what it is now, or has been.

FRANKEN: What are you going to when you see her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to give her a big hug and take her away and not let anybody else see her until I'm done with her.

FRANKEN: You want to do this, too?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't think it's for me. I actually want to work with children.

But I think, you know, it's a good career. If you can do it, go for it. I don't think that I'm that type of person. But she is. She definitely is, and it's a good career for her, and I'm proud of her.

FRANKEN: Does your sister know how much you love her?


Yes, I think she does.

FRANKEN: Did you see her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I haven't. I'm looking for her, but I'm not sure what -- you know, it's kind of hard to pick her out of all these people, but I'm trying.

FRANKEN: I have the feeling she'll have the same big smile on her face as you do.


Yes, I'm sure she's ready to get back home.

FRANKEN: Congratulations.

ZAHN: Bob, what you're not able to see at this point are some really nice close-ups of sailors seeing some of their toddlers for the first time obviously in six months, some being reunited with the newborn that -- babies that were born after they left at sea. I guess as we all sit here and watch this, it makes us all feel proud to be American. We're proud of the service all of these people did. And you wonder long term the impact all of this has not only on national psyche, but on the military's ability to continue to recruit people.

Recruitment is up, isn't it?

FRANKEN: Recruitment is up. And, of course, patriotism is up, quite frankly, in the United States.

I've had talks with any number of military people over an extended period of time, and the military to some degree had gone into disrepute in the United States, that life, the post-Vietnam feelings about the military, had caused regard for it as an institution to wane. But now in the United States, after what has happened, there is a reinvigoration of regard for the military. They're feeling it. They are grateful for it. The families are grateful for it.

As you can see, they're here celebrating with their country as people come back. We are seeing some walking past now. Skip, if you can pan to your left to show some of them walking past the crowds here, people who are just off the ship, walking past us for the first time, back on American soil for the first time, heading for their loved one as quickly as they can find them in the crowd and begin their time back together after more than six months.

COOPER: Also it bears pointing out again, the USS Roosevelt left from the United States September 19th, just a few days after September 11th. It is the longest deployment in history nine days longer than the previous record, which was 152 days in 1980 of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower -- 159 consecutive days at sea without a port of call. The mission was 189 days long, just an extraordinary amount of time to be away.

Onboard Admiral Robert J. Nanner (ph) this morning flew out onboard the ship. He was the commander in chief of the USS Atlantic fleet. And he said -- quote -- "We still have 30 ships out there and thousands of shipmates who continue to do the job. I give credit to the fact that everybody's head was in the game.

CAFFERTY: And they lost no one because of enemy activity during this entire sting at sea. They didn't suffer a single casualty because of the war, so everybody that left is coming home, and that's about as good as a record you can compile.

COOPER: Also, Mark Fitzgerald, the commander of Roosevelt battle group said -- quote -- "Everybody has got to make a stand some time. Young men and women chose to make a stand for their families, for America, for their friends. They all realized this was going to be a life-changing event."

ZAHN: Not only has it been a life-changing event for them and for their families, but for the whole nation.

CAFFERTY: You wonder what their impressions would be, too. As you mentioned, they left here eight days after the Trade Center towers came down, the Pentagon was attacked and the plane crashed in Pennsylvania. This country has gone through huge sea changes emotionally and in terms of prioritizing where we are going as a nation.

You wonder how much they will be confronted with the starkness of the changes that have happened here at home. We're not as aware of it, because we've been here and witnessed on a daily basis. But If you're on aircraft carrier thousands of miles away in the ocean, and suddenly you climb to confront country that's changed as much as our has, it will be interesting to get impressions once they're home of the country they come back to verses the one they left.

ZAHN: Particularly since the debate continues to be so ferocious about what direction the United States should move in.

CAFFERTY: Yes. ZAHN: You know, and we continue so see that played out in Congress now.

CAFFERTY: In Congress, there's a fierce debate. Among the members of the tax-paying public, there has been a unanimity of opinion that is almost startling in its one-sidedness since the September 11th events. Opinion poll after opinion poll showing this country firmly behind the president and behind the nation's military in the efforts to prosecute those responsible for the worst attack on American soil ever, which is what that thing on September 11th was. And the public support of all this has been unwavering.

ZAHN: Which explains the high approval ratings President Bush has now, but there is a concern in the administration that there has to be at some point some kind of end point, that you can sustain that kind of public support forever, and I think that obviously has had a great impact on the debate what you do about Iraq. We have seen, you know, even waffling within the administration about whether now is the time to do it. We've heard talk about the military forces really not being ready for maybe another six months to launch a full-scale attack against Iraq, and you even have American allies like Great Britain, saying not now.

