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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Remembering America's Heroes

Aired May 26, 2003 - 20:00   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In every generation of Americans, we have found courage equal to the tasks of our country. The farms and small towns and city streets of this land have always produced free citizens who assume the discipline and duty of military life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: As U.S. military personnel return from Iraq, Memorial Day 2003 takes on even more meaning. A nation honors those who are coming home and mourns those who are not.

Join us now for a CNN special, "Memorial Day: Remembering America's Heroes."

Good evening. I'm Daryn Kagan in New York. And welcome to our special look at Memorial Day. We begin with a familiar ceremony rendered all the more poignant by the events of the past two months.

President Bush marked Memorial Day 2003 with the traditional pilgrimage to Arlington National Cemetery. White House correspondent Dana Bash has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Presenting a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns is emotional for any commander-in-chief. For one who sent troops to battle twice in just two years, that emotion was hard to hide.

BUSH: Today we honor the men and women who have worn the nation's uniform and were last seen on duty. From the battles of Iraq and Afghanistan, to the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, to the trials of world war, to the struggles that made us a nation.

BASH: One-hundred-ninety-eight servicemen have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Nineteen were laid to rest at Arlington over the last few months, buried with honors in section 60.

The president told some of their stories.

BUSH: One of the funerals was for Marine 2nd Lieutenant Frederick Pokorney, Jr., of Jacksonville, North Carolina. His wife Caroline received the folded flag. His 2-year-old daughter, Taylor, knelt beside her mother at the casket to say a final goodbye.

This nation does not forget.

BASH: Amid the song, the tribute, talk of past acts of bravery in the name of liberty, the defense secretary used the moment to issue a warning about the future.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Today we face new threats to our freedom. They will be met with the same courage, the same commitment, and like the foes of times past, they too will be defeated.

BASH: Despite that pledge the focus this Memorial Day, as it has been since the Civil War, was on those who died and those left behind.

BUSH: All Americans and every free nation on earth can trace their liberty to the white markers, the places like Arlington National Cemetery. And may God keep us ever grateful.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And the president marked the rest of the day quietly here at the White House in the residence. But his schedule does kick into high gear at the end of the week when he leaves for a multi-stop tour in Europe and potentially to the Mideast for a three-way summit with the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But White House officials insist those plans are still very much in flux -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Dana Bash at the White House. Dana, thank you for that.

Well, here in New York City, Memorial Day marks the climax of Fleet Week, an annual celebration of ships and the sea. More than a dozen war ships and thousands of sailors are participating.

Jason Carroll reports now on today's observances.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A somber ceremony as Fleet Week draws to a close in New York City. Veterans, members of the armed forces, and their families gathered for a Memorial Day service on board the USS Intrepid.

A 50-foot-long flag was unfurled and several wreaths laid in the water for the men and women who gave their lives for the country. Men like Captain Benjamin Sammis and Captain Travis Ford. On April 5, their Cobra helicopter was shot down in Iraq. Both men killed. For their wives Stacy and Deon, this day now holds even more significance.

DEON FORD, WIDOW: It reminds me that there's a deep price for freedom. Freedom is not free. And our husbands paid the ultimate price.

STACEY SAMMIS, WIDOW: It's a special occasion for us to be together here with people who are celebrating America's heroes so that we can enjoy the freedom we enjoy every day.

CARROL: Fleet Week gives people the chance to meet those who serve in the military. Major David Gurfein was on deck this Memorial Day. Gurfein is the Marine who tore down that infamous picture of Saddam Hussein during the early days of the war.

MAJ. DAVID GURFEIN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: On the one hand, it represents a really sad day, because we're looking back on a lot of our military men and women who have served and paid the ultimate price.

But on the other hand, I think that they would want us to celebrate and be happy for everything that America stands for. And that their lives would not have been lost in vain.

CARROLL: Poor weather kept some away from Monday's ceremony. And concerns about security may have, as well.

BILL WHITE, INTREPID MUSEUM: I would like to say in consultation with the police commissioner and the mayor of the city of New York, you are probably in one of the safest places in the country right now.

CARROLL: The military men and women were grateful to those who did come out to pay their respects and share in the honoring of the veterans who fell in the line of duty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sleep, sleep, heroes. Sleep in peace in the arms of almighty God. You are not forgotten. We will ever remember.

CARROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: And now amid all the tears, it's time for a few smiles. Thousands of families gathered at a military base in North Carolina. They'll remember this Memorial Day for many years to come.

Members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned from Iraq today by ship and helicopter. They arrived to a joyous welcome at Camp Lejeune.

Tonight, our national correspondent, Gary Tuchman, is with one of the reunited families, and he is at their home in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Gary, good evening.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, good evening to you; 2,300 Marines and sailors affiliated with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit came home to coastal North Carolina today.

And one of the most dramatic scenes occurred at the New River Air Base. At that air base, 24 helicopters landed. Aboard the helicopters, more than 300 Marines and sailors. Their commander officially dismissed them, they then ran towards their families, their families ran towards them. There were more than 1,500 family members waiting. We saw lots of tears, smiles on people ranging from 9 days old to 99 years old. It was wonderful to see.

What was also wonderful to see were the number of fathers who came back who hadn't yet seen children who were born while they were away. And they were away for nine months.

And with us right now is one of those families. This right here is Lieutenant Craig Randall. He's a Navy flight surgeon who treated Marines during the war. And this is his wife, Maggie. His parents. And this is little Edward. Edward is only three weeks old. And the big brother's right here, this is Jack. Jack is 2 1/2 years old.

LT. CRAIG RANDALL, NAVY FLIGHT SURGEON: Say cheese.

TUCHMAN: Lieutenant, tell me how it feels to be home, to be with your family and meet your baby for the first time.

C. RANDALL: It's great. It's completely overwhelming. It's just a whole flood of emotions.

Just trying to get back in the swing of things. Maggie's kept the home going for the past nine months. And I've got to get reintegrated and not disrupt her system.

TUCHMAN: He wants to say hello for a second.

C. RANDALL: Go ahead, Jack.

JACK RANDALL, CRAIG RANDALL'S SON: Hum!

TUCHMAN: He wants to be a singer or a news man. I'm not sure. That was a good job, Jack.

Maggie, I want to ask you, how hard was it for you to give birth to a beautiful baby with your husband away, and knowing he was at the war, and the fears that went along with that?

MAGGIE RANDALL, CRAIG RANDALL'S WIFE: Actually, it wasn't that difficult because of the support that's here, the other wives. And I knew many wives who had been through a similar experience. That certainly gave me the strength to go through it.

And Craig was actually able to call from the ship twice when I was in labor and twice afterwards. So I got a chance to talk to him and that really helped me know yes, I can do thus.

TUCHMAN: Mom, how does it feel to have your son home from the war?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just ecstatic to have him back home. We had so many worries while he was gone. And we're just delighted to have him back.

TUCHMAN: Any worries when you landed in the helicopter, the family wouldn't be there to greet you?

C. RANDALL: No, sir. No, sir, not at all. I knew they'd be there. I knew Jack would be there as well.

J. RANDALL: Dah!

TUCHMAN: He's a ham.

C. RANDALL: He is. He spent most of the...

J. RANDALL: Dah!

C. RANDALL: I did a video reading the bedtime story. And that was big Daddy video. Jack certainly watched a lot of it, from what Maggie told me.

TUCHMAN: Well, that's great. Congratulations.

C. RANDALL: Thank you.

TUCHMAN: Congratulations on the new baby.

I want to tell you, 2,300 Marines and sailors is a lot. They won't be done offloading everybody until about three hours from now. Daryn, back to you.

KAGAN: Gary, thank you to you and to the Randall family and to Jack Randall. We could use a laugh in between a day of many sad remembrances. And I can definitely tell you're the father of three. You knew how to handle 2-year-old Jack. Gary Tuchman. Gary, thank you.

Well, many of today's Memorial Day observances were held under tighter security because of the orange alert that was issued last week.

Missile batteries were up and ready to stop possible attacks on Washington. And authorities were on the lookout at other potential targets such as San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. But with the Memorial Day weekend winding down, there are no reports of attempted terrorist attacks or terrorism-related arrests.

The orange alert also did not appear to dampen spirits in Philadelphia. For many thousands of people, the Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, is marked by the Jam on the River. And that's where we find our Jamie Colby.

Jamie, hello.

JAMIE COLBY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, how are you? The orange alert didn't affect the crowds. But the rain today did. But then this afternoon, when the rain went away and the sun came out, the crowds arrived.

