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Iraq Votes

Aired January 27, 2005 - 19:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening live from Baghdad. I'm Anderson Cooper.
American lives and prestige on the line. The future of Iraq hangs in the balance. A CNN Special Report, Iraq Votes, starts now.

ANNOUNCER: Violence rages on as Iraq's historic presidential election draws near. Tonight, Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour, embedded with U.S. troops, bring you first-hand accounts of valiant efforts being made to keep Iraqis safe from bloodthirsty insurgents.

Our young men and women, wounded on the front lines, medics in a frantic race against the clock to save their fallen comrades.

Tonight, bringing you extraordinary access, from the point of injury on the battlefield, to the dangerous mission of evacuating under heavy gunfire, to being reunited with family safely back at home.

Chaos and violence plaguing the security of Iraq. But what do the Iraqis really think about the upcoming election? Tonight, hear their voices, their fears, and their hope for a free Iraq.

And 1,420 American lives lost since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Fathers, husbands, daughters, and sons, their lives given for a greater cause. Tonight, meet a woman who's lost her brother and her fiance to the enemy. Listen to her heartbreaking story of sacrifice, how she's living to preserve the memories of the fallen men in her life.

This is a CNN primetime Special Report, Iraq Votes, with Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour in Baghdad and Paula Zahn in New York.

COOPER: Good evening again. We are live in Baghdad. Thanks for joining us for this two-hour special CNN report.

It all started some 22 months ago with the so-called shock and awe, the U.S. invasion of Iraq 22 months ago. Then came this.



(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: U.S. troops entering Baghdad, overthrowing the government of Saddam Hussein. That made for a TV moment, the toppling of Saddam's statute.

And now this. Less than three days away from something many Iraqis haven't seen in a generation, a free election. The circumstances are difficult, to say the least. The results will be contested. But on Sunday, many Iraqis will, for the first time in their lives, have a say in their future, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Anderson, all of this coming, of course, at a very high price, as insurgents wage their own violent war against change. There have been 1,420 U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq since the war began, many more than that wounded.

Tonight, we'll taken a unprecedented look at the full story of the wounded warriors, from the point of injury in the war zone, to the long road home, Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: Paula, indeed, this historic vote does come amid this terrorist insurgency, and it comes, this vote, in a state of virtual martial law here. There are tanks on the streets, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and U.S. forces will be out. And there are war planes streaking overhead to try to keep the violence on polling day down.

There are, obviously, grave concerns about the violence, and it has continued. It continued today, leaving some dozen Iraqis and one American Marine dead in at least three different attacks.

Hoping to avoid scenes like this, of course, as we say, there will be massive security. And under the current state of emergency, beginning tomorrow, curfews will be extended, and vehicle movement will be severely restricted, Anderson.

COOPER: Christiane, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, U.S. troops are on patrol. Last night I had the privilege of going out on patrol with a unit from the 5th Brigade of the 1st Cavalry. We were out in southern Baghdad, and you cannot help but be impressed by the efforts of these young men and women in uniform, many of them eager to go home, counting the days, in fact, but still, they are out here, night after night, day after day, doing a very difficult job.


COOPER (voice-over): For 11 months now, this unit has been patrolling. They've been rebuilding schools, they've been fixing sewage lines, they've been taking care of garbage collection. In these last difficult days before the election, their job is to try to check on polling stations, try to check on Iraqi forces, and make sure these elections go off without a hitch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, with the light, check it out, make sure there's no wire in that.

COOPER: For Captain Thomas Pugsley, the commander of Alpha Battery, 5th Brigade, 1st Cavalry, the nights are tense and long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch it. Go wide. Go wide left. Stay away from it.

COOPER: Hour after hour, he and the soldiers of 1st Platoon patrol the pitch-black streets of southern Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, we're going to go check out four of my polling sites.

COOPER: Insurgents have already attacked several polling sites, and Captain Pugsley wants to make sure the troops of the Iraqi national guard, the ING, are still doing their job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, are these, are these, are these (UNINTELLIGIBLE), or your guys?

COOPER: At each polling site, Pugsley prods the Iraqis, listening to their complaints.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know you guys didn't know. And it sucks. But we're going to try to do the best thing for you we can and try to help you out on that in a couple days.

COOPER: Iraq security forces are constant targets. Training them effectively is now the number one priority for the U.S. military.

(on camera): The Iraqi soldiers who are guarding this polling station say that they were shot at just a few hours ago, insurgents driving by in a car took some shots at the polling station. What the soldiers noticed too is that a lot of the pro-democracy, pro-election writing on the wall has been crossed out in black spray paint. Could be the work of kids, or it could be the work of insurgents.

(voice-over): Despite the intimidation...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's one light for you guys.

COOPER: ... Captain Pugsley is convinced Iraqis will come out and vote.

CAPT. TOM PUGSLEY, U.S. ARMY, 1ST CAVALRY DIVISION: They want to vote, and they're gonna vote. But they're going to play it by ear. They're going to check outside, make sure everything's cool. And then once they get a good warm fuzzy, I think they're going to come vote.

COOPER: These nights, 1st Platoon is always on guard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you see anybody, they're a potential threat.


COOPER: In the middle of the road, a burned-out car. They search, wary of booby traps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want it off the road.

COOPER: Specialist Chris Maxfield has a month left in Iraq. He says he doesn't care about the elections, he just wants to go home.

SPEC. CHRIS MAXFIELD, U.S. ARMY, 1st CAVALRY DIVISION: Times (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when you see it getting better, and then it just falls apart again. You know, and you start over again, rebuilding, doing not -- doing projects. And it goes back to the way it was before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, try to drag the front end up and fall it in.

COOPER: Captain Pugsley is convinced, however, they are making progress. Insurgent attacks are down, though they have become more lethal.

Hours before this patrol, a 5th Brigade soldier was killed by an IED, an improvised explosive device, two others were wounded.

PUGSLEY: You lose soldiers, and it sucks, but you got to drive on. I don't think there's a unit in this brigade that hasn't lost at least one, if not more. We've been fortunate for the last six months not to lose anybody, but we took our casualties early on. And so we -- it's always in the back of your mind when you go out. But you got a job to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you guys doing?

COOPER: The job is not easy. In this fight against insurgents, the 5th Brigade uses more than just weapons. They fix sewers, collect garbage, and build schools. Any sign of progress, however, is a tempting target for insurgents.

PUGSLEY: Our neighborhood (UNINTELLIGIBLE) council building got blown up twice. And the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) station got blown up once in the same quarter. And the youth center that the Iraqi government is building for the kids, someone blew that up too.

COOPER: After 11 months in Iraq, 11 months of patrols and frustrations...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're going to start setting it off, getting ready for elections.

COOPER: ... Captain Pugsley is still optimistic, still fiercely proud of the work he and his soldiers do each night.

PUGSLEY: If we come in the wire after, you know, six, 10 patrols that day, and we do everything we were supposed to do that day (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I go to bed, no problem, and I sleep well.


COOPER: They are a very impressive group of men and women in uniform.

I want to show you something that has led to some of the successes they're having in that neighborhood. This is a pack of cigarettes that they hand out. They also hand out comic books to kids. But this is a pack of cigarettes. And if you look closely on the cigarettes, in Arabic writing, there is a telephone number for Iraqis to call with tips about insurgents.

They say the number of tips back in April, they were getting about 20 tips a month. Last month, they were getting more than 100 tips each month, a small sign of success in that neighborhood, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Indeed. And I was out also in parts of those areas that you were, because they wanted to show us really what they call a two-pronged strategy for getting people on side and routing the insurgents. It's called lethal combat operations and nonlethal stability operations. Part of what Anderson was talking about, trying to build up the infrastructure, employ thousands of people, put them to work, and get them to inform on the insurgents.

Interesting, the general, the colonel in charge of the brigade, they told me they are not even trying to win hearts and minds anymore, they're not even pretending that that's a goal. Rather, they just want to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people to make their life more secure.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): It's called the morning battle update. And every U.S. commander in Iraq gets one as he prepares for yet another day of war against the insurgents.

Ahead of Iraq's elections, every piece of information is vital, from intercepting a car bomb...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This vehicle is a white model, white (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Butterfly.

AMANPOUR: ... to the election day weather forecast.

But along with preparing combat operations, General Pete Charelli has another vital weapon.

MAJ. GEN. PETER CHARELLI, U.S. ARMY, 1st CAVALRY DIVISION: These are the water projects. And I'm only targeting the neighborhoods where I'm having trouble with the insurgents.

AMANPOUR: He has a lot of those, as commander of the 1st Cavalry Division responsible for Baghdad, where there's a direct correlation between poor basic services and terrorist activity, like the al-Shwaeb (ph) neighborhood in the city's troublesome south.

CHARELLI: This street was the scene of some of the first fighting we had last April. And when that fighting was complete, we came in here, we talked to the people, we asked them what they needed. And they asked us for four things, sewer, water, electricity, and someone to pick up the trash.

