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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Veterans in Focus: Service, Struggle & Success
Aired November 26, 2009 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to "Veterans in Focus" here at the Marine Corp War Memorial just outside of Washington, D.C. Raising the flag over Iwo Jima is one of the most unforgettable images of World War II. That is what this program is all about, great memories of the more than 23 million veterans in the United States as captured by the talented and dedicated photojournalists of CNN, many of whom have been themselves to the battle fronts.
I'm Tom Foreman and we start up in Massachusetts, where a veteran went onboard a great ship in 1941 just as World War II was getting started, and he's still there. Photojournalist Bob Crowley takes us aboard too.
JACK CASEY, BATTLESHIP COVE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: It's so important to have ships like this so people will know what our history was, why we went to war, the sacrifice we made and the lives that were lost. We're very fortunate to have somebody like Armand with us because he's living history.
ARMAND VIGEANT, USS MASSACHUSETTS VETERAN: It's not as easy as it used to be. I'm 87. When I came onboard May the 12th, 1942, the day they put it in commission. And I got off the ship September the 12th, 1946, the day it went out of commission. I still maintain the five-inch guns so we can use them to fire off for ceremonies. (INAUDIBLE) tanks in here then you shoot.
When I first got in the Navy, I had only been out of school for six months. The first time away from home, but I soon got used to it. To get to my battle station for the last two years, this was my general direction. I used to stay behind this closed door for hours after hours, anytime we were in battle. It's loaded with 5,000 cans of polymer (ph).
I thought it was a great ship and I was proud to serve on it. Very few veterans in World War II (INAUDIBLE), they're all over 80 years old. Not many left. That's one more reason to preserve the ship so that people will remember. It's worth preserving the ship. Yes it's worth it, I think so.
FOREMAN: Getting over the rigors of war, the scars both physical and mental can take a long time for some veterans, but in Atlanta, photojournalist Eddie Cortes found some who are getting help as they head down that difficult trail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come here, boy. I actually swore in on September 11th, 2001, and then the first plane hit the Trade Tower. I was a squad leader during Operation Fan and Fury (ph). (INAUDIBLE) province.
LESLIE OLSON, THERAPEUTIC RIDING INSTRUCTOR: The Horses for Heroes Program is a program for the wounded troops, no matter what branch of the service they're in. They come out and they work with the horses. It's not just about the riding.
JUSTIN RICHARDSON, U.S. MARINE CORP VETERAN: It's a really cool feeling to you know be next to an animal this big that can do some serious damage if you wanted to, but really, they're just big babies that love rub-downs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's really bonded with Gideon. He's kind of a guide kind of horse, loves to be groomed and he stands patiently.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During combat operations, I was at the wrong place at the wrong time, ended up taking some shrapnel.
BETSY SMITH, REHAB COUNSELOR: Justin's doing much better. He came to us with some difficulties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had sustained a brain injury and had post- traumatic stress disorder.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've really been able to use the Horses for Heroes Program to work on his anxiety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never really been around horses. I'm actually from the city. The closest thing to a horse I had was a 100- pound Rottweiler.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are many that don't want to come and ride, but they want to work hands-on with the horses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of a trust thing, you know. He trusts you. You trust him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If their back hurts or if they just don't feel like riding, we always have something for them to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know it's been extremely therapeutic, especially emotionally.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They love coming out and working with the horses that gives them a sense of accomplishment when they're done. It's been a wonderful program. It's something I can give to these men and women who have come back and have done so much for us and we can help them heal.
FOREMAN: Life for some veterans does not go as they might wish after they are discharged and yet, we find a way to repay our debt as society sometimes in surprising fashion. Consider two men out in California who were to be buried in pauper's graves and simply forgotten until it was discovered that they were veterans. It's an amazing story found by photojournalist, Tim Hart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My fellow soldiers and I are here today to render final military honors to our fallen comrade.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These two veterans were unknown to most of these people here today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there any family representatives here for Mr. (INAUDIBLE)?
WESLEY JONES, BAKERSFIELD NATIONAL CEMETERY: The Currant County (ph) Coroner's Office identified two individuals that they believed to be veterans.