And right now the biggest crowds they've seen over the three-day festival for a local band from Philly, the Disco Biscuits. It's the last, final moments for the folks who came out of their Memorial Day holiday.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

COLBY: Philadelphia's Jam on the River, a three-day festival of food.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chicken cheesesteak. Regular cheesesteak, two fries.

COLBY: And music, celebrating Memorial Day in the City of Brotherly Love. Remembering those who served.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remembering the war dead and celebrating the fruits of their sacrifices.

COLBY: And those who served up some of the '70s and '80s most memorable music.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's all kinds of music here, representing Americana.

COLBY: Peter Rowan, a guitarist with Old and in the Gray, played bluegrass with Jerry Garcia in the early '70s.

PETER ROWAN, GUITARIST: It's kind of a rebirth of the freedom of jamming.

COLBY: Joining Rowan in Monday's line-up, Donna the Buffalo, the Disco Biscuits. And a favorite of Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, his son Jessie's band, Don't Look Down.

Organizers say this year, the festival's crowds were lighter. Security tighter. Bags were checked. And the river alongside the venue patrolled.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: We've increased patrols in other areas. And all emergency personnel are on duty. No state police can go on vacation.

COLBY: The nation's elevated terror alert didn't stand in the way of these fans dancing to the day-long concert. And sampling cuisine straight from New Orleans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Red beans and rice, Cajun jambalaya, alligator sausage.

COLBY: After all, says fan Bob Rose, good food and new friends is for him what this holiday is all about.

BOB ROSE, FESTIVAL-GOER: You can't let a terrorist stop what you do in life. Continue living.

COLBY (on camera): Even if it means Oreos?

ROSE: Right. Even if it means fried Oreo cookies.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLBY: And I can promise you, Daryn, I tried it all, including the alligator sausage.

Organizers say they're already planning number 19, another three- day festival, for next Memorial Day, and they promise those deep fried Oreos will be back -- Daryn.

KAGAN: If you haven't eaten all of them first. Jamie Colby in Philadelphia. Thank you very much for that report.

Well, we've had a break there to show you some smiles on this Memorial Day, but we continue. We need to show you the news of a sad homecoming on this Memorial Day as a ship launches an intense search after two of its crew go missing on the way home from the Persian Gulf.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's in heaven. And he loves her, he's very proud of her. And he's with her every day. And I tell her to look in the mirror and she'll see him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: How do you explain to a child. The wife and mother searching for meaning on Memorial Day after the war in Iraq claims her husband.

And a town hard hit by an earlier war remembers the men that it lost.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: This Memorial Day has been especially difficult for one of the crew of the USS Nassau. It's returned to North Carolina delayed as it brings back home Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune. Two members of the crew are lost. One fell overboard Friday. It's still not known exactly what happened to the second man.

Frank Buckley has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Marines made their way to landing craft aboard the USS Nassau. They were headed home. But as they pulled away from the ship that was their home away from home for nine months, they were leaving the scene of sudden losses that occurred in the final days of the long deployment, the apparent death of Petty Officer 3rd Class Duane Williams and the sudden disappearance two days later of Petty Officer 1st Class Shaun Dale.

Chief Ted Chaney spent the day ferrying Marines aboard a landing craft from the ship to Camp Lejeune. But leaving two men behind, he said, was like losing members of an extended family.

TED CHANEY, U.S. NAVY: We've been so close for nine months. Even though we don't know each other personally, you see them in the passageway, you see them in the gym, you work out together, see them in the chow hall. These are good guys, good sailors, and you hate to see that happen, you know, this close to home, or any time.

BUCKLEY: Williams fell overboard on Friday while chasing a football across the flight deck of the Nassau. Witnesses at first saw him alive in the water, but a nine-hour search failed to find him or his body.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he really matured. And he would have been a great man, a great father, a great husband.

BUCKLEY: Sunday, hospital corpsman Shaun Dale didn't turn up at a routine morning muster. A day-long search by helicopters and Coast Guard aircraft, as well as a search on board the ship, also turned up nothing.

Still, officers kept sailors searching, even as the Marines disembarked, in the off-chance that Dale had been hiding out or was incapacitated and was leaving without anyone knowing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're watching the Marines and the Marine gear that's going off the ship right now, to see if there's any sign of HM1 Dale.