AMANPOUR (on camera): And the result?

CHARELLI: The result is what you've seen here today. You're seeing a people that -- we will never gain the hearts and minds of the people. What we have to do is to try to gain their trust and confidence.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): So since April, his soldiers have built sidewalks, paved roads that were just mud tracks, put up electricity, and are getting ready to put up street lamps. Saddam had never done this for these people.

The aim is to deny the terrorists a ready pool of recruits, one street at a time. It seems to be working in this neighborhood.

"They are developing our neighborhood," says Ali. "They have a cleanup campaign, and other new things, and it's getting better."

Brigade Commander Colonel Steve Lanza shows off the new clinic they've built and equipped and explains, this is not gentrification, but vital strategic planning.

COL. STEVE LANZA, U.S. ARMY, 1st CAVALRY DIVISION: It's more than just the altruistic value of the project. It's the way the project influences the population, it's the way the projects help us, in a nonlethal means, fight the insurgency through a total strategy of engagement incorporating lethal and nonlethal effects.

And there's an effect to this project here. There's an effect to having a sewer, an effect to having a road, a clinic, a school, the things you see around you. You can see that right around me right now. And this is part of the way you fight the insurgency.

AMANPOUR: In other words, co-opt the people into providing vital information on the insurgents. Again, here, it seems to be working. These soldiers say they are now getting four times more intelligence on insurgents from this neighborhood, and attacks have stopped.

"Yes, we are helping the Americans capture them," says this man. "The young people of this neighborhood are capturing them. And now this is a secure place."

Providing basic services will remain critical, even after the elections.

LANZA: The more of this we do, the more we will cause folks to have a belief in their government. And that's what's key to this whole thing.

AMANPOUR: There's still not enough power being distributed to the people from this plant. The sewage system in this neighborhood is still not fully installed. But Charelli says the $5 million spent on these few streets alone is a small price to pay for the rewards they are already reaping.


AMANPOUR: Now, it is just one neighborhood here, and one neighborhood there. It's going to take years to get this project done. It's 35 to 40 years of dilapidation in Iraq. But each neighborhood, as we've said, is key to what the U.S. forces call force protection, and that is their main goal, to keep themselves secure. But more than that, to make them believe in their government and make these elections work, Paula.

ZAHN: Christiane, thanks so much.

There is much more ahead from here tonight.

The battles in Falluja may have ended, but now there's a new challenge, making sure it's safe enough to vote.

Then, a father's rage after the loss of his son. Pride turns to tragedy for one soldier's family.

And a little bit later on, flights of mercy, the race against time to save wounded warriors.

All that and more ahead.


COOPER: That was back in November in Falluja, U.S. Marines and U.S. Army forces fighting street by street, house by house, sometimes even hand to hand. Falluja was an insurgent hell city, what "TIME" magazine's Michael Ware often called the dark heart of the insurgency.

It is that no longer. Polling stations there have opened, but in Falluja today and this weekend, there is a big open question about how many people actually will turn out to vote. It is a Sunni stronghold, and it is a place where violence is expected to be highest.

Jane Arraf reports from Falluja.


JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Yasser Ibrahim Mohammed's (ph) shop was heavily damaged in the fighting for Falluja. Undeterred, he moved his business into the street.

It's a city of rubble, no running water, no electricity. But in the devastation, they're preparing for elections.

"We want a president who will do something for us," he says. They don't know who that could be, though. With many candidates too frightened to campaign, and because there are no newspapers or electricity for television, voters likely won't even know who's on the slate till they get to the voting booths here.

The U.S. military is supposed to be invisible in the election process, but with Falluja still under martial law, Iraqi election officials have asked for major help. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've asked us to help transport things that are beyond their capability, to provide a communications network, which is our specialty, and to assist in getting local people to help them out. The, all of the things that they said that they could not do on short notice, they've asked us to assist them.

ARRAF: The Marines and Army Civil Affairs have been setting up voting sites and hiring election workers, as well as overseeing security.

(on camera): This will be one of the polling sites in Falluja. To deter attacks, officials aren't disclosing the location of these sites to voters till 48 hours before the election. There will be intense security, layers of security checks, and even snipers on the roof.

(voice-over): It's Iraq's fledgling security forces that are meant to be the visible presence. Iraqi army and public order battalions have been brought in from all over the country.

At this camp near Falluja, they're being trained on how to conduct searches on voting day. Most of their faces are covered, because they believe their families could be threatened or killed if they were identified as security forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): And I have a message to my fellow lieutenants who have not returned to work. No one can protect this nation but the sons of its people.

ARRAF: At this checkpoint near Falluja, Iraqi soldiers hand out flyers urging voting. Some Iraqis won't take them, some say they have no interest.

"Go see the homes of Falluja. It's all dirt. What will elections do for us?" this man asks.

At this Falluja mosque, regiment commander Colonel Mike Shupe (ph) pays a visit to the imam. He promises to get him a battery for his generator so the call to prayer could be heard again. But to the imam's other requests, the colonel tells him he should talk to Iraqi officials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting your needs to the mayor is the way to get everything fixed.

ARRAF: The imam, though, tells the colonel he knows who has the power here to get things done. It's the Americans, he says. He's in favor of elections, but won't say whether he'll vote. As for his followers, he says, that's up to them.


ARRAF: Other Sunni leaders, though, are telling their followers to boycott the election. And that's leading to fears that Sunni voters at the polls will come out in even fewer numbers than other groups, Anderson. COOPER: And of course, we will be watching to see what kind of turnout they get in Falluja and elsewhere throughout Iraq on Sunday. Jane Arraf, thanks very much for that report.

Let's go back to New York and Paula Zahn. Paula?

ZAHN: Thanks, Anderson.

When our special report continues, one father's struggle with grief. How he's coming to terms with the sacrifice he's made to bring change to Iraq.

And then a little bit later on, loss, loneliness, and determination. A young Marine corporal faces her future alone.


ZAHN: A soldier's death is often referred to as the ultimate sacrifice, but there are no words to describe the pain and loss their parents feel.

You might remember last year's story about the father of one U.S. Marine. When he learned his son had been killed in Iraq, he snapped, setting himself on fire.

John Zarrella found out what has happened since then.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nearly every room in this modest house in Hollywood, Florida, is a shrine to Carlos Arredondo's son.

CARLOS ARREDONDO, ALEX'S FATHER: We have here the Purple Heart...

ZARRELLA: In August, 20-year-old Marine Lance Corporal Alex Arredondo was killed in Iraq. The Marines say only that he was shot once in the head during combat near Najaf.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: I've been thanking God for the time he loaned me Alex, because it was a very short period of time . It was a very short period time, but, you know, God loaned me my son for 20 years, 20 days.

ZARRELLA: To his father, who immigrated from Costa Rica, Alex was his American dream, pictures on tables memorialize his life.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: Alex, Merry Christmas. He print a Christmas tree.

ZARRELLA: This grief is private. The day the three blue- uniformed Marines showed up outside his house was not.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: I mean, I say, are you guys here to recruit some kids? Because you guys are in the wrong house. The kids are next house, next door. And they respond me by saying, We are not here to recruit anyone.

ZARRELLA: Carlos was in the front yard when the Marines told him. He remembers running to the back yard and thinking...

CARLOS ARREDONDO: Perhaps it's a nightmare. I need to wake up.

ZARRELLA: Then he ran to the garage.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: I grab a hammer...

ZARRELLA: He went to the Marine van out front and began smashing it, then dropped the hammer and went back to the garage for gasoline.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: I grab a torch, I grab the gas, and I start pouring gas on everywhere inside the van.

ZARRELLA: The van exploded in flames when Carlos says he accidentally pressed the button on the lighter.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: The next thing I knew, it threw me out to the street, and I was on fire.

ZARRELLA: This was August 25. On September 4, with burns over 25 percent of his body, Carlos attended his son Alex's funeral in Boston from a stretcher and an ambulance.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: The burns are healing much better.

ZARRELLA: Emotional healing will take much longer. Carlos is divorced from Alex's mother. She lives with their younger son in Maine. Their grief is no less painful, but Carlos's was so public.

He has apologized to the three Marines. No charges were filed. Now he wants to be there for others who may get a knock at the door.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: If I can help somebody else to be ready for, that will be something that I can accomplish to help another family.

ZARRELLA: Carlos is in counseling. His wife, Melida, hopes it will help him pack away the shrine.

MELIDA ARREDONDO, ALEX'S STEPMOTHER: To me, Alex was not these pictures. To me, when I go walk and I see a rainbow, that's Alex.

ZARRELLA: In a letter, Alex Arredondo wrote he was not afraid of dying, he was serving his country.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: I was being very proud of being Alexander's father, you know, the Marine.

ZARRELLA: Carlos Arredondo has no idea why he snapped. Perhaps, he says, because the day the Marines came was his birthday.

