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CNN NEWSROOM

Anniversary of Vietnam Wall Marked; Troops Remember the Fallen; Iranian, U.S. Ambassadors Meet to Talk about Iraq; Nation Remembers War Dead; Stranded Whales Head Toward Ocean; U.S. Has First Meeting with Iran in 27 Years

Aired May 28, 2007 - 13:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CO-HOST: They died serving our nation. Today the nation remembers the sacrifice of those who've fallen in its wars.
I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

T.J. HOLMES, CO-HOST: And I'm T.J. Holmes here, sitting in for Don Lemon.

All across the country, the red, white and blue of American flags punctuate the gray of cemetery tombstones. One scene of tributes today the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. Another, Arlington National Cemetery. President Bush made his sixth Memorial Day visit there as a wartime commander in chief.

PHILLIPS: The wall is always a place to remember, reflect and dream. But never more so than on Memorial Day.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, live for us today.

Hi, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Kyra.

And never more so than this Memorial Day. This is the 25th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Today during this memorial service there will be a special tribute to three Vietnam veterans whose names were just added earlier this month.

Ann Pruett, the wife of Richard Pruett, one of those men, will be reading the names. And we were with Ann when she saw her husband's name added to the wall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN PRUETT, WIDOW OF SGT. RICHARD PRUETT: It was almost like the climax of all the emotions, you know, getting his name on the wall, seeing him honored for the man he was and the patriot that he was.

I think he's really at home there. He's with the men who fought the same cause he did, and he's at home.

Coming to the wall gave him peace, and helped him, and I just think that his name being on the wall is just a great way to end the chapter of his life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Richard Pruett was an Army sergeant. He died in 2005 because of complications from wounds that he sustained in the Vietnam War, as did Army Specialist Wesley Stiverson, whose name was also added. Navy Fireman Apprentice Joseph Krywicki died from combat wounds in 1966. His name was inadvertently left off the wall until now, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: So why were these names added just this month so long after the end of the war, Brianna?

KEILAR: Well, there are a number of reasons. There were so many casualties in the Vietnam War. There were more than 58,000 names here on this wall. And so some of those veterans who passed away, they just fall -- they would fall through the cracks. And then it would take years before their names were put on the wall.

But it also comes down to red tape. We spoke with Ann Pruett, and she said it took about two years to get her husband's name on the wall because she had to prove that he died from complications because of war wounds. And that meant she had to get all of his medical records from the time that he was wounded until the time that he died, decades of medical records, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Brianna Keilar, live from the wall, thank you.

HOLMES: U.S. troops serving in Iraq also pausing on Memorial Day to remember their fallen comrades. CNN's Arwa Damon is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're here at Camp Yusufiya, home of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, where the troops here held a memorial ceremony for the five killed Americans and the Iraqi soldiers who died fighting alongside them following that May 12 attack that has left two soldiers still missing.

The ceremony itself was somber and dignified, the soldiers really trying to remember their fallen comrades and try to find the strength from one another to move forward.

This is not a mission that allows the troops time for grief. This ceremony that they held here allowing them to express all of their emotions, even if it was just for a brief time before they continue with ongoing operations to recover their two remaining missing soldiers.

But in the words of the platoon leader, Lieutenant Morgan Springlaze (ph), this is what he said at the ceremony. "These men all fought and died with honor, but now we must look to tomorrow. For the fallen, we will avenge you; for the lost we will find you."

We spoke with some of the platoon members following the ceremony, all of them trying to put on a tough face, trying to move through these very difficult and trying times, saying that they wanted their fellow comrades remembered and that they would be remembering them for the good times that they had together, the laughter that they were able to share out here, despite all of the difficulties and the tragedies that they did go through.

And the mission does continue in all of its intensity to find those two remaining missing soldiers and to bring those that carried out this attack to justice.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Yusufiya, Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And in Baghdad a massive explosion leaves dead civilians in its wake. A powerful car bomb went off in a busy district today, killing at least 21 Iraqi civilians, wounding another 66.