BUCKLEY (on camera): The search on board the Nassau will continue as the ship steams up the east coast to its home port in Norfolk, Virginia. Meanwhile, most of the Marines who were aboard are already home. They suffered no loss of life in a nine-month deployment that concluded with combat in Iraq.

Frank Buckley, CNN, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: The Vietnam War was one of the most difficult episodes in U.S. military history. It was a war that caused widespread dissension inside the U.S. and ultimately ended in a U.S. defeat.

Still, the veterans of that conflict take pride in their service.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Though the Vietnam War was lost, many of the veterans who continued to serve, like myself, learned from that experience. And we gave a promise to the falling around us, that they would not have died in vain. That we would learn from our Vietnam experiences and apply those lessons in future conflicts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: Retired Brigadier General David Grange served in Vietnam as well as the Persian Gulf and many other places during his 30-year Army career.

Earlier today, I had a chance to talk with David Grange. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: General Grange, if you could talk about the significance of this particular Memorial Day, coming out of the conflict in Iraq.

GRANGE: Well, I think what you can do is take -- you know, we just finished the battle in Iraq. There's still a lot of work to go on. But tie that to Afghanistan that was just completed since 9/11, and some of the other operations preceding it. It's been a busy decade or more since '89.

So if you take that and tie to it the previous conflicts, there's a lot of crosswalk on things that the soldiers and soldiers' families, sailors, Marines, air men, experience. It's the same stuff that they did years ago that they're experiencing today.

KAGAN: So much of your career has been spent or was spent, actually, in special operation forces. A lot of things you weren't allowed to talk about then, probably can't still can't even talk about till today.

How do you, then, pass on the legacy, someone like you or someone in your position, and share what you've been through?

GRANGE: Well, what you can do is you can pass on the feelings, the emotions, the human dimension of war.

You may not be able to talk about a covert, a classified operation, or the procedures, techniques on how an objective was taken down. But you can relate the sacrifices that were made, the service to country. Those type of things on a human side of war can be related to others.

KAGAN: You, sir, have earned three Silver Stars, two Purple Hearts over your career. And yet you're here with us. We're happy to say that today. But you must on a day like today remember so many of your comrades who were serving alongside you who lost their lives.

Who do you think of especially on a day like today?

GRANGE: Well, you know, I've unfortunately lost some of my personnel. And, of course, I know friends that have fallen from conflicts since Vietnam.

I especially go back to Vietnam, because that's really where I was whetted in combat. And I think about those that gave their lives. And I feel very fortunate, very lucky, that I'm here today and we're having this conversation.

And a day like today when you honor those sacrifices, those that gave their lives, it kind of brings it back to you about, why did they die? Did they die in vain? What are we doing about their honor? They're doing something better for America from those experiences, from that life that was given.

It just can't be forgotten. Just like Vietnam, you cannot just say, ok, that war, we quit, we lost, whatever you want to say. It was over a decade of service, you can't forget that. You have to take those experiences and apply them to the future so their lives were not lost in vain.

KAGAN: And general, in the final seconds that we have left, the ultimate sacrifice, of course, to give one's own life. But those that live on, the family members that today are dealing with their grief, especially those that lost loved ones in Iraq. What kind of solace can you offer them?

GRANGE: Well, I in fact talked at the Vietnam Wall today at the ceremony. I had a discussion with they're called Gold Star mothers.

A mom of a 17-year-old that was killed in Vietnam in the same organization, 101st Airborne, that was a part of. And I was over there with my dad about the time that she lost her son. And had the opportunity to talk to her about her grief. But also the pride she had, that one, her son served his country, did what he was asked to do, and that there was a memorial. Something to remember her son with, that other people can go to the wall, she can go to the wall and she felt like she was with her son again during those experiences.

And I related my service in that same organization with her at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

KAGAN: General David Grange, thank you for your time, sir, and your service to the country. Appreciate it on this Memorial Day.

GRANGE: My pleasure, thank you.

KAGAN: And Memorial Day tributes are particularly somber in a small Virginia town, the town of Bedford. Coming up, we're going to tell you how this town has contributed to a poignant chapter in U.S. history, a chapter that is still being written today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: And that was a live picture from Washington, D.C. If you didn't recognize it, the Iwo Jima memorial, a place where a very important service took place earlier today.

