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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS
Man Confesses to Murdering Etan Patz 30 Years after Event; Author Highlights Security Dangers of High Technology; Fleet Week Commences in New York City; Man Exonerated of Rape after 10 Years; Veteran Helps Other Veterans Return to Civilian World
Aired May 26, 2012 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: After three decades a cold case may be solved, a former New York stock clerk charged with the murder of Etan Patz 33 years to the day after the six-year-old disappeared.
And exonerating after five years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. I'll talk to the football player convicted of rape about how the truth came out and why he won't take action against his accuser.
Plus, Al Qaeda declares an electronic jihad on the United States. We put cyber security in focus and asked some insiders how vulnerable we really are and if there's anything we can do about it.
And later -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL DIAMOND, SINGER/SONGWRITER: Sweet Caroline.
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KAYE: We have Neil Diamond. I'll ask him about his recent tour, his recent wedding, and the thing that keeps him touring at the tender age of 71.
Good morning, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye. It's 10:00 on the east coast, 7:00 on the west coast. We have a lot going on this morning so let's get you caught up.
We begin with the official start to summer. It is Memorial Day weekend, and you're looking at live pictures from West Point where Vice President Biden will soon give the pre com the commencement address to the cadets.
And whether it's on the road or in the skies, expect to get up close and personal with your fellow travelers this weekend. AAA says 35 million of you will take a trip for the holiday. And that is a slight increase from a year ago. The average person will travel 50 miles or more from home by the time Memorial Day weekend comes to a close on Monday. And if you're driving, well, you might just save a little money over the next few days. The price for a gallon of unleaded gas has dropped 27 cents from its April highs to $3.66. But AAA says that's still the highest gas price ever for a Memorial Day weekend. Now to Egypt. The country appears headed for a runoff in its first free presidential election. The top two candidates couldn't be more different. One represents resurgent Islamists. He's a candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood. The other is a former prime minister and is a weathered veteran of the country's old guard. Official results of the first round of voting are expected on Tuesday.
Back here in the U.S., Portland police say they have found a woman accused of abandoning her three children in a shed. The kids were found Thursday after someone heard their voices in a vacant building believed to be used by homeless people. They range anywhere from eight months old to three years. All three are healthy and have been placed now in foster care.
It has been 33 years and one day since six-year-old Etan Patz vanished from a New York City street. The heartbreaking mystery of what happened to the little boy with a big grin transformed how missing children cases are treated. And now the suspect is finally in custody. Fifty-one-year-old Pedro Hernandez is being held on suicide watch at Manhattan's Bellevue hospital. He's charged with second-degree murder.
In chilling detail he told police he lured Etan to the basement with the promise of a soda and then strangled him. His attorney says his client has a long history of psychiatric illness. Pedro Hernandez's arrest has shocked the community of Morristown, New Jersey, where he lives.
I spoke earlier with his pastor, Reverend George Bowen.
GEORGE BOWEN, SENIOR PASTOR, MARANATHA CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP (via telephone): I know Rosemary and Becky, his wife and his daughter, much better than I do Pedro. Pedro, I've had conversation with, but I don't know him well.
KAYE: How would you scribe him? A lot of people are curious what he's like.
BOWEN: Pedro is quiet, unassuming, almost shy man. He attended church on Sunday morning regularly, so nearly every Sunday morning I had a conversation with him, but the extent of the conversation was more or less a greeting. He occupied the same seat every Sunday, but, again, very quiet, almost shy man.
KAYE: There have been reports, other media reports that he admitted to friends and family that he had done something bad to a little boy in New York, and this was in the 1980s he admitted this, apparently according to reports in a prayer circle. Did he ever try to come do you to talk about anything?
BOWEN: You know what, no. All my conversations or nearly all of my conversations with Pedro were right there in the church service, never talked to him personally by himself, you know, in a counseling-type setting or anything. So, yes, there was no -- there was no confession or no -- even talking to me about his -- he's a very private person. KAYE: Did he appear troubled to you at all?
BOWEN: Did he what?
KAYE: Did he appear troubled?
BOWEN: No more so than perhaps, you know, the average person that might come into the church. Sometimes he was a little, you know, a little bit more -- he was very quiet but a little more animated, other times a little bit less. You know, some days he was down, some days not. So, you know, I wouldn't say overly troubled or continually troubled. No, I wouldn't say that.
