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CNN NEWSROOM

Health Care for Veterans; PTSD Rates High Among American Soldiers; NASA to Get First African-American Administration?

Aired May 23, 2009 - 16:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our fighting men and women -- and the military families who love them embody what's best in America. We have a responsibility to serve all of them as well as they have served us. And yet too often in recent years and decades, we as a nation have failed to live up to the responsibility. We failed to give them the support that they need or pay them the respect they deserve. That's a betrayal of the sacred trust that America has with all who wear and all who have worn the proud uniform of our country. That is a sacred trust I am committed to keeping as the president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, as we delve into the sacred trust that Mr. Obama speaks of, we want to begin this hour with the issue of health care for our vets.

Post traumatic stress disorder is one of the U.S. military's biggest challenges these days. The mental health of troops really came to light in a heightened way earlier this month. Army Sergeant John Russell was charged with killing five of his comrades at a stress clinic in Baghdad. Questions have been raised about whether he suffered PTSD, an anxiety disorder that can be triggered by a traumatic experience.

Well, according to one study, PTSD and depression affect an estimated 300,000 troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, some call it a hidden or invincible wound of war. So the faces of PTSD vary as

CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr shows us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEN. CARTER HAM, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: 21st of December, 2004. Worst day of my life. I cannot imagine how a day can be worse.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 22 people under Ham's command killed by a suicide bomber.

BRIG. GEN. GARY PATTON, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Specialist Robert (inaudible) took a gunshot wound in the torso. I was involved in medivacing (ph) him off the battlefield and a short period of time he died before my eyes. STARR: Two generals Carter Ham and Gary Patton now taking the extraordinary step of speaking out about their emotional trauma from the Iraq war hoping it will help other troubled soldiers. Ham says he's learned to cope with the memories of that suicide bomb attack, but it's been a tough road.

HAM: I was withdrawn. I wanted to still be there. I felt like what I was doing was not important because I had soldiers who were killed. It's not a matter of letting go. I don't want to let go.

STARR: For Patton, a brigade commander, the loss of 69 of his men over a year-long tour of duty still wakes him up at night. Believing he is again under attack.

PATTON: Of course, there is no IEDs or rocket that is going off in my bedroom but the brain has a funny way of remembering those things and I not only recreating the exact sound, but also the smell of the battlefield and the metallic taste you get in your mouth.

STARR: They both sought counseling knowing the stigma many attached to mental health problems. Patton says learning to talk about the war helped him cope with depression, anger and grief.

HAM: Frankly, I think I'm a better general because I got some help.

STARR: But the pain may never go away.

HAM: At the end of all that there were, I mean, soldiers and civilians were killed. That's my responsibility.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And Barbara Starr is joining us now from Washington.

So Barbara, while we know the Department of Defense, common knowledge now that they are dealing in a big way with this invisible wound, we know that they have launched a campaign to help remove the stigma that the general was talking about, but is the Department of Defense also kind of admitting that maybe this problem is much bigger than they ever thought they would have to grapple with right now?

STARR: I think that's absolutely right, Fred. I think the issue here is that the Pentagon and the Defense Department just beginning to cope with and they don't understand the problem. They've talked for years about lifting the stigma of getting treatment. These two generals really extraordinary that at their level, they would agree to go public, talking about their problems and the help that they got, but what we are finding is you talk to different people and you get different definitions of the problem, different solutions -- counseling, the buddy system, talking to your spouse, talking to your friends.

All of these are great ideas out there, but they are fundamentally coping with the issue, this war now approaching their eighth year and you're seeing troops doing their fourth, fifth, sixth tour of duty in the war zone. The really fundamental question, how many tours before its one tour too many?

WHITFIELD: Are we hearing from DOD that they're even thinking about investing more money to expand programs that perhaps they're going to have to involve more experts because this is a growing problem, especially as these wars continue to go on?

STARR: Absolutely. They are doing more research. You know I will tell you that a few weeks ago when very sadly the suicide rate in the Army had an old time high. There was absolute panic, I would say in concern and very emotional reactions at the highest levels of the military because when they see these things, why are suicide rates reaching an all-time high, why are tens and thousands suffering from this kind of post traumatic stress. A lot of research going on, a lot of effort, but at the end of the day, what you really begin to hear about is when you are out there on the line, look out for your buddy to the right, look out for your buddy to the left. And extend a hand if someone needs it. That's really in these very difficult issues, the first line of help.