The blast damaged a nearby Sunni mosque, prompting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to condemn terrorists who target Iraqi religious symbols. But police believe civilians on the street were the real targets this time and not that mosque.

Forty-two Iraqi civilians now free from the clutches of terrorists. U.S. troops raided an al Qaeda hide-out north of Baghdad over the weekend, rescuing 42 Iraqis who say they were kidnapped and head up to four months. And the military says some of them showed signs of torture, including broken bones. One of the civilians is a 14-year-old boy.

Meantime, a dozen bodies showing signs of torture were found in a ditch south of Baghdad today. This month alone more than 600 bodies have been found in a similar fashion in and around the Iraqi capital.

PHILLIPS: Four hours of talks after nearly three decades of animosity, accusations and finger pointing. U.S. and Iranian diplomats met today in Baghdad, the first such meeting among the rival nations since the hostage crisis during the Carter administration. The talks, historic. The focus, extremely narrow.

CNN's Aneesh Raman is the only American reporter in Iran right now. He joins us from Tehran.

Aneesh, does Iran really want the U.S. to immediately withdraw from Iraq? And if so, how would Iran possibly benefit from that?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's interesting. It's one of the demands that was made by the Iranian delegation at these talks that, as you mentioned, were historic, Kyra.

But this is a dilemma for Iran. One, it does not like thousands upon thousands of U.S. troops across the border. That was evidenced especially over the weekend, when Iran charged the U.S. with backing spy networks within the country and saying that those agents were coming with U.S. backing across that border. At the same time if the U.S. troops were to leave tomorrow, Iraq would likely descend into complete chaos, and the Shia south would be essentially Iran's growing responsibility. It would have to take care of the people there. And also, Iran would face a flow of fighters and perhaps weapons back into its own country.

So Iran is clear in terms of wanting the occupying force, in its words, to leave, but again, it doesn't want the U.S. to leave too soon, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: But now over the weekend, Aneesh, Iran made claims about this U.S.-British spy network at work, trying to undermine Iran's government. What was the -- is that a topic at the meetings in Baghdad? And does Iran even have proof for this?

RAMAN: Yes, it was not discussed as far as what we've been told from the meeting, but Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador yesterday to the foreign ministry -- the Swiss represent American interests here -- and formally and strongly launched a protest against the American government.

Now all we know from Iranian officials is that they have discovered several spy networks they say are backed by the U.S. They say they are operating in south, southwestern and central Iran. And that's about it.

So the issue that the people here were waiting to see is one, does Iran link this to the recent arrests and imprisonment of Haleh Esfandiari, the American-Iranian scholar who's being held under suspicion of working against the government, or whether this was about posturing ahead of today's talks.

Keep in mind the U.S. has long accused Iran of smuggling weapons and fighters into Iraq. It could be that Iran wanted its own accusation; not to be on the defensive, but the offensive and say, "Look, you're doing the same as us."

But again, didn't come up in the meeting. As you mentioned, a very narrow scope but symbolic. And the big issue here is who will win out in public opinion. The hard-liners who want to torpedo any thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations and will likely call for no more talks; or the moderates, who see Iraq as a vehicle to bring these two countries together.

What we are waiting more than anything else within the Islamic republic are words to come in the coming days from Iran's president and the supreme leader. That will, Kyra, be the best indication of, from Iran's point of view, where things go from here.

PHILLIPS: Aneesh Raman, live from Tehran. Thanks, Aneesh.

HOLMES: There is a special place set aside at Arlington National Cemetery for the men and women who have fought and died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here now, CNN's Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Arlington National Cemetery. This is Section 60, where the orderly solitude gives way to pictures, mementos, teddy bears and toys, memories across the nearly 400 graves of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. A constant stream of people stopping to pay their respects.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most important precious gift they could possibly give, and that is the life of their child.

STARR: Ray and Leesa Philipon have found community here at the grave of their 22-year-old son Lawrence, killed on Mother's Day two years ago in Iraq.

LEESA PHILIPON, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: It's an unbearable pain. Unless you've lost a child in our case, it's hard to understand the pain, and so we come here.