KAYE: His lawyer says he's mentally troubled, suffers from hallucination. Did you ever see anything that might support that?
BOWEN: That's interesting. Pedro very much kept to himself. There are some things I read that as well this morning coming out in the media that I really was personally unaware of. But he did -- he did keep to himself. Rosemary and Becky, again, I knew them much better. Rosemary is relatively shy, but --
KAYE: How are they doing? How is his family reacting?
BOWEN: Actually they were up in New York. You're aware of that. That was yesterday. I didn't have the opportunity to talk to them. When I met with them on Thursday, they were just -- they were devastated. They were emotionally shattered. There were a whole lot of tears. I prayed for them and I told them that the church family loved them and without care for them and help them and try to see them through this whole thing.
KAYE: And we will have much more on this story ahead. In just about 20 minutes I'll talk with Lisa Cohen. She's the author of the book, "After Etan." And she says she's not convinced Pedro Hernandez is the curl. She'll join me ahead.
Plus, threats to your cyber security, they're all around us. What was once science fiction could now be reality. My next guest will explain why our internet is under siege. Wait till you hear his story.
But first, a very good morning to Washington, D.C. I hope the folks are waking up at the White House, lots to do today. Glad you're tuned in to CNN Saturday morning.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open the pod bay doors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the problem? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you talking about, Hal?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: That was a clip from "A Space Odyssey." When "A Space Odyssey" first came out, the idea of talking computers was pretty far-fetched. By next guest sees a world where a software program can read news headlines, steal identities and hack into secure government networks without fear of retribution.
According to Daniel Suarez, author of the sci-fi thriller "Daemon," these threats are already lurking and there might not be a whole lot we can do about it.
Daniel, thank you for joining us on the show this morning. We've been talking about cyber security and the holes in our internet. These days you use the internet per for everything, banking, retail. What do you think? Was the internet designed with this type of usage in mind?
DANIEL SUAREZ, AUTHOR, "DAEMON": No, definitely not. Initially it was designed for the government and entrusted people. Of course, it's been hobbled together to perform critical infrastructures whether that's controlling banking, dams, power systems so, the security has to be cobbled on after the fact. And it's an inherently open system so it's a challenging task to secure it.
KAYE: What is the solution? If we're at risk because of this, is the solution possibly a second internet?
SUAREZ: Definitely. I at least think the way we need to start is by disconnecting critical infrastructure from the public internet until we can get a handle on it and set up a more secure system, because right now a lot of these systems are connected for cost reasons, to save money, and in essence we're exposing ourselves to unnecessary dangers by doing that.
KAYE: In your book "Daemon" you talk about a computer system that basically takes over the world through the internet. It's a fascinating story. How much of that, though, could actually happen?
SUAREZ: Well, it's an extreme example, but the technology in the book is real. And, really, I wrote it to try to point out that the high efficiency does come with some attendant risks. By automating these things, we make it possible for people who are not here and who aren't even alive to run these things on our behalf. So we probably shouldn't pursue efficiency in everything.
KAYE: How often does this happen? How common are attacks on our internet? Are they actually happening now? SUAREZ: Oh, yes. There are constant attacks on various aspects of the internet, private networks, government networks, individuals. But I think the greatest risk is commercial and government networks. They're very large and very complex, and there are a great many people attacking them to extract information from them, to gain control of them, to deny access to them. And the more we rely on them in this inherently open and insecure system, the more vulnerable we are.
That's what I did in this book, of course, I showed an extreme example of somebody coordinating attacks s to disrupt and take over the system. And I used real technology to do it because I wanted to make a point.
KAYE: Yes, it is a frightening example for sure. Can you explain to our viewers here how a hacker might find a way to break into a secure system and then capitalize on what you might call the back door that they create?
SUAREZ: Sure. There's something called a zero day exploit. It's simply an exploit for popular software that there's no patch for yet, meaning it cannot be defended against. And these zero days, there's a whole hidden economy for zero day exploits that are being bought and sold around the world. And then they can be used to package various payloads to, let's say, break into a network and then extract data or disrupt the data. So this whole economy is actually being somewhat sponsored by nation states who are look at cyber warfare as a cost effective way to challenge each other. By the way, countries like China have a doctrine like that, take home the war, the idea of mitigating America's military security by using cyber war basically to react.
KAYE: Once they get in, they sell with the opportunity to get in there as well?
