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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Saving America's Wounded Warriors

Aired May 30, 2005 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I'm Paula Zahn. Welcome.
Good to have you with us on this Memorial Day.

Tonight, as we remember the men and women who have died defending the country, we pay tribute to those brave Americans who work so hard to save our wounded warriors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): In the chaos of Iraq, they rely on bravery, loyalty and, yes, on luck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time you go outside, a mortar can hit right by you and kill you.

ZAHN: Tonight, what happens when luck turns to sacrifice?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got hit by an RPG.

ZAHN: It happened to Chris Allen (ph) and to Randy Nichols (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I caught two bullets in the leg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) up above me (ph) and hit me in my head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... from above me. It hit in my head.

ZAHN: It happened to Tim Maxwell (ph) and Mel Greer (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually got shot in my pistol and then I got shot through my leg.

ZAHN: And it happened to Chris Fesmire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I lived, I was going to lose my legs.

ZAHN: In this next hour, you'll meet the men and women who saved their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have got a medevac coming on.

ZAHN: The medics, the pilots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been fired at probably more times than we can count. ZAHN: The doctors and nurses who every day put others' lives ahead of their own.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The humanity that's shown in these particular situations gives me hope for the human race.

ZAHN: The race to save our "Wounded Warriors."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: In the two years that American troops have been fighting in Iraq, more than 12,000 of them have been wounded. They owe their lives to battlefield medics, medevac pilots and the staffs of military hospitals.

Tonight, we're going to take you along every step of their brave work. Our producer Alex Quade and cameraman David Allbritton got extraordinary access to battlefields and hospitals. Alex also got permission to share the personal stories of wounded soldiers and, for the first time, to even show their faces.

This story was shot carefully, respectfully, with privacy in mind. Still, this is war. And you might find some of the pictures very disturbing. But, together, we'll witness the unmatched honor and decency of our wounded warriors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX QUADE, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): The firefights, the car bombs, the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, the wounding of U.S. troops.

So begins their medical journey home. Amidst the chaos, the pain, army medics or Navy Corpsmen take life-saving action. The fight continues around them. This is the first level of treatment. They bandage the fallen, carry them out. If the battle's too hot for a medevac helicopter, it's into vehicles nearby, then onto a fallback position out of the kill zone. This is triage, the next level of care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three, go.

QUADE: Navy shock and trauma platoon members check and clear the wounded. The goal, stabilize the patient and send back to battle or onto the next level of treatment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Urgent, urgent, urgent.

QUADE: Urgent means medical evacuation. If the patient can be delivered to a combat field hospital within one hour of being wounded, what's called the golden hour, odds are, he'll survive. In the middle of the Iraqi desert, there's no L.D., no landing zone. A purple smoke grenade guides this helicopter in. The clock is ticking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. QUADE: It's time for the medicine man. Medicine man, that's the call sign of the U.S. Army medevac unit. Two pilots, a crew chief and a flight medic in each in Black Hawk.

CW2 HARLEY MAST, MEDEVAC PILOT: Guys in the field would get injured during their battles. And their medics on the scene can only treat them to a certain extent. Our job is to grab them and pick them up and bring them to a hospital or wherever further care is needed for the patient.

QUADE: They get the call on the radio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pick those guys up?

MAST: Yeah. We can do that.

QUADE: Fire up the bird. The clock is still ticking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We fly at a pretty high speed with the patients.

QUADE: Care begins in flight. They're brought to the CSH, combat support hospital, or to a forward surgical team and turned over to the surgeons.

Medevac crews do this all day, all night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I try and think of myself in their shoes. I'm injured, I'm hurting, maybe I'm bleeding, my life is in danger possibly. I know that my medic's tried his best and can only do so much. And then you hear the aircraft coming in that will take you out of there. The freedom bird, so to speak, and bring you to the hospital and fix you there.

QUADE: That's what happened to Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Maxwell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got the call that's litter urgent.