STARR (on camera): Here at Section 60, there is utter heartbreak and grief. But there also is great love. From the buddies who stop by here to visit their friends who didn't make it home alive from the war, to the families, especially the moms and dads who come here to visit their children, many of whom died so very young.

(voice-over) More than 250 teenage U.S. troops, 18 and 19 years old, have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Terri and Richard Clifton's son, Chad, was killed by a mortar in Iraq.

TERRI CLIFTON, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: Chad was 19. The last day I saw him was the day after his 19th birthday.

STARR: Richard remembers a teenager who listened to music from another war while he was on patrol.

RICHARD CLIFTON, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: This war didn't have the same soundtrack in that they kind of had to go back and adopt the soundtrack for Vietnam. And they listened to a lot of that retro music.

STARR: But this teenage marine, like his buddies, wanted to serve. But he had an old man's sense of destiny. Terri has compiled a book of Chad's e-mails and instant messages.

His last letter home.

T. CLIFTON: If you're reading this letter, it means I wasn't lucky this time. Everyone chooses their path, and mine has led me here. I just want you to know there's nothing I can write to express how sorry I am to have put this on you. I know you love me and this will hurt you.

STARR: At Section 60, the children walk, the parents grieve, and buddies remember. And one more time, from another war, another generation, pauses to say thank you.

Barbara Starr, CNN, Arlington National Cemetery.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Straight ahead it's usually the son who calls his dad a hero, but in one family's case, it's the other way around. An emotional Memorial Day story just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: It's 1:15 Eastern Time. Here are three of the stories that we're working on right now in the CNN NEWSROOM.

As Americans remember their war dead this Memorial Day, the nation is still at war. That reminder from President Bush after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery. He calls those that have died in Iraq and Afghanistan a new generation of heroes.

U.S. and Iranian diplomats going their separate ways now after discussing Iraqi security for a few hours in Baghdad. The talks marked the first meeting between the rival nations in nearly three decades.

An urgent search going on right now for a missing pro football player. Rescue crews right now are scouring Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans for any sign of Marquise Hill. The New England Patriots defensive end was reported missing last night after an apparent Jet Ski accident.

HOLMES: Well, there might be some light at the end of the river. Two lost whales stuck in fresh water for about two weeks have started swimming back toward the open ocean. The Coast Guard and veterinarians are following along to try to keep the humpbacks safe and healthy.

And CNN's Dan Simons joins us by the phone now on this whale watch.

We have some good news. Dan, please, give us the update.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hi, T.J.

The whales are now back in salt water. Yesterday they started moving downstream again. Nobody knows what caused these whales to start moving again, but nonetheless, everyone is pleased. These whales seem to be going on the right path. At this point, they're now about 35 miles from reaching the Pacific Ocean.

At this point crews are basically backing off, because the whales are doing what they should be doing. They don't really want to distract them at this point, because they seem to be doing so well.

Over the weekend these whales, you know, were injured, perhaps by a boat keel. And anyway, crews administered some antibiotics to these whales over the weekend. They basically shot some darts at these whales which contained these antibiotics. And hopefully, those -- those drugs are working.

But the -- the whales seem to be headed in the right direction, and we'll just see where today goes.

HOLMES: Dan, do we really know if all of the antics that the Coast Guard and the others, the vets, have been using over the past couple of weeks, have those antics finally been paying off, and that's why the whales are going the right direction? Or they just decided to high tail it on out of there?

SIMON: Well, at least in terms of what happened over the weekend, they just decided to go on their own, because what they had been doing really wasn't working. You know, they played various sounds of whales feeding. They used a flotilla of boats to get the whales in the right direction. That didn't work.

And then they sort of backed off over the weekend, the rescuers did. And then that's when the whales decided that they would just go ahead and start moving downstream, T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Well, maybe they should have left them alone in the first place. They would have taken just a little vacation, a little trip to Sacramento maybe.

All right, Dan Simon. Thanks for the update. Sounds good. Sounds like things are on the right path. So I know you'll be on it. We'll check in with you with an update. Thanks so much.