Let's go ahead and take a look at some other stories making news today.

A U.S. soldier was killed today and three others were wounded near Baghdad International Airport. A military spokesman says an explosive device was thrown under their Humvee.

Also in Iraq, a brother-in-law of Saddam Hussein is in U.S. custody. The military doesn't want his name to be used but the military does say the man was taken into custody Saturday after a high-speed chase through Tikrit.

Australia's foreign minister says Iran is beginning to understand the frustrations of the Bush administration. Iranian officials said Sunday that the U.S. cut off informal discussions with them. A State Department official says the administration is going to meet on the topic of Iran on Tuesday.

Police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana have issued a warrant for Derrick Todd Lee. They say that DNA tests link him to five murders in the state. Law enforcement officials say they questioned Lee about two weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF PAT ENGLADE, BATON ROUGE POLICE: He is a 34-year-old black male, 6'1", approximately 210 pounds. Light to medium complexion, short hair, clean-shaven, and muscular build. It is unknown at this time what type of vehicle he is using. He is to be considered armed and dangerous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: And in New Mexico, between 40 and 60 people were evacuated from the Laguna Pueblo area after a train derailed. State police say that a chemical began solvent began leaking from one of the train cars. They don't know why the train derailed and there are no initial reports of injuries.

Well, when it comes to making the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, the town of Bedford, Virginia, has paid dearly. Bedford has the distinction of having the largest one-day loss in World War II.

Alex Kershaw writes about it in his book called "The Bedford Boys: One American Town's Ultimate D-Day Sacrifice." He joins us now from Roanoke, Virginia, along with Bedford native Roy Stevens who took part in the invasion of Normandy. He survived that day, but his brother Ray did not.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us on this Memorial Day evening.

ALEX KERSHAW, AUTHOR, "THE BEFORD BOYS:" Thank you for having us.

KAGAN: Roy, I'm going to go ahead and start with you. If you could briefly tell me the story of how you and your twin brother ended up taking part in this invasion.

We joined the national guard back in the early '30s and we was together all through. And he was from Company A from 116th Infantry. And we trained until we got to June 6, 1944. We was in the same company.

KAGAN: And in reading through Alex's book, I understand that 19 young men from your town lost their lives almost immediately in that D-day invasion. You had a fluke thing happen on the boat that you were traveling on. Tell us about that.

ROY STEVENS, NORMANDY INVASION VETERAN: The boat I was traveling on?

KAGAN: Yes. STEVENS: The morning we left England on the Empire Javelin, which was docked about eight to 10 miles off the coast of Normandy. We unloaded from the ship to get onto our landing craft.

I was going down the corridor when I met my brother Ray. He stuck his hand for me to shake it. We had agreed before then that I would shake his hand at Verville Cemira (ph). That was the town we were supposed to take that morning, at the crossroads there. But I've often wondered why I didn't get to shake it.

KAGAN: You didn't shake it, because you thought that might be bad luck at that point? At that point with your brother?

STEVENS: That's right. I went back in '94. I went out, went to the crossroads. And there was closure. I stuck my hand out.

KAGAN: Such a sad story, all these years later, still.

Alex, let me bring you in. The story, the Stevens brothers, that's just one story that you found in the town of Bedford, Virginia.

KERSHAW: Absolutely. Mr. Stevens had a twin brother who died. Mr. Stevens obviously survived. But this was really a family of men who were three sets of brothers. Roy and his brother, and then Bedford and Raymond Hoback (ph), both of whom died on Omaha Beach. And then Clyde and Jed Powers. Clyde Powers was with Mr. Stevens when he was badly wounded in Normandy. He survived but Jack Powers was killed on Omaha Beach, too.

In all, 19 men from Bedford died in the first few minutes of invasion.

KAGAN: And we talked about the huge impact in one town, but give us an idea. Nineteen and then 22 total. But how many people are we talking about in this town at that time?

KERSHAW: Bedford had a population of 3,000 in 1944. So you're talking about 22 men from a town of 3,000 People. The impact was absolutely enormous.

Everybody knew someone that died that day. They had grown up together. They'd played baseball together. They had been extremely close. They were more than a band of brothers, they really were a brotherhood. They came from a very tight-knit community. They were a family of men that went to war.

