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America Pays Tribute to Fallen Soldiers; New Books Examine Hillary Clinton; U.S. Soldiers in Iraq Honor Fallen Comrades; A Father Re-Enlists in Reserves to Honor Memory of Slain Son; Helping Kids Cope; The Wounds of War

Aired May 28, 2007 - 15:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eleven-year-old Jamison Stone brought down this more than 9-foot-long, 1,000 pound wild hog with a pistol.


JAMISON STONE, KILLED GIANT HOG: I was scared, a little bit excited. It was pretty nerve-racking at first, when I was about to go after that big old hog.


HOLMES: Jamison was hunting with his dad in east Alabama when they came upon the monster hog. The hog is bigger than Hogzilla, the famed wild hog...


HOLMES: ... that was killed in south Georgia in 2004.

Is it just me, or an 11-year-old with a pistol, is that OK?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Baby, that's -- that -- that's how they ring...



PHILLIPS: ... it in 'Bama, OK?

HOLMES: All right.

PHILLIPS: That's how they ring it in 'Bama.

HOLMES: A movie now being made about Hogzilla, and they want to talk to Jamison about role in that movie.

Meanwhile, the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM and our roles here starts right now.

PHILLIPS: Hello, I'm Kyra Phillips, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes, sitting in today for Don Lemon, who is on assignment in India.

Well, the wayward whales, they are starting to make all the right moves toward the Pacific ocean. We will get a live report from our Dan Simon.

PHILLIPS: What do the words ultimate sacrifice really mean? And how is America paying tribute to those who have made it? It's Memorial Day, and you're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

They died serving the nation. All across the country, during the 3:00 hour, people will pause to mourn our fallen heroes in a national remembrance -- one scene of tributes today, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, another, Arlington National Cemetery.

Earlier, President Bush made his sixth Memorial Day visit there as a wartime commander in chief.

Well, the wall is always a place to remember, reflect and grieve, but never more so than on Memorial Day.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. She joins us live.

Hey, Brianna.


And this is a special year here. This is the 25th anniversary of the so-called wall, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Today, we saw a special tribute for three Vietnam veterans whose names were just added to the wall earlier this month.

Ann Pruett is the wife of Richard Pruett, one of those men. We were with her earlier in May when she saw Rick's name added to the wall.


ANN PRUETT, WIDOW OF U.S. SOLDIER: 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.


KEILAR: Richard Pruett, Rick to family and friends, was an Army sergeant who died in 2005 because of complications connected to war wounds that he sustained in Vietnam.

That was also the case with Army Specialist Wesley Stiverson. His name was also added earlier this month. He also died in 2005.

But Navy Fireman Apprentice Joseph Krywicki died all the way back in 1966 from combat wounds. His name was inadvertently left off of the wall for all of these years -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: So, why did it take so long to get the names up there, finally, because it's been such a long time since the end of the war?

KEILAR: Well, there's always a number of reasons. And this happens every few years, if not every year, that a few names are added. In some case, it's just because there were so many casualties, more than 58,000 names here on the wall, that some of the -- the killed in Vietnam are -- they inadvertently are slipping through the cracks. And it really takes a concerted effort by the family to get their name on the wall.

But it also comes down to red tape. Speaking with Ann Pruett, she said that he had to get all of the medical records for Rick from the time that he was wounded in Vietnam to the time he died, in 2005. You can imagine what an endeavor that was.

She said, it's important that you go through all of that rigmarole, so that you can prove that the -- your loved one really should be on the wall. But, still, it's quite time consuming, as you can imagine -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Brianna Keilar -- I can imagine, indeed -- live from the wall there, we will check in. Thanks.

HOLMES: Well, U.S. troops in Iraq also pausing to remember their fallen comrades.

CNN's Arwa Damon is there.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're here at Camp Yusufiyah, 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 soldier 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 Spring-Glace, 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, Yusufiyah, Iraq.


