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Subtropical Storm Alberto To Make Landfall Today; Soon: Trump To Lay Wreath At Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 28, 2018 - 11:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, America. At any moment, President Trump will mark this Memorial Day with a somber and time-honored tradition at Arlington National Cemetery where he'll recognize fallen U.S. service members and their families by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We will take you to that event live as soon as President Trump arrives at Arlington.

We're also following a potentially dangerous tropical storm, Alberto, already dumping rain along the gulf coast and into the southeastern U.S. and it has not made landfall yet. The governors of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi all issuing states of emergency. The storm has produced high winds already and heavy rains in South Florida and is expected to produce storm surges and flooding across the state.

We want to get straight to CNN meteorologist, Chad Myers, who is in the CNN Weather Center now with the very latest. The season beginning a little early -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. The Gulf of Mexico, about one or two degrees warmer than it should be. The Atlantic actually one or two degrees colder than it should be. So, maybe we'll kind of flip- flop the start here. But still only a subtropical storm, not all the way to hurricane, certainly a 60-mile-per-hour update, from the 11:00 advisory, that's down 5 miles per hour and that's the good news.

This isn't going to be a wind event. This isn't going to be a monster windmaker knocking down everything in its path. This is a rain event making flash flooding. The flooding we saw near Baltimore yesterday had nothing to do with this storm system.

But more rain may move up into the Baltimore, Washington area as the storm moves to the north and tails off to the east. The immediate threat is Mississippi, Alabama, parts of Georgia and certainly Florida, with 6 inches of rain possible in any one area.

And if that happens in three to four hours, all of a sudden, we're going to seat same kind of flooding that you can see any time a tropical storm comes on shore. One more thing, three feet of surge, maybe even four feet, already three in Apalachicola, that's on top of where the high tide is still to come, that's about four, five hours still away.

So, the water still going up if you're in the back bay. The storm does not look impressive on the radar. It is not an impressive storm. That's why it is a subtropical storm. Hardly any clouds and convection around part of the center. This thing didn't develop the way it could have, probably and would have two months from now when the water was much warmer -- Erica.

HILL: All right. Chad, thank you. Appreciate it. As we mentioned, we are awaiting the arrival of President Trump at Arlington National Cemetery. That is where we find CNN's Barbara Starr. Barbara, I know you have been speaking with a number of people there this morning to honor those that they have lost.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. We are hear down the hill from where the president is expected to arrive. It is a misty morning here, a very soft, gentle, misty rain is beginning to fall. You're seeing some umbrellas go up. Nobody is leaving here.

This is a place that really has become a pilgrimage of sorts on Memorial Day where families come to honor their loved ones, friends, battle buddies. We met one family a short time ago, we had spoken to them over the years here, the great grandmother is 94. The youngest member of the family is 7 months old.

They are here to honor their fallen service member. We are -- we are seeing the years go by here. We have come here almost every year for the last 13 years or so. Reconnected with a family earlier today. The Gold Star mother came up to me and I said, gee, you know, I lost track, how many years? She said to me my son died 13 years ago.

So, we are seeing that passage of time here. People come here every year, they want to pay their respects to the U.S. military. It is the same scene in cemeteries and towns across America today.

As we have said this is Memorial Day, 2018, enjoy, go to the cookout, go to the beach, go to the mall, see your friends. But take a moment and remember those who have given all for service to the country. Back to you.

HILL: That is certainly the message, so important to remember why we have all of the freedoms on the Memorial Day and every other day for that matter. Appreciate it as always. Also, with us, CNN military analysts, Retired Major General James Spider Marks, and retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

Gentlemen, always appreciate you joining us especially on this Memorial Day. It has understandably added significance for the two of you. Spider, give us a sense, what is different for you on Memorial Day as you look back, as you watch the events unfold each year?

