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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Home From the War

Aired April 19, 2002 - 10:32   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: New River Air Station, those very excited and anticipated faces because they can see the Marines are starting to come off of those helicopters, not allowed to rush their loved ones quite yet. First, there are some ceremonies to get through. Maybe Martin or Marty Savidge, who's on the scene there, can tell us more about what they need to do first -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the formal part there, and this is the decorum here, as the Marine Corps flag is presented her, and as the airmen and their crews step off of their helicopters, you hear the helicopters have shut down. Of course what you can also hear is the shouting, the excited voices. There are people that are already recognizing their loved ones, moms that have already made the quick IDs, as any mother can. And so just try to hold this crowd back at this particular moment is probably one of the biggest challenges the Marine Corps has faced, no doubt what it is they faced in Afghanistan.

They realize that there is a lot of pent-up emotion here, and one of the basic rules I've learned never get in the way of a mother and her Marine. So we are strategically trying to place ourselves to avoid that confrontation.

KAGAN: Marty, you thought you were in some dangerous situations in Afghanistan. But to stand between the mothers, and the wives and the Marines, that's a very precarious situation.

SAVIDGE: It is. You know, I think my life could flash before my eyes. But what a way to go, run over by mothers all ready to get out there. So here you can see now, as they all line up in formation, this is the way it will begin. You can see the Marines out there. They're making the IDs as well. They're spotting.

Let's listen in and just enjoy and just enjoy it.

(CROSSTALK)

SAVIDGE: This is the hard part for family members, as they all come out, you know, with their heads shaved and hair closely cropped, or in some cases, no hair at all. Some that left, or the husband that left may not look exactly the way -- plus a lot of them have lost weight. I know that from personal experience. So the identification process here really comes down to maternal or wifely instincts at this point. They've all got smiles on their faces, and the beaming that is coming off the faces of the family members is something to see.

KAGAN: And once again, it's been seven months since these families were together.

SAVIDGE: Right, and seven remarkable months. The Marines have never operated so far from a beachhead. We pointed that out yesterday, and this serves to be repeated, 500 miles when they seized Kandahar, over 700 miles when there were in the Khowst, Gardez region. Some people thought they couldn't do it. There some skeptic at the Marine Corps tearing off what they did, and yet they did achieve it. They ceased the Kandahar Airport, opened up the detention facility, made it grow, and then helped to reopen the American embassy that was closed I think back in 1988. They were a part of history.

KAGAN: Marty, as we watch these pictures, of course these are Marines, but let's be clear. We're not talking men. I see a number of women in that crowd as well.

SAVIDGE: Absolutely. Absolutely. Probably

KAGAN: Probably some husbands and fathers very excited to see those Marines come home as well.

KAGAN: Yes, and there's a lot of children that are very excited. And people have come from all over. They have traveled from as far away as Maine, and from the mid section of the nation. I'm sure some have came from as away as California. A lot of these families have gotten together over the Internet. They have a support unit, and they are meeting the families that they have talked to over the keyboard for the first time, but the biggest meeting of all of course is meeting the loved ones just a few tantalizing feet away.

Stand by.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fall out!

SAVIDGE: And here we go.

(CROSSTALK)

So there you have it. It's really hard to put into words. I went through a separation like that, but I never went to a reunion like that.

A lot of these Marines are coming home to find new family members. You know, there are new additions. There are births that have taken place. There are events in a family's daily life that have occurred that they're only now starting to realize.

KAGAN: Once again, these families separated for seven months. Marty, you were talking about you had reunion with your family. You were gone a couple of months. And I remember, I ask you,when you got back together with your kids, who cried more? SAVIDGE: You know, that's a good question. It was split decision on that one. There was -- you know the emotion. You know the feeling. You can see it on the faces of these families here. This was not a normal deployment, and these are not normal times. And so to be back in the arms of the person you love, to be back on freedom, which is one of the things that the Marines remark about, is a moment that you will probably always remember, and the families will savor for as long as they possibly can.

There are a lot of parties that are being planned right now. In fact, a birthday parties that have to be caught up, Christmas that was missed by the Marines. So many things, so many times, and now, they are finally back together, again.

KAGAN: Look at that. I bet he hasn't seen that baby.

SAVIDGE: No. No.

KAGAN: That's probably an introduction.

SAVIDGE: See if we can talk to some of the families, Marty.

Excuse me, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, hi.

Honey, these people want to talk to you.

SAVIDGE: How are you, sir?

First of all, is this a new arrival in your family here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, born about 20 days before I left.

SAVIDGE: No kidding.

So how does it feel be back and see her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't explain it. It's perfect. I couldn't be any better.

SAVIDGE: What it is like to be back here for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I haven't felt it yet. It's just more like an overwhelming feeling, after not seeing my family for six months, or seven months.

SAVIDGE: And how about you on the receiving end? For you, it must have been a terrible time to wait?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was. It was. But God gives you the strength to get through these things. And I try not to be selfish, because there are so many people at Twin Towers that lost their husbands, or wives, you know, their children, their mommies, daddies, you know, and that's what I kept telling myself is, you know, my husband is out there, and he's defending those people, you know, those lives that were lost, and that was worth it to me.

I glad he's back, and I never want him to leave again.

SAVIDGE: So what are the plans? What do you do now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Disney World!

SAVIDGE: There you go.

So, Daryn, there are so many of these kind of reunions that are taking place before you eyes here. Let's see if we can talk to some more people here. We have family photos being sent.

Excuse me, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes?

SAVIDGE: Can we talk. I'm Martin Savidge. I'm with CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?

SAVIDGE: We want to welcome you back, first of all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks.

SAVIDGE: How does it feel to be back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's unbelievable. Can't even describe it. Come back here, all my family, and all my friends, people I work with, seeing them. It's a little bit nervous flying off, but once we touched down, I knew it was over. I knew I was home.

KAGAN: Who is family you have got with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my aunt, Liz Martin (ph).

This is my grandmother, Mary Haynes (ph).

This is my little brother.

This is my other little brother.

SAVIDGE: We've got a whole extended family here.

Grandma, let me ask you real quick. How was it for you, the waiting, the worrying?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bad. It was just about hard to describe. I just can't describe it.

SAVIDGE: Well, it's over now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, and we're glad, we're glad.

SAVIDGE: How does he look?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He looks good. He couldn't look better.

SAVIDGE: Marine, welcome home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you.

SAVIDGE: Daryn, there are a lot more of these things going on everywhere. I feel like I'm emotionally eavesdropping at times. You get the sense how wonderful it is for many of these families. It's finally over for them.

KAGAN: Yes, you do, and understand these homecomings and these hugs even more, a reminder, Martin, that for our audience, this was the first military unit to leave the U.S. after the September 11th attacks, a very, very tense time, and as you said, welcome home, Marines. Welcome home to all of them.

Thank you so much.

SAVIDGE: Very true, Daryn. Thank you.

KAGAN: As you listened to Martin talk to families, they were saying they were speechless. Thank goodness we had the pictures there, because pictures telling the story this morning.

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