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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Burden of Battle: Troops Come Home

Aired August 7, 2003 - 19:40   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Want to move on to some other news right now. Three hundred and four members of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division are now home. The group, of course, played a key role in the war in Iraq, leading the drive to Baghdad eventually forcing Saddam Hussein from power. They've shouldered the burden of a conflict for almost a year. But it could take longer to readjust to the comforts of home.
Brian Cabell joins us live from Fort Stewart to explain -- Brian.

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, good evening.

You know, I've been through a lot of these emotional reunions. But this one, just a couple of hours ago, was especially emotional.

As you say, these guys were over there for a long time. They saw some of the heaviest fighting and there have been reports from this unit, frankly, of morale problems there, because initially they thought they were coming home in June. Then it was July. Then it was August. Then it was September. Then it was beyond September. But finally today, finally this afternoon, no more delays.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dismissed!

(CHEERING)

CABELL: What was the worst thing about being over there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not knowing that you're going to come back.

CABELL: And what now for the next few days? What are you looking forward to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vacation. Got a lot of holidays to make up for, so....

CABELL: What do you want to do? Do you just want to go and sit in your easy chair or do you want to....

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take a shower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, man.

CABELL: Go out to dinner or what? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out. Get out and see the town, get around people, American people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABELL: Twenty-five hundred of these soldiers due to come back here over the next five days.

Wives have been warned repeatedly here that their men, their soldiers who are coming back, may have changed over these last 11 months. They've been through the wartime experience, they've seen dead bodies, they've feared for their lives. But I can tell you, Anderson, from what we saw, very superficially over the first half hour back here, they look fine. They say they want to go home with their wives, they want eat a steak dinner and they want look at their children who have changed so much over the last year -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, it was great seeing that one soldier sort of stroking his son's head, clearly wanting to actually touch him and be happy to be back.

Brian Cabell, thanks very much for that.

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