WHITFIELD: And Barbara, there are a lot of issues that we are going to be exploring in this hour. You are going to be with us for a good part of this hour because you are hearing firsthand from a lot of vets and higher ranking officials about how to tackle these very issues.

We're also going to be joined in this hour by a Doctor Judy Broader. She is offering free counseling to a lot of vets who are dealing with this PTSD and we have been receiving so many e-mail comments and questions from so many of you. You want to pose it to these experts that we have to find out exactly what kind of help you can get or perhaps what kind of help that some of your buddies might be able to get. Josh Levs has been thumbing through a lot of those e- mails.

Already what are we hearing?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are emotional, Fred, you know. And obviously no surprise, a lot of people pack with emotions about this. We got two things going on at once basically. We'll be using our blogs at CNN.com/newsroom, our Facebook pages, our names or my twitter page, Josh Levs CNN where you find an opportunity to send us your thoughts and questions but also an opportunity to take part in a discussion on-line while this program goes on. So keep those coming and we will be sharing some here, Fred, in just a couple of minutes.

WHITFIELD: All right. Josh Levs, thanks so much.

OK. So right after this break, free help and government assistance, areas that you can tap into to help you deal with mental anguish. Right now Memorial Day wishes from our troops serving overseas this Memorial Day weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPT. MAURICE DEWITT, U.S. ARMY FROM ENTERPRISE ALABAMA: Hello. My name is Capt. Maurice Dewitt with 425 Civil Affairs trying to wish everyone a happy Memorial Day. Hello, family and I hope to see you soon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. We are focusing this hour on the challenges that many American vets are being met with and how some solutions are at hand. We have been talking about PTSD and let's pick up where we left off. There are some government programs in place but there are also some private organizations that are offering free counseling.

Dr. Judy Broder is the director of the Soldier's Project, a group of mental health professionals providing free counseling and support to military personnel and veterans. She's joining us now from Los Angeles. And Dr. Broder, we have been hearing from so many people who say this invincible wound, there is a stigma attached. It's difficult for a soldier to come forward and say I am experiencing this. So how does one identify? Because there in lies part of the problem, right? Identifying what is PTSD and is that what you're going through?

DR. JUDY BRODER, DIRECTOR, THE SOLDIER'S PROJECT: It's not so hard to identify PTSD, but I just would like to make one comment that -

WHITFIELD: Yes.

BRODER: One of the problems about it being called post traumatic stress disorder is that I believe that it carries forward the stigma attached. I think it should be called an injury. That this is a combat stress injury not that different from a physical injury if you lose an eye or an arm.

WHITFIELD: And we are hearing that from the DOD and we are heard that from Barbara Starr earlier too. It also is being represented as that invisible injury. So once that is the case and you've recognize that that's what you are dealing with, how vital, how important is it that private organizations such as yours are offering help and in what way is this helping delivered?

BRODER: I think it's vital because for all the programs that the VA has and the DOD has, there are multitudes of people for complex reasons who won't make use of those programs that exist. And also that there are families who carry these invincible wounds, no less than the combat troops themselves.

WHITFIELD: So you really can't go it alone. If you are a vet, your family members are likely experiencing some similar things and so to help combat it, you have to come together as one?

BRODER: Absolutely. Absolutely. Without support of family and without families being supported and being educated in terms of what they are going to come across when their loved ones come home.

WHITFIELD: Are you hearing from vets who come to you that the reason why they are coming to your organization is because they are not getting enough from the government-established programs or is this an additional outlet that simply helps? BRODER: I would say both are true. People call us because they are dissatisfied with what they are getting from the governmental programs and because we are easy to access and there is no bureaucracy. And some of the guys are so traumatized -

WHITFIELD: Yes.

BRODER: That they can't deal with the bureaucracy.

WHITFIELD: Well let me bring in -

BRODER: Sorry.

WHITFIELD: Let me bring in our Josh Levs because he has a couple of e-mails from people as it pertains to PTSD. Any questions that we could post to Dr. Broder while we have here her.

LEVS: Yes, in fact, we're picking right up on what the doctor was just saying. Dr. Broder, a lot of our people are asking us about this whole idea of the bureaucracy and the red tape and whether there have been any advancements. Let's zoom in on the board. I want to show you a couple of examples. First of all, on our blog right here, CNN.com/newsroom.