SUAREZ: Correct. You can buy them as packages. You don't have to be technologically very sophisticated. You simply buy the tools on the open market, or the black market.
KAYE: Corporations are the real target, right? That's where we can really get into trouble?
SUAREZ: Correct, that and government and defense networks, although, consumers are very much a target in the aggregate. You probably see in the news all the time 10 million identities being stolen all at once. Particularly data storing, they can get into it. They're big targets, juicy targets. Rather than steal one person's identity, you can steal 10 million at a time.
KAYE: So is there anything corporations can do to defend themselves?
SUAREZ: They're doing it right now. It's sort of the survival of the fittest. Those companies that are best able to protect themselves will survive in this environment. To some degree I also look at it as a national security issue because, of course, there are transnational criminal organization nations that far from the idea of being small hackers in basements, they're very sophisticated and in some cases are sponsored by nation states who want to cultivate this capability to attack. The internet really favors the attacker versus the defender because it is a very difficult system to secure. So those corporations that are better able to patch quickly, respond to exploits, to discover exploits on their own and be open to changing the systems, they're going do better than those that don't.
KAYE: A fascinating conversation and certainly a problem that is lurking out there. Daniel Suarez, thank you for your insight. And everyone who is watching this, I recommend they pick up your book "Daemon" as well as your book "Kill Decision" coming to your bookshelves in July.
SUAREZ: Thanks for having me.
KAYE: Now, look at this -- sailors, marines, coastguardsmen taking over New York City. It is Fleet Week. We go straight to the center of it all.
KAYE: Welcome back. And 3,000 tall ships will dock in New York City this week, and the sailors, marines, and coastguardsmen are out on the town. It is fleet week and they're taking a bite out of the big apple. CNN's Richard Roth is at the center of all the activity.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lots of machines and men and women here for fleet week, 25th anniversary. This is calls Mars. It's an armed robot. And when you talk about the armed forces, we've got three branches represented here, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines.
Thomas Berkell (ph), when you came in town you went down to the 9/11 memorial. Why did do that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been 10 years. I was a volunteer firefighter during 9/11 and I haven't been back to the city since then. It was an opportunity to go back and take shipmates down to help teach them.
ROTH: Samuel Johnson, what does Fleet Week mean to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fleet Week is a chance to show everybody out here who's been supporting the armed forces what we do and to show them our appreciation, so it's very amazing.
ROTH: What do folks in New York ask you when you're in your wife?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't ask anything. It's hey, let's take care of you. Less question, more do for us.
ROTH: How have you been received and what does it mean to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone has been hospitable to us. We thank everyone in New York for allowing us to do Fleet Week.
ROTH: Thank you all, gentlemen. It is Memorial Day weekend, so there's a lot of solemnity, of course, for the weekend, and some celebration as the fleet comes in on this 20th anniversary of such an occasion here.
KAYE: Our thanks to Richard Roth.
America has been singing along with Neil Diamond for decades. He's got a new tour and a new bride, in fact. He's telling me the secrets to success.
First, if you're visiting war memorials and battlefield this weekend it can be a lesson in history and life Rob Marciano shares the trip of one World War II veteran in this "On the Go."
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Former marine Bill McCullough returned to Okinawa to see his best friend.
BILL MCCULLOUGH, MARINE CORPS VETERAN: It was very important to me to be there and see his grave and think back to that day.
MARCIANO: Bill joins the growing ranks of veterans who return to where they fought to reflect on the battle and life that followed.
MCCULLOUGH: To go back and see a graveyard like that and realize that many of the young men have been cut off in the prime of their life, it was a very poignant moment.
MARCIANO: Historic battlefields have become a popular destination, which big anniversaries.
All the years disappeared for Bill the moment he was able to return.
MCCULLOUGH: You'll always remember. You'll never forget just exactly what happened. But then to go back and relive it, it was very important and very meaningful for me.
KAYE: I'm sure you recognize him and certainly recognize his voice. Neil Diamond has sold 125 million records worldwide. At the age of 71 he's just as popular and has no plans of slowing down. Neil Diamond joining me now from Los Angeles. Neil, welcome to the program. You have a lot of fans at CNN, so we're thrilled to have you on.
DIAMOND: Thank you, Randi. Thanks for having me on.
KAYE: You have touring now for a better part of five decades and you're about to begin a new tour. What can we expect to see on this one?
DIAMOND: The same as always. Beautiful noises, lots of fun.