LEON THOMAS, KERN VETERANS MEMORIAL FOUNDATION: We got on the phone, on the Internet and invited our friends. They didn't know if they were African-American, Hispanic, Caucasian. They didn't even know that they were in the Air Force, but they were here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They didn't know these people. None of us knew them, but they came out here to support them and give them a good send-off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was 125, give or take, people here who had no idea who Staff Sergeant Barrett (ph) or Private Axel (ph) were.
LYNN SPRAYBERRY, FRIENDS OF FALLEN HEROES: I knew their name and their rank and that they were both in the Air Force. That's all I knew.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we showed up in the numbers we did because we value the service of that veteran.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody deserves to be laid to rest alone. They fought for their country and they deserve the respect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what we're all about in Currant County (ph) to recognize and honor those old veterans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you may be indigent doesn't make me inconsequential.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're veterans. They're entitled to be here and we honor them the very best way that we can.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today was an example of what Currant County (ph) does for its veterans. We really want to take care of our veterans. That's what we do.
FOREMAN: Up next -- contact with some of the greatest airplanes of World War II.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're celebrating freedom and trying to commemorate the struggle the great generation went through.
FOREMAN: And a miracle of music.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought to myself that German sniper is as lonely and scared as I am. How can I stop him from firing?
FOREMAN: Many veterans speak with mixed emotion about the enemies they face and yet, it would be hard to find anyone with greater conflict over it than a man in Los Angeles. As a young Jewish boy, he fled Germany to come to the United States only to find that his war was really just beginning. Photojournalist Gabe Ramirez has his story.
THOMAS TUGEND, WWII VETERAN: I was born in Germany. We were I guess upper middle class and it was a very good life. Changed in 1933 when Hitler came into power. My father was a rather well-known pediatrician. He could no longer take non-Jewish patients. The sudden change at 33 came as a tremendous shock. Your best friend who yesterday was your best friend suddenly won't talk to you anymore.
My father had been a World War I veteran, a captain in the German army. I think it really broke him spiritually and physically. For my father it was really a heartbreaking experience. The German Jews always thought this was a temporary aberration that the German people you know would come to their senses. They simply couldn't believe it and that's why so many of them got caught and didn't get out when they had a chance.
My family came over as refugees in 1939. When I wanted to join the U.S. Army I thought I had to you know convince them that -- that I was on the American side, not the German side. I subsequently was assigned to an infantry unit, 254th Regimen and saw action in Germany and France.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it a surreal experience for you, the first time you met your enemy, which used to be your neighbor?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good question. I think I was not conscious of it as long as I was just a guy, an infantry man. We were shooting at them, they were shooting at us and that's all you think about. I had a personal reason for fighting against the Nazis that you know most another Americans didn't. There are a number of instances in my life where by all the odds, I should have been killed. It just gives me a sense of the utter random chance of life.
FOREMAN: Speak with any veteran who was a pilot, and you will almost certainly hear tales of a lost love. A particular airplane that took him and his fellow troops into and out of battle, but in Georgia, some of those love affairs live on and they're flying high. Photojournalist William Walker shares that story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can only imagine what it would have been like to be at 19 or 20, find myself alone in the skies over Europe looking for the nearest German. This is an (INAUDIBLE) Mark IV (ph). It was the consummate trainer of World War II.
JOHN "SKIPPER" HYLE, U.S. AIR FORCE VETERAN: I used to fly F- 16s, now I fly this Harvard Mark IV (ph) and a P-51 (ph) mustang. You can go to a museum and see a lot of different types of planes. We take them out to the people so they can get that feeling that comes with being around them and hearing them operate and seeing them fly. By keeping that part alive, we're celebrating freedom and trying to commemorate the struggle that the greatest generation went through to give us the abilities and freedoms that we have today.
VIC HEWES, ROYAL AIR FORCE VETERAN: War started in 1939 and I was only 17 years old, so I waited until I was 18 and then I volunteered for the Royal Air Force.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we got the thing, it was silver.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The beach (ph) graph here is a replica of the airplane that I flew out in (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The aircraft number here is the number of the aircraft that I had when we were out in Southeast Asia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the old days you had to fly the airplane. We flew by the field in the airplane. You don't do that anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel a little kinship to anybody much on any side that was a fighter pilot. It's very easy to see that when it comes way deep down inside, we're the same.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a very good friend who lives not far from me (INAUDIBLE) pilot in World War II and we tried kill each other for five years. We ate dinner together last night. He was pilot. I was a pilot.