We heard from Patrick who talked about what he has been suffering from. I want to scroll down on his message. He said that he has been trying to deal with the VA. The problem with the VA health system he says, in many cases you can't get the proper medical treatment because of all the red tape. It's the same thing we are hearing over here at Facebook. This is from Terry Bogen(ph). Sometimes you have to wait months to be seen.

So, doctor, let me ask you, have there been any real improvements in cutting down that bureaucracy so that soldiers can get VA help for this type of wound or injury?

BRODER: I don't (INAUDIBLE) I'm the person to ask.

WHITFIELD: You probably -

LEVS: OK.

WHITFIELD: You probably need to -- why don't we bring in Barbara Starr, because she is still with us. She is listening in as well, joining us from Washington.

Barbara, maybe that's something you've heard at the Pentagon or DOD that people want addressed the issue of red tape. That sometimes it's just difficult to get the help.

STARR: You know, it really is and this is when the soldier or sailor or marine or airman is at their most vulnerable. We've talked to a lot of troops about this over the years. Some are able to cope with it but we do continue to hear that it's very, very massive -- it's a massive challenge for many troops. Whether they are physically injured or mentally injured. For many troops, English is not their first language even. How are they supposed to access the bureaucracy? They may live in a small town in rural America that is hundreds of miles from the nearest VA facility.

WHITFIELD: So access that's a problem.

STARR: its access and while in Washington they make these very touching, very honorable statements of lifetime care for the troops. Out there in America, I think it's a very big challenge.

WHITFIELD: All right. We're going to continue this topic in a different way. We're going to take a different direction. We're going to talk about some of the other challenges that many vets are meeting as they return back from deployment. You get back and not only have you, perhaps, lost your civilian job, but now you are facing the problem of losing your home. What kind of help is available?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. ANDREW KILCHEMEN, U.S. ARMY, FROM FT. RILEY, KANSAS: Hey, this is Sergeant Kilchemen, 118F3 in from Baghdad, Iraq. I want to wish a happy memorial day to my beautiful wife, Jamie, and my three lovely kids, Kaye(ph), Allen and Ariana. Happy Memorial Day. I love you guys. See you soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Hello. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Welcome back. We are devoting this hour to trying to take on some of the challenges that many veterans, war veterans are dealing with. We are talking about mental health care and now we are going to talk about jobs as well as housing. Here are some numbers to ponder.

We are talking about the Labor Department saying unemployment rate among Iraqi and Afghanistan war vets is 11.2 percent. That is higher than the national average. There's another way of looking at it. One in every nine vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is now out of work. That's according to the Labor Department as well. With that rate of unemployment, the military is finding it is easier to get troops these days to actually re-enlist.

Here now is our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Tom Tarantino lived patrols through the most dangerous neighbors of Baghdad. Steven Taylor flew navy reconnaissance planes over Iraq. Both are now civilians and walking the halls of Capitol Hill to make sure Congress understands that veterans are struggling in the economic downturn.

Taylor is unemployed, Tarantino after 10 months, found a job with a veteran's advocacy group.

TOM TARANTINO, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: I might have been about a month away from not being able to pay any of my bills.

STARR: Both men say the military isn't doing enough to get troops ready for tough times in the civilian job market. Taylor is a Naval Academy graduate. His final tour of duty was the White House operations center.

STEPHEN TAYLOR. IRAQ VETERAN: I might not be actually taking the job that I actually think that I'm qualified to take because of the economy.

TARANTINO: I think you're going to find a lot of corporations are a bit more reticent to hire because they are afraid of things like post traumatic stress.

STARR: And on the streets, veterans are falling between the cracks.

PAUL RIECKHOFF, EXEC. DIRECTOR, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS: There are 2,000 homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans on the streets right now.

STARR: To keep that from happening, these vets want more funding for programs to help veterans make the transition from the frontline to the assembly line or even the board room.

TARANTINO: I got lucky. I can only imagine for the people that are really facing the end of the rope and figuring out what their options are.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And Barbara Starr is back with us now from Washington. Pretty astounding numbers. 2,000 vets of the war who are unable to find a job. So what is the hope that there might be more money poured into some sort of transitional programs to help people fill the gap?

STARR: Well, they are working on that. You know, the VA is working on that and certainly the Defense Department, but right now it does seem to be getting worse in many helps. There two things going on here, Fred. For the active duty, as you said, what we're seeing is re-enlistment rates going through the roof. Kids are signing up for another and another tour of duty because they say they are worried about getting the job if they come back home. So they would rather sign up and stay in the military and risk going to the war zone again for the National Guard, which of course go and come back to the private sector jobs they already had.