QUADE: A Marine injured, in and out of consciousness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Picked him up. He'd had a mortar explode in the area. He had shrapnel on through his left side. He had a fractured left leg and a possible fracture in his left arm.

As I make sure all the bleeding is still stopped. I just manage his airway and monitored his vitals all the way back to the CSH.

QUADE: They made it within the golden hour to the next level of care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good feeling, when you can get a guy out, within 20 minutes, he's at a hospital. That's just great.

QUADE: Next, the medevac team races to a shock and trauma platoon near the front lines of Fallujah. There, we meet 19-year-old Lance Corporal Chris Allen, in Iraq one month.

LANCE CORPORAL CHRIS ALLEN, U.S. ARMY: I got hit by an RPG, got shrapnel in it -- in my leg. The last thing I remember is just sitting on a corner, providing security and I just heard a boom and the next thing I know, I just felt pain.

Before, I wasn't scared of going out there until that happened. When I've heard the explosions, they went on me before. But that was actually the closest one where I could feel the heat and everything actually hit me. That was pretty scary.

QUADE: The surgeon say Chris' wounds are treatable and decide to keep him here. So, the helicopter takes off without him.

CAPT. BRUCE GILLINGHAM, SURGEON, US NAVY: Any time you put a patient on a helicopter, they're at risk to fire from the ground. Anything that we can treat here definitively, we will.

QUADE: The risk: The medevac helicopter being shot down, like this one.

CAPT. TRENT SHORT, MEDEVAC PILOT, US ARMY: We've been fired at, probably more times than we can count.

QUADE: Per Geneva Convention, medevacs must travel unarmed.

SHORT: Then around flying by an aircraft as it was shot down by a heat-seeking missile. That was probably the most unnerving feeling I felt today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terrorists really don't care. They just shoot at whatever's flying.

QUADE: Evasive maneuvers all they can do. Translation, fancy flying.

CW2 JOSEPH CARROLL, U.S. ARMY MEDEVAC PILOT: We get small arms fire. We see it at night. And during the day-time, we don't see it. So, for us, we don't know if we're getting fired on half the time.

QUADE: They fly as low as 10 feet off the ground.

MAST: We try and not think about that and think about getting the patient out of there as fast as we can.

QUADE: Despite danger, flight medic Sergeant Melinda Gates must treat her patients.

SGT. MELINDA GATES, FLIGHT MEDIC: It's a usually my crew that lets me know that we've been shot at, or that there's burning vehicles or rockets or something. I really don't notice that. I'm more focused on the patients and getting them in the aircraft, getting them treated.

QUADE: We land near Karbala and follow Sergeant Gates to a forward surgical team. Two 19-year-old Marines, PFCs Randy Nichols and Frank Robinson (ph) were patched up here after taking fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was hit -- shot twice in the leg and I caught some shrapnel in the arm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had -- ran out of ammo, so I got back in, tried to get more. I turned around to get out and I got hit with a bullet in the shoulder.

QUADE: Randy and Frank are loaded onto litters to go to the next level of care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I was lying on the side of the road and they're bandaging me up there. That's when I kind of got the reality check of everything. I was thinking, wow, I'm actually human again and things do happen and you can get hurt.

QUADE: Sergeant Gates monitor their vitals.

GATES: Medical care has come so far in the past few years guys like that may have died from infection or something like that.

QUADE: The two privates are delivered to the CSH, Combat Support Hospital, Baghdad. Sergeant Gates hands them over to the doctors. They've made it to the E.R.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did you get shot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the leg.

QUADE: For now, medevac mission accomplished.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, our next stop is an operating room in a war zone. Stay with us and witness the miracle of modern military medicine.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Every step of the way, Americans wounded in Iraq move to progressively safer locations for treatment. The dangerous medevac flight gets them to a combat support hospital, where they undergo major surgery. They're safer there, but still a target of insurgent attacks. From there, they're moved to Balad Air Base, 40 miles north of Baghdad. It is a remarkable facility, staffed by outstanding men and women.