KAYE: I actually saw you perform in Little Rock, Arkansas, 20 years ago. I had a great time. One of the things that amazed me was your energy. What I have to ask you what your secret is.
DIAMOND: The secret is the audience. When they come ready, willing, and able for a good show, it's reflected back to them. And a party can break out at any moment, hopefully right from the get-go.
KAYE: Let's talk about your life a little bit before music, because you went to New York University on a fencing scholarship. And I read you would fence before concerts. Do you still do that a little bit to warm up before shows?
DIAMOND: Yes, I do. I do some lunges and stretches just for fun. It's part of the routine.
KAYE: You told Larry king in an interview a while back you actually want god into medicine, but then you got this offer to write songs I think you said for $50 a week. Is that right?
DIAMOND: I took it. I quit school and I took it. It was my first passion, my first love, and somebody was going to pay me, and that made me a professional. So I went with it.
KAYE: The great Neil diamond. You can catch that entire interview and much more later today. You can catch more on my newsroom blog. Just go to CNN.com/Randi. You can find stories and guests you may have miss order you just might want to watch again.
A suspect comes forward claiming he killed a New York boy 33 years ago, but some are skeptical about his story, including a woman who wrote a book about a case. I'll ask her why when she joins me.
KAYE: Good morning, Hollywood. Glad you're waking up with us on CNN Saturday Morning. I'm Randi Kaye. We're at the bottom of the hour, so let's get straight to some news.
One person is dead and eight others have been wounded in a shooting spree in Finland. An 18-year-old who police said had two rifles has been arrested. No word yet on a motive.
Opposition activists in Syria are again asking for international help to stop the violence after they say 88 people, mostly children, were killed in just one day. It comes as a new U.N. report on the crisis says the regime, quote, "has stepped up its crackdown."
And West Point graduates will close out their college careers today with a few words from Vice President Joe Biden. Biden is delivering his commencement address at the academy. It's the vice president's first graduation speech there.
Etan Patz became a national obsession after vanishing on his way to school 33 years ago on his way to school. Pedro Hernandez has now confessed to killing the six-year-old. This is a picture of Hernandez as it appeared on "Inside Edition." Detectives say how he described how he lured Etan from the school bus stop, promising him a soda, and then strangling him. He's now been charged with second-degree murder.
Hernandez has no criminal record this story he told police is raising some questions. Lisa Cohen wrote a book about the Etan Patz case and she's joining us now. Lisa, good morning to you. Let's talk about this case. I'm glad you're on, because you have covered the from the beginning practically. Had you ever heard of Pedro Hernandez before this week?
LISA COHEN, AUTHOR, "AFTER ETAN": I never heard of him before this week. This case has been going on for years. They've talked to hundreds and hundreds of people. It's very possible they talked to him at one point.
KAYE: What do you make of the story he lured Etan into the store, strangled him, and put him out with the trash? Why do you thing he would talk about it 30 years later?
COHEN: I think if anybody goes to authorities and confesses to murder in great detail very emotionally, I can understand why they would think we need to lock this guy up and see what's going on here.
But it's a fairly new break in the case, and I think they have a lot of work to do to try and figure out who he is, what his past was, who else he said all this to, and, you know, what possible motive he would have had. He doesn't appear to have a criminal record, he doesn't appear to have a past, at least that we know of, a history of sexual assault. And so I think we need to understand all those things before we decide whether he's the one.
KAYE: It's unclear after all these years if he was the one. Do you remember anything about the interviews at that store where he worked?
COHEN: Yes. They talked to a lot of people there. They talked to pretty much everybody in the neighborhood. I know they did speak with him, you know, along with everyone else in the store. And they made a note that they had said, you know, do you know anything about this, did you see him. And everybody that was in the report said, nope. We haven't seen him today or we don't know anything about this. And they went on to the other hundred people.
KAYE: At one point didn't the judge determine that someone else was responsible and actually ordered him to pay the family, right?
COHEN: Well, yes. They filed a civil claim against a man named Jose Ramos, in 2001. And in 2004 a judge declared Ramos civilly responsible for the death of Etan Patz. They won a judgment of $2 million, which was never the point, because he had no money and they didn't be want any money from him anyway. It was really an attempt to keep the case going to try to come up with more evidence against him. He was the prime suspect for many years, and he also made admissions to authorities, and he did have a criminal record, history of assaulting young boys, and particularly a predilection of boys with long blond hair and blue eyes. And he knew -- he had a connection to the Patz family. So there was some really compelling evidence to link him to the case.