FOREMAN: In a bit, two different takes on the art of war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just write for release of the thoughts in my head and I need do get them out and the only relief that I do get is when I put it on paper.
FOREMAN: And lost and found, putting memories away for safe keeping.
MIKE GALANOS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Mike Galanos. A short time ago, former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson was sentenced to 13 years in prison for bribery. You may remember he was caught with $90,000 in cash stored in his freezer. Prosecutors say Jefferson used his influence to broker business deals in Africa.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who confessed to being the 9/11 plot mastermind will be brought to New York to stand trial alongside four other Guantanamo Bay detainees. The case will be heard just blocks from ground zero and some Republicans call the move dangerous.
Anthony Sowell, the Cleveland sex offender, suspected of being a serial killer today pleaded not guilty to raping and choking a woman in September. That case led to the discovery of 11 bodies at Sowell's home.
NASA says it's found a significant amount of water at the moon's South Pole, after crashing a satellite into a permanently shadowed crater last month in hopes of finding ice.
And President Obama's giving a major speech in Tokyo at the top of the hour. CNN will bring it to you live. I'm Mike Galanos. The CNN special "Veterans in Focus: Service, Struggle & Success" continues.
FOREMAN: One of the most famous examinations of military strategy of all time is the ancient Chinese book, "The Art of War" but in southern California, photojournalist Tom Larson found two veterans who are dealing with the aftermath of their service by in effect giving that title new meaning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I started writing poetry in the year 2007 when I was in prison. I was alone. I had a lot of time to do some soul searching and thinking and I don't know what inspired it. It was just -- I wrote a poem and it just all started pouring out. I just couldn't stop. My name is Michael Anderson (ph) and I'm a veteran of the Vietnam War.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is actually the first painting that I did. It's of a POW Flag. And this one right here is a desertina (ph) with Cobras flying through the desert. Painting helps me forget about any problems I might be having and any anxiety and stuff like that. Helps me stay calm and it's something I enjoy doing. My name is Sergerious (ph) and I'm a veteran from the Iraq war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I met Sergio here in New Directions and that was my first time having a talk with him and in the process of talking, I found out that he was a Marine like myself and there was just kind of like an instant bond.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anytime you see another Marine, it's like you know he's your brother. You know you will have that bond with any other Marine because that's what we were. We're brothers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just by chance I had some work that I had done and just by chance he mentioned that he likes -- he liked to paint.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the bell tolls, at attention I stand, honoring the heroics of every woman and man who serves unflinchingly to heed our nation call, where all gave some and some gave all. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the idea of a collaboration came together and we started bonding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I decided to paint something which showed an act of bravery and that was the Iwo Jima flag on Mount Serbatchi (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just had that sense that if I presented that poem to him that he would share my vision, that he would just by the words alone be able to see what I saw. As the bell tolls, I offer a salute to our fighting men in uniform, brave and resolute. My prayers go out to all of you through every column and rank. I offer you my gratitude. I salute you. I give you my thanks.
FOREMAN: Well over 10 million veterans are in the U.S. labor force and in these hard economic times, many of them face an additional burden trying to pick up careers they left behind when they went to serve their country and that's where a man right here in the D.C. area comes into play. Oliver Janney caught up with him.
KRIS CLAYBORNE, ELEVATOR MECHANIC: I can't think of anywhere else except the building trades where you can make money and learn at the same time. What better trade than the elevator trade to get into.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We connect transitioning military members.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the best career's construction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's above my pay grade.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're getting into the time of the year when we start collecting our success stories and we're getting our phone calls out there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Darryll Roberts (ph). I'm the executive director of the "Helmets to Hardhats" program. You had a great employee with a great career opportunity and it's just a great (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the International Union of Elevator Constructers (ph). This is where the kids in (INAUDIBLE) program come to learn everything you need to know about putting in and maintaining an elevator.