And the greater family of people who were left back in Bedford, they suffered terribly, also, because of what happened on June 6, 1944. Which, from my point of view, is America's finest hour.

The actions of Mr. Stevens and his comrades that day have meant that people like myself have grown up in Europe in freedom. Countless millions of people owe their freedom to the actions of men like Mr. Stevens and his friends that day.

KAGAN: And just real quickly, Roy, I'm sure that you remember your twin brother every single day. But on a day like today, Memorial Day, what do you do to remember Ray?

STEVENS: All you have to do is look around and see the memorial in Bedford. And it always brings the memories back to you. And I always thank the Lord for the memories.

I thank the -- I've often wondered why I was picked to stay, and he had to go. But to tell you, we were young, kids growing up, we never left one another. We stayed together until June 6, 1944, when we were separated.

KAGAN: I thank you for sharing your memories. I'm sure all these years later, there's still much pain in doing that. But it's of great value to us and we appreciate that.

Roy Stevens and Alex Kershaw. The book is called "The Bedford Boys." And you'll hear about the Stevens twins as well as the 22 others who lost their lives in D-day from Bedford, Virginia.

Gentlemen, thank you, appreciate it on this evening of Memorial Day.

KERSHAW: Thanks very much.

KAGAN: Thank you so much.

Still to come, some of the behind the scenes war heroes, so to speak. The ones you may or may not have heard about. We're talking about new military technology. It will dazzle you. And we're going to show you what else could be coming down the road.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: Let's talk a little bit about how the Pentagon wants to develop weapons.

The U.S. approach to the war in Iraq was to use a smaller, faster force. That was the strategy of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. And is seen as a possible endorsement of his vision for the future of the U.S. military.

More on that aspect from our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Pentagon believes its blitzkrieg race across the desert kept Iraqi forces off balance and sealed a relatively quick victory.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Consider a few of the lessons. One is speed, and it matters. Coalition forces pressed through southern Iraq in a matter of weeks.

MCINTYRE: Enter the Striker, an armored fighting vehicle on wheels that, unlike a tank, can cruise at highway speeds and will soon give certain Army brigades the ability to get to the fight even faster.

BRIG. GEN. WILLIAM BANDENBERG, U.S. ARMY: This brigade is designed to have that speed and agility, more so than the forces that were in the theater.

MCINTYRE: At Fort Polk, Louisiana, soldiers are road testing the new doctrine, which is based on more than just trading the protection of heavy armor for the agility of wheeled vehicles. It's also about the computer links that give commanders a virtual view of the entire battlefield.

BANDENBERG: I just could not believe how much more information this brigade commander had compared to my rotation as a brigade commander at the national training center.

MCINTYRE: The Army's been under the gun to transform into a more nimble fighting force since the embarrassing debacle of Task Force Hawk in 1999. It took so long to move Apache helicopters and the force to protect them to Albania, that by the time they were ready to fight in Yugoslavia, they were no longer needed.

The Army is now on course to build the future combat system, a whole new line of lighter tanks and vehicles that go into service at the end of the decade. A pet project of outgoing Army chief of staff General Eric Shinseke.

But Shinseke, who retires next month, also irritated Defense Secretary Rumsfeld by sticking by the Crusader heavy gun, which Rumsfeld eventually killed.

(on camera) During the planning for Iraq, some Pentagon civilians complained what they call tread-heads in the Army were pushing the old heavy force doctrine.

Having fired the Army secretary and with the Army chief retiring, Rumsfeld is in position to fill the two top jobs with leaders that share his vision.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Let's keep our eye on the future now and check in with John Schwartz of "USA Today." He joins us now to look at the technology that could be the future of the U.S. military. Joining us from Palo Alto this evening.

John, hello. Good to have you with us.

JOHN SCHWARTZ, "USA TODAY:" Thanks for having me.

KAGAN: We saw lot of ground covered in Jamie's package there, so let's start with that. What is the future of ground warfare for the U.S. military?

SCHWARTZ: Well, within 10 years, we're looking at various types of unmanned vehicles. Tanks which are operated remotely. Ambulances that are drone ambulances that would pick up injured soldiers from the war fields. And possibly some other types of trucks, like pickup trucks that would haul supplies. So we would reduce the 100 pounds per soldier onus.

KAGAN: I was reading about this thing called a packbot. What's a packbot?