"Wounded Warriors" continues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUADE (voice-over): At the Air Force theater hospital, Balad Air Base, Marine Corporal Chris Fesmire is taken off the medevac. A mine took both his legs. He's rushed into E.R.

He's conscious. Although Chris made it through the golden hour, this will be his second operation since wounded just five hours ago. LT. COL. DON JENKINS, U.S. AIR FORCE SURGEON: The Navy surgeons at that forward operating base saved his life. And believe it or not, he's quite fortunate to be here with us.

QUADE: In the O.R., alarm red, incoming. We're under attack by mortars or rockets. And this is the most frequently attacked base in Iraq. Despite that, surgeons continue working on Chris.

JENKINS: We have built up as best we can around those operating theaters with big concrete and sandbags and that sort of thing. Still alarm red.

Those folks that aren't scrubbed in, in sterile gear, do have the opportunity if they get to their gear safely to put on their helmet and their flight vest. We don't stop what we're doing just because this attack is going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris, you're doing great, buddy. Chris, you're doing great.

QUADE: Chris is then taken to ICU, where we meet up again with Lieutenant Colonel Tim Maxwell (ph). He's in critical condition, in and out of consciousness. Alarm red again.

CAPT. DEBRA NICHOLS, U.S. AIR FORCE: It means that there's imminent danger. Most of the time, you know, we're under attack.

QUADE: Maxwell's nurse stays by his side.

NICHOLS: You can't leave them because they're critical patients. So you have stay at the bedside and go ahead and perform your duties, just like if you were not in a code red. Yes, this is heavy, and it's hot, and I can't wait to get out of it, because it hurts my back.

QUADE: Alarm red finally over, but their work here today has just begun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baghdad is bringing two helicopters full.

QUADE: Full of casualties from two bombs exploding in Baghdad's Green Zone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just take a deep breath. You know what you've got to do. Manpower, roll them into the E.R. as we need be, as we deem it critical or not critical. And then we'll go from there. OK? Everybody ready?

QUADE: The medevacs arrive, patient after patient. This is what's called a mass casualty. The medevacs bring more and more. And they race to the E.R.

Air Force medic Sergeant Jacqueline Horton tries to ease them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they come in off the chopper, especially, they're disoriented. And we tell them over and over again that we're going to stay with us, that you're not alone, remind them that we're there with them and ask them if they need more for pain. We tell them exactly what we're doing to them, so that there's no surprises because of the fear, the magnitude of the fear that they're experiencing, the unknown.

That's the only comforting thing that those parents back home have, is to think that somebody is over here talking to them.

QUADE: That comforting personal attention is evident at the next level of care, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little lower, lower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a medical air terminal.

QUADE (voice-over): For the wounded, the CASF, contingency aeromedical staging facility, is the last stop in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prepare to lift. Lift. Prepare to lower. Lower. Make sure that he's even.

TECH. SGT. GEORGE DENBY, U.S. AIR FORCE: We get them here. We get them medicated and we get them comfortable.

QUADE: Here, we meet Gunnery Sergeant Mel Greer (ph), shot in the leg, ambushed in the dangerous city of Ramadi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically, from my ankle down, I can't feel my foot whatsoever.

QUADE: This is his platoon under fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were out on a vehicle patrol and stopped to do a vehicle checkpoint and we had some insurgents come around the corner and open up with automatic weapons and small fires.

QUADE: And this is Mel's combat video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got Gunny. He's hit in the right leg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Automatic weapons fire, it's less than a tenth of a second between rounds. It hit my pistol and hit my leg, knocked me down and hell's furry just unleashed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it goes. Good shot.

QUADE: He's taken fire countless times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just that night prior, I had only gotten about three hours of sleep in the last 30 hours. We had gone out on a security run. And the boxcar got hit by three IEDs and the small-arms fire. And less than 12 hours later, we right were back out and got hit again. So, being aggressive.

