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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

The Story of Warrior One

Aired May 27, 2007 - 17:30   ET

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


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: I want to show you something. This is what a typical Humvee looks like when it returns from service in the battlefield. In fact, let's take a look inside.
You go inside and you can see it's rusted, it's cramped. I mean, this is no luxury ride. And the same things that you're seeing right here on the interior are also on display on the exterior. As a matter of fact, as you look at it from out here, you can see that this thing has been, well, beaten up.

We've got an amazing story of what happens when you clean up a pile of hard working metal like this, one that could have been destined for essentially the scrap heap.

Hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez. And welcome to WARRIOR ONE FOR ALL. This is a story of how one vehicle is making a difference in thousands of lives. In the next half hour, we're going to take you on the road with Warrior One. The other Hummer that served CNN so well in the Iraq War. We bought it used from a Kuwaiti car dealership, enlisted it in our war coverage in 2003.

After that it was shipped back to the United States. Only later did Warrior One become a rolling emblem for the recovery of U.S. troops and a powerful tool for the Fisher House Foundation. Here's a look at how Warrior One took a beating for CNN's embedded war coverage and just kept on going.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALTER RODGERS, FMR. CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have been under heavy fire for the past couple of miles.

The pictures you're seeing are absolutely phenomenal. These are live pictures of the 7th Cavalry racing across the desert.

What you're watching here is truly historic television and journalism.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): The military calls it a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or Humvee. Civilians call it a Hummer. In a field that was known as home for CNN's crew, it was the vehicle of choice for the embed experience. But our journalists discovered a Hummer is not very clean and not bullet proof.

They're soft sided, which means no armor. CNN's Walter Rodgers describes the experience and the vehicle. RODGERS: Reuse the secondhand U.S. Army Humvee that we've been traveling with, any bullet will pass through it, even a .22 caliber bullet. You can see our body armor draped on the door, this is what we've been literally living in. This is the kitchen when we're down and we are very fortunate because we've got a teapot.

That's my cubbyhole. It's extraordinarily cramped because Paul Jordan (ph) sandbagged the floor, in case we hit a mine, that's all the space I have to eat and sleep in.

Let me give you an example of what the dust is like. Look at this tarp. We have been through days of dust like that.

SCOTT MCWHINNIE, CNN CAMERAMAN: I was embedded with the 1st 7 Marine with this vehicle. This was my seat here. So I can get a shot out the window.

SANCHEZ: Our crews had plenty of obstacles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just had a flat.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, FMR. CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a pit stop that was up to Indy proportions. Incredible timing as far as coming in with a flat tire and replacing it. We have no idea if the other wheels are going to stay on. In fact, the wheels had already come off this wagon.

RICHARD "SMUDGE" SMITH, CNN DRIVER: We've only got three miles to go to our first objective. We've lost our battalion, but we're going to go on our own. Warrior One.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: But what started out as a means of transportation became something else entirely, these journalists had no idea about the path Warrior One would ultimately travel. Coalition forces invaded Baghdad in March of 2003 and Warrior One's tour of duty lasted a few months before the vehicle was shipped home.

But out of Baghdad, did not necessarily mean out to pasture.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Enter Chip Foose and the gang from the TLC show "Overhaulin'." The transformation of the sand-swept Warrior One was about to begin.

CHIP FOOSE, "OVERHAULIN'" DESIGNER: CNN brought both of these vehicles back to America, back to Atlanta, Georgia, and one of them is down in the lobby on display. And the other one they didn't know what it do with, somebody had the idea to actually contact us at "Overhaulin'," and that is why we are here, which is a huge honor. We want to pay the respect that the vehicle deserves.

The next time they see it, the vehicle will be overhauled. SANCHEZ: The Hummer was carefully loaded onto the truck for its trip to the "Overhaulin'" set. There over seven days, Warrior One went from beat up to brand new. Warrior One had its grand unveiling at CNN Headquarters in Atlanta.