SCHWARTZ: A dog-like robot that sniffs out weapons or it sniffs out bombs. It's basically -- what it's going to evolve into like smaller types of bots that would be shot out of cannons or airplanes or dropped from helicopters and they would infiltrate hostile territories.

KAGAN: What does something like that cost?

SCHWARTZ: Something like that that costs -- is probably not going to be divulged by the military. The only real budgets we can get on items like the Global Hawk, which is about $40 million apiece.

The military is going to spend about $10 billion between now and 2010 on developing robotic type military artillery.

KAGAN: Sounds like Donald Rumsfeld would also like to get less on the ground and take to the skies. So we're starting to look at some pictures here of different things. What about the improvements that the military would like to use on some weapons that we just saw? The Predator and the Global Hawk that were used in Iraq?

SCHWARTZ: Yes, those are the first wave of, like, a three-wave package. Basically, within 10 years, it will be something called the X-45, which is a stealth-like bomber. It would take out the anti- aircraft defenses of the enemy. It would move in after the Global Hawk and the Predator do their surveillance work.

So basically, the second wave would be the X-45, which would take out the aircraft spots. And then you'd have your manned aircraft come in to basically bomb a defenseless enemy territory.

KAGAN: When you talk about these remote things, whether it's in the sky or on the ground, we're talking about remote. How far away are you actually talking about?

SCHWARTZ: Well, in some cases thousands of miles. The joke among some of the people, I think it's kind of a grim joke among some of the people at Boeing, was that you could have a flight operator operate an X-45, almost like a model airplane, from 10,000 miles away. Conceivably somebody in Seattle could oversee a bombing in the Middle East.

Some guy jokingly said to me that he could take a break from dinner, and go lead a bombing raid of somewhere in the Middle East, and go back to dinner.

KAGAN: But it would seem to me that the downside of that means it could go both ways. Somebody could send something to this country from far away...

SCHWARTZ: Right.

KAGAN: ... from where the U.S. could have any control over it.

SCHWARTZ: Right. The U.S. is hoping that this military advantage which we have -- it's just a stunning advantage in terms of military, from air and ground -- that it will take decades, you know, for the rest of the world to catch up with it just like the nuclear bomb was the case several decades ago.

KAGAN: And even with the U.S., some of the things we're looking at, we're talking about 10 years away?

SCHWARTZ: Yes. We're talking at least 10 years away. And some of the potential downsides are these things don't know how to react to unpredictable situations, which is what war is all about.

KAGAN: Well, thanks for giving us a glimpse into the future. John Schwartz from "USA Today," appreciate your insight.

SCHWARTZ: Thanks a lot.

KAGAN: Thank you.

The phrase fighting for your country took on new meaning for some serving in Iraq. Passing the test of citizenship by making the ultimate sacrifice. One soldier and his family's story is coming up.

And we'll take a look back at some of the celebrations of this Memorial Day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): If you need a hero I will gladly lend a hand. If you needed someone...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: A very sad moment there. Just last month, friends and family witnessed the funeral of 13-year-old Diego Rincon. He was born in Columbia but he fought and died for America in the Iraq War.

U.S. Senator Saxby Chandliss took the lead in arguing that immigrants who die in combat deserve to legally call America their home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SAXBY (R), GEORGIA: He and his family paid the ultimate sacrifice. The least we could do as fellow Americans is to honor him by granting him citizenship.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KAGAN: And in fact, Rincon was awarded his U.S. citizenship posthumously. His father George, his brothers Fabian and George Jr., join us now from Atlanta to talk more about that.

Rincon family, thank you so much for being with us.

Thank you for having us.

KAGAN: Mr. Rincon and Fabian, I'll have you jump in first and explain to us why it was so important for Diego to serve this country when he was not yet a citizen.

FABIAN RINCON, SOLDIER'S BROTHER: I think it was more of a pride thing. We came to this country as immigrants. And when we got here, we totally fell in love with the country.

And just after September 11, I could -- I remember coming home from school and I could see the anger in his eyes. And I guess he just took that anger and made it into a resolve to do something about it. And the next best thing, you know, to being a lawmaker, as far as changing the world is being a military person. And that's what he wanted to do.

KAGAN: Mr. Rincon, did you support your son going into the U.S. military?