CAFFERTY: It remains to be seen of course how it will play out. Great Britain wasn't attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists on September 11th.

ZAHN: Although they lost a number of British citizens.

CAFFERTY: They did, and a lot of other countries did as well. And I guess until the intelligence community gets a better handle on how widespread these Muslim fundamentalists are, how dangerous they might be, to what dough don't have access to weapons of mass destruction, to what degree regimes like Saddam Hussein are going to be able to brought to heel and enabling terrorist to perpetrate their heinous crimes against the rest of humanity.

It does remain a bit of an open question, because my guess, they don't know yet. They don't know how many. They don't know how dangerous. They don't how determined. They don't know where. And until they can get a better handle on those things, I guess it is a bit of an open question.

ZAHN: On the issue of Iraq, of course, you have -- this is all happening on the backdrop of negotiations with the Iraqis, you know, will they allow inspectors? And if they do, that buys them a little bit more time in the negotiating process.

CAFFERTY: Interesting, isn't it, that once the "axis of evil" comments were made, suddenly Saddam Hussein is talking about, well, maybe we will let inspectors in, maybe we will want to come and talk at the U.N., maybe we will be a little more amenable to some sort of dialogue here, where there was nothing forthcoming from this regime before that.

ZAHN: Let's check in with Bob now, who has changed his position, and see if he can catch up with any of these servicemen and servicewomen coming home -- Bob.

FRANKEN: They haven't come yet. They will be starting. What we will see in just a moment is people coming off the ship. We've been moved a little bit away from the families here, because they have got a lot of nerve, they won't allow the sailors get close to their families.

At any rate, I just talked to a woman a moment ago. This is a little bit self-indulgent. Did you just get off?


FRANKEN: Congratulations.

Let me ask your name.


FRANKEN: And you're looking for your family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they're just outside the gate.

FRANKEN: They're outside the gate?


FRANKEN: How do you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glad to be back. It's my eighth six-month deployment since I've been in the Navy, and it's nice to finally be back home.

FRANKEN: Who is waiting for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife, my three kids, and my mom and dad.

FRANKEN: Probably been the longest cruise of your life, was this one coming back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually no, I've done an 8 1/2 month deployment before. I've done long ones before that we've had to do. This one was really all that bad, only little over a week longer, so.

FRANKEN: We're seeing the officers get off now, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, officers and chief getting off right now, and then they'll be followed by the first class and then the rest.

FRANKEN: We're waiting for somebody as a matter of fact who is an E-3. He will be a while, won't he?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will maybe be about 30 minutes, and then they should doing the E-3s.

FRANKEN: How do you feel right now? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great. Really great. It's going to be a nice feeling to be back home with my wife and kids.

FRANKEN: Well, congratulations. I'm not going to stop you any longer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.

FRANKEN: Thank you.

As you can see, we're seeing the brass getting off the boat now.

Anybody you want to say to America?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glad to be home. Thank you.

FRANKEN: That probably sums up the feeling of just about everybody.

Hello. Welcome back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks a lot. Glad to be back. You know what I think there are very few of us who are going to want to stop very long to talk to us right now.

ZAHN: I don't blame them. But keep on trying, Bob. Keep on trying.

FRANKEN: I'm going to keep on trying. I'm seeing -- wait a minute, I see an enlisted man, somebody who snuck out. No, he's actually a chief.

But we're getting the high-ranking ones first.

Hi, what's your name, sir?


FRANKEN: Where is your family?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife is right there, I hope.

Meet you over there, hon.

FRANKEN: Hon is going to be met over there.

ZAHN: You almost found yourself smack dab in the middle of that reunion there, Bob.

FRANKEN: I thought that one of two things was going to happen. I was going to get trampled, or we would have a moment.

ZAHN: But you might have one of those yet to come.

FRANKEN: This is not going to one of the more aggressive interview tries that I am going to do. But here's we have somebody with this flag in his rucksack (ph).

Hi, what's your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name's Patrick Server (ph).

FRANKEN: What is your family?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully standing outside right now.

FRANKEN: You haven't seem them.


FRANKEN: Who is waiting for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My wife and my daughter.

FRANKEN: How does it feel?


FRANKEN: I knew the answer to that. You have got a wife and daughter and haven't seen them for six months. What's it been like being separated?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been hard being away from the family, but we were out there for the reason. And we accomplished everything that we wanted to accomplish. And it's good to be home.