PHILLIPS: Well, straight ahead, high gas prices just a bump in the road or will your summer travel plans face a major detour? Let's take a closer look in the NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: Also a solution leads to problems for dozens of people who wear contact lenses. The latest on the recall of a popular lens cleanser ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: All right now. Let's take a quick look at gas prices this Memorial Day. The national average for unleaded is about $3.21 a gallon. And according to AAA motor club that's just a third of a cent less than yesterday. Woo-hoo! All right!

PHILLIPS: You excited about that?

HOLMES: I am. Any drop is a good drop. But still, but a 29- cent jump from just a month ago. So I'll take back that "woo-hoo."

Will those soaring costs curb your travel plans? We're taking that question on the road. Over three days, CNN's Greg Hunter will drive 600 miles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Behind me, beautiful Columbus, Ohio. We're shoving off from here on our little adventure. You know, a lot of people here in Ohio travel to the coast for summer vacation. And one of the great destinations is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. North and South Carolina, really. So let's take a look at our routes. We'll be shoving off from Columbus, Ohio, and we'll be traveling to Greensboro, North Carolina. Lovely city; used to live there. We'll spend a night there. Then the next day, we'll get up and we'll head to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

But before we take our trip, we took a trip to a local Target store. We bought, you know, sundries and treats, a cooler, water, soda. All that stuff saves time and money on the road. It's cheaper to get it at a big department store. You don't have to make as many stops.

Finally, I got on GasPriceWatch.com and found the cheapest fuel here in the Columbus, Ohio, area. I put in the ZIP code, and it came up with $3.37 a gallon at a local Sonoco station. We already had gas in the vehicle, so we just topped off the tank.

All that said, day one totals: gasoline $10, extra, $59.16. A grand total for day one, $69.16.

Two of the best things you can do for summer vacation driving to save money on gasoline, No. 1, check your tire pressure. This is an air gauge. No. 2, slow down a little bit. Knock five or 10 miles an hour off your speed. You can save a lot on gas mileage.

Greg Hunter, CNN, Columbus, Ohio.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Hot dogs, hamburgers, well, as much a part of Memorial Day as the red, white and blue, which means this is like Christmas, New Year's and Thanksgiving combined for the barbecue industry.

Susan Lisovicz joining us now with all those numbers about this -- I tell you what. I had Tony's barbecued chicken down there in the diner. And I think I had just one too many pieces.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, I can relate. Well, you know, you can loosen -- you can loosen the slacks. No one will see.

HOLMES: I will. That's the problem.

LISOVICZ: I won't tell anyone, Kyra. How is it that two fun people like you and T.J. are working on Memorial Day?

PHILLIPS: I know. What's up with that? We're like the party. I know. We got our little barbecue going here in the NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: OK.

PHILLIPS: I'll have sizzling details

LISOVICZ: I know it. May is National Barbecue Month, and it culminates with Memorial Day, one of the three most popular grilling holidays. And the barbecue business is sizzling. The Heart, Patio and Barbecue Association says 17 million grills were shipped last year. That's up 15 percent from '05 and up from just 11 million in 1985.

Here's some barbecue basics, you all. Dress the dog, not the bun. You don't want a soggy bun. And condiments should be layered in this order -- we kid you not -- wet stuff first, like ketchup or mustard; then chunky, such as relish or salsa; followed by shredded cheese; and finally, spices for the piece de resistance.

HOLMES: Oh, my goodness.

LISOVICZ: All this from the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. I kid you not. I have the tips right in front of me, which also says to 86 the fresh herbs. It's says it's simply overdoing the presentation for something as humble as the hot dog.

And when you've invited to a cookout, remember above all to step away from the grill.

HOLMES: Yes. Absolutely.

LISOVICZ: The primary griller in the majority of households -- stop laughing, Kyra...

HOLMES: Yes.

LISOVICZ: ... considers him or herself to be an above average cook. You don't want to step on toes literally.

HOLMES: Absolutely. Yes.