PHILLIPS: Now, back in Baghdad, a massive explosion leaves dead civilians in its wake. A powerful car bomb went off in a busy business district today, killing at least 21 Iraqi civilians and wounding 66.

The blast damaged a nearby Sunni mosque, prompting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to condemn terrorists who target Iraqi religious symbols. Police there, however, believe that civilians on the street were the real target this time, not that mosque.

HOLMES: Forty-two Iraqi civilians now free from the clutches of terrorists -- U.S. troops raided an al Qaeda hideout north of Baghdad over the weekend, rescuing the 42 Iraqis, who say they were kidnapped and held up to four months.

The military says some of them showed signs of torture, including broken bones, one of the civilians, 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: Their meeting lasted just a few hours. Their focus was narrow, and the results uncertain. But the fact that U.S. and Iranian diplomats actually sat down together is historic.

They met in Baghdad today to talk about bringing stability to war-torn Iraq.

Let's get straight to CNN State Department correspondent Zain Verjee -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker described the historic talks with the Iranians as businesslike. They lasted about four hours. The Iraqis were also present in the room. Now, the focus of the talks was really how to end the bloodshed in Iraq. No other topic was discussed. No one, Kyra, was expecting any miracles to happen at the talks, but they are the first direct and official talks between the U.S. and Iran in almost 30 years. Here's how Ambassador Crocker put the U.S. position forward to Iran.


RYAN CROCKER, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: And I laid out before the Iranians a number of our direct, specific concerns about their behavior in Iraq, their support for militias that are fighting both the Iraqi security forces and coalition forces, the fact that a lot of the explosives and ammunition that are used by these groups are coming in from Iran.


VERJEE: Now, in a conference call with journalists, Kyra, Crocker says that the U.S. knows what the Iranians are up to and wants an end to their support for Iraqi militias.

Although there was no real breakthrough at this meeting, Crocker is saying, look, he's encouraged and not disappointed. He says that he doesn't want to make a huge amount, a big deal, of this one single meeting in either a positive or negative way. He says what matters is the action that's taken on the ground -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: So, did Iran respond to that, though, Zain?

Now, you know. You have sat down, you have talked with Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state. I have been able to be in Iraq and hear firsthand how Iran is funneling the extremists, and making the situation worse in -- in that country, in Iraq. Did Iran acknowledge any of that type of support for extremists?

VERJEE: Iran denied it. And they really didn't go into any detail as to what their -- their side was.

Ambassador Crocker, in the call, said that Iran and the U.S. are really on the same page in supporting Iraq, and that they wanted to see a stable, democratic Iraq, and prosperity for its citizens. But Crocker also said that the action that Iran is taking is not consistent to what they are saying.

In the meeting, Iran also said that they wanted the U.S. what it called occupation of Iraq to end. And they also were quite critical of the extent to which progress has been made of -- of training Iraqi security forces -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Interesting to see if there are more meetings to come.

Zain Verjee, appreciate it.

HOLMES: Delta and Dawn, those lost whales, well, they now have gotten to stepping -- a progress report. And there is progress to report, but, still, rescue crews worried about something else now. We will have the latest ahead in the NEWSROOM.

Her life is an open book. Well, make that several books. Why are publishers suddenly so hot on Hillary Clinton? Politics and page- turners -- straight ahead from the NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: It's 3:12 Eastern time.

And here are some of the stories we're working on for the CNN NEWSROOM this hour: Remembering the war dead while the nation is at war, that's what President Bush and other Americans are doing this Memorial Day. At Arlington National Cemetery, Mr. Bush called fallen troops in Iraq and Afghanistan a new generation of heroes.

And, right now, coast Guard crews are searching Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans. They're for a New England Patriots defensive end Marquise Hill. He's been missing after a jet ski incident. Police say that he wasn't wearing a life jacket either.

Duke University lacrosse fans out in force -- right now, their team is take on John Hopkins in a national championship game. They have come a long way after now discredited rape allegations that cost them three players, a coach, and part of their 2006 season.

HOLMES: All right. We want to take a quick look now at gas prices this Memorial Day.