MAJOR GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Erica, thanks for having me and also Mark, good day to you, my man. This is an incredibly special day, but, you know, as a veteran, as a soldier, soldier all my life, every day is a day for in giving us an opportunity to reflect and be thankful for all of those around us.

[11:05:03] The only reason we continue to serve is because we have immense sacrifices that are taking place every day and you get to be part of all of that. On this day in particular, it is a benchmark. It is an opportunity to remember, take an opportunity, take a step back, be a little -- be reflective, think about it.

And really remember that, you know, we don't need at this time to be boisterous about making America great again, America is great, and this is an opportunity for us to honor all of those who made America great.

Look, Mark and I spent a lot of time in uniform, a lot of time in harm's way, and we both put great young men and women in the ground based on their sacrifices. And I have to tell you there is nothing that is more humbling, and you have to be thankful for those families that offered up the most precious treasure we have, which is the sons and daughters, to go forward to really protect the nation, make this nation great.

So, we need to think about it, because if we don't think about it, we become aimless, we become rudderless, and we end up losing our bearings and we will never allow that to happen. So, Erica, again, thanks for allowing me to think about it a little bit with you today.

HILL: We always appreciate it. And it is so important to have your perspective as well. You have been there your entire life. Mark, when we look at this, part of what we heard too was the importance of remembering those who have given all and their families every single day, you wrote about that for

And you talked about this box that you have, it has 253 cards in it, of fallen soldiers who will forever be frozen at that point in their lives. Talk to us about that and why it is so important for you every single day to make sure their sacrifice matters.

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you know, Erica, I'll just reinforce what spider said. Not a lot of people know this, but we're classmates from West Point, we both entered the service on the same day back in 1971, and I'm sure back then as young people you know we didn't understand the implications of the ultimate sacrifice, like we see so much today.

But because we have been in combat multiple times and we have asked young soldiers to put their lives on the line, it means a whole lot different today than it did way back then. You know, it is interesting to have Arlington, the ceremony today, where the president will speak, to be representative of the 130 plus national cemeteries across the country, and the more than 30 national cemeteries around the world where American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are buried.

To just have this ceremony as the representation of that, and to know the faces that are represented by those crosses and Stars of Davids and crescents that lie on top of where our soldiers lie. You know, Spider said it best, and I also want to reinforce what Barbara Starr said, you know, she's been meeting the same people now who are attending the ceremony in Section 60 that Spider and I have both walked through, that contains the remains of many of the people who we fought with.

And it is awe inspiring to see the parents, the wives, the spouses, the children who are all growing up now, who had their soldier/spouse sacrifice themselves in a war, that sometimes they don't even understand, but that when America soldiers are asked to fight by the politicians because of civilian controlled military, we do so. That's something that shouldn't be taken lightly as Spider just said.

HILL: Absolutely not. Part of the families that Barbara spoke with, multiple generations there to honor those who have fallen. One as young as 7 months old, but every year each generation keeps coming to make sure that they continue to mark this day together as a family.

HERTLING: You know, Erica, if I can say this, as they do the tomb -- the placement of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, which doesn't just contain one soldier, it contains the remain of four service members, we're not quite sure which services they represent, and that's why it is called the Tomb of the Unknowns.

It is just fascinating that this same kind of ceremony is taking place all over the world. I had opportunities to speak at many of the American battlefield cemeteries in Europe, where local citizens in Normandy, France, and Netherlands and Luxembourg, they literally, the local citizens of those countries adopt the graves of American soldiers and take care of those graves because they realize how much they contributed to the liberation of their countries.

And that's an awe-inspiring place to be as well. Not just Arlington, a place once a plantation that belonged to Robert E. Lee's wife's family and taken over during the civil war and almost as a punishment general officer started burying civil war dead around the Custis house which started the tradition of Arlington as a national cemetery.

[11:10:09] HILL: And now we have some 400,000 who are interned there and who we are paying tribute today and we're remembering. As we wait for the ceremony, you bring up the point of the Tomb of the Unknowns.