John Zarrella, CNN, Hollywood, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ANNOUNCER: Our young men and women, wounded on the front lines. Medics in a frantic race against the clock to save their fallen comrades. Tonight, bringing you extraordinary access, from the point of injury on the battlefield, to the dangerous mission of evacuating under heavy gunfire, to being reunited with family safely back at home.

And 1,420 American lives lost since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom -- fathers, husbands, daughters, and sons, their lives given for a greater cause. Tonight, meet a woman who's lost her brother and her fiance to the enemy. Listen to her heartbreaking story of sacrifice, how she's living to preserve the memories of the fallen men in her life.

CNN's special report, Iraq Votes, will continue in a moment.


COOPER: Those pictures are from a night patrol last night in southern Baghdad I went on with units from the platoon of the Fifth Brigade, 1st Calvary -- which you often see on television, soldiers and Marines kicking down doors, arresting insurgents, confiscating caches of weapons. That's the most dramatic stuff.

But often, I mean, what a lot of the soldiers say when you go out on patrol with them, is that 90 percent -- 95 percent of the time they spend out on patrol is very mundane, it's much more routine. And the work they're doing isn't just fighting, isn't just shooting guns, it's much more subtle than that. It's trying to co-op the local populous to not work with the insurgents, to inform on the insurgents. They do that in many ways, I showed you a cigarette they had out, earlier in the program, which has a telephone number people can call in tips. I want to also show you this, this is actually a comic book they made for kids in Iraq, trying to sort of just teach them what the U.S. forces are doing there, who they are. Christiane, you went out with this unit to. It's all about co-opting Iraqis.

AMANPOUR: It is. And you know, one of the things is, that sadly because of the violence, the U.S. troops, even in friendly neighborhoods when they're trying to do what they call non-lethal operations, they can't take off their hard hats, they can't take off their body armor. They're in a state of total constant alert for combat. And it's caused quite a lot of friction between the U.S. soldiers and the public in many parts. You know, I saw a Humvee, a convoy, that said stay 100 meters back or you will be shot. Well first of all, can anybody read from 100 meters back. And there have been these awful instances of accidental shootings on civilian cars, people who didn't understand the warnings to stay back, you know, whole families shot up and killed. And this is part of the terrible reality of what they've found here, this insurgency and this hostile posture that they're in all the time, where everybody is an enemy.

COOPER: It's hard not to sympathize with them though. When you see -- you know, just yesterday when I went out on this patrol, a couple hours before a soldier from 1st Cavalry was killed in an IED, two others were badly wounded. And you know, a sign like that, you've got to consider when you're driving along on the side of the road, if a car comes up -- some of the cars have these plungers built into the radiators, and when they hit your car it detonates an explosive device. It's moving -- a suicide bomber. And you see those -- that happens all too frequently these days. The security situation here overwhelms everything else and makes even simple efforts, like reaching out to people a very difficult thing to do.

Lets go back to New York with Paula -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Anderson. There was a stunning statistic, it was in a bunch of papers this morning. About two-thirds of all Iraqis, at some point in the last month, have had their district attacked by some kind of insurgent action. Very, very concerning.

Many times, the burdens of the American soldiers in the war they are fighting are carried back home. And when we come, you're going to meet a Marine corporal named, Rose, who's full of pride, but who's bearing more than her share of sacrifice.

Also tonight, the war that rages beyond the battlefield, the extraordinary efforts to save our wounded warriors. We'll be right back.


AMANPOUR: For every troop in Iraq there is a family waiting anxiously back home, hoping that they never get that awful knock on the door. But one week last summer, 23-year-old Rosanna (ph) Powers got the bad news, not once but twice.

CNN's David Mattingly has her story.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Arlington National Cemetery, the sound of "Taps" is a sound of sacrifice, a tribute to the fallen and those they left behind. Like young Marine Corporal Rosanna Powers, who in two days last August lost both her fiance and younger brother to fighting in Iraq.

ROSE POWERS, FORMER U.S. MARINE: It is like the worst day ever. Your OK.

MATTINGLY: Today, Powers makes her way alone as a young single mom. In there are daily moments when she says she is overcome -- thinking about the men she lost and the life she might have had.

POWERS: I think about that everyday. If it didn't happen, everything would be different. I would be so happy.

MATTINGLY: Caleb (ph) Powers became a Marine following the example of his older sister. He was talking of becoming a farmer one day in his hometown of Mansfield, Washington. In his last calls home, Sergeant Rick Latham yearned to become a full time civilian husband to a woman he called Rosie and father to their newborn son. POWERS: It's nice to look at him, and like, him make a face at me and remind me of his dad, but it's not like having his dad here. He's a different person. It's his son. It's awesome having him, but it doesn't complete anything.

Lets brush your teeth. All right put them on there.

MATTINGLY: Falling back on her military discipline, her days begin before sun-up, first, getting the baby ready for daycare, then diving into a full load of college classes and part-time job at the VA. She gets a lot of help from the woman who would have been her mother in law. Karen Latham wears her son's I.D. tags for comfort. And they both look on the upcoming Iraqi elections as a sign their losses were meaningful.

KAREN LATHAM, MARINE'S MOTHER: I'm glad they finally have reached this point, but as a mom, I can't help but wonder how many more lives are going to be lost. And it's a great losses, it's not something that happens overnight and then you're over with it, a lifetime thing.

MATTINGLY: With a lifetime ahead of her, this petite, 23-year- old ex-Marine regrets that the two most important men in her life never got a chance to meet. As she quietly thinks about what might have been, she's taking advantage of veteran's counseling and wondering if her war wounded heart will ever heal.

David Mattingly, CNN, Trenton, Florida.


AMANPOUR: And here in Iraq, one of the most moving things that we cover, when we're at army units or Marine units, air force units and you see memorial forces to the fallen soldiers, the fallen Marines here, and sometimes we even catch surreptitious glimpses of their flag draped coffins going home. And you know in that instance the price that is being paid for this effort -- Paula.

ZAHN: You can see that so vividly in that last story. Christiane. thanks.

When our prime time special continues, we're going to show you what few civilians have ever seen. You're about to join a race to save lives and repair the broken bodies of those injured on the front lines. You'll also be going inside one of the military's top hospitals and see the heroism of the men and women working to keep our soldiers alive. A revealing look at the journey of America's wounded warriors when we come back.


ZAHN: And welcome back. Our two hour special, "Iraq Votes" continues now, as we focus on the sacrifices made by thousands of Americans who have been wounded fighting in Iraq and the men and women who care for them. Tonight, you will see the heroic work being done to save the wounded, every step of the way, from battlefield to hospitals to home in the U.S.

Our producer, Alex Quade and cameraman David Al-Britton (ph) had extraordinary access to that process. Alex also received permission from the injured and their families to share their personal stories. And for the first time, to even show their faces.

The story was shot carefully, respectfully, with privacy in mind. Still, this is war, you will find many of the pictures here distressing. But together, we will witness life and death, absolute heroics under threat and true humanity. Here's Alex Quade with "Wounded Warriors: The Way Home."


ALEX QUADE, CNN PRODUCER: The fire fights. The car bombs. The improvised explosive devices or I.E.D's. The wounding of U.S. troops. So begins their medical journey home.

Amidst the chaos, the pain, Army medics or Naval Corpsmen take life-saving action, the fight continues around them.

This is the first level of treatment. They bandage the fallen, carry them out. If the battle is too hot for a medevac helicopter, it's into vehicles nearby, then on to a fallback position out of the kill zone.

This is triage. The next level of care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three, go.

QUADE: Navy shock and trauma platoon members collect and clear the wounded. The goal: stabilize the patient and send back to battle or on to the next level of treatment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Urgent. Urgent. Urgent.

QUADE: Urgent means medical evacuation. If the patient can be delivered to a combat field hospital within one hour of being wounded, what's called the golden hour, odds are, he'll survive.

In the middle of the Iraqi desert, there is no LZ, no landing zone. A purple smoke grenade guides this helicopter in. The clock is ticking.

It's time for the medicine man.


QUADE: Medicine man, that's the call sign of the U.S. Army medevac unit. Two pilots, a crew chief and a flight medic in each in Blackhawk.

C.W. 2 HARLEY MAST, MEDEVAC PILOT: Guys in the field would get injured during their battles. And their medics on the scene can only treat them to a certain extent. Our job is to grab them and pick them up and bring them to a hospital or wherever further care is needed for the patient.

QUADE: They get the call on the radio.


MAST: Yeah. We can do that.

QUADE: Fire up the bird. The clock is still ticking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We fly at a pretty high speed with the patients.

QUADE: Care begins in flight. They're brought to the CSH, combat support hospital, or to a forward surgical team and turned over to the surgeons.

Medevac crews do this all day, all night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I try and think of myself in their shoes. I'm injured, I'm hurting, maybe I'm bleeding, my life is in danger possibly. I know that my medic's tried his best and can only do so much. And then you hear the aircraft coming in that will take you out of there. The freedom bird, so to speak, and bring you to the hospital and fix you there.