The national average for unleaded is about $3.21 a gallon. And, according to AAA motor club, we should crack open the champagne, because that's a third-of-a-cent less than it was yesterday. But it's still a jump of 29 cents from just a month ago.

Well, with those soaring gas prices, curb your travel plans. We're taking that question on the road.

Over three days, CNN's Greg Hunter will drive 600 miles.


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 will be shoving off from Columbus, Ohio, and we will be traveling to Greensboro, North Carolina. Lovely city. I used to live there. We will spend a night there. Then, the next day, we will get up, and we will 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 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 Sunoco 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, number one, check your tire pressure. This is an air gauge. Number two, 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.


PHILLIPS: Well, her life is an open book. Make that several books. Why are publishers suddenly so hot on Hillary Clinton? Politics and page-turners -- straight ahead from the CNN NEWSROOM.


HOLMES: Well, there might actually, finally, be some light at the end of that river. Two lost whales stuck in freshwater for about two weeks have started swimming towards the open ocean, where they should be.

The Coast Guard and veterinarians are following along to keep track of these humpbacks, make sure they're safe, make sure they're healthy.

And CNN's Dan Simon on the phone with us, keeping track as well.

And things seem to be going a lot better than they have been the past couple of weeks -- Dan.


Indeed, this is a very good sign, but let's not forget the whales have teased us before. About a week ago, they started moving downriver, but then they made a U-turn. At this point, things seem to be looking good, though, today. It's -- it's a beautiful day weather wise. And the whales are making their way back towards the Pacific Ocean.

At this point, they're about 35 miles away from the ocean. Today, crews are monitoring these whales. They're not getting too close. They made do some more aggressive efforts tomorrow. But take a listen to how one veterinarian explained it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BERNADETTE FEES, ASSISTANT DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR EDUCATION & OUTREACH, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME: They will attempt to a couple of things. One will be to administer the doses of a second antibiotic to both mother and calf. The calf gets one dose, and the mother will receive three doses, which is similar to what happened on Saturday. And, then, they will also be working to take a biopsy of the calf.


SIMON: The reason why, T.J., they're administering these antibiotics is because, you may recall that these whales were injured, believed to injured by a keel of a boat. So, crews have been looking at those injuries closely over the last couple of weeks. The hope was is, once they got into saltwater, those injuries could heal a little bit more quickly.

And, in terms of where they are now, they are in saltwater, making their way towards the Pacific Ocean -- T.J.

HOLMES: Well, Dan, do we have an idea of how dire their health situation is? Are we up against the clock here for how long we have to -- to get them back to where they need to be before -- I don't know -- the -- the worst could -- could happen to them?

SIMON: To be perfectly honest, it really is a guessing game. You know, the -- the bottom line is, they wanted to get these whales back into the Pacific Ocean as quickly as possible. There really wasn't anything to compare it to, other than back in 1985, when you had Humphrey the whale. He lasted a little bit more than a month in the Sacramento River, before finally making his way back towards the sea.

But, anyway, things seem to be looking good now. If -- if these whales decide to turn back, then they will -- they will look at maybe going back to some of those other measures, where they used some water hoses to sort of push the whales in the right direction, or they used a flotilla of boats, or maybe bang on some pipes again. They're just kind of waiting to see. But they're encouraged by -- by what they're looking at today.

HOLMES: And, again, just quickly, do we...


HOLMES: They're not saying for sure whether or not all those methods you just mentioned, that they actually worked?

SIMON: You know, I think we can safely say they did not work...


SIMON: ... because, when they tried them, every -- every time, the whales basically did not respond. And, when they sort of backed off, that's when the whales did decide to move. So -- so, maybe less is more this -- this time around. (LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: All right, Dan Simon keeping an eye on it for us -- thank you so much, Dan.


SIMON: You got it.

PHILLIPS: He's on the campaign trail on Memorial Day, but presidential hopeful Barack Obama says the holidays shouldn't be politicized. Speaking today in New Hampshire, Obama called for better treatment of recruits, active-duty troops and veterans.