WHITFIELD: And usually get some assurance that their jobs will be there.

STARR: Absolutely. What we are seeing and we've talked to many young troops about this. They find out they have no job to come back to because their employer has gone out of business and they find this out still perhaps while they are overseas. No job to go back to. The National Guards actually for the first time now beginning to try and assemble the numbers, the statistics and see if they need to make some recommendations to Congress about providing some bridge funding for these troops that get laid off while they are in the war zone.

WHITFIELD: Well, I'm sure that would be greatly appreciated. Barbara Starr, thanks so much. We'll see you again throughout the hour.

So if that's not bad enough, you lost your job and then of course, a lot of times what follows is you might lose your housing situation. That is what facing too many military vets as well.

So we are joined now by Pat Campbell. He's with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He's here to talk to us about the problem.

You have a pretty incredible website which really acts as a glossary of sorts. Correct me if I'm wrong. This is a resource location where people, particularly vets, can go to and find out how do I get help here, where are the government agencies, where are the private sectors that I can go to?

What have you been hearing from vets about help for housing?

PAT CAMPBELL, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Well, right now there are, you know, one third of homeless people on the streets are veterans and given that this is Memorial Day weekend, that's a true shame that our nation's heroes are sleeping on the street.

Well what we have done is put together resources in one place. A place for veterans and their family members can go and say hey, if need help with substance abuse where do I go, if I need transitional housing, where can I look, someone to give me a helping hand? And all of that is contained in our website at iava.org.

WHITFIELD: And you find it's very easy to navigate because when you hear these numbers which are very unsettling. Eight percent of vets serving since 9/11 are paying more than half of their income towards housing. And that's very difficult when we know the recommendation is you want to kind of live somewhere in the 25 percent range. So half, that means that that heightens your chances of foreclosure and I understand among military vets. Their numbers are four times higher, facing foreclosure than the rest of America. Something is really wrong here.

CAMPBELL: What does that mean? That means you are looking at the bottom line every day and you're worrying when you need to be transitioning. And you know, it's tough enough when you come home to transition back to civilian world. You will be worrying about your finances. You know, when I came back, my credit score was shot because my student loans just kept sending me bills and calling me twice a day. And that just increases the stress tenfold for trying to come back and be a civilian.

WHITFIELD: Yes. As if it's not tough enough to try to make that transition, now you got to deal with these issues as well and it's happening all too often. Our Josh Levs has been going through our websites and our blogs and hear from people on so many different levels.

So Josh, is anyone inquiring about housing? What do I do? What are the options available? What's being said?

LEVS: Yes. (INAUDIBLE). By the way, the website you are just taking a look at, right here. There it is. IAVA.org and it is indeed easy to navigate. I encourage you to take a look at it. Let's go to some of these questions about jobs and about housing. I think that there is a lot of emotion behind all of this, Fred, and we have been talking about this. People see these people as heroes and they are very frustrated.

WHITFIELD: They are heroes.

LEVS: Exactly that they're heroes. And it's very frustrating to stop and say look what's not being taken care of. Here a lot of these are complaints but here's one that's interesting. This comes to us from Terry who says that she just thinks it's time that substantial help be given to our veteran who have this need and without the judgment or any of the stigmas. We are talking about this earlier and this is where we get into jobs and housing. And this I found really interesting.

This is Judy who is asking whether companies have guidelines in place to consciously bring veterans aboard with the respect, dignity and the honor they deserve despite challenges. Like what we were talking about earlier PTSD and maybe our guests can help us with this. These veterans come with certain backgrounds. They have been through a lot. Are there programs in a lot of companies out there to help bring these veterans in and help deal with their issues at the same time?

WHITFIELD: Pat.

CAMPBELL: I mean, there are some programs that have model programs and some companies that are really reaching out to veterans. There's a great program called Homeless to Hard Hats which helps veterans get into trade associations if you want to be an electrician or a plumber. They not only take you but they pay you money up front so you don't have to struggle when you start up the program. They get you a profession and then they get you a job later on in life. Those types of programs get a little bit of funding from the government, but they go a long way getting the veterans the dignity they need.

WHITFIELD: Are you finding some of these private programs are more helpful than the government programs or equally?

CAMPBELL: Let's just say some of these private programs are on the cutting edge of what they are doing and we need to be encouraging them by giving them the resources they need.