QUADE: Mel and other patients must wait here for the next plane out of country. Tech Sergeant George Denby, an emergency medic for 18 years, checks on them. DENBY: You need a blanket or anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm good.

DENBY: All right.

QUADE: He works closely with Master Sergeant Nancy Peck (ph), an emergency medic for 21 years. It's hard, even for these seasoned vets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They pull at your heartstrings, their sacrifice. They're humble. They don't want to go back home. They want to go back to the fight, back to the unit. Some of these patients that we get here, they haven't bathed in days. They've eaten out of a box. They don't have a pillow to sleep on.

QUADE: The medics try everything to keep them comfortable.

DENBY: We have some patients with some pretty serious patients right next. And you're right next to another patient. So, not only are you worrying about your own problems, but you're worrying about the guy next to you. And so we try to do everything we can to keep their minds off of that.

QUADE: The singing doesn't tempt PFC Matthew Solberg (ph). The 19-year-old Marine has trouble speaking after an IED exploded near him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're kind of used to that stuff after being here for a while. You just kind of get over it and do your job.

QUADE: Then alarm red, incoming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got your gear?

QUADE: In the middle of all this, more wounded arrive, among them, Lance Corporal Chris Allen, injured by a rocket-propelled grenade near Falluja. Like all patients, Chris is checked for hidden explosives, then checked medically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm doing pretty good, much better from when I saw you guys the first time.

QUADE: But flashbacks are bothering him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, all the time. Usually when I'm sleeping, it comes back.

QUADE: The touches of home here, courtesy of the medics, help Chris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Little flag's cool. I love this one. This is going to be with me all the time now. So, whenever I get down, I can just think of it and realize what I'm fighting for. And a little picture, it says thank you.

QUADE: Chris and Mel and the other patients will head to the plane next, the plane that will take them out of Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening from Atlanta. I'm Rick Sanchez. And here is what is happening right now in the news.

A deadly day in Iraq. Two suicide bombings near Baghdad have killed 27 people and injured more than 100. The attacks come as the U.S. and Iraqi forces prepare a massive offensive against insurgents. Meanwhile, in Eastern Iraq, an Iraqi military aircraft crashed today. Four U.S. personnel and one Iraqi aboard are presumed dead.

Words and threats of terror were contained in an audiotape said to be from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The Internet statement was addressed to Osama bin Laden and claimed Zarqawi was not seriously wounded, as previously reported.

Arlington, Virginia, a solemn tribute to America's fallen heroes. The president saluted the men and women who gave their lives for their country in the past. He then turned his attention to today's challenges.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Another generation is fighting a new war against an enemy that threatens the peace and stability of the world. Across the globe, our military is standing directly between our people and the worst dangers in the world. And Americans are grateful to have such brave defenders.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: It is important to note that, in an interview with Larry King airing tonight, Vice President Dick Cheney defends the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're making major progress there. We have got a new government stood up now. They had elections, free elections, really for first time in centuries in January of this year. They're going to be writing a constitution this summer. That will lead to elections under that constitution later this year. And there will be a brand new government in place, duly elected under a newly written constitution by the end of the year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: You can see the entire interview Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE," as Larry celebrates 20 years at CNN. That's tonight at 9:00 Eastern.

I'm Rick Sanchez. Those are some of the headlines that we'll be following for you throughout the course of the night. And I'm going to be back with the very latest news in just 25 minutes.

Now let's go back to Paula Zahn.

ZAHN: Thanks so much for that update. We're going to check back in about half-an-hour.

In just a minute, we're going to catch up with our wounded warriors who were on their way to some of the best medical care in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight, we're taking you on the dangerous journey of thousands of Americans wounded in Iraq. We have seen them treated by medics in battle, medevaced to a combat support hospital, and then sent for further treatment at an air base north of Baghdad.

Well, now producer Alex Quade takes us along as our wounded warriors take the risky flight out of Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUADE (voice-over): While the patients are being prepped, flight medics are prepping the plane. They transform a C-141 from tactical to practical, from cargo plane to flying hospital.