Fellow Democrat Joe Biden is stumping across Iowa and defending his vote for the war funding bill that Congress approved last week. A critic of the war's execution, Biden said he's unwilling, nonetheless, to play political chicken with the lives of the troops.

One other note from the campaign trail: It's Rudy Giuliani's birthday. The former New York mayor is 63.

Just in time for the presidential race, a slew of new books on Hillary Clinton. One is out now, with two to be released soon, including one that claims that the Clintons had a secret pat in the '90s to get both elected president.

I discussed the books Friday on "PAULA ZAHN NOW" with a panel of guests.


KEITH BOYKIN, HOST, "MY TWO CENTS": All politicians are masters at spin. And I don't think she's any different from that. The problem is, because she's a woman, she's judged differently. They try to say that she's manipulative, that she's methodical, all these things that, if a man does it, nobody complains about it.

PHILLIPS: Tara, Tara, what do you...


PHILLIPS: Tara, I mean, here's a woman. A lot of people wonder, OK, her husband was sleeping with the intern, or sexual relations, in the White House. She had political motive. She knew exactly what she was doing, because she had plans to run for president or run for the Senate.


And I think that it's disturbing to me that we should just accept the fact that, well, all politicians do it; they're all liars; so, let's not hold Hillary Clinton to a high standard.

(LAUGHTER) SETMAYER: She's supposed -- she's running for the highest office in the world.


SETMAYER: OK? Leader of the free world. We should not excuse away her indiscretions, her sins, the fact that she's not honest. These are all qualities that I would hope the American people would use as -- to consider their president of the United States.


SETMAYER: Now, the argument for -- that she's a woman, and this is -- the only reason why she's being attacked is because she's a woman, I think, for certain elements, that these -- that the books like this will create a dialogue again about, is America really ready for a woman president?

Now -- but I don't it's fair to say she's being attacked, because, Hillary Clinton, if anyone, you have to admire her ability to -- to be tough and assert herself. And -- and, as a woman, if anyone could do it, it would be her. But I don't think it's fair to now claim the victim role.

I don't -- I think that's just an excuse and it's a way to deflect from some of her larger indiscretions, which are troubling.


PHILLIPS: Leslie, three new books -- you know, three books out about this woman now. Does this -- is this proving that, hey, the Republicans are worried about this woman?


LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It wasn't Republicans that wrote all of these books. I mean, that would be the first thing I would say.

And, if she's upset that these types of books come out, she had to be upset every day for the last 12 years. This is nothing new. And the reason there have -- has been a decade of investigation of her is, no one knows which personality is real.

And I have to say, I like to hear my counterpart, you know, the euphemism that she's ambitious. I would call it much more conniving, contrived.

I mean, people are trying to say, is this somebody who really relishes her role as a housewife and a -- when she takes down housewives that bake recipes, and, then, the next minute, she's sharing recipes with them?

Does she want to defend her husband or does she want to control him? Does she want to, you know, be known by her maiden name, or does she want to relinquish that? I don't really think -- and -- and, most importantly, her Iraq vote -- she supports Iraq, the authorization of it. And, then, just this week, she decides she wants to defund the troops and abandon our soldiers.


PHILLIPS: Now, in reaction to the books, a Clinton spokesperson says that it took the reporters years to uncover no news. And, also, a key source for the claim that the Clintons had a pact to get both elected president is calling that claim preposterous.

Well, a reminder: two big debates heading your way here on CNN. The Democratic presidential candidates square off in New Hampshire this Sunday, June 3. The Republicans go at it two days later, Tuesday, June 5.

HOLMES: A private man in a public role. Former President Ronald Reagan may have saved his most poignant thoughts for a daily diary. The long-awaited Reagan collection was published last week.

This being Memorial Day, our Kiran Chetry asked the book's editor, Douglas Brinkley, about Reagan's reaction to the death of troops he dispatched into battle.