WHITFIELD: And at your website, you reveal a lot of those private organizations as well as government programs. Just one more time so people understand why they want to come to the organization. CAMPBELL: Iava.org. It's a place where friends and family and veterans can find the resources they need.

WHITFIELD: All right. Pat Campbell, thanks so much, with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

CAMPBELL: My pleasure.

WHITFIELD: Iava.org, as we said.

WHITFIELD: As we said, President Obama has promised to cake care of veterans more on exactly what he is promising.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STAFF SGT. NICHOLAS MODRANO, U.S. ARMY FROM PHOENIX, ARIZONA: Hi. I'm Staff Sergeant Modrano with 316 field artillery. I'm CC scanner in Iraq. I'd like to say hi to my family back in Phoenix, Arizona. Happy Memorial Day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, happening now, President Obama says he is saddened by the death of former South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun. The South Korean government says he committed suicide by jumping from example a hill near his home. Roh left office last year. He was being investigated in a bribery scandal.

And NASA may be getting its first African-American administration. President Obama has picked former astronaut and marine general Charles Bolden to head the space agency. Bolden piloted two space shuttle missions and commanded two others. The Senate has to confirm the nomination.

And space shuttle Atlantis and its crew will spend at least one more day in orbit. NASA called off today's planned landing attempt in Florida because of thunderstorms. Atlantis is trying to wrap up its successful missile to repair the Hubble space telescope.

All right, more now on our focus this hour. You are looking at pictures there of the Arlington National Cemetery where 300,000 armed service men and women are buried on this more than 600 acre plot. On this Memorial Day weekend, we are focusing on some solutions for many of our American vets coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, facing so many challenges from finding a job to getting house and of course getting the right kind of mental health care kind of health care.

President Obama has been pretty busy this week talking at commencement addresses for the last couple of weeks, but one that is particularly poignant for commander-in-chief, talking at the U.S. Naval Academy and that's what he did this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be with you every step us of the way, increasing your pay, increasing child care and helping families deal with the stress and separation of war. My wife Michelle has come to see in her business with military families across the country, when a loved one is deployed, the whole family goes to war. Finally whether you are 26-years-old or 89, if you have worn the uniform and taken care of America, then America will take care of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, President Obama just on Friday talking about the commitment the U.S. had. And by the way, this hand shake and hug there, that taking place between none other than Jack McCain, who is the son of his former Republican presidential rival John McCain. There, he and his wife in the crowd. Four generations to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy there. What an honor for the entire family.

All right, lots of challenges as I've been saying for our troops. And despite that, the U.S. military says that they are pleased with the way recruitment has gone. However, there is renewed commitment from the Obama administration to make sure that all that can be given to troops is certainly done. Here's Elaine Quijano.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four months after becoming commander-in-chief, President Obama in his weekly address vowed to stand by America's service members and their families.

OBAMA: We have a responsibility to serve all of them as well as they have served us.

QUIJANO: For Ryan Galluci, an Iraq war veteran and now spokesman for the veterans group AMVETS, it's an incomplete picture, especially on the president's planned multibillion dollar budget increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

RYAN GALLUCI, ARMY VETERAN: Since this budget proposal has come out, we haven't really seen line by line where this money is going to be spent.

QUIJANO: Galluci, who served for a year as a civilian affair specialist in Iraq notes another problem, skyrocketing unemployment that recently hit 11.2 percent for Iraq and Afghanistan war vets, higher than the national average.

GALLUCI: In the early stages, we haven't seen too much out of the administration, in particular to help veterans find jobs.

QUIJANO: Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray says while he understands the president's need to revive the broader economy now, he hopes veterans don't get short changed in the long-term. REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CALIFORNIA: We've just got to remember this is not a luxury to provide the services to the veterans. It is an obligation or responsibility. No matter what the condition of the economy, we have an obligation to do what we have promised for these men and women. This is a contract we can't walk away from, even in bad times.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Elaine Quijano joining us now. So we heard about the concerns. Do veterans feel like there are encouraging signs coming from this administration in particular?

QUIJANO: Well, veterans groups do give the president high marks for announcing that he wants to streamline the transfer of service members health care records from the Department of Defense for an active duty member over to the Veterans Affairs Department once that person leaves the service. That is a problem that they have been having for quite some time. So the fact that President Obama has taken some initial steps to try and streamline all of that certainly is an encouraging sign, an important indication that he is focused on their needs.