MAJ. MARK NAGEL, FLIGHT MEDIC, USAF: Yes, we have about 65 patients for seven people to take care of, so we'll be busy tonight. But the patients will be glad to go home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is for emergency ops. This isn't even our job yet.

NAGEL: That's part of our job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's part of our job.

NAGEL: Health care providers/construction workers.

QUADE: Back at the CASF, or medical air terminal...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prepare to lift. Lift.

QUADE: ... the patients, like Gunny Sergeant Mel Greer, are ready to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My country will take care of me, no matter what.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Prepare to lift. Lift.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got it? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good job, guys.

QUADE: Past the tank barriers and onto the next level of care, the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come to me. Come to me. Come to me. Come to me.

QUADE: The flight medics are now ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move. Move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully, I'll return to my Marines. My wife probably doesn't want to hear that.

QUADE: Litter patients like Mel first.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, sir, for your service. We really appreciate it. Good luck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On my command, we're going to rack him. One. Ready? Rack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch your foot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all right, Mel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feel good, bud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bye-bye.

QUADE: Next, ambulatories like PFC Matthew Solberg (ph). Matthew has a speech problem from a head injury. Then Lance Corporal Chris Allen (ph), hit by an RPG. Chris needs a little help boarding. Last on, critical patients from intensive care. Marine Corporal Chris Fesmire (ph), a mine took both his legs. We last saw him in surgery. Then Lieutenant Colonel Tim Maxwell, who took shrapnel to the head from a mortar. We saw him in the ICU during alarm red.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three.

DENBY: You look at some of these injuries, they just punch you right in the stomach. You just -- you feel sorry, but you're happy that they're getting out of here. You're happy for them. OK, they're going. They're closer to seeing their families and going home.

QUADE: This is the last thing the wounded warriors will see in Iraq. The plane goes dark for tactical takeoff. This is light discipline, only low red light, until we clear Iraqi airspace. For those who can, vest and helmet in case of incoming fire. This is hostile territory. The tactical takeoff spirals to avoid any ground fire, hurts Matthew's head. The flight medics go to work. Using chemical glow sticks or tiny lights, they squeeze between patients and litters.

CAPT. ASSY YACOUB, PHYSICIAN: So we take whatever care they were getting, and we continue that care.

QUADE: Cargo light shines briefly in back. Matthew uses it to climb into a litter to rest his head. After clearing Iraqi airspace, lights on. Chris also tries to get comfortable. Heavy flak vests comes off. Mel is restless. Medics are working on patients beside and above him, climbing up the stacks of litters around him. He'll worries that they'll step on his injured leg and foot. Accidentally, they do. It's difficult work under difficult conditions.

YACOUB: Have to keep them alive, because we can have the best doctors at home, but if we can't take them there and keep them alive on the way, they can't do anything for them back home.

QUADE: About six hours later, touchdown, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The patients are off-loaded. Chris looks around at the rain, the cold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got it? Got it?

QUADE: Matthew wakes up. And Mel is tucked in against the freezing temperatures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prepare to move. Move.

QUADE: Next stop, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the next level of care. They arrive at the biggest military hospital outside the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing, Mel?

QUADE: Mel is headed straight to more surgery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lower, lower.

QUADE: Next, Matthew. And in socks, his boots still in Iraq, Chris. In the O.R., Mel is prepped. The surgeon scrubs in. He examines Mel's leg wounds.

MAJ. TIM WOOD, SURGEON, USAF: He's luckily he didn't hit the bone. He's lucky he didn't hit the artery. It's at risky for an infection, so we're trying to minimize his risk for infection.

QUADE: The speed through all of the levels of care, through the battlefield, helped.

WOOD: Yes, our air evac system right now is unbelievable. We hear what happens in the news pretty much. And you know, within 24, 48 hours these guys are getting into our hospital, and we're having to take care of them.