QUADE: That's what happened to Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Maxwell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got the call that's litter urgent.

QUADE: A Marine injured, in and out of consciousness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Picked him up. He'd had a mortar explode in the area. He had shrapnel on through his left side. He had a fractured left leg and a possible fracture in his left arm.

As I make sure all the bleeding is still stopped. I just manage his airway and monitored his vitals all the way back to the cache.

QUADE: They made it within the golden hour to the next level of care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good feeling, when you can get a guy out, within 20 minutes, he's at a hospital. That's just great.


ZAHN: And what makes this effort all the more remarkable is the fact that the medevac helicopters are moving targets, under constant threat of being shot down. Alex Quade flew with on missions day and night as the wounded warrior continue on to their next level of care.


CW2 JOSEPH CARROLL, MEDEVAC PILOT, US ARMY: It's the most important thing for a soldier. Morale on the battlefield depends on their confidence that they can be taken out, cared for, in case something happens.

QUADE: The medevac team races to a shock and trauma platoon near the front lines of Fallujah. There, we meet 19-year-old Lance Corporal Chris Allen, in Iraq one month.

LANCE CORPORAL CHRIS ALLEN, US ARMY: I got hit by an RPG, got shrapnel in it -- in my leg. The last thing I remember is just sitting on a corner, providing security and I just heard a boom and the next thing I know, I just felt pain.

Before, I wasn't scared of going out there until that happened. When I've heard the explosions, they went on me before. But that was actually the closest one where I could feel the heat and everything actually hit me. That was pretty scary.

QUADE: The surgeon say Chris' wounds are treatable and decide to keep him here. So, the helicopter takes off without him.

CAPT. BRUCE GILLINGHAM, SURGEON, US NAVY: Any time you put a patient on a helicopter, they're at risk to fire from the ground. Anything that we can treat here definitively, we will.

QUADE: The risk: The medevac helicopter being shot down, like this one.

CAPT. TRENT SHORT, MEDEVAC PILOT, US ARMY: We've been fired at, probably more times than we can count.

QUADE: Per Geneva convention, medevacs must travel unarmed.

SHORT: Then around flying by an aircraft as it was shot down by a heat seeking missile. That was probably the most unnerving feeling I felt today.

QUADE: It's a lethal lottery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terrorists really don't care if we have M-60 on the side of this thing or not, they just shoot at whatever's flying.

QUADE: Evasive maneuvers all they can do: translation, fancy flying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We get small arms fire. We see it at night. And during the day-time, we don't see it. So, for us, we don't know if we're getting fired on half the time.

QUADE: They fly as low as 10 feet off the ground.

MAST: We try and not think about that and think about getting the patient out of there as fast as we can.

QUADE: Despite danger, flight medic Sergeant Melinda Gates must treat her patients.

SGT. MELINDA GATES: I get tunnel vision. I see my patients. I run towards my patients. It's a usually my crew that lets me know that we've been shot at, or that there's burning vehicles or rockets or something. I really don't notice that. I'm more focused on the patients and getting them in the aircraft, getting them treated.

QUADE: We land near Karbala and follow Sergeant Gates to a forward surgical team. Two 19-year-old Marines, PFC's Randy Nichols and Frank Robinson were patched up here after taking fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was hit -- shot twice in the leg and I caught some shrapnel in the arm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had (UNINTELLIGIBLE) got back in, tried to get more. Turned around to get out and I got hit with a bullet in the shoulder.

QUADE: Randy and Frank are loaded onto litters to go to the next level of care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I was lying on the side of the road and they're bandaging me up there. That's when I kind of got the reality check of everything. I was thinking, wow, I'm actually human again and things do happen and you can get hurt.

QUADE: Sergeant Gates monitor their vitals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Medical care has come so far in the past few years and guys like that may have died from infection or something like that.

QUADE: The two privates are delivered to the Cash, Combat Support Hospital, Baghdad. Sergeant Gates hands them over to the doctors. They've made it to the ER.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did you get shot?


QUADE: For now, Medevac mission accomplished.


ZAHN: The next destination for the wounded warriors, the Combat Support Hospital. Shattered bodies, lives on the line, and sometimes heartbreak as well as failure.

But for those who do make it, the next step in this military medical operation, the flight to healing and recovery. You'll see that coming up.

And we will be returning to Christiane Amanpour and Anderson Cooper for the latest developments leading up to Sunday's elections. Our CNN special "Iraq Votes," continues in just a moment.


ZAHN: We continue now with our extraordinary report on saving American troops wounded in combat. We have seen them treated on the battlefield and the journey on airborne ambulances. Now, the next stop. The Combat Support Hospital called a CSH, like "Mash," the old TV show. But no tents here because the army took over Saddam Hussein's former private hospital. Here's the next part of Alex Quade's report, "Wounded Warriors" and again we warn you, you may find some of these pictures disturbing.


QUADE: Welcome to the Cash, Combat Support Hospital, Baghdad inside the Green Zone.

SPC. MARK SPEARS: Came off the helicopter. He didn't have a heart rhythm at all. His pulse was -- he was shot in the head.

QUADE: Army Specialist Mark Spears takes over CPR from the flight medic.

SPEARS: We do chest compression to circulate blood, hopefully restore a pulse.

QUADE: This is the ER. Unlike the TV show, it's real. All too real for 23-year-old Spears.

SPEARS: We keep track of all the Americans who have died on our shift while we work. All the little dots are American soldiers who were killed here in Iraq. Just kind of like a gory little tally. More than 30.

QUADE: He also marks the attacks on his hospital.

SPEARS: I used to keep track how many times we got bombed with lines. But we get bombed a lot more than we get dots. I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) probably been around like 10 times before I kept track of that. The Green Zone is a pretty big target for the Iraqis. They like to shoot mortars. We have had a couple of mortar rounds hit the hospital but as you can see it's pretty well fortified. So they're not really big enough to do much damage. Make a lot of noise and smoke. It's always in the back of your mind every time you go outside a mortar round could hit right by you and kill you. There's nothing you can do about it. We try to do our job the best we can and hope for the best.

QUADE: For doctors like Captain Sudip Bose, the work here is raw, dirty, gut wrenching.

CAPT. SUDIP BOSE, U.S. ARMY E.R. PHYSICIAN: Most are explosive injuries like improvised explosive devices, like car bombs or bombs and anything basically. Soda cans, cars, dead animals, whatever. But the wrong place at the wrong time and it's a bad injury. The blood and the guts, you're kind of trained for that as a doctor and you're ready for it. What's different here is there's another level of attachment to your patients, which are the soldiers, because, you know, they're like all of us. They left the States. They're hoping to go back.

QUADE: And the wounded keep coming. And coming.

SPEARS: We try to save everybody who comes in. So, I mean, of course it's frustrating when we lose people. You get a little comfort in the fact that we save a lot more people than we lose.

QUADE: It never gets easier, just part of the job.

SPEARS: They bring in a patient and they're hanging on to life. We're ready for it.


ZAHN: Another crucial part of caring for the wounded, the personal attention given to each patient. We step back for a moment now to share the moving story of one wounded soldier in the intensive care unit, far from home, far from family. Our Alex Quade once again with "Wounded Warriors, The Way Home."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't give a break. You've got to hang tough till the end. We're all we've got. Nobody goes (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ever. So as long as he's here, we're going to be here with him.

QUADE: Squad leader Jason Moore (ph) is talking about his sergeant, Andy Brown, in a coma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heading out. Normal patrols. The south. Looking for bad guys. Trying to keep it safe for the airport, you know. Hit an IED, and it was a bad one. They had one waiting for us. And it went off. It did a lot of damage to the vehicle. The vehicle doesn't even exist anymore. It looked like the vehicle had just been messed with, with a kid with a can opener. But we got him out. Actually, I had to take another humvee and rip the doors off with a chain because they were blown inside the vehicle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming through!

QUADE: From the time of the blast, it only took 15 minutes to get Andy to the Cash. Andy's nurse Major Lisa Snyder (ph) is tending to his wounds while his buddies hover.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, they really, literally saved his life when he first came in here as far as giving him the blood that he needed because otherwise he would have died.

QUADE: Andy's doctor, Colonel Cindy Klaggett (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can't really do anything else accept worry, fret, pray and give blood. And they're here, 24-hour-a-day vigil. They're sleeping in corners on the floor or not sleeping more often than not. They barely have time to eat. They know he's in a coma, but they lean down and talk to him. They touch him.

QUADE: It's Andy's band of brother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We donate blood or whatever. We do whatever we can possibly to support him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's just like a brother to us. And we know that he would do the same for us. And we're going to do all we can to help him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's in tough shape. He's in the fight of his life. He would be what I would call as critically ill as anybody could possibly get.

