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Fisher House Foundation Provides Housing For Military Veterans; Fallen U.S. Army Green Beret Returned To The U.S. Last Hour; Top Stories Of 2019. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired December 25, 2019 - 13:30   ET



ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): ... two hours. Symptoms can include a high fever, cough, runny nose, pinkeye and of course a red splotchy rash.

On average, it takes about two weeks for the rash to develop, and a person is contagious for four days before and after the rash appears.

The best way to stay safe, make sure you've received the recommended two doses of the vaccine.

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States nearly 20 years ago. But there has been an upsurge in cases as vaccination rates have declined.

The CDC has reported more than 1,200 measles cases in 31 states in 2019, the highest number in nearly three decades.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I consider it really an irony that you have one of the most contagious viruses known to man juxtaposed against one of the most effective vaccines that we have. And yet we don't do and have not done what could be done, namely completely eliminate and eradicate this virus.


JONES: Now, the CDC says the overall risk of getting a contagious disease on an airplane is low, but like any enclosed or crowded space, planes can create opportunities for transmission.

Bottom line here, get vaccinated. If you've been vaccinated, you have a 97 percent chance of being protected against the measles.

Athena Jones, CNN, New York.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Thank you to Athena for that and coming up, for U.S. service members, veterans and military family members who are spending this Holiday in the hospital or in recovery, one nonprofit is making life a little easier.

We'll show you how the Fisher House Foundation is making sure that they don't fall through the cracks after serving in uniform.


MAJ. PETER WAY (RET), U.S. ARMY: I probably would have spent a few nights in the car initially and then most certainly with just the cost of living around here, I would have probably gone bankrupt.




KEILAR: A fallen U.S. Army Green Beret returned to the U.S. last hour. The remains of Sergeant First Class Michael Goble honored with a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Goble was killed in combat on Monday in Afghanistan. His death related to a roadside bombing in northern Kunduz province.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for his death, even as they are engaged in peace negotiations with the United States.

Goble was from New Jersey. He had received a Bronze Star and an Army Commendation Medal. He leaves behind a wife and daughter and is being remembered by those close to him as the definition of a patriot.

At least 20 American service members have been killed Afghanistan this year and more than 2,400 have been killed since the start of this war.

Today, on Home Front, our digital and television column where we try to bridge the civilian military divide and bring you stories of military families. We're focusing on service members, veterans and their family members who are spending this holiday away from home as they recover and military and veterans hospitals around the country and world.

Because of a nonprofit called the Fisher House Family Foundation, they are finding a home away from home with new friends helping them through the most challenging times in their lives.


KEILAR (voice over): Retired Army Major Pete Way and his service dog, Rory have traveled to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center just outside Washington, D.C. several times.

They stay at one of five Fisher Houses on base, group homes designed to provide comfortable lodging and a supportive community at no cost. They are available to active duty military, veterans and their family members as they receive treatment at military and VA hospitals.


WAY: It's a reminder that I'm not alone in this and that there's other people who basically have the same situation and that I'm not alone. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR (voice over): Sometimes Way stays days, sometimes months, a long way from his family and home in Georgia, as he tries to find a prosthetic leg that will finally work long term.

Way was injured in a 2003 IED explosion in Afghanistan. He spent more than a decade enduring two dozen surgeries until shrapnel wounds caused an infection that nearly killed him and ultimately took his leg.


WAY: I've had 35 surgeries now. The 25th surgery was the amputation.


KEILAR (voice over): Before his case manager connected him with Fisher House, Way stayed in a hotel draining his financial resources and his hope, as he thought about what to do when he could no longer afford lodging.


WAY: I've probably would have spent a few nights in the car initially and then most certainly with just the cost of living around here, I would have probably gone bankrupt.


KEILAR (voice over): This is just one of 86 Fisher Houses around the world. Ken Fisher's family, prominent in New York City real estate broke ground on the first Fisher House in 1991 increasing the capacity of the homes after the wars that followed 9/11 when more servicemen and women were surviving catastrophic injuries.


KEN FISHER, CEO, FISHER HOUSE: That would have been fatal in years in years and wars past. So that was going to require longer hospital stays. So we knew that the size of the houses were going to have to grow.


KEILAR (voice over): Recently retired Army Colonel Michael Malone is also staying at this 20-room Fisher House with his wife, Jennifer. Their second of two six-month stays while he receives treatment for a traumatic brain injury and a still undiagnosed illness that began while he was deployed to the Middle East.

At first, Jennifer commuted from New York on weekends.