QUADE: Half an hour later...

WOOD: Hey guys open your eyes. Can you open your eyes? Hey, we're all done, bro. We're all done. You did great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're done. Do you have any pain right now?

QUADE: Chris, meanwhile, is getting his wounds cleaned.

They've already did an X-ray after they took it out to make sure all the shrapnel, because sometimes shrapnel is left in people. And actually -- it does more harm to go into it to get it, than it does to get it. And a lot of times, like again, the body will push it out on its own.

QUADE: Mel rolls in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How's your pain, buddy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

QUADE: Even groggy, he's still a Marine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for the ride.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They took off the little splint that was down there today, so I can actually play with my foot a little bit.

QUADE: But Mel still has no feeling in his foot. (INAUDIBLE) doctors at the next level of care can do anything about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's amazing, you know, I was hit on Saturday, and to each level of care that I've moved up to is -- I think it's Tuesday now, and I've already had a second surgery. I've already been taken care, already been cleaned. I'm in Germany. And I'm getting ready to go home already. It's just amazing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUADE: And we'll continue in just a moment with wounded warriors on the mend. You'll see just how far these soldiers have come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our "Wounded Warriors" have come a long way since their battlefield injuries. Producer, Alex Quade checked in on them at military hospitals all over the country. Listen now to their personal stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUADE (voice-over): Lieutenant Colonel Tim Maxwell took shrapnel to the head after a mortar attack. He was in the ICU during Alarm Red. Now Maxwell is at the V.A. hospital in Richmond, Virginia. He's doing physical and speech therapy. LT. COL. TIM MAXWELL, INJURED IN BATTLE: I don't remember much. (INAUDIBLE) about 18 minutes or so, not very long, but they did a good job of getting us fixed up.

QUADE: His goal: get back to racing triathlons.

MAXWELL: I can do them, (INAUDIBLE). I can do them, sure.

QUADE: We met another iron man, Corporal Chris Fesmire (ph), at Balad Air Base. A mine took both his legs.

Chris is now at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. During therapy, Chris shares for the first time what happened when his Humvee hit the mine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And as I was like up like this, my legs were just dangling down like a rag doll. And I knew that -- I knew from there that if I lived, I was -- you know, I was going to lose my legs.

That was probably the biggest fight, was just to live, because I could feel myself, all the blood leaving my body through my legs. It was like -- it was just draining out of me.

At that point, you know, I tried to hold onto somebody's hand, and I knew I was going to -- I knew I was going to die, but just thought to myself, you know, there's a lot of things I have to live for, and I couldn't -- I couldn't die in that place.

QUADE: Chris plans to get out of the corps, get a Ph.D., and teach English.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got to keep myself going really well in order to walk again, because that's what I want more than anything else.

QUADE: The other Chris, Lance Corporal Chris Allen, was injured near Fallujah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got hit by an RPG.

QUADE: Chris is now back at Camp Pendleton, California.

PFC Matthew Solberg (ph) is also at Camp Pendleton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't really remember much.

QUADE: His speech back to normal after a head injury from an IED.

And remember PFCs Randy Nichols and Frank Robinson? They were shot in a firefight near Karbala. We never expected to be invited to Randy's wedding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Randy, will you have Amanda to be your wedded wife?

PFC RANDY NICHOLS, INJURED IN IRAQ: I will.

QUADE: This, the day right before Randy reported back to Camp Lejeune.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may kiss your bride.

QUADE: And finally, Gunnery Sergeant Mel Greer. Mel had leg surgery in Germany. Now it's more surgery at the naval hospital at Camp Pendleton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to put your chin up. Take some nice deep breaths for me.

QUADE: This is Mel's fourth operation since coming home. He still has nerve damage in his foot.

GUNNERY SGT. MEL GREER, WOUNDED IN IRAQ: There's nothing you can do because his nerve's intact, it's just been -- it's not been transected, just severely bruised from the injury from the AK-47.