KAYE: This does happen though. Now we have this guy coming forward in this case. How skeptical are you about his confession?
COHEN: I think I'm healthily skeptical because it's brand-new information, and I think needs to be more discovered and everybody knows that. The authorities know that. That's where they're going now. So this isn't the kind of development that's been going on for months, years, but he confessed. So now they're taking the next step.
KAYE: How would you rate this investigation? Over the years, so many different investigators, have they cut any corners or have they done a decent job?
COHEN: You know, I interviewed hundreds of people for this book, and one homicide detective who was involved in this case back in the '80s said to me it's really easy to solve a case working backwards. And I think everybody needs to remember that. They didn't talk to Pedro Hernandez for more than a couple of minutes. Why would they have? Why would they have talked to him more than the other 200 people they talked to that day? You know, it's easy to second-guess.
KAYE: And you're about had a chance to speak with Etan's family, right, since this latest development? How are they doing?
COHEN: They're doing OK. And they are, you know, being briefed on this and trying to understand something that they've never heard before.
KAYE: So many stories with so many possibilities over the years. Lisa Cohen, appreciate your time, the author of "After Etan." Thank you.
COHEN: Thank you.
KAYE: On the west coast, man wrongly accused and convicted of rape. Overcome with emotion after a judge throws out his conviction. He'll join me live.
KAYE: A lie ruined his life, his dreams, and put him away for years. Brain Banks can start over with a clean record, though. His 2002 conviction for rape and kidnapping was thrown out. Banks was a high school football star with a full ride to the University of South Carolina, but at 16 a 15-year-old classmate claimed that he raped her. He pleaded no contest to avoid a possible life sentence but ended up in prison for five years and then probation for five more.
One day he got a Facebook message from his accuser. She eventually admitted lying about the entire thing, clearing the way for his exoneration. Brian Banks joins us now. He's also with his attorney Justin Brooks, who's also the director of the California Innocence Project. Good to have you both with us. Brian, it must feel great being exonerated. But at the same time, you lost years behind bars and even with the probation. How are you doing today?
BRIAN BANKS, EXONERATED AFTER 10 YEARS: it's another amazing day post freedom. I'm taking it all in. Just so thankful for all the support I've been receiving so far.
KAYE: Throughout the morning we've been playing some pretty emotional clips of you as you got word of being exonerated. Do you remember that moment?
BANKS: I'll never forget that moment. It was the best day of my life. I had mixed emotions from happiness to everything that's happened to get to this point and overwhelmed with all the love and support following it.
KAYE: Justin, I have a few questions for you but I want to ask Brian first. This woman apparently finds you on Facebook and sends you a message, right? That's how this all started to unravel. What did she say?
BANKS: She in a message said she was hoping bygones could be bygones and she was immature at the time but very much mature now.
KAYE: And Justin, can you take us through this? You were able to record her? Brian was able to record her somehow. Tell us how that came to be.
JUSTIN BROOKS, ATTORNEY: Yes, the crazy thing is Brian's life was taken away by the testimony of this woman. He loses his football dreams at least for then. Now he's going to make a comeback. Hopefully I see him in the NFL. But she took his life away. She faced him on Facebook and said let's get together, let's talk, wants to be friends with him. And it's just crazy.
So once that statement was made and she said she never had sex and in fact lost her virginity years later and this incident never happened, now all of a sudden we even got some evidence to come back in and get his case reopened. But without that, Brian would have basically been serving a life sentence as a sex offender. And Brian had an ankle monitor, I've been carrying it around for the last couple of days since we cut it off. He's had to wear it for the past five years. And he lifts weights every day, but he's always told me this is the heaviest weight he ever lifts because it marks him as a convicted sex offender. He's on the sex offender registry lists. He couldn't get work. When the background checks came back he was a sex offender. And without that statement, that would have been for the rest of his life.
KAYE: So this accuser, she was award $1.5 million payments, right, for the civil suit from Long Beach schools where this allegedly happened. Why did she lie? Did she say, Brian?
BANKS: I never got a clear reason why she lied. I really couldn't say. KAYE: Justin, is she going to have to pay that money back?