COL. MICHAEL MALONE (RET), U.S. ARMY: I kept hoping that, you know, this miraculous turnaround and I get better and you know, I could continue service and I'd be off on to my next mission, but I just wasn't getting better and I wasn't recovering, so you know, I really needed my wife to come down and help me.


JENNIFER MOK, WIFE OF COL. MICHAEL MALONE: You never understand the severity until you're like there constant and I basically became his advocate and focused on his care a hundred percent. And it felt good because I missed him, you know, that bond was gone for a while.

You know, the reconnection and getting to see him get better day by day. It was a good feeling.


KEILAR (voice over): Michael and Jennifer have found a home away from home at this Fisher House, together after two years spent largely apart, celebrating Thanksgiving and now Christmas with friends they've made here.


CHIEF MASTER SGT. MARK BURDITT, U.S. AIR FORCE: You're sharing a house with other people who are on a similar journey. Different reasons sometimes, but there's a there's a sense of camaraderie.


KEILAR (voice over): As I spoke with Chief Master Sergeant Mark Burditt, his wife Diana was resting in their room following her 29th radiation treatment for lung cancer.

As a nonsmoker, she was shocked when she was diagnosed just over two months ago. The military Medivac'ed the Burdettes from Ramstein Air Base in Germany on three hours' notice.


BURDITT: Before we hit the ground here, we found out that the Fisher House was going to be putting us up and it took an awful lot of worry off of our hearts and they've been just fantastic.


KEILAR (voice over): These families are now focusing on the demands of recovery without the added stress of social isolation and financial strain, even in the most challenging times of their lives, finding comfort and even purpose in a Fisher House where Rory, the service dog offers therapy sessions for the low price of a goldfish cracker.


WAY: He has a sense -- he has that dog sixth sense. He could pick out the person who's not having such a good moment and he will just go right to him every time and if I wasn't here, you know, we wouldn't be able to share that either.


KEILAR: And we want to hear from you. Please share your comments or especially your story ideas with me, just e-mail,

And coming up, from a tweet that sent shockwaves around the world to a squad of superhero women. We break down the top sports stories of the year and Christmas at the Vatican. Hear Pope Francis's message to thousands gathered in St Peter's Square.



KEILAR: Lyons and Tiger and Biles, oh my, get it, Tiger Woods Simone Biles. What a year it was in sports. We had controversy. We had people overcoming incredible odds. We had badass women dominating the World Cup and yes, we had the Washington Nationals. Oh my indeed.

Andy Scholes has a look back at the biggest sports moments of the year.


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From dominant performances to controversy to come backs, this past year had it all when it comes to sports. Here's a look at our top nine moments in 2019 and we start with a single tweet that rocked the NBA.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The NBA is standing up for free speech and behind Houston Rockets General Manager, Daryl Morey.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The fallout has been huge.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Chinese businesses are cutting ties with the Rockets and the league.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: China sports channel now says it will not broadcast any of the NBA games being held in China this week.


SCHOLES: Before the start of the season, Houston Rockets General Manager, Daryl Morey tweeting support For Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters, this caused a firestorm in China where the NBA is the most popular sports league.

Chinese officials condemning the tweet and response from Commissioner Adam Silver, the whole controversy greatly affecting the NBA's bottom line.


ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: We will have to live with those consequences.


SCHOLES: Number eight, what were you doing when you were 15 years old? Well, Coco Gauff is capturing the hearts of sports fans everywhere with an incredible run at her first Wimbledon tournament.

Coco, youngest player to ever make the main draw at Wimbledon, she beat Venus Williams in her first match and advanced all the way to the fourth round before losing to the eventual champion, Simona Halep.

Number seven. Controversy on the track.


ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: A stunning outcome at the Kentucky Derby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The horse that crossed the finish line first did not win.


SCHOLES: The winner of the Kentucky Derby was disqualified. Maximum Security winning the race, but upon review was seen veering out of his lane.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He came out a little, but then I grabbed it right away. I stayed straight, you know.


SCHOLES: Country House was declared the winner at odds of 65 to one. Country House had the second longest odds than any Kentucky Derby winner.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did that really just happen?


SCHOLES: Number six. On January 3rd, 2019, the St. Louis Blues had the worst record in the NHL, but that's when they turned it around.

The Blues' season culminating with them beating the Boston Bruins in game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals to win their first ever championship. And Blues super fan Laila Anderson, an 11-year-old battling a life-threatening autoimmune disease was an inspiration for the team all season and she got to celebrate with the team on the ice after they hoisted the Stanley Cup.

Number five. 2019 was a year of more controversy for the NFL.