LISOVICZ: Or you don't want to hurt the ego -- Kyra.

HOLMES: Yes, yes.

PHILLIPS: Here we are on national television talking about how to freaking barbecue.

HOLMES: Watch out, Kyra.

LISOVICZ: How to dress the dog. This is news you can use, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: How to dress the dog. OK.

LISOVICZ: Maybe you would -- maybe you would have been invited to a barbecue had you known.

PHILLIPS: And I wouldn't be working.

HOLMES: Yes.

PHILLIPS: OK. So now I have to ask about the classic debate about gas versus charcoal.

HOLMES: Charcoal. PHILLIPS: Maybe I should ask the guy.

HOLMES: Charcoal.

PHILLIPS: Because the guy is supposed to be the big barbecuer.

HOLMES: Charcoal.

LISOVICZ: True. Because men love -- see, you're like Tony Harris.

HOLMES: Yes.

LISOVICZ: See, you connoisseurs. You, like, love fire. OK.

Did both...

PHILLIPS: Did you play with matches as a kid? All right. We're paying attention.

LISOVICZ: Charcoal has the advantages and disadvantages. Gas grills take less time to heat up and cool down, but they usually cost more. When it comes to taste, T.J. knows...

HOLMES: Charcoal.

LISOVICZ: No contest. Charcoal grills come out on top.

Still, it seems the convenience wins over taste in the eyes of many Americans. Sales of gas grills have tripled since 1985.

We're all going to T.J. and Tony's, though, because...

HOLMES: Yes.

LISOVICZ: ... charcoal is king there.

Of course, many Americans are hitting the Memorial Day party circuit. The markets are closed today. I'm still working. I can tell you what happened last week on Wall Street. The Dow Industrials edged lower, snapping a streak of seven straight weekly gains.

In the next hour of NEWSROOM, another scintillating story. College students, they consider themselves experts when it comes to cell phones and sneakers. A new survey shows they're flunking out when it comes to identifying where their favorite products come from. I will give you a quiz personally, Kyra and T.J. Back to you.

PHILLIPS: You're going to have Susan and me over for a little barbecue?

HOLMES: Well, maybe not you. You're not up on the barbecue etiquette, apparently.

PHILLIPS: Apparently not.

HOLMES: How to behave when you come to someone's home for a barbecue.

LISOVICZ: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

HOLMES: All right.

LISOVICZ: Especially the latter part of that.

HOLMES: But Susan, thank you. I loved that business report. I loved it. Thank you so much. We'll see you again soon.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

HOLMES: Well, meanwhile, we're going to be talking about this, though. This solution -- some serious stuff here -- leads to a lot of problems for people who wear contact lenses. The latest on the recall of a popular lens cleaner, ahead on the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: I'm Kyra Phillips live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

TJ HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: And I'm TJ Holmes in today for Don Lemon who is on assignment in India, signs of a thaw. We're not talking global warming this time. It's all about diplomacy between Iran and the U.S.

PHILLIPS: A meeting in Baghdad marks the first time the nations have formally spoken in 27 years. Some topics are still very much off the table, though. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: The talks historic, the results, uncertain. U.S. and Iranian diplomats met for a few hours in Baghdad today, the first such meeting between two rivals in 27 years and the focus, bringing stability to war-torn Iraq. Head now to Baghdad and CNN's Paula Hancocks who is there and talks are historic, but can we call them successful as well?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, TJ, it was interesting that both the ambassadors, the U.S. and the Iranian ambassador to Iraq separately after the meeting used the word positive when they were talking about the talks, so that has to be a good sign. But of course it wasn't going to be plain sailing. There was so much that Iran and the U.S. does not see eye to eye on. This is the first time that the United States actually accused Iran face-to-face of aiding and abetting and funding and training some of the Shia militias here in Baghdad. Now Ambassador Ryan Crocker said that he did say that to the other ambassador and had no response. In return, the Iranian ambassador said to Crocker that he was not happy about the fact the Iraqi army was still ill-equipped. Later on, he also offered to help with the equipping of the Iraqi army and also the training. But both sides did say for the most part it was positive and also for the most part they both agreed that they has to be a stable, a secure and a democratic Iraq. TJ?