GEORGE RINCON, SOLDIER'S FATHER: Yes. All the time. I was kind of upset when he told me that he was supposed to be there for four years. But I was upset for five seconds. And then after he told me, "I already signed the contract," I said, Diego, I'm going to be with you all the time. You come and 100 percent, anything you need from me, I'll be there for you, Buddy.

KAGAN: And from there, you continued to be the proud father, as I understand it.

We have to move along a little bit more quickly than I'd like just because we're a little short on time. But Fabian, let me bring you in. And explain to me how you found out that your brother had been killed in Iraq.

F. RINCON: Well, I was at a church function that Saturday afternoon. My parents were at home. They were actually preparing a package to send to my brother.

And my dad at the office, on the second floor, he sees a van pull up. And next thing he knows, this van has government license plates. And from then, just like he said, his nightmare started. And the gentleman just walked up to the door. My dad, the first thing, he looks up and he notices the cross on the person's shoulder, indicating that it's an Army chaplain. And from there, he knew.

KAGAN: Such a sad, sad day. Since your brother died, he's received traditional military honors, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and also this posthumous citizenship.

Mr. Rincon, how important is that to your family? How meaningful is that, to know that your son is now a U.S. citizen, but in death?

G. RINCON: He was working on it before he left to Kuwait. And I was -- he was asking me to send the papers to immigration. I said, no, son, wait until you get back from Iraq and we'll do everything together.

And then when I found out he got killed in Iraq, my first thing that was in my mind was asking Senator (UNINTELLIGIBLE), ask him to help to get citizenship for Diego. And that's why it's so important for me to get the citizenship before the funeral.

KAGAN: And that came through before the funeral?

G. RINCON: Yes, ma'am. The day of the funeral, somebody from the INS came from Washington with citizenship.

KAGAN: And Fabian, just one thing. I'm sorry, I just want to say -- I just want to point out that while it is an incredible honor to get this posthumous citizenship, it's not like regular citizenship. Your family doesn't get any of the benefits if the whole family had been given citizenship.

Do you think that this is enough? Or would you like to see even more for your family?

F. RINCON: Well, I have heard talk of, you know, in addition to the bill as far as letting the families share in the citizenship. I think, you know, the families, of course, had some consent in allowing the soldier to sign up. I mean, our family, for example, is very close. And my brother talked to us constantly about it. And it was a family decision. Not just his decision. So I believe that there should -- the family should be included.

But then again, that's not my decision to make.

KAGAN: It's not at this time. I can just tell you I just know that there's thousands of people watching now who have such incredible debt and appreciation to your family, to the Rincon family.

And I want thank you, Mr. Rincon, Fabian, and George Jr. We still see you over there, looking sharp in your suit there, young man. Thanks for coming in, we appreciate it, the Rincon family from Georgia.

F. RINCON: Thank you.

KAGAN: And our condolences on your loss. Thank you so much.

Well, still ahead tonight, some of the images from this Memorial Day. That's all ahead when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy Memorial Day from Florida! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy Memorial Day from Florida!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy Memorial Day from Florida!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: And that's just one of the images we're going to leave you with. I'm Daryn Kagan in New York City. We're going to leave you with some images of this Memorial Day. A look at some of the ways people spent the holiday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we honor the men and women who have worn the nation's uniform and were last seen on duty. From the battles of Iraq and Afghanistan, to the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, to the trials of world war, to the struggles that made us a nation.

DAVID WILLIAMS, FORMER POW: In my years of service, I have learned so many things. Especially how much I love our country and love serving my country. My recent experiences in Iraq never swayed those feelings -- they, in fact, made them stronger.

RUMSFELD: Beyond this amphitheater, in the garden of graceful white headstones lie the heroes of our heritage. We're surrounded by their monuments, but also by their dreams. Their dreams for America, that it would remain the bastion of freedom and a beacon of hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's special to us because God has blessed this nation, given us a chance to live in freedom. But it hasn't gone without somebody giving their lives for us. We appreciate that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what we're here for, it's to always remember. That is our slogan, we've had it for many years here, and we mean it and we do remember.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only thing about, you know, the veterans that came along and died for us. You know, my favorite saying is that, you know, all gave some but some gave all. You see what it takes for us to live free. You know, freedom is really not free. Some of us dedicate our lives to keeping freedom alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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