WHITFIELD: All right, Elaine Quijano at the White House, thanks so much. Other encouraging signs coming from vets themselves. Those who are enlisted who say and who have told us, particularly the ones from Ft. Benning, Georgia who kind of reiterate why they dedicate their lives to the service.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was a bagger at a grocery store, saw a commercial and decided I wanted to serve my country the best way I could do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's something I always wanted to do. Didn't really have any family do it. Just figured it would be an adventure.

SGT. MICHAEL JOHNSTON, U.S. ARMY: My father, he served 23, 23.5 years in the United States Navy. He led by example and I just wanted to follow my example and do my part for the country.

PVT. ZACHARY DIXON, U.S. ARMY: My little brother and my little sister, I've helped raise them ever since they were little because my father has always been away because he's in the war and all that. But I came here to fight so they don't have to.

1ST. LT. TREY PARADISO, U.S. ARMY: I'm a fourth generation soldier. I just got back from my first deployment to Iraq. I'm about to leave again in a few weeks for my second tour.

SGT. 1DST CLASS CHASTITY WASSMAN, U.S. ARMY: I went to Tikrit for a year, then I went to Iraq for seven months and I'm going again to Iraq for 15 months and just got back this past August.

SGT. 1ST CLASS BLAKE SIMMS, U.S. ARMY: Iraq, it was interesting, dealing with the people over there. They are good people. There are some bad apples, but for the most part, good people.

SGT. 1ST CLASS CHAD STACKPOLE, U.S. ARMY: We were there to find the bad guys and the unit that I was in, and that's what we specialized in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't be scared. You know what we signed up for. Go out there and do our job and then come back home safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I get letters from my 10-year-old sister and it's so cute, she says she's very proud of me, that she loves me very much.

STAFF SGT. YULISSA POZO, U.S. ARMY: Every time I walk through and people see me in uniform, people always thank the soldiers.

JOHNSTON: The gentleman came up if I wasn't eating lunch. It was around lunch time. And he offered to buy me a meal for thanking me for what I was doing.

PARADISO: I can't tell you how much it means to me to have people come up with me when I'm eating in a restaurant and say thank you.

STAFF SGT. CLYDE BARLOW, U.S. ARMY: It's almost an everyday occurrence. I'm glad for that because I like that people haven't forgotten what we are doing here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will never be able to think up an experience like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's something you can always look back and say you're proud of. Makes you feel a part of something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe this is what I was born to do.

CROWD: Happy Memorial Day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And we thank all of them and all of you for your service. All right, pretty grueling statistics that we really can't underscore enough. One in nine Iraqi and Afghanistan war vets is looking for work, out of jobs. So we are going to show you an inventive place, job fairs, all across the country in a city near you, specifically tailored for war vets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REBECCA GERVASI, CIVILIAN: Hi, this is Rebecca Gervasi. I'm a DOD civilian serving in Baghdad, Iraq with Defense Contract Management Agency. I'm also a member of the 140th wing Buckley Air Force Base Colorado and I just want to say thank you, happy Memorial Day for all of your support. Love you guys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: It's called the saddest acre in America. CNN's Barbara Starr takes us to section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: As we pay tribute to our fallen heroes, now a look at the oldest American killed in Iraq. Major Steven Hutchison was 60- years-old when he was killed by a roadside bomb earlier this month. Hutchison's tour in Iraq was just the latest in a long line of service. He also served in Afghanistan. He began his career in 1966 and served two tours in Vietnam. Hutchison retired from the army after serving 22 years. But after 9/11, he wanted to rejoin. His wife didn't want him to. When she died in 2006, Hutchison re-upped and headed back into service.

And now images right there of the Arlington National Cemetery. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reports on the cemetery's section 60. It's where troops like Hutchison, killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, are buried.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Captain Marissa Alexander brings Avery and his twin sister Aaliyah here to visit the father they never knew. Staff Sergeant Leroy Alexander was killed before they were born.

This is Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery. It's been called the "saddest acre in America." More than 500 troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are here.

CAPT. MARISSA ALEXANDER, WIFE OF FALLEN SOLDIER: They need to know what their father was about, have that connection with him.

STARR: Marisa is trying to make Section 60 part of her children's lives.

ALEXANDER: Myself and the children came here, and we released balloons to him. And we explained the story of how he passed.

STARR: Families, buddies, friends come here. They mark their visits, leaving stones, notes, pictures. Some items, reminders of memories we do not know.