HOLMES: All right. So far so good, it sounds like at least. Is there a next step? More talking to do?

HANCOCKS: There hasn't been a mention of it at this point, although we did hear from Crocker that Iraq had said they would extend another invitation to this kind of meeting between the U.S. and Iran. Iraq certainly doesn't want to see this go to waste. But at this point there hasn't been another date set. One interesting thing, though, that the Iranians did suggest during this meeting was a trilateral mechanism in order to secure security in Iraq. That would mean Iran, Iraq and the U.S. all working together. But of course nothing concrete has been decided, nothing was decided today. This was just the first step and it's the first step for both sides to put their cards on the table and say what they thought. But crucially, it was only regards to Iraq. Everything else was off limits.

HOLMES: All right, Paula Hancocks for us in Baghdad. Paula, thank you so much.

PHILLIPS: Flags, flowers and solemn ceremonies, a grateful nation pauses to honor its war dead, one scene of the tributes this memorial day, the Vietnam Memorial at Washington, always the place to remember, reflect and grieve. Earlier today President Bush made his sixth Memorial Day visit to Arlington national cemetery as wartime commander in chief. He laid a wreath at the tomb of the unknowns and paid tribute to all generations of men and women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The greatest memorial to our fallen troops cannot be found in the words we say or the places we gather. The more lasting tribute is all around us, a country where citizens have the right to worship as they want, to march for what they believe and to say what they think. These freedoms came at great costs and they will survive only as long as there are those willing to step forward to defend them against determined enemies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Before the solemn visit, President Bush met privately with the families of several fallen U.S. troops at the White House.

Loss, tenderness, love and duty, they're all captured in this image that we're about to show you. This photo from the "Fort Worth Star Telegram" shows Francisco Paco Martinez visiting the grave of his son Army Specialist Francisco Patico (ph) Martinez. You'll notice that the father is wearing a uniform. That's because he decided to re-enlist in the Air Force reserves just to honor the sacrifice that his son made. He died at the age of 20, killed in action in Iraq and on this Memorial Day, Francisco Martinez joins us now from Dallas to talk about how he's remembering his son. Paco, great to see you.

FRANCISCO "PACO" MARTINEZ, U.S. AIR FORCE RESERVE: Great to see you, too Kyra.

PHILLIPS: I just want to go back to that photo for a minute. This is the photo that actually -- my segment producer, she saw the article, read the article, saw this picture and she turned to me and she said we have to interview this father. And we're so lucky that -- to find you, to have you with us. Tell me what's going through your mind this moment when you took this photo knowing what you were about to do.

MARTINEZ: Thank you very much, first of all, for having me on the show as well. A lot of things were going through my mind. As a matter of fact, it's been precisely a week from today I graduated United States Air Force security forces academy. In fact, after the interview, that's the reason why I'm in uniform, I'll be going over to the gravesite as well to show my son both my badge of authority and my new acquisitions. So all along I'm always thinking about, he's always on my mind, and likewise hold the other young men and women that are in service right now, that has all to do with the reason of me joining again.

PHILLIPS: And you're going over there today, I know you visit the gravesite of your son quite a bit. What do you talk to him about? What do you tell him? What's the message that you give him as you go and visit him?

MARTINEZ: It's funny you put it that way. It is indeed a conversation that I have with him and I do that. We talk a little bit about everything. Believe it or not, both himself and I were big computer enthusiasts. We still are. And he used to love to see the ads that would come out on specials on computer gear and things like that, what movies are playing at the movie theater, segments of music. I've been trying to upgrade myself into my music knowledge so I try to keep him up to date on all those things and talk about what's going on with the rest of the family members and things that are going on in my life.

PHILLIPS: He was quite a musician, wasn't he.

MARTINEZ: He was indeed, very talented, poetry, visual arts, even music as well.