KIRAN CHETRY, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Sometimes widows or mothers would just put their arms around me, their head on my chest and quietly cry. He also wrote about feeling a lump in his throat at times,, and actually saved clippings of newspaper articles about the deaths of some of the U.S. troops.

What was -- what does that reveal about how he felt about the U.S. troops?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: During his presidency, he really saw himself as one of his roles as a spokesperson and the leader of not just active service people, but veterans.

And he -- whenever an American soldier would die abroad on his watch, he would reach out to the family in one way or another, often by a telephone call. And he did record that conversation in the diary and say just what you said, the lump in my throat, or, boy, did it just make me wobbly.

At one point, a mother asked him, is it worth it? Did my son lose his life for a reason?

And he said, it's so hard to answer those questions.

But he felt part of the responsibility of a president was that, if a soldier died on your watch, you had an obligation to make an outreach to the family of the deceased.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: And that was, again, historian Douglas Brinkley speaking on "AMERICAN MORNING" with Kiran Chetry.

PHILLIPS: Rain on the plains, relentless downpours mean more flooding this week? The weather outlook -- straight ahead from the CNN NEWSROOM.


HOLMES: With flags, flowers and solemn ceremonies, a grateful nation pauses to honor its war dead. One scene of tributes this Memorial Day, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., always a place to remember, reflect and grieve. Early today, President Bush made his sixth Memorial Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery as a wartime commander in chief. He laid a wreath and the Tomb of the Unknowns and paid tribute to all generations of military men and women.


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.


HOLMES: And before the visit, President Bush met privately with the families of several fallen U.S. service members at the White House.

PHILLIPS: A father memorializes his slain son. Right now, Francisco Paco Martinez is on his way to visit the grave of his son, Army Specialist Francisco "Paquito" Martinez. His son was killed in action in Iraq.

And earlier in the NEWSROOM, I spoke with Paco, who has re- enlisted in the Air Force Reserves just to honor his son.


FRANCISCO "PACO" MARTINEZ, U.S. AIR FORCE RESERVE: It's been precisely a week from today I graduated the United States Air Force Security Forces Academy. And, in fact, after the interview -- and 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 -- you know, he's always on my mind, and likewise hold the other young men and women that are in service right now, and 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. I mean, we still are. And he used to love to see the ads that would come out with specials on computer gear and things like that, what movies are playing at the movie theater, segments of music.

I've been trying to, you know, upgrade myself to my music knowledge. And 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, and even music as well.

PHILLIPS: Now, we're looking at video, home video. There he is playing his drums, But 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? And 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. I mean, that's something I want to just share.

I mean, he was -- 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 just -- you know, you don't want to lose your level of coolness and all that. And 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, you know -- I mean, his sister -- he was always just nuts about her and cared for her a great deal.

As far as Monica (ph), Monica (ph), my daughter, it has been very -- very tricky. I mean, 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.

And 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: A time to remember, especially tough on the children left behind. One program is helping kids cope with that loss, though.

Our Brianna Keilar has that story.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's the greatest show on earth, guaranteed to get smiles and laughs. And on this day, performers from Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus are helping their audience forget for a moment the reason they are here.

LETITIA IMEL, UNCLE KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN: My uncle was killed in action in July. My dad died four years ago. So my uncle was more like a father figure to me after that.

KEILAR: This is 17-year-old Letitia Imel's first year at Good Grief Camp, a weekend-long seminar put on by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a support organization for military families who have lost a loved one. The Halls, Tyler (ph), Tori, Tricia (ph), Tanner (ph) and Tony, have been coming for several years. They lost their dad in a training accident in 1998.

TORI HALL, FATHER DIED IN TRAINING ACCIDENT: My dad would come home from work and he'd start doing pushups, and he'd always put us on his back while he was doing them.

KEILAR: The younger kids struggle with knowing dad only through photos. At Good Grief Camp they have found ways to cope.

TONY HALL, FATHER DIED IN TRAINING ACCIDENT: I do -- at the end of the day, I write a letter to my dad and say how the day has gone. And I read it to my mom, and it helps me talk about it and not be able to like go and cry in a corner.