FRANKEN: Proud to be home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Proud to be home.

And feel sorry for the guys out there missing their families, and the Air Force and the other guys still out there. They're working hard, and good luck to you, guys.

FRANKEN: Congratulations.


FRANKEN: I think we'll let him go there.

And look at this, look at this.

Do you see your family?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Following the umbrella. See the umbrella. See it moving. I have to move with the umbrella, man. I have to follow the umbrella. I'm home!

FRANKEN: It means you're not going to stop and talk, right?


FRANKEN: Look at this, look at this. Look at this.

QUESTION: What's your name, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lieutenant M.T. Newman.

QUESTION: How does it feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels awesome. I can't wait to be back. It's just a great feeling.

FRANKEN: It's been a long time coming, hasn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been, 159 days at sea, and an extra 30 that we stayed out. It's great to be back. I just hope that everybody remembers that we still have guys out there on the line, and I hope that they can do the same thing when they come back home. I hope America appreciates as much as they did for us, too.

FRANKEN: Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lexington, Kentucky.

QUESTION: How are you feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm feeling awesome. Thank you.

QUESTION: Your girlfriend and mother have been waiting a long time for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been waiting a long time for them, too.

QUESTION: Now you dart out of here. Where are you going?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to dart out, and then we have to come back in, and then we have to walk back.

FRANKEN: Tell me about your existence there. Were you in harm's way a lot of the time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was actually the flight surgeon, so I'm actually the medical officer for the entire airwing, and I also fly with a lot of the aircraft, depending on what aircraft going up. I fly with the U2s, the F-14s from time to time. So I wasn't necessarily in harm's way so much, but every time the pilots come back, they had to come to me and talk to me about it. So it was a good time. So that's why my job was.

FRANKEN: What like to be separated from your loved one for such an extended period?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You kind of get into a momentum where you don't really think about it too much. Every day kind of blends into the next one. You write e-mail. We have got a lot of good communication with them. Telephone sometimes. We can call back and forth, and e-mail works real well. But it's difficult, and the I don't think I want to do in near future again. FRANKEN: What's the morale like onboard?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The morale was exceptional the entire time. They did a great job the whole time. Everybody was really excited. We had job to do. We were really focused. Nobody lost sight of what we were doing for 159 days, and I think that's testament to the morale of crew, and they did a great job.

FRANKEN: Let me guess, I think you want to end this interview, don't you?


COOPER: Bob, one of the officers you were talking to a few moments before said this was his eighth six-month deployment, eighth six-month deployment. He was very blase about it, but when you think about it, being away for a total of four years over the course of a marriage, over the course of the life of your children. It's just an extraordinary sacrifice.

ZAHN: It's a long time.

FRANKEN: I believe if I'm right that the maximum is 10 before they have to pack it in. But anyway, yes, that is the life of the United States Navy and the life of the military.

ZAHN: I thought it was quite generous of the servicemen and servicewomen to remind all of us that they're still 30 ships out there with thousands of Americans that are obviously still in harm's way. Very much still on their minds even though they're enjoying this joy of being reunited with their families for the first time in six months.

FRANKEN: And here we have one reunited here.

Can you talk to us for a second?


FRANKEN: Tell me about who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Lieutenant Commander Jim Fitzgerald. I'm the ordinance handling officer onboard Theodore Roosevelt.

FRANKEN: And you are?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife, Deborah.


FRANKEN: Tell me about this experience, from both of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once in a lifetime. It's my final cruise. 10th and final cruise. I'm retiring after this one, so what a way to end.

FRANKEN: I bet you're happy about that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes. I'm ready.

FRANKEN: How long have you been married?


FRANKEN: And how long in the service?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-six years.

FRANKEN: You've been going through this for how many times?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A bunch, too many. Too many.

FRANKEN: This one had to different than the others.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was great. Wonderful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely a different meaning.

FRANKEN: And was it more nerve-wracking for you this time?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not really, just watching TV seeing what was going on. But great to have him home.

FRANKEN: Did you feel like out of touch when you're out there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, e-mail. Modern technology worked great.

FRANKEN: So that is a big difference?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a huge difference.

FRANKEN: It makes a big difference to you.


FRANKEN: Well, I'm willing to bet that you really don't want to spend an awful lot of time talking on television.




ZAHN: Bob, I must say your instincts so finally honed after spending so many years at the Pentagon, and also being a father and a grandfather.

FRANKEN: And all of that. Who is a grandfather? Let's not age me more.

ZAHN: Someone told me you had grandchild. They goofed. They goofed.