ANGIE CAPRA, WIFE OF FALLEN SOLDIER: You put the blue rock there?

STARR: Angie Capra, widowed with five children is visiting husband Tech Sergeant Tony Capra's grave.

CAPRA: I got the news that day, and I had talked to him about 12:30 my time, and by 3:30 my time, they were knocking on the door.

STARR: Today, a drawing, and Yoda has been left. Tony was a "Star Wars" fan. With her youngest, Adriana, Angie is now part of the Section 60 family. CAPRA: Other widows will come by and put something on for me if they don't see me out there, they'll set something. It's kind of a community.

STARR: Lieutenant General Benjamin Freakley just attended a funeral for a fallen soldier. He has other men buried here.

LT. GEN. BENJAMIN FREAKLEY, U.S. ARMY: They're still standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their brothers and sisters at ranks.

STARR: A place of grieving but a place for young children to learn of parents they never knew.

ALEXANDER: Knowing that this place gives them a happy remembrance of their father, rather than something that's so tragic and so sad that they feel very comfortable to come here and be able to have that time with him and his memories.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, Section 60, Arlington National Cemetery.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You are not seeing double. Well, sort of. This is the Geminoid (ph), an android version of this inventor, Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor of robotics at Osaka University.

Blinks like you.

HIROSHI ISHIGURO, ATR INTELLIGENT ROBOTICS: And the hair is also mine. This is like twins.

LAH: But not quite. An operator using multiple cameras and infrared detectors for lip movement runs the Geminoid from another room. Dr. Ishiguro steps behind the curtain and we continue our talk from here.

ISHIGURO: I can have another person argue or another person control this robot from anywhere.

LAH: The ability to be in two places at once, say robot-ing into the office while you work from home. After a few minutes I even forget that the Geminoid is separate from Dr. Ishiguro.

Does it feel like I was touching you?

ISHIGURO: You know, I can feel something.

LAH: Professor, are you studying humans or androids?

ISHIGURO: Both. I am studying a human by the android. LAH: Dr. Ishiguro has been developing robots like this for years but they didn't look human. He believes this machine that looks so much like a man, it can be used to study human behavior.

ISHIGURO: If we replace all human functions with the technology, then we can understand what is the human.

LAH: Trying to understand the human soul by building from the outside in. Kyung Lah, CNN, Kyoto, Japan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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WHITFIELD: Well images right now of Rolling Thunder. You're familiar with the group that often pays tribute to prisoners of war and those missing in action. They're in Washington, D.C., here laying a wreath at the Navy Memorial site which is located on Pennsylvania Avenue roughly between the White House and Capitol Hill. Tomorrow, they will be carrying out that familiar ride for freedom where they will be ending up at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial tomorrow.

As we continue to pay tribute to our heroes, our armed service men and women, we wanted to focus this hour on some real solutions particularly to help people as they deal with mental health issues, jobs, as well as housing.

So let's focus right now in this last block here on jobs, finding them. It seems shameful that one in nine veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are out of work. Well, people have gotten pretty inventive on how to help and customize some job fairs specifically for war vets.

That's why we invited Rick Jones with RecruitMilitary.com to join us. He is joining us out of Houston and so I understand you go to this Web site and you can find out about a job fair in your city particularly crafted for you, a military vet with that specific skill set. Tell me how it works.

RICK JONES, RECRUITMILITARY.COM: Yes, ma'am. We do this nationwide and basically all the transitioning folks have to do is go to the Web site, register as a candidate, post the resumes and then they receive all the marketing for the events that are coming up in their area.

WHITFIELD: And what are you hearing from vets who have been saying, it's difficult to make the transition to get a job in the civilian sector after doing so much for the country while serving abroad. What kind of roadblocks are many of these vets running up against?

JONES: Well, the most common roadblocks are most of the time, the transitioners don't have the time to put together a really good resume. And they don't have time to set up the network that is necessary to find a good job. So what our company does is we do a big chunk of the work for them by contacting companies who really want to hire veterans and military so when they show up, we have already gathered companies to say we are interested in you because of what you have done in the military.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that is great and very helpful and did you find you had to because there were too many civilian sector jobs, employers who just simply didn't understand how to translate, how to apply some of the skills that many vets had to their jobs?

JONES: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: You kind of had to teach a lot of I guess corporations and private companies.

JONES: That's correct. And when I contact companies every day, they are really amazed when they tell me what they are looking for, I can say, well did you know that our veterans can do that too. All we have to do is guide you to the right MOS or skill set and I can introduce you to him.