DARRYLL ROBERTS, HELMETS TO HARDHATS: An apprenticeship, by the way, at the Montgomery GI Bill (ph) will supplement your pay while you're in it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Positive voltage here. Negative voltage here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best employees out there is the military.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Kris Clayborne (ph) and I'm an elevator constructer. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where all the magic happens right here. This job's very technical, takes quite a few years to learn how to wire all this up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what "Helmets to Hardhats" does. It meets these people -- these men and women who are returning, who deserve these great careers, and we say to them, here's a great opportunity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually got into it when I got back from Iraq. And I had a good buddy of mine kept talking about this elevator trade. Told me about the "Hardhats to Helmets" program, within probably two weeks, they had a job for me here at Alcon (ph). I've been here for almost three years now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have brothers and sisters in arms who are in harm's way every moment of the day, every second that they're overseas, they're in harm's way. We do this so that when they return, they have a chance at a good career.
FOREMAN: Folks, with the "Helmets to Hardhats" program say they put more than 1,700 veterans into new careers in 2008 alone. Congressional concern about this very problem of helping veterans get back to work has prompted an innovative program there as well, connecting veterans with jobs and with the very government they once served in arms. Photojournalist Jeremy Moorhead takes us to Capitol Hill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I sent my resume to them. There was over 300 different positions. Didn't realize they would take five to six months and you know before something like this would come along and I can't express my gratitude for the program being here.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: What we hear about a great deal is jobs for our veterans when they come home and this is a way for us to serve as a model.
DAN BEARD, CAO, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: We went to the speaker with the idea to create this program, "Wounded Warriors". She enthusiastically endorsed it. Our biggest challenge has been finding injured veterans who are interested in working for their member of Congress. It occurred to me that one of the things the House of Representatives could do is lead by example. By employing veterans who have been wounded in either the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, bring them back in to the House of Representatives, give them an opportunity at a job. We developed a fellowship program. We now have 19 participants, 18 of which are in district offices throughout the United States, one of them here.
BILL COLLINS, WOUNDED WARRIOR FELLOW: Hey Justin, Bill Collins here. I was a Ranger (ph) advocate for 16 years. I was a Marine officer, (INAUDIBLE) as a major. I was involved in all aspects from military justice defensive prosecution of Marines. I had medical complications (INAUDIBLE) my deployments and they retired me for medical purposes and I thought 15 years and I really wanted to make it to 20, but I didn't have that choice, but I thought well I've got a law degree.
PELOSI: I'm very excited about what you are doing, Bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the program, I'm working for the speaker as an adviser on veterans' affairs issues.
PELOSI: We owe them so much thanks for their patriotism, their courage, the sacrifices they and their families make.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the one program I'm more proud of than anything else that I've done. We now have 19 people and we're on our way to 50 people who were injured veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan, who we have found jobs for.
FOREMAN: Later, the trumpets call and a surprising response and more of that poem to all veterans across the land.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who serves unflinchingly to heed our nation call, where all gave some and some gave all.
FOREMAN: Many veterans can tell extraordinary stories of their time on the battle front and often, they're not so much about the actual fighting as about the difficult decisions. Photojournalist John Torigoe went to Utah to hear the song of a long lost war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a 70-year-old trumpet. It's been with me on all my combat missions all through World War II. I never went anyplace without it.
Here we are. Marjorie Rogers, she and I have been married now 68 years. We finally got this P-47. It was a dream to fly. That's why I named it after my first daughter, Roseanne. I would love that propeller like I loved that little girl.
I took it in a little canvas bag tied to my parachute. I figured if I ever got shot down, it would go with me. Covering the beaches we saw two million men, 10,000 ships. We had 3,000 feeders, our altitude, and we just shot at everything we could, and we witnessed the invasion from a ringside seat, and I remember feeling pride and sadness as I saw the bodies, 4,000 killed in two hours on D-Day.
Two weeks after D-Day, we were the first fighter squadron on a strip that was built there after a bad day attacking this German panzer division. Seeing innocent civilians massacred that were held up on top of the tanks. That's why I had to play that night.
As I took my trumpet out of the canvas bag at 10:00 that night, and there was still one German sniper, I thought to myself that German sniper is as lonely and as scared as I am. How can I stop him from firing?