KEILAR: Kids pair up with mentors, many of them active members of the military. And they find solace in the company of people who know exactly how they feel.

IMEL: You know that they are on the same level as you and went through the same things as you. At school, everyone looks at you differently and they don't really understand.

KEILAR: They share stories, they share laughs, and today they take a break from their grief, putting on their very own circus, a small step as they try to move forward.

Brianna Keilar, CNN, Arlington, Virginia.


HOLMES: Well, home from war, but facing a new battle. And by his side, an army of loved ones.

The story of Sergeant Cope, that's coming up in the NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: The search is on for New England Patriots defensive end Marquise Hill. Hill has been missing since a jet ski accident in Louisiana yesterday. He was jet skiing with a young woman on Lake Pontchartrain when they hit a wave and fell off. Neither of them were wearing a life jacket.

The woman was able to make it to a nearby pylon where she was rescued, but the strong current pulled Hill in another direction. Rescue crews are now scouring the shoreline there for any sign of him.

HOLMES: Fierce storms, flash floods and landslides take their toll in parts of Europe and Turkey. About two dozen people have been killed, nine in eastern Turkey, where melting snows are triggering mudslides. Six hikers died while trying to cross a rain-swollen river in Greece.

Meanwhile, back here in the U.S., a few picnics and parades in parts of the plains this holiday. It's still pouring buckets across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Rivers are overflowing, stranding motorists, campers and some animals. Specifically, zoo animals here, Hutchinson, Kansas. The zoo there has been closed since Thursday.

About 25 of the zoo's residents, including the bison, have had to be rescued. Zoo workers hope to reopen in a couple of weeks.

Jacqui Jeras here with the forecast.



PHILLIPS: Coming home from the war means the start of new struggles for many Iraq veterans. The physical and emotional wounds continue long after they leave battlefield. And one military family is coping with a lot of gratitude and love right now.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez has their story.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Army Sergeant Joshua Cope returned from Iraq six months ago. Two Purple Hearts and a Medal of Valor tell his harrowing tale of war.

SGT. JOSHUA COPE, U.S. ARMY: Watching my friends die, that was probably the worst thing. We were like a family over there. I was with those guys for like two years.

GUTIERREZ: Staff Sergeant Joe Narvaez, PFC Jan Kim (ph), and PFC Daniel Alman (ph), brothers in arms no more. Sergeant Cope was the only one from the group to come home alive. He was sent to Iraq not once, but twice. The first time he was shot in the leg during an ambush. Two years later, during his second tour, his Humvee hit an IED.

COPE: We hit the land mine, and I got blown like 20 feet from the Humvee. And I remember looking up and saying, "Oh, God. Oh, God."

GUTIERREZ: At 24, Cope has a new battle to fight.

COPE: I lost both my legs above the knee. My hand got pretty messed up. For me, it's probably just learning to walk again. That's probably the hardest thing for me personally.

GUTIERREZ: Emotionally, Cope says the hardest thing was losing his best friend. He wears Narvaez' name on his wrist.

COPE: It signifies the date that he lost his life in Iraq. I never take it off.

GUTIERREZ: Cope says this is his reason to go on, for Laney (ph) and his wife, Erica.

ERICA COPE, SGT. JOSHUA COPE'S WIFE: I do think we're one of the lucky ones, because there's a lot of soldiers who aren't coming home. And I still do have a husband and then my daughter still has a father.

GUTIERREZ: And this young family knows they have a love road ahead. Erica has not left her husband's side.

LINDA COPE, SGT. JOSHUA COPE'S MOTHER: Erica is my hero. She's 22 years old. And she's got the maturity and wisdom that has encouraged me and made me go, "Gosh, she doesn't complain."

GUTIERREZ: Richard Rees, a former Marine, helps Joshua out around the house. Both know war.