QUADE: Days later, 22-year-old Sergeant Andy Brown (ph) died, but not alone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even when things started to look like they were just not going to be able to turn around for him, this unit, still, they kind of stood a vigil. And, again, these were guys who, in their regular job, have to go out and be on patrol and get shot at and face the same injuries that this kid it did. Even though he's here, half a world away from his family, he had a family with him.


ZAHN: Coming up next in our "Wounded Warrior" series, on the wings of hope, the dangerous flight out of Iraq, another hazard for the soldiers and their saviors.

Then, the miracle of modern military medicine. We'll follow one wounded serviceman right into the operating room.

Also, a visit to Walter Reed, the legendary Army hospital where soldiers learn to live again.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a historic opportunity for the people of Iraq to vote for a government, and I want to express my appreciation for the courageous Iraqis who are willing to step forth and promote democracy and urge all the citizens in Iraq to vote and to show the terrorists they cannot stop the march of freedom.


AMANPOUR: That was President Bush in an interview on Al-Arabiya, the Arabic network here, encouraging Iraqis to come out and vote on Sunday. And, to be frank, American credibility rests on the turnout in large part, but, of course, people are afraid because of this insurgency, which has really targeted them so much, most particularly in the run-up to these elections.

U.S. commanders, as they try to analyze this insurgency and try to beat back their foe, are saying that it's growing stronger and more organized. As we mentioned earlier, a new analysis of intelligence data shows that more two-thirds of Iraqis live in districts where there have been insurgent attacks in the past 30 days. And half of all Iraqis live in districts where there's been an average of one attack every three days.

So that's a stark, complicated statistical way of saying this are pretty bad. And here's one reality check, Anderson. Just yesterday, what, with three days left until the elections, the Iraqis newspapers published the names of all 7,000 candidates in Sunday's elections. They had not published them up until now because these people are too afraid of being targeted, and they have been.

COOPER: It's remarkable, too. Christiane did an interview the other day with some female candidates; 30 percent of the candidates in each list, each group, by law have to be female. Many of them wanted to be in shadow, because they are too fearful that people will get to know who they are, get to see their faces.

AMANPOUR: You know, it's really extraordinary the lengths to which these terrorists and insurgents have gone to try to scare people off. The flyers we've seen, very specific, stay away from the voting booths on Sunday, stay 500 yards away, get inside, don't be anywhere near glass windows, really scary, scary stuff.

COOPER: They also said that they would -- they were handing out flyers two days ago in Baghdad. The police interrupted them. In the flyers, they said that they would be washing the streets with the blood of anyone who actually dared to cast a vote.

And the question keeps being asked, who are these insurgents? What is the makeup of them? You've heard there are foreign fighters, foreign terrorists. There are also Sunni insurgents, religious-based insurgents. It was interesting going on patrol last night. A lot of the soldiers were saying, too, is that there's also a certain amount of gang activity, that there are sort of criminal enterprises which are making money off of kidnapping people and actually selling them then to insurgent groups.

AMANPOUR: That's right. And both seem to be feeding off each other now, benefiting from each other's chaos and mayhem.

But, of course, these insurgents, what do they want? What is their strategy? The Iraqis, we're told, the Iraqi insurgents, former regime elements are talking about getting power back. But the others, the foreign terrorists, the others who want a theocratic state or something like that, it's very difficult to narrow them down and actually try to find out exactly who is who and what they want.

COOPER: And they really don't have a platform. Their platform is just to destroy democracy, as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said this weekend. It's a difficult battle to fight.

Let's go back to New York and Paula Zahn -- Paula.

ZAHN: I guess the one thing that is so stunning from here, Christiane and Anderson, is to learn, not only will these voters be targeted going to the polls, but that one specific flyer being rotated around that basically says women who end up voting will be targeted after the fact with potential beheading and beheading of their children. It's just hard to imagine how gruesome these threats have gotten and threats the U.S. government is taking very seriously.

We continue now with "Wounded Warriors." Earlier, we met some of the patients and the medical staff who cared for them at the combat support hospital in Baghdad. And from there, the injured traveled about 40 miles to the north of the city to Balad Air Base, where our producer Alex Quade was embedded.


QUADE (voice-over): At the Air Force theater hospital, Balad Air Base, Marine Corporal Chris Fezmeyer (ph) is taken off the medevac. A mine took both his legs. He's rushed into E.R.

He's conscious. Although Chris made it through the golden hour, this will be his second operation since wounded just five hours ago.

LT. COL. DON JENKINS, U.S. AIR FORCE SURGEON: The Navy surgeons at that forward operating base saved his life. And believe it or not, he's quite fortunate to be here with us.

QUADE: In the O.R., alarm red, incoming. We're under attack by mortars or rockets. And this is the most frequently attacked base in Iraq. Despite that, surgeons continue working on Chris.

JENKINS: We have built up as best we can around those operating theaters with big concrete and sandbags and that sort of thing. Still alarm red.

Those folks that aren't scrubbed in, in sterile gear, do have the opportunity if they get to their gear safely to put on their helmet and their flight vest. We don't stop what we're doing just because this attack is going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris, you're doing great, buddy. Chris, you're doing great.

QUADE: Chris is then taken to ICU, where we meet up again with Lieutenant Colonel Tim Maxwell (ph). We last saw him after he took shrapnel to his head from a mortar attack. He's in critical condition, in and out of consciousness. Alarm red again.

CAPT. DEBRA NICHOLS, U.S. AIR FORCE: It means that there's imminent danger. Most of the time, you know, we're under attack.

QUADE: Maxwell's nurse stays by his side.

NICHOLS: You can't leave them because they're critical patients. So you have stay at the bedside and go ahead and perform your duties, just like if you were not in a code red. Yes, this is heavy, and it's hot, and I can't wait to get out of it, because it hurts my back.

QUADE: Alarm red finally over, but their work here today has just begun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baghdad is bringing two helicopters full.

QUADE: Full of casualties from two bombs exploding in Baghdad's Green Zone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just take a deep breath. You know what you've got to do. Manpower, roll them into the E.R. as we need be, as we deem it critical or not critical. And then we'll go from there. OK? Everybody ready?

QUADE: The medevacs arrive, patient after patient. This is what's called a mass casualty. The medevacs bring more and more. And they race to the E.R.

Air Force medic Sergeant Jacqueline Horton tries to ease them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they come in off the chopper, especially, they're disoriented. And we tell them over and over again that we're going to stay with us, that you're not alone, remind them that we're there with them and ask them if they need more for pain. We tell them exactly what we're doing to them, so that there's no surprises because of the fear, the magnitude of the fear that they're experiencing, the unknown.

That's the only comforting thing that those parents back home have, is to think that somebody is here talking to them.


ZAHN: From Balad Air Base, the wounded warriors go to the next level of care. It's called the contingency aeromedical staging facility, CASF, for short. In plain English, it's where they wait for the plane out of Iraq.

Alex Quade continues the journey from there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little lower, lower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a medical air terminal.

QUADE (voice-over): For the wounded, the CASF, contingency aeromedical staging facility, is the last stop in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prepare to lift. Lift. Prepare to lower. Lower. Make sure that he's even.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We get them here. We get them medicated and we get them comfortable.

QUADE: Here, we meet Gunnery Sergeant Mel Greer (ph), shot in the leg, ambushed in the dangerous city of Ramadi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically, from my ankle down, I can't feel my foot whatsoever.

QUADE: This is his platoon under fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were out on a vehicle patrol and stopped to do a vehicle checkpoint and we had some insurgents come around the corner and open up with automatic weapons and small fires.

QUADE: And this is Mel's combat video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got Gunny. He's hit in the right leg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Automatic weapons fire, it's less than a tenth of a second between rounds. It hit my pistol and hit my leg, knocked me down and hell's furry just unleashed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it goes. Good shot.

QUADE: He's taken fire countless times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just that night prior, I had only gotten about three hours of sleep in the last 30 hours. We had gone out on a security run. And the boxcar got hit by three IEDs and the small-arms fire. And less than 12 hours later, we right were back out and got hit again. So, being aggressive.

QUADE: Mel and other patients must wait here for the next plane out of country. Tech Sergeant George Denby, an emergency medic for 18 years, checks on them.

TECH. SGT. GEORGE DENBY, U.S. AIR FORCE: Is that too cool?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. It feels good.

DENBY: Really? You need a blanket or anything?


DENBY: All right.

QUADE: He works closely with Master Sergeant Nancy Peck (ph), an emergency medic for 21 years. It's hard, even for these seasoned vets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They pull at your heartstrings, their sacrifice. They're humble. They don't want to go back home. They want to go back to the fight, back to the unit. Some of these patients that we get here, they haven't bathed in days. They've eaten out of a box. They don't have a pillow to sleep on.

QUADE: The medics try everything to keep them comfortable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have some patients with some pretty serious patients right next. And you're right next to another patient. So, not only are you worrying about your own problems, but you're worrying about the guy next to you. And so we try to do everything we can to keep their minds off of that.