PHILLIPS: We're looking at video, home video, there he is playing his drums and just prior to that he was with his little sister. There he is with her again. I'm just curious. What kind of a big brother was he? When you told your daughter what you were doing, did it make her nervous?

MARTINEZ: Well, the first part of the question, he was a fantastic big brother. That's something I wanted to share. He was odd in the sense that he was never awkward with children younger than him. I remember that once you get to a certain age, you don't want to lose your level of coolness and all that. That was never the case with him. He was always a gentle soul. He was always all about the children. One of my favorite pictures of him in Iraq is actually interacting with Iraqi children. And I know that both with his nephews and with my daughter, his sister, he was always just nuts about her and cared for her a great deal.

As far as Monica, Monica, my daughter, it has been very -- very tricky this whole thing about trying to rejoin. Obviously in fact, I had to make a few extra trips on the weekends from the San Antonio area where I was going to school for three months over here to Dallas, in Fort Worth area, because again, at times she would even say things to mom like you know, is daddy going to die just because I away for a week. So you could tell that that still weighs very heavy on her mind even though it's been a few years now since the passing of my son.

PHILLIPS: The reenlistment, is this a way for you to cope with your son's death, to stay close to your son? Do you worry about your own life?

MARTINEZ: I -- absolutely. I mean, I reenlisted in a way to honor his service and something very important that happened has to do with the way -- just before re-enlisting, I mean obviously I separated from the military on my first period of service back in 1991 after the end of the first Gulf war. I have been from '82 to '91, so I had a pretty good span of service that involved the United States Army and the United States Air Force. But 15 years afterwards or throughout, there was, just a computer geek going out there working in the information technology sector. And my co-workers (INAUDIBLE), Dallas metroplex area, none of them had military backgrounds, I had no reservists or national guardsmen that were co-workers of mine. One of the things was that for me was very important was when he would come up and chat with me on the Internet, interactive conversations that we would have while he was over in Iraq for example. My co-workers would get up, be around me as we were talking, and so we'd -- none of us ever imagined that he was going to pass away. And when he did, I mean, it was just as hard for me amazingly to them as well. And one of the things that they comment was how sure they had heard so many times in the media and so forth the many losses that we were having over in Iraq, but never until this happened, did they make it their own, did they feel it that it would be you know, they had such a connection from then on with all of the young service men and women that are passing. And they looked at it from a different point of view afterwards. So, I felt an obligation to best honor his service to keep his memory alive, to rejoin and to also try to also represent all of those who have a sticker that says support our troops in their cars, but the way I saw it is that if I'm an able body and they have me, I wanted to go out there and indeed support the troops in my way.

PHILLIPS: Well, we salute you and we'll be following your career, also we lift up the memory of your son Pacito today as well. Paco Martinez, thank you.

MARTINEZ: Thank you very much.

HOLMES: A Marine major with a guitar and a message. A Marine original. That's ahead here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: A new warning for contact lens wearers. A popular solution could be contaminated. It's been linked to a rare eye infection that could lead to blindness. CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen here now, blindness? That sounds nasty.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is nasty. This is not - we've all had eye infections over the years. (INAUDIBLE) That's not what this is like. This is a parasite. It is called acanthamoeba (ph) and it appears to be linked or the CDC says it actually is linked to this product, complete moisture lock which is made by a company called Advanced Medical Options. Let's go over some of the basics here. The name again, we wanted to make sure that people see it, complete moisture plus by Advanced Medical Options. People who were using this had seven times the risk of getting this infection from this parasite, seven times the risk.

This infection as we discussed can cause blindness. In fact a few of the people, about nine of them in this new CDC study that got this infection, they actually needed to have a cornea transplant. That's how bad it got. So if you use this solution and you're wondering gee, what do I do now? First thing you need to do, throw away the solution. And throw away some even if you haven't opened it yet. Throw away the lenses that you were using when you were using that solution and throw away the case that the solution went to, that little case that holds your lenses. So those are three important things for people to remember if they were using that solution.