So I played that German's love song, "Lily Marlene," and I whaled that trumpet over those apple orchards in Normandy and he didn't fire. The next morning, here came the military police up. And the military police said: captain there's a German prisoner down on the shore and he keeps saying, who played that trumpet last night? It was a 19- year-old German, and he cried and he said: I couldn't fire. He stuck out his hand and I shook the hand of the enemy. He was no enemy because music had soothed the savage beast.
My ambition as the last action on my part as a veteran is to hit high "C" and fall right into the grave.
FOREMAN: Many veterans come home from war with sharp memories of fellow soldiers who did not. Those memories often won't fade for many, many years. Not far from here, at the Vietnam Memorial, such remembrances have formed the core of a hauntingly collection as discovered by photojournalist Bethany Swain.
DUERY FELTON, CURATOR, VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL COLLECTION: People started leaving things in 1982, and they are still leaving things. There's no precedent for this. And, periodically, the rangers will pick things up at the wall and they will transport them out to the facility.
So, in '86, this was decided that this would become a formal collection. And I think, last year, it was something like 6,000 objects that came in. I looked at us as being voyeurs, in many ways.
It's left at the wall, so it's special.
This is a softball that was left, so you take from it what you will.
This facility is not open to the general public.
This is a rendering of a POW MIA tiger cage to draw attention to the MIA, missing in action.
This collection is international in scope, just as the Vietnam War was international in scope.
We have a lot of blackjack cards in here.
I can't tell you why it was left. But we have over 100,000 objects in the collection. It's more than a collection of sorrow. It's also a celebration of life.
We have this object that was left, jungle boots, the dog tags, a helmet. So, when we say we have 100,000 objects, that's very conservative. It depends on how you count. Is this one, or is this 300?
When you look at the goblet you still see residue, that's why I haven't cleaned it, because it tells so much of a story. But I have often wondered which context this was used.
Now, we are still not able to determine the nursing school, but it's a nurse's cap. Sometimes, people will write messages on the currency. "Forget me not." Very profound, simple, but effective.
When a person dies, that person doesn't die in a vacuum, not in isolation.
Almost 60 percent of today's population was not alive during Vietnam. You can't tell where you are until you understand where you have been. And we're preserving the past for the future.
FOREMAN: Coming up, recovering from battlefield injuries one note at a time.
And also, this.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four days into our deployment in Iraq, a good friend of mine was killed and that really opened my eyes to kind of live your life to the fullest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: So if that means serving your country, what's wrong with that? Plenty, for some veterans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Michael (INAUDIBLE). An aide to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas tells CNN that's she's decided not to leaving the Senate while she challenges Republican Governor Rick Perry. Hutchison, also a Republican, planned to quit the Senate to concentrate on next year's primary.
New information tonight about Major Nidal Hassan the Fort Hood shooting suspect. His lawyer says Hassan is paralyzed from the waist and may never walk again.
Six deaths are now blamed on the powerful nor'easter caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida. There's flooding in Delaware, New Jersey, New Jersey and Virginia.
Guilty pleas from the parents of the "Balloon Boy." Richard Heene and his wife made a plea deal, but could still get jail time when they're sentenced next month.
A big welcome in Florida for the world's biggest cruise ship. The Oasis of the Seas is five times larger than the Titanic and can hold more than 6,000 passengers. Its first cruise: next month.
And we're standing by to bring you a major policy speech by President Barack Obama who is in Tokyo. It's set to begin around 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
I'm Michael (INAUDIBLE), the CNN special, "Veterans in Focus: Service, Struggle & Success," continues.
FOREMAN: The lessons learned in military life do not always easily transfer to the civilian world, but out in Fresno, California, one veteran is making it at least it a little bit easier with a lot of helping hands. Photojournalist Gregg Canes takes us there.
VINCE GARCIA, U.S. MARINE CORP VETERAN: I was in the United States Marine Artillery Cannoneer (ph) when we shot that first round and my hand were like shaking, I was like scared. I think what sticks with me the most is driving from Kuwait all the way into Baghdad. We had a, you know, a drive by where we just destroyed. A lot of times I felt maybe guilt because you know, destroy everything that that family has.