For anyone who made the visit to Arlington, it is so moving to watch the old guard, the Third U.S. Infantry, 24 hours a day as we know in full dress uniform, they're there, guarding this tomb, Spider.

Talk to us about why it is so important to remember those who have not been found? Who did not come home and whose families don't know where they are?

MARKS: Yes. You know, Erica, it is -- the first duty of every soldier, the first duty of every soldier is to remember. If we don't remember, we forget the lessons of the past, we make mistakes that become more costly, we put more young men and women at risk, and we end up sacrificing more than we should.

So, we need to learn from the experiences. It really is, the very first thing we teach, everybody who enters the military, is to remember that you are joining an organization that is has never dishonored the nation, that had challenges and is always risen to the occasion and met every one of those challenges exceptionally well. I'm in Denver today because my mother-in-law lost her husband, my father-in-law died, killed in Vietnam, in 1972, when Mark and I were just finishing our first year at West Point. I'm out here with her. My parents, my father, a veteran, lived his life as a soldier, his father, my grandfather, lived his life as a soldier, my parents are no longer with me.

So, I'm with my mother-in-law and all of her family and all of those young men and women served. So, we have this incredible gathering, this thread of continuity, if you will, over the course of 100 plus years that really allows me and kind of really fulsome color forces me to reflect and remember with my 91-year-old mother-in-law, it is -- she has a jewel in her crown in heaven when she eventually gets there.

She's a saint. And I am absolutely blessed to be part of that. This ceremony that we're watching right now, this day that we're a part of right now really is a full reminder for everyone that this weekend is very special. It is OK to enjoy yourself. It is OK to spend time with family.

It is OK to drink a beer and have a hotdog or a burger. It is OK to do that. But let's really understand the foundational reason why we're together doing that, there have been great sacrifices that have given that gift to us.

HILL: And as we wait, we're seeing, of course, a number of the members of the administration arrive there, we're waiting on the president. I want to pick up on one thing you said about your 91- year-old mother-in-law. What does this day mean for her? How does she look at Memorial Day each year especially given the fact she gets to spend it with you?

MARKS: Well, it is really wonderful because she understands the sacrifice that her husband made, she understands that it was in a war that was exceptionally divisive. CNN has a special about 1968, he was a battalion commander in Vietnam in 1968, lost his life as I said in 1972.

She understands all of that. But over the course of the year, this ark of life has given her an opportunity to, again, to reflect on all of that, she understands the sacrifices that need to be made, sadly her husband was one of those.

But he was doing exactly what he wanted to do with exactly with whom he wanted to do it, and he was at the right place at the right time. She understands all of that and embraces it, but she also sees in her seven children and her 26 grandchildren the eyes of her husband and realizes the continuity still there.

I think it is an opportunity not to rejoice, but to embrace what occurred, and to embrace what has happened and what will continue to happen because we have a whole bunch of those young men and women continue to serve in today's wars.

HILL: And as we talk about somebody who lost their life during Vietnam, I remember my father, my uncle talking to me about serving during the Vietnam era and how different it was when they came home versus what they see today for service members coming home. Mark, that's so important too, that the way this country looks on not just those who are lost, but those who are serving, has come a long way.

HERTLING: We have come a long way and Spider and I, again, we're old guys, we have experienced that. When we entered West Point in 1971, we were right at the cusp of the post-Vietnam era. Both of us thought we would be going to Vietnam when we graduated. We didn't because the war was over in 1975.

But, yes, the military at the time was extremely different. It was divided as Spider said, there were racial issues, drug issues and it took a lot of unbelievably strong commanders and leaders to turn that around.

As you look at the ceremony today, you see the Third Infantry Division guarding that tomb, the third old guard as we call it, and it is fascinating. I had a story -- I'll double on Spider's story a little bit differently when I was a young major, was stationed in Washington and was drinking in a bar down in Alexandria one day with a couple of other friends who one of them became a general officer as well.