BROOKS: That's the crazy part of the case. Imagine this from Brian's perspective. First he gets accused wrongfully, he ends up in prison and sitting in prison, and then he learns his accuser get a $1.5 million settlement for her lie. Fortunately for us our job is done here. My job was to get his freedom back and the California Innocence Project was able do that. I don't know what's going to happen with her.
KAYE: Why was it that Brian's case caught your attention, Justin?
BROOKS: You know, initially the problem with this case was it wasn't unusual. You know, you had a guy convicted of a sex offense and it was a he said/she said, and those cases are impossible to reverse. You need some kind of evidence. And that's really the tragedy in the case. Brian took a plea deal because he was looking at 40 years in prison if he didn't and his lawyer told him, hey, it's he said, she said. If you want to roll the dice and go to trial, you may never walk out of prison. And this is a 17-year-old kid who's got to make that decision.
KAYE: Brian, I'm sure this is all about looking forward for you now. You don't really want to look backward, I'm sure. But are you angry with your accuser?
BANKS: No, not at all. I've had those moments where I was very angry and very bitter, and this is around the time I received the six-year term in prison. It was at the time that I was in that situation and it was more important how I controlled my situation and I saw it better for me, my health to move forward and try to be a better person regardless of what I was going through.
KAYE: Did she ever apologize to you?
KAYE: What about the NFL -- I'm sorry, Justin?
BROOKS: I was going to say, that was another crazy thing about this. Even during the interview when she's admitting that this never happened, Brian's talking about how it ruined his life, and she said, well, you know, I've had a hard life too.
KAYE: With her $1.5 million, I'm sure.
Brian, now that you're a free man, tell us about the NFL. We saw video of you working out, lifting your weights. Are you planning on the NFL being your future?
BANKS: Most definitely. I've been waiting on that call. It's been a journey, you know. I'd love to say good things come to those who hustle and lift weights. I tell god if you bless me with the opportunity to play for the NFL, then I'll for sure meet you halfway.
KAYE: Is there a certain team you're waiting for a call from that you want to give a shout-out? BANKS: For sure. Shout-out for the team that feels I'm deserve of the opportunity. Let's play some football.
KAYE: I think that includes just about every team. I love your sweatshirt, "Exonerate," in case the folks at home haven't been able to get a close look at that. Very nice. Nice to have you on the show, Brian Banks, Justin Brooks. Brian, we'll continue to watch your NFL career.
BANKS: Thank you. Thank you much.
KAYE: Now this, when disaster strikes, this former marine has 1,400 volunteers who will answer the call. I'll introduce you to this week's CNN hero.
KAYE: On this Memorial Day weekend, we honor those dedicated men and women whose service ended with the ultimate sacrifice. But for those who returned, coming home can be difficult. Today's CNN hero is a former marine has made it his mission to help his brothers in arms.
JAKE WOOD, CNN HERO: In the military everyone's taught how to lead, taught how to follow, solve problems. We really pride ourselves on being ready and willing go everywhere. I started in the Marine Corps, deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. When I first saw the quake that hit Haiti, a lot of the images before driving through the streets of Fallujah. I knew I could actually help out. I put on Facebook, I'm going to Haiti, who's in, 27 hours after that, we were on our way to Port-au-Prince. We got to work setting up a triage clinic. We realized veterans are really useful in these types of situations.
I'm Jake Wood and I want to help veterans transition to civilian life and help others in need. It really started as a disaster relief organization, and then we realized we can help the veteran communication as well. We bring these veterans together to be a part of a team once again. They are almost recharged.
When you get out, you have a feeling what are you doing that's important in the world. It's a great opportunity to help people in need. Most of the work we do is international. We've got to Chile, Sudan, Pakistan. Here at home we've been in Tuscaloosa, Joplin, doing debris, clearing operations, search and rescue. We have about 1,400 volunteers and about 80 percent of them are military veterans. Helping other people is part of the healing process.
There's really no limit to what veterans can do. We have the ability to help and want to serve. I think it's a win/win situation.
KAYE: And find out how a fellow veteran's death shaped Jake's mission. Go to CNNHeroes.com. Remember CNN heroes are all chosen from people that you tell us about, so if you know someone like Jake Wood who's making a real difference, go to CNNHeroes.com and let us know who that person is and help them help others.
Barbecues, beaches, and hopefully a lot of sunshine go with it all. Your Memorial Day forecast straight ahead.
KAYE: Dozens of inmates are set free near Las Vegas after too many jail employees call in sick. Did this really happen? Details after this.