When I got back from the war, I was lost in every aspect as far as, you know, do I go to school, do I look for a job. I was sleeping maybe like two to four hours a night. As far as PTSD, I knew that like I had anger. I didn't know like how to channel that anger into something positive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I first met Vince, his whole body language was down, even though he had been a very, very proud service member. When Vince had first came in to San Joaquin Veterans, all he wanted was some fellowship, some brotherhood. And the director over there said, Vince, we don't have that kind of a program, but you could start it.
An organization called the Mission Continues, that would actually help you to get that rolling and its mission is to help wounded and disabled veterans, whose wounds and disableties don't allow them to serve anymore in the military, but they still have leadership, heart and a desire to serve.
The Mission Continues was able to help Vince in a variety of ways. First of all, we were able to give him a structure through which he could begin a project that he had real passion for.
GARCIA: I started Forever Brothers because, again, I was looking for a kind of a social group, kind of fill in the gap of me not being in the service. Kind of like a community therapy-type program, which I've come to find out that it's like one of the best ways to treat PTSD. We're going to do monthly functions: go fishing, camping.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do think that wounded and disabled veterans are an underutilized recourse. These are the best kinds of employees that you can have. GARCIA: I'm in a place where I didn't expect to be. Really, the sky's the limit. I have a new mission. It's not with the Marines; it's with the veterans, the community, with myself, my family.
FOREMAN: A recent CNN Opinion Research Poll found that only a third of Americans think the Veterans Administration is not doing a VERY good job taking care of our vets. However, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a program of comfort and music and rehabilitation is at least helping some. Floyd Yarmuth went by.
ARTHUR BLOOM, FOUNDER, MUSICORPS: Musicorps is an intensive, music rehab program for injured combat veterans recovering at Walter Reed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting into the Musicorps, it kind of eases some of the pain. I was on (INAUDIBLE). I had EFP hit up underneath my side and blew my leg off. If I'm having a problem with something going on in my life, I can pretty much sit down, write it on paper, come back to my software and make the beat for it and express my feelings.
BLOOM: It's active. They're doing it. They're producing. They're learning, writing, creating, composing, recording. They accomplish these goals and they say, look what I've done.
WILL COOK, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: It's just like another usual mission. Let's go walk around and like look for bombs. I mean, I found one. I was the hero of the day, I found the bomb. Yeah.
Musicorps it helped me figure out what I wanted to do as far as a career. You know, it showed me the thing I probably like more than anything else in life, which is making music. But I got amputation of the left leg below the knee, nerve damage to the left hand. You just lean to adapt. Yeah, I guess so life goes on. I don't really notice anything else. I just do it and then that's the only thing my mind is on, so it helps with a lot of things.
BLOOM: Someone like Will or Corey, who are so talented despite the fact that they've been blown up, they've had this horrible loss of limb and all of these terrible, terrible injuries, that they can still be productive and accomplish things and move forward with their lives.
COOK: Oh, I just love music. It makes me a happier person.
FOREMAN: In a little while, involuntary veterans pushed out of service before they were ready.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether you're gay or straight, man or woman, black or white, you know, you did these great things for your country.
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FOREMAN: And final notes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Musically, it's a very simple song, but it's so much more than a song. It's not a song. It's a prayer. It's a thank you. It's a farewell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Not all veterans leave the military as they might wish. There is of course an ongoing debate in this country about gays and lesbians serving and when some reveal their orientation, they're given a quick and unwanted exit. Up in New York photojournalist Pelin Sidki found one veteran who didn't ask and didn't tell until he did.
I'm Darren Manzella, I was in the United States Army from 2002 until 2008. My division deployed to Iraq. And I served a year in the streets of Baghdad doing combat patrols. After returning from my first deployment in Iraq after seeing death and violence, losing friends and comrades, really made me look over my life and I looked over some issues I'd always had trouble with.
You know, I had always debated am I gay? Growing up I never had that conflict because I didn't know anybody that was gay, I had my two brothers and I did everything that they did. We worked on the farm together, we played football. But after coming back from Iraq, I decided to come out to myself.
Having a boyfriend it makes it very hard when you're at work you can't talk about your significant other if it's the same sex. But I stated soon after I'd began this relationship, getting these e-mails and these phone calls from different people who were saying I was being investigated for being gay.