ZAHN: I was so impressed with the way you dealt with the little kids yesterday. You could tell you're a loving father by the way you treated them.

FRANKEN: What we are seeing now is -- it's really quite interesting. You are seeing people just sort of like in an airport almost, where they're looking for somebody who is supposed to pick them up, just walking along very casually as if this was just a little boat ride as opposed to -- this is CNN. And what is your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wian Lawson (ah).

FRANKEN: And have you found your family yet?


FRANKEN: So you really don't want to spend time with me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not right now, sir.

Thank you.

CAFFERTY: Nothing personal, but leave me alone.

FRANKEN: I've learned that look.


FRANKEN: Get out of my way.

As I was saying before -- wait a minute we see a family now. We see family now. As a matter of fact, I wanted to reach over here and talk to the man, Paula, you remember from earlier we talked to the man whose son had fallen overboard. And here he is now. Have you spotted your son, Peter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you, Bob?

I'm just waiting for my son to come off come on off board. I'm looking forward to it.

FRANKEN: A reminder to those who may not have seen it. His son, Peter, fell overboard during this deployment. Fell off the ship, all the way from the deck up there down. That's about 10 stories or something like that.


FRANKEN: And survived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And survived quite well. (OFF-MIKE). He was back on duty the next day.

FRANKEN: So you are going to be seeing him for the first time? Have you seen him on the ship yet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I haven't. This is my first time in six months.

FRANKEN: Getting impatient.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very impatient.


FRANKEN: You are going to wait here until he passes by.


FRANKEN: Now he is one of the lower-ranking ones, an E-3, so it's going to be a while before he gets off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will probably be two hours, but he's been gone six months; I can wait two hours.

FRANKEN: I want to thank you for sharing your experience with us. And we'll stick around here for a little while to see if you two reunite in front of our cameras.

Thanks very much, Peter.

So right now, you are seeing -- I think the order is breaking down a little bit. The rope line is not holding. People are just sort of walking over the rope line. We are seeing lots of families now. There they are, the first time you've seen them in six months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it is. It's great. It's great. It's a great feeling.

FRANKEN: How many here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have about 13.

FRANKEN: Thirteen here?


FRANKEN: I'm guess it's nice to feel so wanted, but I guess it's been long coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just an unbelievable feeling, you know, proud, joy, all in one, lots of feeling all mixed up.

FRANKEN: Thirteen here. Where are they from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're from Northern Virginia up in Dale City and from Suffolk, Virginia.

FRANKEN: Is this wife?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, sister -- proud sister! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my sister. This is my wife, and nephew Kenny, and niece Stephanie (ph), my son Jeffrey, my daughter Jackie, my other son Kevin. That's my mom. Nephew Chris. My other daughter Amy is over there.

FRANKEN: We walked into family reunion here. Tell me what did you did on the ship?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Inspected weapons. And we're going up to flight deck that the squadrons were loading on the aircraft, and to deliver to the target.

FRANKEN: How many deployment have you had?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my fifth deployment.

FRANKEN: Your fifth deployment. You're halfway there. How long have you been in the service?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been in 20 years.

FRANKEN: Planning to stay?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually will retire here in September.

FRANKEN: So this is the one, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is last one. It's time to spend more time with my family.

FRANKEN: This has been probably the toughest one of them all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been the toughest. The more you make, they don't get easier; they actually get harder.

FRANKEN: This one was particularly tough.

Here we see, I want to show -- it looks like father with his son.

Is this your son?


FRANKEN: What a remarkable feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it is. Yes, it is.

FRANKEN: How are you feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel great. It's been a long time since I've seen him, and I'm really happy. I'm really happy.

FRANKEN: How much has he grown since you've been gone?


FRANKEN: About a foot?

How are you feeling?


FRANKEN: Are you going to join the service?


FRANKEN: Is that because he's away too long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't want to be away from his family.

FRANKEN: It is hard, isn't it?


He's going to go to college. He's going to do something good with his life.

FRANKEN: There a lot of people who would believe you've done something very good with your life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do what I do for my kids, and my family and for everybody in the country.

FRANKEN: I see more family here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my wife, Deborah.

FRANKEN: This is your wife.

How are you feeling now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very happy, happy he's home.

FRANKEN: Relieved.


FRANKEN: How has it been?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been hard, really hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no better feeling in the world than being with my family.

FRANKEN: Hard to tell.


FRANKEN: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.

ZAHN: Boy, Bob, you could feel the joy and pride of these young servicemen and servicewomen. What a remarkable hour and a half you have taken us through.




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