WHITFIELD: OK, our Josh Levs is here. He actually is going to help us navigate your Web site, RecruitMilitary.com to help us Josh, understand. What do we see when we get to that Web site? How do we navigate it? How do we find out if there is a job fair in our city?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'll tell you some of the main clicks right now. In fact, we'll zoom right in on the board and it is in fact, a really easy to navigate site. This is it, RecruitMilitary.com.

And when you get to it, you get to this main page. Now what I did is I kind of made it bigger here because I have this big screen. But when you get here, you'll find a lot of options right here.

What I really like is that they show future postings. So for example, if any of these, survey manager, if you have one of these specific talents, you are able to hook up right there and find out about that job.

Also over here, you can register and then as Rick notes, they will contact you if at some point something works for you. So I do encourage people to check that out. And what we'll do is, there are several Web sites we're talking about during this hour. When we are all done with this hour, we will post them on the blog and our Facebook pages so everyone out there will be able to check it out themselves, Fred, and kind of fish around while they're there.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's great. And I know Josh we have been receiving a lot of questions from people and comments and particularly the job sector. That was something that was a real buzz word for a lot of folks who are concerned about the challenges being met by a lot of our military vets.

So what kind of questions might we be able to pose to Rick?

LEVS: Sure, we just heard from a vet on our blog, CNN.com/NEWSROOM. We'll zoom back in. Check this out from Brad. He says, "Look, we are told," he's talking about fellow vets. "We are told there are employers looking to hire veterans, but it's only security guard companies," he says, "and contractors. I have an outstanding resume." Rick, listen to this. He says he is 50 percent disabled, had to give up on vocational rehabilitation, "because my counselor never answers e-mails or returns phone calls."

So it's not just about the businesses that are out there. It's also about these, the help that a lot of these veterans are expecting are not there. In a case like that, what do they do?

WHITFIELD: Yes, Rick, in particular, let's talk about the security jobs that he was talking about at the top. Feeling like there were limitations on jobs that were being made available. How do you make sure that it's a diverse pool of employers?

JONES: Well, that's my job and every account manager across the U.S., their responsibility is to contact companies who are interested in hiring military folks and let them know the diverse pool of talent they're going to meet. And you know, it's an injustice of what the veteran was just talking about. He should go to our Web site, register online, get a resume posted and let's see if we can help him.

WHITFIELD: And no knock against the security jobs, but it sounds like he was feeling frustrated that he needs some other options in which to be considered for. What else do you have there, Josh?

LEVS: Yes, I'll show you one more, which I think is really interesting. You know, Fred, you and I often talk about the auto industry and what's been going on. Well, this person points out and I hadn't thought about this, there are plenty of soldiers who were hoping to come home to their jobs in the auto industry. And that's just one example, given the economic crisis of jobs that might disappear. So if you're...

WHITFIELD: And that is if the company is still around.

LEVS: Exactly, what if the whole industry is gone, what do you do in a case like that?

JONES: Well again, go to our Web site, we are going to host over 75 of these military job fairs over the next 12 months. Each event is in a special venue. Each event is going to focus on 30 to 40, 50 companies who are there to look at, interview, have a good conversation with all the military folks.

WHITFIELD: And will there be some help too at some of these job fairs to help people craft that resume? Because sometimes that's the biggest, I guess obstacle. It's very hard to figure out how do I truncate all of my skills, all that I've been able to do on one page or in a kind of short, concise manner so that it pops out for an employer.

JONES: Resume writing is a very tough thing to get worked out, especially when you transition. Trying to break down the military jargon into civilian terminology. That is something that we can help with. We have recruiters that can help with that. So we are trying to get a service set up right now for resume writing and military folks.

WHITFIELD: Oh, great, very helpful. Rick Jones, the Web site, is RecruitMilitary.com. Folks can go there, find out where there is a job fair particularly for vets in a city near you. Rick Jones, thanks so much. Thanks to Dr. Julie Broder, who was with us earlier, as well as Pat Campbell (ph) and our Josh Levs. Thanks so much for fielding all the e-mails that we have been receiving and Barbara Starr, joining us as well throughout this hour.

We hope that this has been helpful for you or a vet that you know. And to all the vets out there, thank you so much for your service. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. See you again tomorrow.

The next hour of the NEWSROOM is here with Randi Kaye, right after this.

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