CHAD MEYERS, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: This Chip Foose, the designer. Chip, thank you so much for coming. Thank you so much for doing this for CNN, for the people of the U.S. This is an amazing feat, what you did in seven days to the vehicle that went to Baghdad with our journalists, photographers inside this thing broadcasting live at times off the front lines. I want to know what you do.

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, this is my first look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Jim Walton of CNN and we've just been overhauled.

(CHEERING)

SANCHEZ: We were impressed, but that's nothing compared to the reaction we got from the troops when they saw what happens when airbrush meets rusted metal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty nice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This really nice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I take it for a ride?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty nice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Both soldiers and civilians got up close and personal with Warrior One during its nationwide tour of military bases and other sites. And while a tour was nice, it was soon apparent there was more that Warrior One could do for troops who had served their country so well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice-over): On the tour, Warrior One began a pivotal relationship with the Fisher House Foundation. A Fisher House is truly a home away from home for people like this. Military families stay at Fisher Houses around the country so they can be close to their servicemen and -women who are undergoing treatment.

Chairman Ken Fisher says CNN and the Fisher House were a perfect match.

KEN FISHER, CHAIRMAN, FISHER HOUSE FOUNDATION: There was some discussion back and forth, CNN wanted to obviously help us out with Fisher House. And that's where the relationship was born was with this Hummer that was embedded with the Marine division that went into Iraq. So it has just been a thrill to be associated with CNN and to be associated with this vehicle.

SANCHEZ: But CNN and the Fisher House were sure it could do more. The auction block was where Warrior One could really shine, bringing in much needed funds for Fisher House.

CRAIG JACKSON, CEO, BARRETT-JACKSON: This was something really special. I mean the cause it's going for. I always hate giving predictions because you can always jinx yourself. We sold the Make-A- Wish car last year for half a million dollars. I would hope this car is seen to be as significant. And I have a good idea I think of who is going to buy it.

SANCHEZ: It is safe to say these bidders had never seen a ride like Warrior One, overhaul and all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were here the other day and really got a lot of goose bumps.

SANCHEZ: Warrior One was parked at the center of the action under the huge auction tent.

JENNA RANKIN, WARRIOR ONE GUIDE: The vehicle is going to be going on the auction block today between 4:00 and 6:00 with the proceeds going to the Fisher House Foundation. The Fisher House Foundation supports our troops and their families. So remember us and remember the Fisher House Foundation, it's a tremendous cause.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, "AMERICAN MORNING": People who have come by today are just so impressed with the vehicle and the idea that the proceeds are going to help the families of servicemen and -women who are either in the hospital or suffering from these debilitating injuries coming back from Iraq. So it's a win/win situation for everybody. It really is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is just awesome and I think that Fisher House is a wonderful organization.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The wheels are one-of-a-kind custom (INAUDIBLE) wheels.

MCWHINNIE: It's great. Yes, a lot better than it was when we had it.

STEVE DAVIS, PRESIDENT, BARRETT-JACKSON: It has been amazing voyage for this Hummer, but I will go on record to say that boy, it's just about ready to take -- it's going to go to the Moon, and it's all for the great cause, it's all for the Fisher House. Barrett-Jackson cannot be prouder to be a part of it.

CARROLL SHELBY, CREATOR, SHELBY MUSTANG GT: That's a wonderful project for the Fisher House. That's a great thing for our soldiers and we've got to stand behind. What a great thing for the Hummer to go for the people that do our fighting for us.

SANCHEZ: During the 2007 auction week, collectors spent more than $110 million on some of the most impressive and historic automotive vehicles out there, 250,000 visitors made the trek to the big auction tents.

FISHER: The whole show is just magnificent.

SANCHEZ: Even CNN's Wolf Blitzer was getting in on the act.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": I'll try to generate some excitement with the crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you're going to drive it?

BLITZER: I'm not driving, I'm just sitting. I'm a passenger.

SANCHEZ: As the day goes on, excitement builds for lot 1281. Who would bid on Warrior One? How much would it make for the Fisher House? And would Warrior One actually start?