HOLMES: You mentioned there, the people in the study that were looked at seven times more likely to get this infection. The break, to help people a little better, if they use this stuff they are probably freaking out about it, say, oh my goodness. Does this automatically mean I'm going to get an eye infection? What are the really chances that you're going to get it if you this?

COHEN: We're here to say don't freak out because there are many, many people who use this solution and did not get this parasite. That's important to remember. In fact, in the CDC study, they only found 21 people who used this solution and got the infection but it's such a severe infection they wanted to make sure that they got the word out that you should not be using this. There are, however, certain signs that you want to look out for if you were using the solution. You want to be aware of any eye pain you might be experiencing. You might be aware of eye redness. You should also be aware of any blurred vision, sensitivity to light, a sensation that there's something in your eye as well as excessive tearing. If you have any of these symptoms and you're using this solution, actually even if you're not using this solution, you should go and see your doctor because you can get this infection from other things other than this solution, other contact lens solutions can sometimes lead to it if there is an infection. This parasite is in the water. It's in the soil. It's in the swimming pools which is why you're supposed to take your lens out before you swim.

HOLMES: OK, that was the next question. It doesn't seem like contact lens solution and a parasite should ever hook up. That's how it happens. That's how a parasite gets in there.

COHEN: They aren't exactly sure. They haven't said that there was some problem with production. They haven't exactly identified what happened. How does the parasite get in there? But if you figure it's a parasite that's around, that's in the tap water, that's kind of all around us, it runs that risk. And again, it's not the only contact lens solution that's had issues. People have gotten this parasite, parasitical infection even when they're using other solutions.

HOLMS: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much for the update.

PHILLIPS: Water clogged from days of heavy rain, the latest on the flooding in the southern plains. We'll have more on that straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Few picnics and parades in parts of the plains this holiday. It's still dumping buckets across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Rivers are overflowing stranding motorists, campers and zoo animals. The Hutchinson, Kansas zoo has been closed since Thursday. About 25 of its residents including the bison had to be rescued. Zoo workers hope to reopen in a couple weeks. Jacqui Jeras here now. Jacqui, it's hard to keep that barbecue fire going when it's getting rained on.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. There's plenty of rain to keep it out if you live anywhere around the Houston area on up to the Dallas-Fort Worth area right now, guys, it has been wet all day here, especially on the west side of town. We'll zoom in for you and show you all that rain coming down here. You can see up towards (INAUDIBLE) into Baytown, the rain is coming down about an inch to two inches per hour. So, an urban and small stream flood advisory has been issued for the Houston area. We may see some good ponding on the roads. Make sure you don't drive through any of that. We've got a larger area of rain which is going to be coming on shore, so looking for an extra couple of inches. We've got a ground stop in effect at Houston, hobby and intercontinental. We've got some delays in Newark and also some delays at DFW at this time because of thunderstorms in the area.

Outside of Newark though, despite this weak cold front coming on through and bringing some clouds direct to the northeaster corridor as doing just fine in terms of delays. If you're traveling on the highways this afternoon, I-35 is going to be one of the trouble spots as well as I-70 throughout the Ohio Valley but along I-5, I-25, I-95 into the east, everything looking really good. It should be smooth sailing for you. High pressure still dominating your weather in the east here for tomorrow, still bringing that high threat of rip currents along the Atlantic beaches here in Florida with its strong easterly wind.

Smoke pollution staying in southern Georgia, northern parts of Florida and in southern Alabama and the weather pattern really stay the same throughout much of the rest of the work week here that we're approaching, seeing the wet weather in the nation's midsections with the coast of the country doing OK, but we are going see a little bit of a change-up I think as we approach the weekend, hopefully get some of that moisture into the southeast. In the meantime, high temperatures are going to be quite warm across the nation's midsection. Lots of 80 U.S. out there, but look at the cooler air coming into the Pacific Northwest and across the Rockies. Beautiful tomorrow with sunshine and 72 in Denver. Back to you guys. HOLMES: All right. A lot going on actually Jacqui Jeras, thank you.

JERAS: Are we grilling after this?

HOLMES: Well, the weather is good here. You are invited. We're still working on Kyra.

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