RICHARD REES, OPERATION HOME FRONT: And I said, "If you care to share with me what happened, I'm a good listener." Oh, man, we both started balling. I haven't cried like that for a long, long, long time. Probably overdue.

See, I'm getting choked.

J. COPE: Laney (ph)...

E. COPE: That's kind of been his strength, I think, a lot, just being there for his daughter. And he wants to run, you know, chase her around.

GUTIERREZ: And when she's old enough, this soldier wants to walk his daughter down the aisle.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, San Diego.


PHILLIPS: Well, on this Memorial Day we honor our men and women who have died for this country. Let's look back on the major wars that this country has faced and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

The American Civil War -- some 620,000 soldiers lost their lives.

In World War I, 116,516 Americans gave their lives in what was hoped to be the war to end all wars.

In the 1940s, Americans once again answered Uncle Sam's call to go to battle. More than 405,000 men and women were killed in World War II.

In the '50s, the Korean War took 36,576 American lives.

And in the Vietnam War, more than 58,000 American men and women were killed.

Right now, American troops are serving in Afghanistan. Three hundred and thirteen Americans have died in that fight against terrorism.

And the war in Iraq, 3,454 American men and women have died in this war so far.


PHILLIPS: Let's get straight to our Gulf Coast correspondent, Susan Roesgen.

We understand they found the missing body of the New England Patriots defensive end, Marquise Hill. Is that correct?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kyra, unfortunately, it is correct.

Less than an hour ago, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which had lots of boats out on Lake Pontchartrain and had actually been dragging the lake for a body, did report finding the body of Marquise Hill. They found the body about a quarter of a mile away from where witnesses said his jet ski capsized last night.

Recapping this story, Marquise Hill and an unidentified woman were jet skiing on Lake Pontchartrain Sunday evening, apparently enjoying the evening with family and friends, when, for some reason, the jet ski capsized. A boater in the area around 9:30 last night reported to the Coast Guard that he heard a woman screaming for help in the water, was able to rescue that woman, but couldn't get to Marquise Hill.

Marquise Hill, 24 years old, a New England Patriot player. He's a native New Orleanian. He was a star player at Louisiana State University, drafted by the Patriots back in 2004. A member of the winning Super Bowl championship team for the Patriots. Kyra, he was 6'6, weighed 300 pounds. A big, strong guy. But he was not wearing a life vest. And apparently in very rough water last night, he just did not survive.

PHILLIPS: All right. Susan Roesgen, we'll be following up, of course, with the family and what happens next. Appreciate it.

HOLMES: Well, that wraps it up for us just about here.

But tomorrow, the family of Kelly Jo Dowd is going to remember a mom, who never gave up on a dream for her daughter, even when life handed her a nightmare situation.

Kelly Jo Dowd was diagnosed with cancer, you may remember. But she wanted to see -- wanted to live to see her teenage daughter Dakoda play in the LPG event, and she did last year.

The thin 13-year-old got an invitation to play in a pro tournament. And, of course, Kelly Jo cheered her on. But she lost her battle with cancer Thursday night.

Just before Dakoda played in the tournament last spring, she and her mom spoke with reporters.


DAKODA DOWD, GOLFER: I want to be with my mom all the way up until forever, but if that doesn't happen, I want to be with her as long as I can. Every day.

KELLY JO DOWD, DAKODA'S MOM: It's definitely a dream come true, a dream that we could never have hoped to realize that has happened. And this really is a Cinderella story. It's been nothing short of a very sweet fairytale.


HOLMES: And Kelly Jo Dowd will be remembered at a memorial service tomorrow in Clearwater, Florida. She was 42 years old. Her daughter Dakoda is one of the top players on the junior golf circuit.

PHILLIPS: You probably could see right there by the video she has one heck of a swing and quite a future in golf. And her mom has always been there right by her side supporting her.

HOLMES: Well, she got to -- got to see that one. So...

PHILLIPS: Right. She played in that tournament.

All right. We're going to go to "THE SITUATION ROOM" now. John King filling in for Wolf Blitzer.


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