QUADE: Afterwards...

GREER: There's a lot of frustration, because it's never a moment of rest. You know, my -- the actual gunshot wound doesn't hurt, but the recovery of the leg, it's coming awake at certain points and pieces, and the nerves are exploding.

But I also feel guilty that I'm not back in Iraq with my Marines that are out there, and knowing that some are injured just recently and another was killed just recently. It's very hard, you know, trying to sit here and realizing that, hey, I'm OK, but what about my Marines, and what about the Marines, all of the Marines in Iraq? You know, it's tough.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: More than 1,600 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. The number of wounded is now more than 12,000. Yet what compared with America's other wars, the percentage of wounded warriors who live is the highest on record, thanks to advances in the speed and quality of their treatment.

Better than the numbers, though, a story an emergency nurse told Alex Quade sums up the spirit and sacrifices of America's men and women. A wounded soldier told the nurse he hadn't slept on a pillow in months, in months. He offered to let them keep his pain medication if he could keep his pillow. They let him keep both.

In just a minute, memories of a different Iraq war. CNN's Bernard Shaw and others remember the night the whole world was watching.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Good evening from Atlanta. I'm Rick Sanchez, and here's what's happening right now in the news. Tonight in Orlando, Florida, there has been a fiery crash involving this tanker loaded with fuel, which rolled off an exit ramp. That is all that is left of the truck. The driver is feared dead.

Honoring the heroes at Arlington National Cemetery today, President Bush laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and he paid tribute to the generations of Americans who have given their lives for this country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In our national cemetery, we receive the fallen in sorrow. And we take them to an honored place to rest.

Looking across this field, we see the scale of heroism and sacrifice.

All who are buried here understood their duty. All stood to protect America. And all carried with them memories of a family that they hoped to keep safe by their sacrifice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Meanwhile, tough talk from Vice President Dick Cheney in an interview with Larry King, airing tonight. Cheney blasts North Korean President Kim Jong Il for being irresponsible and running a police state. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, also discussed the idea of Laura Bush running for president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYNNE CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT'S WIFE: I think Mrs. Bush ought to run for president. If you want to have a Bush dynasty, let's get Laura Bush. Has she been wonderful in these...

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: What do you make of that, Mrs. Bush...

L. CHENEY: ... last five years.

KING: ... versus Mrs. Clinton?

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's a great idea.

KING: Biggest turnout in American history.

D. CHENEY: And I think I know who would win, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: You can see the entire interview tonight on "LARRY KING." It begins in just 10 minutes or so, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

And finally in Sun Valley, California a horse named Lucy got stuck in the mud. See her there? With some patience, a little coaxing, and really strong rope, firefighters were able to pull Lucy out of the mire. Her reward, by the way, the ladies' favorite, I'm told, a warm bath. Isn't that appropriate?

I'm Rick Sanchez. Those are the headlines at this hour. I'm going to see you on "NEWSNIGHT" at 10:00 p.m.

Right now, though, let's go back to Paula Zahn.

ZAHN: Thanks so much for the update.

Right now, let's turn to Larry King with a preview of what's ahead at the top of the hour -- Larry.

KING: Coming up in a few minutes, Paula, we're going to kick off our 20th anniversary week. Tonight's guest is Vice President Dick Cheney. Lots more coming this week, including President George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Bush, former President Bill Clinton. We'll have Barbara Walters interview me. We'll have Dan Rather. And then next Monday night, one week from tonight, Mark Geragos, his first television interview since the Peterson trial. All that in celebration of 20 years at CNN -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Larry, have a good show. See you at the top of the hour.

Coming up next, though, CNN's Bernard Shaw remembers that harrowing night he was in Baghdad and had a front row seat to the start of the Gulf War.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight, we have witnessed the war in Iraq through the eyes of America's wounded warriors. We had extraordinary access to the battlefield and military hospitals. But 12 years before this war began, CNN had a unique history-making window on the start of the first Gulf War.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BERNARD SHAW, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: CNN's original plan was for me to interview President Saddam Hussein and to depart.