QUADE: The singing doesn't tempt PFC Matthew Solberg (ph). The 19-year-old Marine has trouble speaking after an IED exploded near him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're kind of used to that stuff after being here for a while. You just kind of get over it and do your job.

QUADE: Then alarm red incoming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got your gear?

QUADE: In the middle of all this, more wounded arrive, among them, Lance Corporal Chris Allen (ph), wounded by an RPG. We last saw him at a shock and trauma platoon near Fallujah. Like all patients, Chris is checked for hidden explosives, then checked medically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm doing pretty good, much better from when I saw you guys the first time.

QUADE: But flashbacks are bothering him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, all the time. Usually when I'm sleeping, it comes back.

QUADE: The touches of home here, courtesy of the medics, help Chris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Little flag's cool. I love this one. This is going to be with me all the time now. So, whenever I get down, I can just think of it and realize what I'm fighting for. And a little picture, it says thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our way of contributing. It means everything to us when they walk out of here.


ZAHN: When we come back, the hazardous journey out of Iraq, laying low and leaving with deliberate speed.

Also, a critical phase for one seriously wounded soldier. We're going to him go through surgery at one of the military's largest hospitals.

Then a little bit later on, a very different battle, learning to take small steps toward a new life.


ZAHN: Welcome back.

We continue now with our series "Wounded Warriors." It's time for the soldiers to leave Iraq and move onto the next phase of their care. Here's more of Alex Quade's behind-the-scenes report.


QUADE (voice-over): While the patients are being prepped.


QUADE: Flight medics are prepping the plane. They transform a C-141 from tactical to practical, from cargo craft to flying hospital.

MAJ. MARK HAGEL, U.S. AIR FORCE: Yes. We have about 65 patients for seven people to take care of, so we'll be busy tonight. But the patients will be glad to go home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is for emergency occupants.

HAGEL: Oh, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This isn't even our job yet.

HAGEL: It's part of our job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's part of our job.

HAGEL: Health care providers/construction workers.

QUADE: Back at the CASF, or medical air terminals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prepare to lift. Lift.

QUADE: The patients like Gunny Sergeant Mel Greer are ready to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My country will take care of me, no matter what.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prepare to lift. Lift.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good job, guys.

QUADE: Past the tank barriers and onto the next level of care, the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come to me. Come to me. Come to me. Come to me.

QUADE: The flight medics are now ready.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully, I'll return to my Marines. My wife probably doesn't want to hear that.

QUADE: Litter patients like Mel first. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, sir, for your service. We really appreciate it. Good luck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On my command, we're going to rack him. One. Ready? Rack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch your foot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all right, Mel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feel good, bud.


QUADE: Next, ambulatories like PFC Matthew Solberg (ph). Matthew has a speech problem from a head injury. Then Lance Corporal Chris Allen (ph), hit by an RPG. Chris needs a little help boarding. Last on, critical patients from intensive care, Marine Corporal Chris Fezmeyer (ph). A mine took both his legs. We last saw him in surgery. Then Lieutenant Colonel Tim Maxwell, who took shrapnel to the head from a mortar. We saw him in the ICU during alarm red.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three.

DENBY: You look at some of these injuries, they just punch you right in the stomach. You just -- you feel sorry, but you're happy that they're getting out of here. You're happy for them. OK, they're going. They're closer to seeing their families and going home.

QUADE: This is the last thing the wounded warriors will see in Iraq. The plane goes dark for tactical takeoff. This is light discipline, only low red light, until we clear Iraqi airspace. For those who can, vest and helmet in case of incoming fire. This is hostile territory. The tactical takeoff spirals to avoid any ground fire, hurts Matthew's head. The flight medics go to work. Using chemical glow sticks or tiny lights, they squeeze between patients and litters.

CAPT. ASSY YACOUB, PHYSICIAN: So we take whatever care they were getting, and we continue that care.

QUADE: Cargo light shines briefly in back. Matthew uses it to climb into a litter to rest his head. After clearing Iraqi airspace, lights on. Chris also tries to get comfortable. Heavy flak vests comes off. Mel is restless. Medics are working on patients beside and above him, climbing up the stacks of litters around him. He'll worries that they'll step on his injured leg. Accidentally, they do. It's difficult work under difficult conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have to keep them alive, because we can have the best doctors at home, but if we can't take them there and keep them alive on the way, they can't do anything for them back home.

QUADE: About six hours later, touchdown, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The patients are off-loaded. Chris looks around at the rain, the cold.


QUADE: Matthew wakes up. And Mel is tucked in against the freezing temperatures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prepare to move. Move.

QUADE: Next stop, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the next level of care.


ZAHN: As you see, these wounded warriors made it out of Iraq. Now they find themselves in Germany. It is the largest military medical facility outside of the U.S., Landstuhl.

Once again, here's embedded producer Alex Quade.


QUADE (voice-over): They've arrived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing, Mel?


QUADE: Gunny Sergeant Mel Greer (ph) is headed straight to more surgery. Next, PFC Matthew Solberg (ph). And in socks, his boots still in Iraq, Lance Corporal Chris Allen. In the O.R., Mel is prepped. The surgeon scrubs in.

MAJ. TIM WOODS, U.S. AIR FORCE: Basically, what we're doing is irrigating out his wounds.

QUADE: And talked with us during his mask during the operation. He examines Mel's leg wound.

WOODS: (OFF-MIKE) He's lucky it didn't hit the bone and he's lucky it didn't hit the artery. The biggest risk he's at risk for is an infection. So we're trying to minimize his risk of an infection.

QUADE: The speed through all the levels of care from the battlefield helped.

WOODS: Our aerovac system right now is unbelievable. We hear what happens in the news pretty much. And within 24 to 48 hours, these guys are getting into our hospital, and we're having to take care of them.

QUADE: Half-hour later:

WOODS: Hey, guy, open your eyes. Can you open your eyes? Hey, we're all done, bro. We're all done. You did great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any pain right now? QUADE: Chris, meanwhile, is getting his wounds cleans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've been just changing out my bandages, checking my blood pressure, making sure my vitals are good, making sure I'm all right.

LT. ROB BIRON, U.S. AIR FORCE NURSE: They have already done an X-ray after they took it to make sure all the shrapnel -- because sometimes shrapnel is left in people. And, actually, it does more harm to go in to get it than it does to get it. And a lot of times, like, again, the body will push it out on its own. So...

QUADE: Mel rolls in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is your pain, Gunny?

QUADE: Even groggy, he's still a Marine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir. Thanks for the ride.

QUADE: We let him rest and check back later.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you having any pain or anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just got back out of surgery a little bit ago, but my foot is starting to hurt a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want something?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They took off the little splint that was down there today, so I can actually play with my foot a little bit.

QUADE: But Mel still has no feeling in his foot. We'll see if doctors at the next level of care can do anything about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's amazing. I was hit on Saturday and each level of care that I've moved up to is -- I think it's Tuesday now and it's -- I've already had a second surgery. I've already been taken care of. I've already been cleaned. I'm in Germany, and I'm getting ready to go home already. It's just amazing.


ZAHN: When we come back, what has become of the injured? Our producer Alex Quade follows up on some of the men you've already met in our series. And we're going to find out just how far this young soldier has come since his journey out of Iraq.

And our emotional visit to the famous Walter Reed Army Hospital.

Stay with us.


ZAHN: Welcome back.

The wounded warriors have come far from Iraq, through many levels of care. They're back in the states now.

And Alex Quade checked on them at military hospitals across the U.S. to see exactly how they're doing. And right now, for the very first time, you're going to hear stories of how many of them were injured.

Once again, Alex Quade.


QUADE (voice-over): We met Lieutenant colonel Tim Maxwell (ph) after a mortar attack. He took shrapnel to the head, then in the ICU during alarm red.


QUADE: We meet Colonel Maxwell again at the VA hospital in Richmond, Virginia.

MAXWELL: I feel better than ever. I've been working real hard. I'm not tired.

QUADE: He's doing physical and speech therapy.

MAXWELL: I don't remember much, I was a little bit awake, I think about 18 minutes or so, not very long. But they did a good job of getting us fixed up and flown away.

QUADE: His goal: get back to racing triathlons.

MAXWELL: I can do them. Of course, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I can do them, sure.

QUADE: We met another Ironman, Corporal Chris Fezmire at Balad airbase, a mine to both his legs. Chris is now at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

During therapy, Chris shares for the first time what happened when his Humvee hit the mine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I was, like, up like this, my legs were just dangling down like a rag doll. And I knew from there that if I lived I was, you know, I was going to lose my legs. That was probably the biggest fight, was just to live. Because I could feel myself -- all the blood leaving my body through my legs. It was just draining out of me.

At that point I tried to hold on to somebody's hand. I knew I was going to die, but just thought to myself, there's a lot of things I have to live for, and I couldn't die in that place.