So, I told my superior about the phone calls, about the e-mails and what had happened was he went to the legal department and turned me in for breaking "Don't Ask Don't Tell."
But, after a month of the investigation, my commander called me in and said, the investigation was closed and despite my admission, they were told that they found no proof of homosexuality.
In 2006, we deployed back to Iraq again. And I was able to serve that entire deployment nearly 15 months, openly. But it's something that nearly 65,000 men and women serving in the military that are gay, lesbian or bisexual, they couldn't.
CBS was interested in doing a segment about a gay service member serving in the combat zone. I looked at the pros and the cons and the con was pretty much that I could be discharged for speak out publicly. I finally decided to participate in the interview and when we returned back to the states, I didn't hear anything from my superiors.
In June of 2008, I received an honorable discharge from the United States Army. I received my full benefits, but on my discharge paper it shows "homosexual conduct."
Life is too short to not be who you really are.
Since "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was enacted in 1993, about 13,000 men and women have been discharged. And the military is one of the most diverse groups I've ever encountered. And if any group can adapt to change, it's the military. And I think when "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is repealed; it won't be a huge issue. It's be, OK, this is how it is now, and that will be it. You're a soldier, you follow orders, you're told something and you do it.
FOREMAN: When we come back, the man who says goodbye forever.
FOREMAN: There is almost nothing that is more powerful for the families and friends of veterans than the sound of "Taps" being played at their funerals. These days, due to a shortage of buglers who will take on the work, it's most often a recording, but not if one man up in New York is anywhere around. Photojournalist Deborah Brunswick gives us the final salute.
LOUIS DILEO, NEW YORK MILITARY FORCES HONOR GUARD: Making music is fun.
I've been a musician since the age of seven.
I'm still a musician, but I spend most of my days playing just one piece.
My name is Lou DiLeo. I'm the bugler for the New York Military Forces Honor Guard. Traditionally, "Taps" has been played at military funerals since some time in the Civil War.
It's mostly a recording now because of the amount of funerals that we are going thought. With the veterans dying at a rate of 1,000 a day, there's just not enough personnel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a veteran, I really enjoyed live "Taps." For a bugler to be able to come in and provide that live is really important.
DILEO: I was recently at one of my relatives' funerals. He was buried with a recording and I said, I have to do something about this. I contacted the New York Military Forces Honor Guard and I offered my services.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With Mr. DiLeo, you hear the feeling, you hear every note. With a recording, it's just -- it's very bland.
DILEO: Musically, it's a very simple song. But, it's so much more than a song. It's a prayer. It's a thank you. It's a farewell.
There's nothing fun about playing "Taps" at a funeral, but there is a pride in knowing that you've done something that's helped bring closure to a family and helped honor the veterans. Even I get emotional when I think about it.
FOREMAN: To all of our veterans, both those still living and gone, and to their families too, our profound thanks for your service. If you want to see more of these stories from our fine photo journalists, go to CNN.com/veterans. I'm Tom foreman, thanks so much for watching and we leave you with a poem by Vietnam veteran Michael Anderson in honor of all who have served.
MICHAEL ANDERSON, VIETNAM VETERAN: As the bell tolls, I offer a salute to our fighting men in uniform, brave and resolute who availed themselves for liberty to let our freedom ring, unknown challenges await them for what their future brings. They live and die in foreign lands, on distant shores and banks. I offer you my gratitude, I salute you, I give you my thanks.
As the bell tolls, I hang my head in silence. They engaged their foe toe-to-toe and traded violence for violence. Bodies once warm and full of life, cool like a dying ember, leaving only grief to bear and distant memories to remember. Lying in still repose, eyes lifeless and blank, I offer you my gratitude, I salute you, give you my thanks.
As the bell tolls, at attention I stand, honoring the heroics of every woman and man, who serve unflinchingly to heed our nation call, where all gave some and some gave all. Letters of ominous fortune carries heartbreak and sorrow of our fallen heroes that sacrifice their promise of tomorrow.
My prayers go out to all of you through every column and rank, I offer you my gratitude, I salute you, I give you my thanks.