And about midnight, on a snowy January night, we just got into a discussion and we said, hey, you think that the guards at the tomb are as sharp at midnight as they are at 3:00 in the afternoon when the crowds are there?

So, we snuck up there, and sure enough, on a snowy night about three feet of snow, they were doing those 21 steps, 21 second pauses, doing exactly what they needed to do to guard that tomb when they --

HILL: They are remarkable, you're right, at every hour of the day. I'll pause now. The president walking in here as we begin the ceremony, the laying of the wreath and the ceremony to honor the nation's fallen heroes.


[11:21:36] HILL: The president laying the wreath there, today's ceremony will continue. You'll be hearing from speakers including Defense Secretary James Mattis and President Trump as we honor the fallen on this Memorial Day. Stay with us.



HILL: Welcome back on this Memorial Day. As you're looking at your screen, you see we're waiting for the ceremony to begin. Moments ago, as you see on the left-hand side of your screen, President Trump helping with the wreath laying there at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Also, with us, as we wait for the program to begin, CNN military analysts, Retired Major James Spider Marks and Retired Lt. General Mark Hertling. One of the things that is getting renewed attention on this Memorial Day is this go silent campaign, which I know both of you have spoken about. Mark, I'll start with you. Talk to us about why it is so important to go silent, not just today, but every day.

HERTLING: Well, Erica, the Iraq and Afghan veterans of America actually had this great idea of taking a weekend that really is the end of the summer, it is the start of barbecue and beer drinking season for those who have just gotten out of school and their parents. So, it is a fun time.

We should be having fun on this weekend. But what they asked everyone to do is to pause at 3:00 this afternoon and take a moment to reflect on those who have given us our freedom and defended the Constitution since 1783.

It is has been a fascinating trip. If you look at all those who have given their life, made the ultimate sacrifice in America's various wars when they have been called and asked to serve, it is appropriate that we actually spend a little bit of time to do that.

The reason I do it every day, truthfully, I have a box on my desk, which I talked about on CNN before, that has 253 cards in it, with pictures of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines I served with. One allied soldier as well, who gave the sacrifice in Iraq under my commander, the command of the First Armored Division.

And I just take one of those cards every day and just think about their life, what might have been, it was ten years ago that we served together in 2007, 2008, all of them would have been older today, their children are all growing up. It is good to think about their spouses, families, and what might have been with those young people who gave their life for the country.

HILL: We look every year at whether it is at a parade in your hometown, whether you're one of the volunteers all across this country who brings small American flags, even flowers to the graves of the fallen, Spider, we look at what happens in the U.S., we're used to some of the ceremonies. What is it like when you're in the service, when you are abroad, you're serving on this day.

MARKS: It really becomes quite emotional. Emotional on multiple levels. It is a notion of honoring those that have come before you, and you wake up every day and say, look, I don't want to screw up. I've had a lot of incredible people that preceded me in this endeavor.

I don't want to dishonor them with some mistake or something that I have chosen to do that really doesn't embrace their sacrifices and all of those that came before me. It is a reckoning as Mark indicated, it is an opportunity to really take a moment to reflect, remember, be thankful, honor those who came before you, and take an opportunity of those around you and try to impact on them.

It is like when you're in the middle of something, and you get immersed in that activity. You often forget what you're about, you often forget why you're there. This is a great, you know, to go silent is an opportunity to grab the sleeve of the person next to you and say, hey, let's take a moment and really think about why we are here today at this ball game, at this picnic, with our family members, having a wonderful time, spending time with our grandchildren, our children.

Let's stop and remember why we're really doing this. That's a level of emotion that is -- you can handle. It is not over the top. You don't get wrapped up in it. But it centers you. I think that's the most important thing.

HERTLING: Erica, if I can reinforce what Spider just said too, there is a great story from World War II, when Spider mentioned the phrase you're given the responsibility as a commander, leader, sergeant, to lead other men and women in combat --