When we come back. Warrior One lives up to its name.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Any car enthusiast could have bought Warrior One at the Barrett-Jackson auction, but it took a car enthusiast who really knows what it is like to return from the war to see the potential in owning such an exceptional vehicle.

But first, that vehicle had to start somehow. Wolf Blitzer picks up the story of WARRIOR ONE FOR ALL.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): The auction at Barrett-Jackson is heating up and so is Warrior One. No one counted on this. But the fire turned out to be minor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I've got a 911 up here and I'm not kidding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get all the stuff off the floorboards.

BLITZER: Time is running out as the clean-up begins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven minutes left to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got about that much to get through the crowd.

BLITZER: Finally, Warrior One is ready to go for the big bucks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now coming to the stage, CNN's Warrior One.

BLITZER: Just how high would the bids go? Two bidders were making a play for Warrior One. One, a Corvette dealer from Montana. The other a Denver real estate executive. DAVE LINIGER, CHAIRMAN, RE/MAX: A lot of comments were made that I appeared to swoon. I have a certain amount of hearing loss because of racing and shooting guns in the military and everything. And I can't really understand what an auctioneer is saying.

And so I was kind of lost and there was a monitor on the ceiling that I could watch what the bids were, but I didn't want to bid against myself. And so I kind of got off balance and I was thinking, am I in or am I out?

But the auctioneer lady was absolutely wonderful to me. And she whispered in my ear at about $850,000. She said, why don't you jump it to 100 and see if we can get rid of it? I jumped it to 100 and then of course, the other gentleman came over, and he said, I'll tell you what, you take the car and I'll add $250,000 as your first donation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to let him own it for $1 million but I'm going to write this foundation a check for $250,000 and I don't want the truck.

LINIGER: This is your first donation. A fabulous -- I mean, a breath-taking moment for me but the audience went wild.

BLITZER: As the final bid is placed...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to close the bid and say sold at $1 million plus $250,000! We raised $1,250,000 for the Fisher House!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: A sweet moment for CNN. Dave Liniger, and most importantly for Fisher House.

LINIGER: I knew we were going to buy it. I had no idea what the price would be. But it makes no difference, the price goes to the Fisher House. And they do such a fabulous job.

DAVE RESSLER, RESSLER MOTORS: And I'm so moved by these people that come back and save us so that we can stay over here and do stuff like this.

BLITZER: Liniger is a Vietnam veteran, so he understands how different it is for troops returning to their families these days compared to those who came home from Vietnam.

LINIGER: These are volunteer soldiers. In Vietnam a vast majority of the soldiers were drafted. And so it's an entirely different mental state. These men and women knew what they were getting into and they didn't do it out of resentment, they did it out of a sense of patriotism, it's the job they wanted.

These guys needed a better chance than some of my friends did. And I think there's a lot of Vietnam vets that feel the same way. And we kept saying, I know what it was like to be lonely, I know what it was like to be afraid. I know what it was like to be away from my family.

And I think we're much more attuned now that that 35 years has passed and I think the world is much more supportive of the veterans this time. It's a wonderful, wonderful thing.

FISHER: Regardless of whether you agree or you disagree with what we're doing right now, that it's important that we support our troops and that we support their families. They're making great sacrifices for us. And I think that this country owes it to them to support them. They're the best this nation has to offer.

BLITZER (on camera): I've seen what happens during war. I was a Pentagon correspondent, I've covered several wars. And you know, it's a painful, painful experience, but if we can help it even a little bit to make it a little bit easier, then we're doing something important.

LINIGER: I was familiar with Fisher House but had never donated to them. The morning of the auction, I did meet with several of their representatives and we discussed it in-depth then. Obviously we had made our mind up we were going to buy it.

And it was a charitable donation more than it was buying the Hummer, but now we have a use for the Hummer.

MCWHINNIE: Going to a very, very good home. Yes. She'll be looked after and well taken care of and I'll miss her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be treated with kid gloves forever.

BLITZER: Coming up, Warrior One's new mission after the auction block.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back. The WARRIOR ONE FOR ALL. I'm Rick Sanchez. Here with old "Betsy," CNN's other Hummer that our embedded journalists used in the Iraq War in 2003.