The routine for interviewing Saddam Hussein is very scripted. You check into the Al Rashid Hotel, and you become a prisoner in your own hotel room, because it is there that you wait for the phone call.

The first day, no call. Into the night, no call. The second, third, fourth day, still no call.

As we sat in Baghdad, we were aware of the forces being brought to bear into the theater.

TOM JOHNSON, FORMER CNN PRESIDENT: My own personal view was that we should pull them out.

I was convinced that if we left our people in, that they would be killed.

MARK BIELLO, CNN PHOTOGRAPHER: A lot of major networks were ordering their people out for the safety. Because no one could guarantee the safety of Western journalists.

SHAW: You're on the threshold of the biggest story in the world. You're in the capital of the, quote, "enemy," unquote. What do you do?

JOHNSON: I was called by three of the highest ranking officials in the government. A call that really sealed it for me was President Bush. I don't remember the exact words, but to the best of my memory he said, Tom, your staff in Baghdad is in grave jeopardy. You should pull them out.

SHAW: Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, said, those who want to stay can stay.

JOHNSON: I'll never forget what Ted said to me. That is the decision and you will not overturn me, pal.

SHAW: My plan was to leave the next morning.

JOHNSON: As it happened, the bombs started falling that night.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, the battle has been joined.

SHAW: Once the war broke out, I was trapped.

Something is happening outside. The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated. We're seeing bright flashes going off all over the sky.

My attitude always has been, the hotter the story, the cooler I become. I save my emotions for later.

SADDAM HUSSEIN (through translator): Bush, the Satan, has perpetrated this crime. And the great battle has been initiated, the mother of all battles.

JOHNSON: When the bombs came down, first equipment to go in Iraq was communications equipment. We had a backup way to get out audio.

SHAW: Let's describe to our viewers what we're seeing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're still with us, you can hear the bombs now. They're hitting the center of the city.

SHAW: Whoa, holy cow.

BIELLO: We were routed to an underground telephone system, because whoever decided they did not want to tie up two fiber-optic lines 24 hours, seven days a week for us.

PETER ARNETT, FORMER CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, the sirens are sounding for the first time. The Iraqis have informed us. BOB FURNAD, FORMER EXECUTIVE VP: All of a sudden, there was silence. We lost all audio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just cut the line!

FURNAD: And, of course, our biggest fright was that the bomb had hit the hotel where they were.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Baghdad!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Line's dead.

FURNAD: There was a hush in the control room.

JOHN HOLLIMAN, FORMER CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Atlanta. Atlanta, this is Holliman.

FURNAD: You could feel the relief in that room. You could feel the physical strain coming out of people's bodies.

HOLLIMAN: I don't know if you're able to hear me now or not, but I'm going to continue to talk to you as long as I can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And everybody loved those three guys who were over there risking their lives for this coverage.

HOLLIMAN: I am going to put a microphone out the window. I think you'll be able to hear this sound.

SHAW: I didn't care about video. In effect, we were doing radio on television.

Clearly, I've never been there, but it feels like we're in the center of hell.

What we did in Iraq and from that hotel constituted the first time a war had been covered live as it was happening.

FURNAD: I looked up at the other monitors, and on the ABC affiliate monitor was CNN. On the CBS affiliate monitor, it was CNN. On the NBC affiliate monitor, it was CNN. The fact was that everybody stole it and put it on the air.

JOHNSON: Some analyst said that he thought that night that CNN was reaching at least a billion viewers around the world.

I still consider it something of a miracle that those who were in that hotel survived.

SHAW: It has been a long night for us. It has been a night none of us will ever forget. And that's the latest.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And amazing page in CNN's history. That wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for joining us on this Memorial Day. We'll all be back here, same time, same place tomorrow night. CNN prime time continues right now with "LARRY KING LIVE." Have a great rest of the holiday.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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