QUADE: Chris plans to get out of the Corps, get a PH.D and teach English.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got to keep myself going really well in order to walk again, because that's what I want, more than anything else.

QUADE: We met the other Chris, Lance Corporal Chris Allen at a shock and trauma platoon.


QUADE: Chris is now back at Camp Pendleton, California. And met Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger before reporting for duty.

PFC Matthew Solberg is also at Camp Pendleton.

SOLBERG: I don't really remember much.

QUADE: His speech back to normal after a head injury from an IED. He still gets headaches.

And remember PFC's Randy Nichols and Frank Robinson? We met them at a forward surgical team after they'd been shot in a fire fight. We never expected to be invited to Randy's wedding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Randy, will you have Amanda to be your wedded wife?

NICHOLS: I will.

QUADE: This, the day right before Randy reported back to Camp Lejeune.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may kiss your bride.

QUADE: And finally, Gunney Sergeant Mel Greer. Mel had leg surgery in Germany. Now it's more surgery at the Naval hospital at Camp Pendleton.

This is Mel's fourth operation since coming home. He still has nerve damage in his foot.

GREER: There's nothing you can do, because his nerve is intact. It's just been -- it's not been transected, it's been severely bruised, quite a bit of injury from the AK-47.

QUADE: Afterwards...

GREER: There's a lot of frustration. There's never a moment of rest. The actual gunshot wound doesn't hurt, but the recovery of the leg is coming awake at certain points in pieces. And the nerves are exploding and I'm getting a lot of pains up my leg. It's nonstop.

QUADE: Mel's wife, Donna.

DONNA GREER: Overall, you know, it's just tiring. We do what we have to do. M. GREER: She won't give me a little bell to ring at the house.


M. GREER: I'm trying to get one of those for service.

I love being home with my wife. And I feel good being around my family and friends, but I also feel guilty I'm not back in Iraq with my Marines that are out there. And knowing that some were injured just recently, and another was just killed just recently, it is very hard trying to sit here and realize that, hey, I'm OK, but what about my Marines and what about the Marines -- all of the Marines in Iraq? It's tough.

QUADE: Not all of the wounded warriors we met in Iraq made it home alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They always made it very clear to us, that he was very, very critical.

QUADE: We met Sergeant Andy Brown at the Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad. Despite the efforts of his surgeons and units standing by and giving blood, Andy lost the fight. His parents, Bill and Lourdes Brown.

LOURDES BROWN: We were really crushed that we couldn't be there with him. The men took turns and they stayed with him the whole time, and he was never alone. And that meant a great deal to us.

QUADE: Since they couldn't be there, we shared our video of their son's last hours.

STAFF SGT. JASON MOORE, ANDY'S SQUAD LEADER: We're all we've got, and with us, nobody goes home ever. So as long as he's here, we're going to be here with him.

COL. CINDY CLAGETT, ANDY'S DOCTOR: Even though he's here half a world away from his family, he has a family with him and that he was incredibly cared for by virtually everybody that was around him.

L. BROWN: I know he was well taken care of.

BILL BROWN: It was good to see it. In my heart and in my mind, I realize everyone did everything they possibly could.

L. BROWN: I'm hoping that people don't forget our men in uniform and our women in uniform and all the people who are there with them, fighting with them and helping support them. It's not just the soldiers, it's the doctors, the nurses, the Red Cross.

QUADE: It's also the medics, the air crews, an entire military operation trying to get each patient to the next level of care. Trying to get each wounded warrior home.


ZAHN: After meeting them, I think it'll be hard to forget any of them.

The soldiers you met tonight made incredible sacrifices so the people of Iraq can vote. Our Alex Quade reported on the wounded warriors with the remarkable photography of her husband David Al- Britton (ph).

Please stay with us. Not only did Gunnery Sergeant Mel Greer make it home, but he's here, and you're going to meet him next. Please stay with us.


ZAHN: Welcome back. One of the wounded Americans we followed in Alex Quade's report was Marine Gunnery Sergeant Mel Greer. He is back in the U.S. recovering from his extensive leg injury and he joins me now.

Welcome home.

GREER: Well, thank you.

ZAHN: So great to see you. So inspiring to hear your story.

So here you are tonight, after 9 surgeries and still no feeling in your right foot. What do the doctors say is in store for you?

GREER: Well, they're looking at possible, and I use possible at the greatest extent, of amputating my right leg just as a means of recovery, because I have no neurological feeling or muscle control of my leg. If I injured myself, or cut myself, I wouldn't feel it and could bleed to death. But that is a last means as a resort for me, medically-wise.

So we're still doing tests, an EMG test, 3 or 4 other different things to try to recover. I do physical therapy daily. It's just a matter of time to see if the nerve is going to recover. And at this point it hasn't, it's actually gotten worse.

But I want to be in the Marine Corps, you know, more than anything, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to stay in the Marine Corps. And I'll make my 20 years and retire with the respect and dignity that goes with it and to serve my country, you know.

ZAHN: I think you've earned that.

GREER: It's very hard to sit at home right now and know my battalion is still there fighting and I'm at home, doing the things that I do for myself. It's hard for a Marine to do only for himself and not for his peers or his buddies.

ZAHN: Help us understand that sense of guilt you were talking about. I believe the interview was done in Germany after you'd be transported to Landstuhl, where in spite of this terrible injury you sustained, you did feel a little bit guilty, didn't you?

GREER: Always. It -- you grow as a team and you grow as a family through training and through all of the missions that you go together and you build that brotherhood and that bond that is indescribable to people that have never worked in that atmosphere.

And then to be separated from it against your will, it's very hard because, you know, I'm looking at a simple gunshot. Why can't I be there? And it's not something I can control because of the nerve damage and stuff, but I feel that I can be there doing something with my Marines.

And doctors tell me, you can't. You need to be here to recover. And it's selfish of me to want to, you know, be with my Marines and fight because that's what I'm trained to do and that's what my nation pays me to do. And I want to be there with my Marines, and I want to come home when my battalion comes home.

ZAHN: What was so incredible to watch as you went through these various phases was your attitude. You never cracked. You maintained that courage. You maintained that sense of hope.

GREER: I think everybody does, to be honest with you, because you know there's a nation that supports you. You know there's a family that supports you. You know that, if at any time you need something, they're there for you.

And it's amazing what can happen. I've had people call me throughout my family that I've never met. I've had friends of my family call me that I've never met and just to wish me good luck and if there's anything I need, please let me know.

And it's just -- letters come in. And it's hard to keep up with the correspondence, and I apologize to anybody I have not been able to write to, but I have a lot of things going on in my life right now.

ZAHN: Somehow, Mel, I don't think they were expecting you to write thank them you notes. As we say good-bye to you, I'd like for you to share with our audience right now the Purple Heart that you earned.

GREER: This is obviously presented to all of the...

ZAHN: You could hold it up.

GREER: Marines, soldiers and sailors -- I'll take the plastic cap off for you. It's presented to the Marines, soldiers and sailors in the hospitals. And it's a hard thing to get, and it's something you don't want to have presented to you, but it is a very prideful thing to have, as well, to know that your nation has given this to you. And it's amazing.

ZAHN: Well, we salute your service.

GREER: Thank you very much.

ZAHN: And your courage.

GREER: Thank you for having me tonight. ZAHN: You inspired us all.

GREER: Thank you.

ZAHN: And we expect you to hit that 20-year mark.

GREER: I'm...

ZAHN: We'll be rooting for you.

GREER: I'm fighting to stay in. I know they'll take care of me.

ZAHN: Yes.

GREER: The Marine Corps will take care of me. Thank you.

ZAHN: Good luck to you.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. We are live in Baghdad.

A sobering statistic from Iraq tonight: more than 10,000 U.S. military personnel have been wounded in action here. Many of them have wound up at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for a time in Washington, D.C.

This week, CNN's Judy Woodruff went there and met some men who have lost their limbs but they haven't lost their hope.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Out there, a battle of quick wits. In here, a battle of small steps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last one. Go, push, hard, hard, hard, hard. Come on!

WOODRUFF: Fought by men broken in body but not in spirit.

LT. ED SALAU, U.S. ARMY: In January or February of 2005 I was expecting to be home again in my living room.

WOODRUFF: Instead, 1st Lieutenant Ed Salau is learning to walk again.

He joined the National Guard back when people who signed up never expected to be shipped off.

SALAU: Honestly, I thought it was one weekend a month, two weeks in the summer, earn some -- a little more money for more college. And that was about it.

WOODRUFF: His unit had been deployed just once since World War II. He didn't think he was going anywhere, but in February 2004, Ed Salau found himself in Iraq.

SALAU: Looking for insurgents, weapons smugglers, bomb makers and we were also trying to spread the goodwill of the United States and make democracy look great.

WOODRUFF: As war stories go, the attack that took his leg was mundane, a routine patrol, a rocket-propelled grenade, a one in a million shot. What is extraordinary is that he sees the incident as a victory.