[13:50:01] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was simple. They blew the call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Easy call for sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's tough. Tough to swallow.


SCHOLES: The Saints were robbed of a chance to play in Super Bowl 53 when the refs failed to call pass interference.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Worst call in history. I feel like somebody just robbed my house.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They didn't throw flag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy has to be blind.


SCHOLES: The NFL responded by making pass interference reviewable for the next season.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't help us at all. It's too late.


SCHOLES: The New England Patriots, meanwhile, beat the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl making Tom Brady the first player in NFL history to win six rings.

Number four. Finally, something everyone in Washington, D.C. could agree on. That's cheering on the Nationals. The team taking their fans on a miraculous run in the postseason. And for the first time ever, the road team winning every game in the World Series. The Nationals beating the Astros in seven games to win their first ever title.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope they're ready for a party because we're coming home.


SCHOLES: Number three. It was an emotional year for Simone Biles as she opened up about being one of the victims of Dr. Larry Nassar and the failure of USA Gymnastics to intervene. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMONE BILES, U.S. GYMNAST: We've done everything that they asked us for even when we didn't want to and they couldn't do one damn job. You had one job. You literally have one job and you didn't protect us.


SCHOLES: In spite of the controversy, the 22-year-old dominating the World Championships to become the most decorated gymnast ever.

Number two, the U.S. women's national team capturing the hearts and minds of people everywhere with their efforts on and off the field.


BALDWIN: The U.S. thoroughly dominant so far.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: The U.S. women's soccer team rewriting the record books.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, SPORTS COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: This couldn't have been a bigger story.


SCHOLES: As the team took on opponents in the World Cup, they were battling the U.S. Soccer Federation in their fight to be compensated the same as their male counterparts.

The team winning their second consecutive World Cup title beating the Netherlands two to zero in the final, with fans chanting equal pay.

The women's equal pay lawsuit now looks like it's headed for a trial in 2020 as the team prepares to take the field in the Tokyo Summer Games.

And finally the number one sports story on our list from 2019. Tiger Woods was back on top of the sports world winning the Masters.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Breaking news. Tiger Woods is donning the green jacket once again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tiger Woods has made a fairy tale comeback worthy of the silver screen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is an extraordinary comeback.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The greatest comeback ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tiger Woods is back.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: It was Tiger's first win in a major since the 2008 U.S. Open

after multiple knee and back surgeries. Many didn't know if Tiger would ever win major number 15. But the 43-year-old won the Masters in dramatic fashion making his first ever final round comeback in a major.

Tiger shared the incredible moment with his 10-year-old son, Charlie.


KEILAR: On New Year's Day, a new CNN film has the inside story of The Life and career of the first female pop icon, Linda Ronstadt, and here is a sneak peek.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She came to Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Linda Ronstadt.

LINDA RONSTADT, AMERICAN SINGER (voice over): I was 18 years old and we formed a little band and called ourselves, the Stone Poneys.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The LA scene was in gear and the whole damn thing broke loose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a lot of music, folk music commingling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can we define what this is going to be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Linda was the queen. She was like what Beyonce is now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was the only female artist to have five Platinum albums in a row.

RONSTADT (voice over): "I can't help it if I'm still in love with you" was a hit on the country charts. You're no good without a hit on both the R&B chart and the pop chart. I became the first artist to have a hit on all three charts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was the first female rock and roll star.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of my Voice." New Year's Day on CNN.




KEILAR: No room at the inn. Just as the Christmas story started in Bethlehem, it continues today. All of the city's hotels are booked as thousands flocked to the Church of the Nativity for Christmas mass in Bethlehem celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Meanwhile, big crowds greeted the Pope's annual Christmas message in St. Peter's Square. Pope Francis calling on all people to knock down the walls of indifference and to open their hearts to the millions across the globe who are in danger.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): May he soften our often stony and self-centered hearts and make them channels of His love. May he bring his smile through our poor faces, to all the children of the world, to those who are abandoned and those who suffer violence.


KEILAR: Pope Francis also saying that the key to positive change is compassion.

And Queen Elizabeth delivered her annual Christmas message. Earlier several family members joined the Queen at a Christmas church service.

In her message, the Queen spoke of the importance of reconciliation.


ELIZABETH II, QUEEN OF ENGLAND: It's a timely reminder of what positive things can be achieved when people set aside policy differences and come together in the spirit of friendship and reconciliation.

And as we all look forward to the start of a new decade, it's worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps that bring about the most lasting change.


KEILAR: That is it for me. Kate Bolduan continues our coverage on "CNN Newsroom" right now. And a very Merry Christmas.