You've seen what a difference one vehicle can make, especially one that's much improved over its days of service in the field. Now you can make a difference as well. Fisher House is expanding to meet the growing needs of returning servicemen and -women and they need your help.

Log on to fisherhouse.org now and find out how you can support our troops and their families, many of whom are struggling with serious injuries as they try and get their lives back to normal.

Looking ahead, what's next for the hardest working vehicle in America? John Roberts reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS (voice-over): Once it left the auction block, CNN's Warrior One was off to its new home base in Denver. New owner Dave Liniger is adding the Hummer to his already large fleet. And his manager, John Metcalf, is happy to see this addition.

JOHN METCALF, MANAGER, HOT RODS & COMPLETE RESTORATION: It's quite a rig, there's so much history behind it.

Now we'll get down to the mechanics of it and learn a little better about what all they did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You always got to pop the hood from that side because of the cylinder. It's over on that side for safety.

Program the sound system so we can play our DVDs.

METCALF: This power switch over here is little bit different but it fits in. I mean, big block Chevrolet, what else do you want, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's what you get for a million bucks.

METCALF: He wants to carry on the tradition CNN has done with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're proud of CNN that he's going to carry on the tradition of showing it, and not wind up in somebody's garage and nobody will ever see it.

ROBERTS: Liniger wants to raise money for the Fisher House Foundation and for his group, Sentinels of Freedom. As Warrior One tours the country, it will build awareness for both organizations.

SGT. BRIAN RADKE, FISHER HOUSE RESIDENT: It's great. It's a good family environment. You have the soldiers who can talk to each other about what they went through, what we're going through. The treatment. We talk about our PTSD, our flashbacks. And the wives can talk about what's going on with their husbands.

LINIGER: When I looked at Warrior One, I knew I was going to bid on it before I went there. And as I looked at it and Scotty (ph), the cameraman, started telling me what the different artwork meant and the memories and what it meant to the reporters, I was really enthralled with it.

And I looked at this as a symbol that we could take on tour around the United States. RE/MAX conventions, military bases, hospitals, automobile shows, places where we could build an awareness of what the Fisher House Foundation did and what the Sentinels of Freedom Foundation would do.

JOEY BOZIK, SENTINELS OF FREEDOM RECIPIENT: We don't expect to be taken care of. You know, we don't -- it's not a level of, you know, we sacrificed for our country. We're all volunteers. We all made the decision to go and sacrifice for our country. We don't expect anything. We just want someone to stand behind us and give us a helping hand.

ROBERTS: This time, Warrior One starts right up.

LINIGER: We're building a schedule right now. The requests are coming in by the hundreds. Could we have this at all of these different places from automobile shows to military bases to military functions? And so right now, we're trying to figure out how do you schedule it geographically so that you don't have a New York event and then two days later an L.A. event.

People are fascinated with the Humvee. They're absolutely fascinated with the history of it and the stories behind it, and then of course the program where they rebuild it, and then of course it's rather unique to be a million dollar-plus Hummer.

Four thousand hours to rebuild it. Over 250 hours painting the camouflage. And ghosted in are the most vivid memories of these reporters and cameramen of what happened to our soldiers over there.

I think probably we will tour it until the interest dies on it, perhaps. I don't see that for three or four years. And then after that, I think probably what we'll do is it will be a temporary display at various automobile museums on a rotating basis for the foreseeable future.

I'm a car nut that bought a Hummer that I will never drive.

ROBERTS: It's a long way from the battlefield to the tour circuit. Our journalists, our overhaulers, and our bidders each had a part in making Warrior One the vehicle it is today.

And Warrior One's days of service are far from over. Fisher House residents and staff know now the difference one vehicle can make in thousands of lives.

I'm John Roberts reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: We certainly hope that you can catch Warrior One on the road as it tours the country for the Fisher House Foundation. And in the meantime, go to fisherhouse.org and pledge your support for this organization that's making a difference for our military families.

I'm Rick Sanchez. Thanks so much for being with us.

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