SALAU: I realized I wasn't going to die. I realized we were fighting, and I realized my guys were going to win. No one else was going to get hurt, and no one was going to die. We captured or killed the guys who attacked us. We won. There was closure there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I was working at the drive-in, which is in my hometown in Boonville, California.

WOODRUFF: It was nearly midnight when the Army recruiter came by. He bought gas and sold Manny Mendoza (ph) on the Army, promising money for college, a ticket out of Boonville. Sergeant Mendoza also never expected to see combat, but last spring his unit was deployed to Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I was, OK, we'll go over there for a year. Let's do it; why not? And I was OK with it. Calmed some of my soldiers down. They were like, hey, guys, it's just going to be a year. Nothing bad is going to happen. And at the time, we really hadn't heard too much about insurgents and bombs and anything like that.

WOODRUFF: He arrived in June. In October, his armored vehicle rolled over a stack of land mines. Mendoza woke up three weeks later here at Walter Reed Hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's when my parents and my uncle got together and they pretty much told me -- grabbed my hand, and my mom said, "You lost your legs. It's OK, you're alive, but you lost your legs."

At that point I lost it and started crying. For about a good day and a half, I didn't stop crying.

WOODRUFF (on camera): What did you think when you knew you were going to Iraq?

SGT. JACK SIGMAN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I'm a Marine. I go. It's what we do.

WOODRUFF: Of the three men we met at Walter Reed, only Sergeant Jack Sigman seemed prepared for the chaos of war. He had been to Iraq before, in 2003, and he tells his story in the most matter of fact way.

SIGMAN: An Iraqi guerrilla popped around the corner behind me and launched an RPG, aiming for the truck I was standing next to. Luckily or unluckily, depending on how you look at it, he missed the Humvee, and it hit me.

WOODRUFF: His goal now: to get back in action.

SIGMAN: As long as we can pass -- continue to pass the physical fitness test, which consists of sit-ups, pull-ups and three-mile run, we can stay in the Marine Corps. For the Marines, I want to find a job where I'm doing something productive, you know, I'm not just riding a free meal ticket. I want to find something where I can genuinely contribute, and it's not just a hookup to the guy who lost his leg.

WOODRUFF: For Ed Salau and Manny Mendoza, the future is about recapturing the normalcy of civilian life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you try to plan ahead, to plan too far ahead, then you start remembering. Then I won't be able to do it because I don't have my legs.

WOODRUFF: But they dream big about small steps.

SALAU: My daughter and I, we had -- she's a dancer. She's been dancing for the last seven or eight years, and we had plans to take a ballroom dancing class together. And we will.

WOODRUFF: Judy Woodruff, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: We're sure they will. Let's go back to New York and Paula Zahn -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thank you, Anderson.

Now time to check in with Larry King. Pretty heavy-duty medicine we've experienced here over the last 50 minutes. What inspiring stories. What do you have for us tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Amazing stuff, Paula.

I've got some pretty heavy stuff too. What do you think it's like to almost adopt a child, raise him for three and a half years and then lose that child in a courtroom?

We'll meet a lot of the principles involved, including the adopting parents, never legally adopted, who lost the child, the attorney for the father, the biological father. Lots of experts as well.

It's a complicated, sad matter. It's all ahead -- Paula.

ZAHN: We're counting on you to help us figure it out. Larry King, see you in about a few minutes or so.

KING: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: When we come back, some final thoughts from Anderson and Christiane, live from Baghdad. We'll be right back.


COOPER: We've been talking a lot tonight about the sacrifices American forces have made here in Iraq to make this weekend's elections possible. And, of course, those sacrifices continue today, no doubt will continue over the weekend.

Yesterday a crash in western Iraq of a Marine Corps helicopter shook America, but nowhere is the impact of that crash felt greater than in Hawaii. Twenty-seven of the 30 Marines in that crash were from one military base in Hawaii.

CNN's Rusty Dornin is there -- Rusty.


MARY BETH LEVAN, MOTHER OF KILLED MARINE KYLE GRIMES: It couldn't be real. It just couldn't be real. It wasn't going to happen to our family.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mary Beth Levan never believed that her son, Kyle, would become a grim statistic of war.

LEVAN: He was based in Hawaii. We were going to meet and have a family vacation. It wasn't going to happen to us. I wasn't ready. He wasn't ready. He's too young.

DORNIN: Along with the others lost from Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base in Hawaii where the mood was somber.

LT. COL. OWEN LOVEJOY, REGIMENTAL EXECUTIVE OFFICER: It's huge. The impact of losing 27 Marines in any one day. I think the last time we lost that many Marines was the Beirut -- Beirut bombing in 1983.

DORNIN: For the people here, it was a time to come together. Some of the base staff gathered at an informal prayer meeting.

NICHOLAS POWERS, MARINE CORPS BASE, HAWAII: It was a sad day, you know. When you lose a brother in arms in any service, you feel kind of down throughout the day. You just don't know quite what to think. I mean, it's tough for anybody, you know, whether you know the guys or not.

DORNIN: At a nearby coffee shop, people were shocked.

CLAY LOO, SHOP OWNER: Some of these guys I could know on a close, personal basis. It's just shocking, you know. It's hitting so close to home.

DORNIN: It has already hit close to home. Just two weeks ago there was a memorial service for 10 Marines from here killed in Iraq.

TIM NEWMAN, CAVALRY CHAPEL PASTOR: Hawaii is a small town. So I think everybody knows somebody that's in a reserve or their brother or their sister.

DANIEL INOUYE (D), FORMER SENATOR, HAWAII: This nation will remember them and appreciate what they've done for us.

DORNIN: For Belga Saintvil, remembering is painful. His son, Corporal Gael Saintvil was among the 31 aboard that Super Stallion helicopter that went down.

BELGA SAINTVIL, FATHER OF KILLED MARINE GAEL SAINTVIL: It hurts me a lot, but I'm going to do my best to make it.

DORNIN: So, too, will Mary Beth Levan.

LEVAN: Just remember the good times. There were a lot.


DORNIN: Now, the mother you just heard from, Mary Beth Levan, was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Of course, many of the families are from all over the United States.

Base officials won't say just how many families live here on this base or live nearby Kanouhe Bay, but say that the chaplains have already gone to the homes to offer help, to offer emotional support to the families.

The communities here in Hawaii are very closely knit to the bases here, the military bases. One of the churches even already had a service for the men killed.

Considering Hawaii's history, people feel very vulnerable to war here, and this is the worst loss of life for Hawaiian-based troops in a single incident since Pearl Harbor.

Back to you.

COOPER: Rusty, that grief is so raw tonight. Thank you very much for that report.

Sacrifices made, so many sacrifices made by -- by military personnel, by Americans here in Iraq and by American families back at home. But also, Christiane, so many sacrifices made by Iraqi families, as well.

AMANPOUR: I think so. And it's important we don't forget that as we talk about the U.S. deaths, so much of the bulk of the killing has been against Iraqis and against Iraqi civilians, against people like policemen who are trying to join up for the new Iraqi forces.

I think that when people saw the liberation of Iraq back in April 2003, they didn't expect to be at this place today. They didn't expect the violence. They didn't expect the shortages. They didn't expect the lack of reconstruction.

And I think that the very fact of the election has been such a stealth operation, really sort of surrounded by fear and dread of what might happen to them while they're hoping to be able to cast a vote. I mean, the courage it would take for Iraqis to come out is going to be phenomenal on Sunday.

COOPER: And you know, you go out every day, Paula, as you drive around these checkpoints. The courage of these Iraqi soldiers and these Iraqi police officers, I mean, to be manning these checkpoints, you know? They're not hugely well armed. They're out there on the front line. And it is a very scary feeling on those checkpoints.

AMANPOUR: It is. And you know, this is their big test. And it's a big test. It's the first time they're going to be deployed to do something so important. And really this moment on Sunday is the beginning of what will judge whether this experiment here has been successful or not.

COOPER: It is still a long road ahead, no doubt about it.

Let's go back to Paula Zahn in New York -- Paula.

ZAHN: So many powerful lessons I guess we all collectively learn tonight about the need to not only appreciate but understand this enormous commitment our troops have taken on.

And I don't know how many of these reports, Christiane, you and Anderson could hear, but despite how grievously wounded some of these soldiers were and Marines were, they are willing to go back to the battlefield, some of them feeling guilty that they're not there now as they're being rehabilitated. Their attitudes, their sense of courage is just extraordinary.

COOPER: Yes, Paula, you know, when you go on patrol with them, it's not big picture things they talk about. It's not even the Iraqi elections. It's the guy next to them, the woman next to them. It's doing stuff for their buddy in the foxhole, in the Humvee next to them. And that's what they're fighting for, Paula.

ZAHN: Anderson, Christiane, thank you both very much for your reporting out of Iraq tonight. Middle of the night there. Maybe you all get some sleep. Please stay safe.

That is our broadcast tonight. Thank you so much for dropping by. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Good night.


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